Canada and NATO

Collective security comes at a cost. Canada should pay its way

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2015

NATO defence ministers meet tomorrow in Brussels to confront continuing conflicts on their eastern and southern flanks. Complicating their deliberations is the knowledge that big chunks of their populations oppose using military force if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member. For NATO leaders, making the case for why we fight is as important as having the capacity to fight.

From fir trees to palm trees, NATO forces are engaged. Simulated conflict exercises on NATO’s eastern frontier respond to what Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg describes as President Vladmir Putin’s “unjustified nuclear sabre-rattling”. The U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq engages in daily, deadly sorties against ISIS.

The takeaways from Afghanistan and Libya for NATO are that while armed force can bring temporary stability, enduring peace and security requires continuing diplomacy, development assistance and some means of preserving order. Call it peacekeeping for the 21st century.

NATO forces also play a key role as the first responders to humanitarian crises, such as rescuing migrants crossing the Mediterranean and helping to contain Ebola in West Africa.

Despite the NATO leaders agreeing in Wales last September to “reverse the trend of declining defence budgets” only five – U.S., U.K., Estonia, Poland and Greece – meet the NATO guideline to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.

Canada has committed whole-heartedly to NATO missions. It took a disproportionate number of casualties in Afghanistan and were at the sharp end of the campaign in Libya. Canadian forces are actively engaged in Syria and Iraq. Canada is training Ukrainian troops and during a visit to Warsaw earlier this month Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will station troops at NATO’s new command centre at Szczecin, Poland.

Canada’s defence spending, however, falls short of NATO’s benchmark. Despite the Canada First Defence Strategy and a refined procurement policy, former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page observes that with the Harper government “spending in real terms is even lower than when they came into office in 2006.” April’s federal budget will lift Canada’s contribution to slightly more than 1 per cent of GDP.

As the country prepares to enter its election campaign in earnest, it needs a healthy debate over its defence capacity and capability, especially around the made-in-Canada naval procurement policy.

Canada accepts the rationale of supply-chain economics for almost everything else it manufactures. Auto and aviation industries, civilian and defence, are specialized and integrated. Canada buys tanks from Germany and fighter planes from the U.S., with significant offsets creating jobs for Canadians. Why is shipbuilding different?

At the Wales summit, leaders reaffirmed that the “greatest responsibility” of the Alliance is to “protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack.” But when the Pew Foundation recently asked major NATO nations if they would use military force if Russia “got into a serious military conflict” with another NATO member, the findings revealed troubling divisions.

Most Americans (56 per cent) and Canadians (53 per cent) would support intervention. So would a plurality in the U.K. (49 per cent) and Poland (48 per cent). But, more than half in Germany (58 per cent), France (53 per cent) and Italy (51 per cent) would oppose intervention. The Spanish divided 48-47 per cent for intervention. Together these nations collectively account for 88 per cent of NATO’s GDP and 78 per cent of its population.

NATO leaders reaffirmed at Wales their willingness to “act together” and “decisively to defend” freedom, liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They have work to do in persuading their citizens that the collective defence of our shared values obliges a willingness to use armed force.

Equally troubling for the Alliance was that only 49 per cent of Americans view NATO favourably. The U.S. pays 74 per cent of NATO’s costs. President Barack Obama says the U.S. “can’t do it alone” and this plea is repeated by successive U.S. defence secretaries.

Communiques at the end of summit meetings are usually mind-numbing bromides and aspirations of good intentions. What really counts is each nation’s interpretation of the collective commitments. Success in this week’s meeting depends on each NATO defence minister saying some variation of the following:

  • First, we commit to meeting NATO’s 2-per-cent defence spending target by 2017, recognizing that, when your neighbourhood is combustible, investing in defence is smart insurance. Only when our armed forces have sufficient capability and the readiness to react, can we be confident in their deterrent capacity. The trendline is moving in the right direction with 18 allies expected to increase their defence spending.
  • Second, we commit to a national public education campaign on the meaning and responsibilities of collective security. To its credit, Germany’s leadership has begun their debate on the need for greater engagement.

Attitudinal shifts take time and constant reinforcement.

Courage, resolution and endurance are qualities not always associated with democracies or their leaders. But they are essential.

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The EU matters to Canada

Why the European Union endures despite its flaws

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail

Canada is bound to Europe through ties of history, family and sacrifice. Our collective security is enshrined through NATO and we recently negotiated the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

This month, we commemorate the many cords that bind us in ceremonies marking the 70th anniversaries of the Battle of the Atlantic and Victory in Europe Day. Prime Minister Stephen Harper observed that Canadian “commitment, innovation and professionalism” in the Second World War generated “international recognition for our country and immense national pride.”

If the United States was the arsenal of democracy, Canada was the aerodrome, training thousands of Commonwealth fliers. Canadians built and sailed many of the ships that won the Battle of the Atlantic. On this battle, Winston Churchill said, hinged, “everything elsewhere on land, sea and air.” By war’s end, the Royal Canadian Navy was one of the world’s largest, growing from 3,300 men and 13 ships to 95,000 men and women and 428 ships.

Ceremonies in recent days across the Netherlands remember the more than 7,600 Canadians who died in its liberation. The tulips blooming today on Parliament Hill are the gift of a grateful Dutch nation and, later this month, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit Ottawa.

The EU continues to be an experiment – political, economic, social and cultural – in federalism. Federalism is a system of government in which Canadians are also invested, especially in the practice of pluralism.

There are faults and flaws with the EU: too much bureaucracy; economic disequilibrium between south and north; the tensions of balance between national and supra-national sovereignties evidenced in the emergence of anti-EU, nationalist-populist parties; and, the threat of exits by Greece (“Grexit”), through financial default, or Britain (“Brexit”), through Prime Minister David Cameron’s promised referendum.

The European experiment has faced many challenges: the Cold War that threatened global catastrophe; dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the tragedies that befell the Balkans; the recent Great Recession with effects still plaguing much of southern Europe; the boatloads of refugees from the Middle East and Africa now crossing the Mediterranean.

But the European Union endures and the refugee inflow is testament to the continuing attraction of the EU’s liberal and democratic virtues.

There is a line of new applicants for EU membership. The Ukrainian crisis was sparked in part by Ukrainian desire for closer association with the EU rather than the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union. Last month, Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati was in Ottawa and received Canadian endorsement for its EU bid.

The EU’s economic partnerships continue to broaden. It is negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States. The public debate on investor state dispute settlement threatens to sideswipe our CETA, now in post-negotiation legal scrub and translation.

We need to re-engage with the EU’s Commission, Council, parliamentarians and member states to assuage concerns, highlight the mutual benefits and ensure that there is no backsliding. An energetic diplomatic campaign should be complemented with visits by ministers and the business community.

Let’s utilize our various inter-parliamentary relationships. The European legislators within the NATO Parliamentary Association are influential and the Canadian delegation should be making the case for CETA at its spring session in Budapest this week.

The case for Canada begins with the more than 100,000 Canadians who died during two world wars, many of whom are buried throughout Europe. Canada’s current deployment includes RCAF fighter jets in Central and Eastern Europe; HMCS Fredericton recently completed exercises in the Baltic. Trainers in Ukraine could also help our Baltic allies.

The generation that fought the Second World War and then created global and regional institutions, rooted in liberal internationalism, is now passing. So, too, is the international consensus that holds these institutions in place.

This past weekend Russia staged its biggest-ever military parade in Red Square to mark Victory Day. Standing with President Vladmir Putin were Chinese President Xi Jinping, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Cuba’s Raul Castro and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. Mr. Putin reiterated his criticism of NATO and the United States. Later this week, China and Russia conduct joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean.

We take for granted continuing peace and prosperity, starting with our deeply rooted transatlantic partnerships. But without a commitment to activist diplomacy, backed up by muscular collective defence, this century could be as difficult as the last.

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Arms for Ukraine

Why the West should listen to Merkel on Ukraine

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Feb. 17 2015

Do we arm Ukraine? Economic sanctions have not dissuaded President Vladimir Putin from continuing Russian aggression.

At the Brisbane G20 summit in November, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Mr. Putin to “get out of Ukraine.” For Western leaders, the question is what do they do next.

How long will the new ceasefire endure? Few put much credence in Russian assurances. An earlier ceasefire unravelled as Mr. Putin’s “little green men” pushed forward.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko wants Western help, specifically lethal arms. Brandishing captured Russian military IDs at the recent Munich Security Conference, Mr. Poroshenko asked what further evidence is required of Russian aggression.

The UN estimates the conflict has killed more than 5,000 and displaced a million. Mr. Putin has the escalatory advantage and he ruminates about the use of nuclear arms.

For Mr. Putin, the campaign is a “holy war’ protecting the Russian diaspora, as well as a development that rights the 1989 dismemberment of greater Mother Russia. While there have been some Russian protests over Ukraine, anti-Western attitudes there are at a 25-year high.

A recent report, authored by members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, argues that the West’s strategy to restrain Mr. Putin has failed. They recommend significant military assistance: radar, drones and short range anti-armor weaponry to enable Ukraine to counter the Russian offensive.

They argue that “to deter and defend” will raise the cost of aggression and bring Mr. Putin back to the bargaining table. If Russia is not stopped now, they argue that the Kremlin will believe it can get away with this form of hybrid warfare. The next Russian intervention could be in Estonia or Latvia – NATO members with security guarantees.

NATO’s top commander is calling for the use of “all tools” and, at his recent confirmation hearing, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter favoured arms for Ukraine. Non-intervention by the West during the Spanish Civil War, evocatively captured in Alan Furst’s novel Midnight in Europe, only advantaged Franco’s fascists.

But providing arms bring multiple challenges. It takes time to transport equipment and even more time to train Ukrainians in its use. There is the risk of escalation. Surveys in the United States are consistent: There is no appetite for American boots on the ground.

For now, the West negotiates. U.S. President Barack Obama preaches “strategic patience and persistence” in the newly updated U.S. National Security Strategy, but it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is demonstrating both qualities.

Ms. Merkel, who hosts the G7 summit in June, is leading the negotiations with Mr. Putin. Ms. Merkel has Mr. Putin’s number. Her leadership underlines Germany’s geopolitical re-emergence, the only silver lining in this crisis.

Ms. Merkel argues for continued engagement and, for now, she is against arms for Ukraine. This was her message at the recent Munich security conference and in meetings last week with Mr. Obama and Mr. Harper. Ms. Merkel deserves our continuing support.

Providing arms raises many questions:

  • How do we control for their distribution?
  • Who will be in charge of then?
  • Who will train the Ukrainians?
  • What and where are the firebreaks?
  • Will arms increase casualties and risk a proxy war?

Economic sanctions and the drop in oil revenues have been brutal on Russia; its GDP may fall 5 per cent this year. At some point the bite of sanctions will have to diminish Mr. Putin’s appeal to Russian patriotism.

Like it or not, Ukraine is not a NATO member and the reasons why we did not militarily intervene in Mr. Putin’s Crimean conquest still apply. We are already engaged in a widening conflict with the Islamist militants of ISIL. This week, world leaders convene for a White House summit on counterterrorism. Meanwhile, there are the negotiations with Iran, with Mr. Obama declaring that there must be a nuclear deal by the end of March.

Preserving Western consensus, within the European Union and between the EU and United States, is always difficult. But if Washington presses ahead with lethal arms, the Western consensus will crumble.

For now the West’s best choices are threefold:

  • With Ukraine: more economic support conditional on the country improving its governance. Ukraine is worse than Russia in Transparency International’s’ corruption index. As a start why not advise on Canadian-style federalism and language rights?
  • With Russia: continuing engagement with biting sanctions. As costs rise, Mr. Putin’s calculus of actions without consequences will change.
  • Within NATO: Honour the pledges made at the Wales summit to reverse defence cuts and make the alliance fitter, faster and more flexible.

Whatever the West does, we need to do it collectively, or Mr. Putin wins. Before adding more arms to the Ukraine crisis, trust Chancellor Merkel and double down on patience and diplomatic engagement.

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NATO Wales Summit

What NATO members must do to empower the alliance

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Sep. 02 2014

“Keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down” was how Lord Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General (1952 to 1957), described the Alliance that has since become both the sword and shield of our liberal international order.

Recent events revalidate Lord Ismay’s trope except that Germany now needs to take on responsibilities within NATO commensurate with its leadership within Europe. The rest of the Alliance, including Canada, also need to step up their commitments.

NATO leaders and their foreign and defence ministers meet this week in Wales to focus on a readiness action plan.

Leaders face immediate challenges on NATO’s eastern and southern flanks.

Their priority is addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea.

Sanctions are biting but they have not deterred continuing, blatant Russian incursions. Tit-for-tat sanctions mean that industry – including Canadian pork producers – are taking a hit. Yet Russian actions oblige more sanctions requiring more discipline and sacrifice.

Then there is jihadism. For British Prime Minister David Cameron, it is a “clear and present danger” and U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a coalition “to extract this cancer so that it does not spread.”

NATO’s longer-term challenges are twofold.

Firstly, a war-weary United States is tired of picking up the tab and having its call for burden-sharing ignored. American taxpayers cover three-quarters of NATO spending. At NATO headquarters in June, Mr. Obama said the U.S. “can’t do it alone.” Pointing to the “steady decline” in European defence spending, he expects every member “to do its fair share.”

Secondly, there is the challenge of persuading the rest of the Alliance to develop a credible rapid expeditionary capacity.

Only a handful of NATO’s 28 members meet the defence budget spending target of 2 per cent of GDP (Canada currently spends 1 per cent).

All members voted for the 2011 operation to stop genocide in Libya. Less than half participated. Fewer than a third (including Canada) engaged in combat. Quality of contribution – rapid deployment without strings attached – matters more than the GDP target. But, argues defence analyst Julian Lindley-French, 2 per cent well-spent on defence is better than 1 per cent.

The annual reports of successive NATO Secretary Generals’ chronicle the increasing asymmetries in members’ capability. NATO renewal requires boosting combat capability through joint procurement, training and logistics. It means modernizing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, and adapting to hybrid warfare.

NATO renewal starts with Germany, Europe’s dominant power.

Germany still has stabilization forces in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan; it contributed in Mali, but not in Libya. Even before the Ukraine crisis, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition began reassessing German foreign policy. At the Munich Security conference this spring, German President Joachim Gauck argued it is invalid to use “Germany’s guilt for its past as a shield for laziness or a desire to disengage from the world.”

German leadership will have to persuade a public wary of activism. But recent events, says German-born Henry Kissinger, mean that “Germany is doomed in some way, to play an increasingly important role.”

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should make three points in Wales:

First, that Canada supports NATO readiness.

Our reinvigorated Canada First defence strategy must include a robust expeditionary capacity. We need a fresh perspective on military procurement, with immediate attention to our navy and its maritime responsibilities.

Second, a closer transatlantic economic partnership is of paramount importance.

The Canadian-inspired Article 2 of the NATO Treaty calls for closer economic ties. The now negotiated Canada-EU agreement (CETA) opens the door for business-to-business matchmaking through smart initiatives like the EnterpriseCanadaNetwork.

Third, a transatlantic energy-security partnership is valuable.

The EU depends on Russia and the Middle East for its energy. Russia has shut off the tap to serve its ambitions. We should market the Energy East and Line 9 pipelines, new refineries and Atlantic terminals as strategic investments providing energy security to the EU.

The paradox of the liberal international order is that its reciprocal benefits and privileges depend on collective responsibility to uphold the rule of law and respect for norms – like not invading neighbours. But in making it inclusive, it tolerates scofflaws, like Russia (and Iran, Syria, North Korea). Free riders – China, Brazil, India, even Switzerland – not only refuse sanctions but use the opportunity to increase their commerce with Russia.

According to Dr. Kissinger, the international order depends on a “sense of legitimacy” and an equilibrium of power “that makes overthrowing the system difficult and costly.”

This week, NATO leaders must demonstrate collective political will and commit the necessary resources to sustain the security equilibrium. Canada can help show the way.

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Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands

Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles

Colin Robertson  The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Jul. 22 2014

The tragic fate of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, apparently downed by a surface-to-air missile, has sparked global public sympathy for the victims and condemnation for those responsible.

Our best hope of containing this threat to air travel is to act quickly by tightening international covenants on access to weaponry that takes down aircraft.

The source of the missile and launcher that downed Flight 17 appears to be Russian but there are other potential sources for would-be copycats. The sources for the Hamas rockets against Israel likely include Iran, Pakistan and China. The arsenal of the new caliphate, declared by the Sunni-led rebellion against the Iraqi government, now includes captured weapons made in the United States.

Since Cain and Abel too many still subscribe to the quip by the amoral arms merchant, Undershaft, in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, that “Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.”

The arms industry is big business. Given human nature, it’s also a necessary business.

The Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI) estimates the global arms trade to be worth at least $43-billion (U.S.) and likely much higher because many states, notably China, do not release data on arms exports.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department reports that our exports of military goods and technology are worth $635-million (Canadian). Most of it goes to fellow NATO allies, but also to countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Ukraine and Yemen.

Like most countries, we have in place elaborate export controls and safeguard agreements to ensure our weapons are “not prejudicial to peace, security or stability.” We don’t export to nations on the UN sanctions list or those with “a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights.” All goods destined for North Korea or Belarus require a permit.

Even then, no system is fail-safe.

India developed their nuclear weapons capacity in 1974, sourcing from CANDU reactors. It chilled Indo-Canadian relations for decades until Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded a nuclear co-operation agreement in 2013 under safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the arms bazaar, nuclear proliferation is the greatest danger.

Like his predecessors, President Barack Obama, is working to contain proliferation through negotiation, sanctions and international law. Slow and frustrating, there is discernible progress.

Notwithstanding current tensions, Russia and the United States completed a new nuclear arms treaty (START) in 2011, setting out new limits on intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

Sanctions have brought Iran to the bargaining table in Geneva. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has concluded there is sufficient “tangible progress” to extend discussions beyond the July 20 deadline.

North Korea remains a problem, still firing missiles and rockets, despite continuing condemnation from the UN Security Council.

A series of international nuclear security summits – Washington, Seoul, the Hague – were initiated by Mr. Obama in 2010.

They have resulted in minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium, higher security standards at nuclear facilities and measures to detect and prevent the illicit trade in nuclear materials.

Canada has pledged funds to help non-proliferation efforts, ratified international covenants on suppression of nuclear terrorism and protection of nuclear materials.

There are similar efforts to curb and control conventional weapons, like that which brought down Flight 17.

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, to which Canada was a founding contributor, obliges governments to voluntarily supply data on their imports and exports. Seventy nations, including Canada, have done so consistently.

The Wassenaar arrangement of 41 states, including Canada, aims at preventing transfers of conventional weapons or dual-use goods to illegitimate end-users.

As with nuclear non-proliferation, containing conventional weapons remains a work-in-progress.

Given previous Canadian leadership to curb land mines and small arms, the Harper government’s refusal to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty is perplexing. It deserves a rethink.

Concerted international action, abetted by technology that improves detection and attribution, can work “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN Charter says.

Chemical weapons killed and blinded tens of thousands during the First World War. Popular revulsion led to the Geneva Protocols proclaiming that “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases … has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world.”

The prohibition against chemical weapons endures. When breached – most recently by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – there has been sanction and remedial action.

Every day, an estimated 5.4 million people board airplanes. By midday, air traffic over Canada and the United States alone reaches an estimated peak of 5,300 flights.

Confidence in global aviation safety obliges action by the international community. Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles.

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Ukraine, NATO, Collective Diplomacy and Defence

Have the West’s actions encouraged the world’s rogues?

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Apr. 15 2014 also on RealClear World
Colin Robertson

It’s a testing moment for the international order.

How will we respond to Russian actions that Prime Minister Harper describes as  “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic”? Is the NATO Alliance prepared to draw red lines? Will we defend the system that President Obama said we have worked  “for generations to build”?

Collective diplomacy gets its shot at the Ukrainian crisis when ministers from the Ukraine, Russia, USA, and European Union meet this week in Geneva.

Success will depend on whether Russia commits to troop pull-back, removal of agitators, non-interference in the May 26 Ukrainian elections and then recognition of its new government. Ukrainian authorities must guarantee the rights of its Russian-speaking minority.

The USA and EU must define, clearly articulate and then act on a calibrated set of sanctions. Demonstrating military muscle is essential. NATO exercises on land, air and sea is ‘language’ that Mr. Putin will understand.

That there is public fatigue with what many see as unsatisfactory foreign adventures is understandable. Iraq was an unnecessary war and the long campaign in Afghanistan has not had a satisfactory conclusion.

The recession and continuing joblessness obliged governments to concentrate on domestic recovery and now restraint in operations.

Defence budgets have suffered. Less than a handful of the 28 NATO members meet their commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence.

Has the tilt to domestic preoccupations and defence cuts inadvertently encouraged the rogues and those who don’t like the western international order?

Strong actions will  reconfirm the West’s commitment to international order. Alliance strength and solidarity will also send a message to others – Iran, North Korea and China – who are testing the limits.

The Ukrainian crisis reminds us that collective security, the purpose of NATO, is an enduring priority that requires real commitment. Words alone don’t defend principles or deter aggression.

For Canada this means a recommitment to our own defence establishment. We currently spend 1.5 percent of GDP on defence.

We point, with justice, to our contributions in Afghanistan and Libya. We argue, with reason, that results and output are more important than numbers,

But we can do more. Our promised procurement of ships, planes and land vehicles is behind schedule and already Inflation is eating away at the new kit.

Our defence policy puts ‘Canada First’.

A clever piece of political phraseology, our investment is as much in collective security through NATO and NORAD. These alliances have insured the long peace on which depends our prosperity.

A strategic alliance of democratic and sovereign states; the adjectives are both its strength and its shortcoming. NATO’s faults – sclerotic decision-making, unequal burden-sharing, lack of readiness – are much discussed, notably by then-US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates.

Yet, after sixty-five years, the Alliance continues to be the most successful collective defence partnership the world has known. With a combined four million under arms, NATO collectively accounts for nearly 70 percent of all military spending

NATO is the effective cop on the global beat, the go-to organization when muscle is required to manage chaos and restore order.

The three core principles of NATO’s Strategic Concept –  cooperative security, crisis response and collective defence – have enabled partnerships and operations beyond its original theatre.

Ultimately, collective security depends on two factors.

Political will is the most important. History suggests it takes a crisis, like the Crimean invasion, to arouse the Alliance to action.

The second is economic strength. We focus on NATO’s Article V: in the case of an attack we are all for one and one for all. Yet we pay relatively little attention to Article II with its emphasis on the development of free institutions and encouraging economic collaboration.

Acknowledged as the Canadian contribution in  drafting the NATO charter, the economic value of Article II is overlooked. Yet as a formula for economic regeneration, freer trade is without rival.

Bringing the Atlantic economies into closer integration is good for business and strategically smart.

This strategic dimension has been missing from the debate on the US-Europe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA). Achieving CETA and TTIP would be the economic match to the security alliance we created in 1949.

It’s collective security, but with an economic edge.

Representative institutions, bolstered by free trade and the market economy, are the best means to underwrite our security and defence. They enable us to deal with the world as we find it, even as we work collectively towards the world we wish.

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On Nato and Canada: Commitments and Cybersecurity

NATO’s toughest battle is the discussion about its future

COLIN ROBERTSON Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Feb. 20 2013

When NATO’s Defense ministers meet in Brussels this week, they will talk about the endgames in Afghanistan and Mali, and defence spending. Canada should use the occasion to press for an honest discussion on NATO resourcing and encourage the Alliance to focus on the emerging challenge of cyber-security.

Most of the allies, including Canada, have served notice that they will be gone sooner than later from both Afghanistan and Mali, leaving only a residual force in both places. For now, there is no enthusiasm within the Alliance for out–of-area operations and with reduced spending there is even less capacity to act.

In 2006, the Allies committed to defence spending of a minimum of two per cent GDP. In 2012, only four of the twenty-eight member nations met the target.

In addition to the division it creates between member countries, the effect of these disparities is threefold writes Secretary General Rasmussen: first, an ever greater military reliance on the United States. Second, growing asymmetries in capability among European Allies. Third, a defence gap that will compromise the Alliance’s ability in international crisis.

The US has carried the load in the Alliance.

Sequester and cuts will reduce American capacity. It expects more from the partner nations, with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, warning that future US leadership, “for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”This deserves a frank discussion.

As a start, NATO should probably revise its commitment figure to reflect fiscal realities – probably closer to the 1.5 per cent that Canada, and most other members, currently spend on defence.  Then look hard at how the money is spent.

A fifth of Alliance defence spending is supposed to go towards new equipment, crucial for NATO modernization efforts. This makes sense yet, only five allies meet the target.

NATO needs to look at procurement and discuss best practices so we can spend our money with effect. Nobody, except perhaps the French, do it well.

Part of the problem, as we witness in Canada over the F-35 debacle, is the inability to accurately predict costs or meet a schedule. In a useful report, Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement through Key Industrial Capabilities, business leaderTom Jenkins presented a series of recommendations that focus on five clusters: Arctic and Maritime Security, Protecting the Soldier, Command and Support, Cybersecurity, Training Systems and In-Service Support.

Jenkins’ recommendations are sensible and they should feed into discussion of an industrial defence strategy that also includes concepts like buying off-the-shelf and performance incentives (and penalties).

In a look at the wider world, another useful report, Strategic Outlook for Canada: 2013, authored by Ferry De Kerckhove and George Petrolekas, enumerates a baker’s dozen threats including nuclear proliferation from North Korea and Iran, turmoil in Syria and the Middle East, a cloning Al-Qaeda, China’s disputes with its neighbours, especially Japan. There are also threats closer to home: the continental drug trade, Haiti “the perennial rock of Sisyphus” and “a new, very cold war, in cyberspace.”

The cyber-threat deserves immediate attention.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano observed last week that not a day goes by without intrusions on the US defense and financial establishment. This likely holds true for us as well. Most of it originates from three countries: China, Russia and Iran.

In one of the first actions of his second term, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing US government agencies to prepare cybersecurity standards for the nation’s rail, road, air and energy grids.

The Order should stimulate Canadian cyber-preparedness. Our continental grid system is so integrated and vital to our economic well-being that we should act in tandem with the US.

NATO also has an economic mandate – inspired by Canada – so let’s make cyber-standards an Alliance initiative.

Canada was present and actively participated in the creation of NATO. Times and circumstances have changed, but the rationale for collective security in an alliance of like-minded democracies remains the same.

Strategic Outlook predicts that Canadian policymakers will increasingly favour pragmatism over principle; containment over involvement; reflection over engagement. These attitudes are likely shared across the Alliance. Leaders should bear them in mind as they envisage the future NATO.

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Does Canada need a national security strategy?

As part of the Ipolitics coverage of the upcoming budget issues,  former G&M security correspondent Jeff Sallot, who now teaches at Carleton moderated a panel discussion with former Ambassador Ferry De Kerchove, and Carleton security scholar David Perry and CDFAI Vice President Colin Robertson on the subject: Doee Canada need a national security strategy? .  The podcast can be found on the ipolitics video website

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CPAC Broadcast on Canada and the future of NATO

CPAC Broadcast: On Septemer 21st, 2010, Paul Chapin, former director general for international security at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Lieut.-Gen. (Ret’d) Michel Maisonneuve, former chief of staff at NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, with moderator Colin Robertson took part in a  lively conversation on NATO’s future direction at the opening session of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch. The session was broadcast by CPAC. The report is available at the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

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