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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U.S. President Obama piles pressure on Russia's Putin to force Ukraine's separatists to cooperate in crash investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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Secretary of State John Kerry expresses disgust over the Russian rebels' mishandling of victims' bodies at the Malaysian plane crash site. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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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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