NATO Brussels Summit

A Primer to the Brussels NATO Summit

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
May, 2017

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Table of Contents


Executive Summary

On May 25-26, NATO leaders will meet in Brussels. This will be the first multilateral forum in which President Donald Trump will be in attendance, and where much of the focus will be following his varied comments on NATO. From its original 12 members, NATO now stands at 28, including many former Warsaw Pact nations, and has operated in Afghanistan, performed anti-piracy missions, and taken part in humanitarian operations as well.

Despite these successes, President Trump, both as a candidate and since, has called on the Alliance members to increase their share of the burden, symbolized to him by the two percent goal. There are six big-ticket items which will be discussed at the summit:

  1. NATO readiness to reinforce collective defence, including investing in capabilities;
  2. Defence spending;
  3. Relations with Russia;
  4. Deepening partnerships and maintaining NATO’s open door policy;
  5. Afghanistan; and
  6. ISIS and Terrorism.

It is expected that President Trump will again forcefully push for all members to meet the 2 percent of GDP spending on defence commitment. In return the other leaders will expect a clear commitment to collective defence. As leaders meet, new Pew Foundation survey numbers reveal strong support among the populations of NATO member countries for both the Alliance itself and, more importantly, collective self-defence.

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Introduction

Presidents and prime ministers will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday (May 24-5, 2017) in a summit meeting of the 28 partner nations. The focus will be on U.S. President Donald Trump, appearing in his first formal multilateral forum. It will also be the first meeting for France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron.

The conference takes place against a complicated backdrop; upcoming elections in the United Kingdom and Germany, the recent elections in France and the Netherlands, the Brexit negotiations, the ongoing campaign against ISIS, turmoil in Syria, questions about Afghanistan, the continuing migration from the Middle East and North Africa, the latest Greek bailout, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarianism in the wake of the recent constitutional referendum, the continuing Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine and improved Russian military capacity, Chinese elbowing in on the South China Seas, North Korean nuclear and missile testing, increasing cyber-attacks, including those that shut down parts of Britain’s health services and a new terrorist incident at a concert in Manchester.

NATO leaders will dedicate and then meet in the organization’s new, multi-billion euro headquarters. A section of the World Trade Center – The 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial – the only time in its history that NATO invoked Article 5, the mutual defense clause, will be unveiled by President Trump. A section of the Berlin Wall, underlining how NATO kept the peace during the Cold War, will be dedicated by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Critics say the new headquarters also reflects the challenges confronting the Alliance: it is behind schedule and over-budget.

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What is NATO?

NATO is a military and political alliance constructed around the principles of collective security, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. It has 28 members including Canada, the United States and most European nations, as well as a host of Euro-Atlantic partner nations. NATO represents half of the world’s economic and military power. As Secretary General Stollenberg observes, “no other superpower has ever had such a strategic advantage.”

In the wake of the Second World War, the victors set up a series of international institutions. The foremost was the United Nations, with universal membership designed to advance human progress and prevent the “scourge of war”. Responding to what Winston Churchill described as the “iron curtain” descending “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” the western alliance set up a collective security agreement called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the words of its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, NATO was to “keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in.” A collective security agreement, an attack on one would be considered an attack on all, enshrined in Article 5. NATO was also designed, at Canadian insistence, to have an economic dimension to promote trade, investment, and commerce between the members (Article 2).

The agreement was signed in Washington on April 2, 1949. Its original membership included twelve countries – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In signing the agreement Canadian External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson said that Canadians “feel deeply and instinctively” that the treaty is “a pledge for peace and progress”.

The Alliance expanded: Turkey and Greece joined in 1952, West Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982. France left the military alliance in 1967 but rejoined in 2009. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, NATO membership is now 28 countries – most of the former Warsaw Pact countries, including the Balkan states created with the dissolution of Yugoslavia (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Montenegro will join when its membership is ratified by all member countries and Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are on NATO’s membership action plans, a kind of waiting-room for membership. Georgia and Ukraine have declared an interest in joining NATO and at the Bucharest summit (2008) NATO said the door was open although, since 2010, Ukraine has not formally pursued membership.

NATO is headquartered in Brussels, where former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg leads its Secretariat with Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, a former U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security NATO military operations are headed by two commanders: Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) based in Brussels is currently U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti; and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), based in Norfolk, Virginia, is currently French General Denis Mercier.

Member nations are represented in both the NATO council and military committee and legislators meet annually in the NATO parliamentary assembly. A Canadian has never held the post of Secretary General but Canadian General Ray Henault, a former Chief of Defense Staff, served as Chairman of the Military Committee from 2005-2008.

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What has NATO done?

NATO has three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

For its first 40 years NATO’s purpose was to deter Soviet aggression. Today, arguably, it is to deter Russian aggression. Canadian troops were stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany.

With the end of the Cold War, NATO shifted to help the former Soviet-bloc countries embrace democracy and the market economy.

Since 1989, NATO has also become involved in a series of out-of-theatre missions. Over 150,000 troops served under NATO command in six different operations on three continents, including counter-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

NATO forces were involved in bringing peace to the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo), operations that continues today. NATO forces, under the umbrella of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have been present in Afghanistan since 2003. There have been operations around Iraq (1990-1) and a training mission (2004-11). In 2005, NATO assisted in the relief efforts following the Pakistan earthquake. In recent years, NATO has also provided support to African Union peacekeeping missions in the Sudan and Somalia. NATO led the U.N.-sanctioned Libyan campaign (Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in 2011), maintaining a no-fly zone and conducting air strikes against the Gaddafi regime. Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard directed that air campaign.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2014 presented NATO with a renewed challenge, while events on its southern flank – in North Africa and the Middle East – require ongoing attention.

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President Trump and NATO

All eyes at the summit will be on President Trump, who arrives as part of his first official trip abroad, which also took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, and finally Brussels.

NATO leaders usually meet in the aftermath of the election of a new American president, as it is the U.S. that provides the muscle for the organization. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Mr. Trump called NATO “obsolete”, warned the Allies that they would have to carry more of the load, and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since his election his statements on NATO have reflected a more traditional U.S. stance. During his meeting in April with U.N. Secretary General Jens Stollenberg, President Trump re-affirmed U.S. support for NATO saying the Alliance was “no longer obsolete” but declared that “NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe.”

Vice President Mike Pence and the senior security and defence team all support NATO. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Defence Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly – all served as generals in the U.S. Forces. His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was CEO of Exxon. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, has been vocal in her criticism of Russia.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, Vice President Pence said “the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance”. He also reiterated Mr. Trump’s message that the Allies need to pay their “fair share…That pledge has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long and erodes the very foundation of our alliance.”

The U.S. effort leading to the Brussels summit was handicapped by the lack of senior personnel in the U.S. Administration. Many posts at the National Security Council, Pentagon, State Department, as well as ambassadors, including to NATO and most of its member nations, have yet to be named, let alone confirmed by the Senate.

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Big Ticket Items

1. NATO readiness to reinforce collective defence, including investing in capabilities

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and intervention in Syria have underlined the need for NATO readiness, including a rapid, combat-ready expeditionary force with attention to cyber defence and maritime security. As NATO scholar Julian Lindley-French and Admiral (ret’d) James Stavridis, former SACEUR, have argued “Article 5 collective defence must be modernised and re-organised around cyber-defence, missile defence and the advanced deployable forces vital to contemporary defence.”

2. Defence spending

The United States shoulders three quarters of the alliance’s operating budget. U.S. presidents and cabinet secretaries have consistently encouraged NATO members to spend more.

The American argument is expressed well in the valedictory remarks to NATO (June 10, 2011), of former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates, who warned, “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

Speaking in February to his fellow defence ministers Defence Secretary James Mattis said “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.

Defence spending in 2000 for most NATO members was 2 percent of GDP but it then steadily declined. According to NATO figures released in March, 2017, only five of the 28 members meet NATO’s target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defence: the U.S., the U.K., Poland, Greece and Estonia. The U.S. spends 3.61 percent on defence and the U.K. 2.17 percent, based on NATO figures for 2016, while Germany spends 1.2 percent, France 1.7, Italy 1.11 and Spain 0.9. By NATO’s estimates for this year, Canada will spend 1.02 percent of its GDP on defence.

3. Relations with Russia

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea violates the U.N. charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and Russia’s 20-year old commitment “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”.

With the end of the Cold War there was hope that Russia would eventually become a NATO partner and in 2009 NATO and Russia signed an accord to “build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security.” Like the Obama ‘reset’ it has not worked out as planned. The NATO-Russia Council, created in 2002, meets in the belief that “in times of tension, dialogue is more important than ever.” NATO has responded to the changed security environment by enhancing its deterrence and defence posture.

President Putin wants to create a sphere of influence on his frontiers and, through the creation of his Eurasian Union (a free-trade customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus), a counter-weight to NATO (and the European Union). Ukraine is not his first incursion into a neighbour’s territory. In 2008, at his instruction, Russian forces invaded Georgia and occupied the South Ossetia region.

4. Deepening partnerships and maintaining NATO’s open door policy

NATO’s partnerships, born out of its 1990 London summit focused first on the former Soviet bloc nations (many of whom are now full members), then on crisis management in the Balkans, and, since 9-11 on wider partnerships now including more than forty nations around the world – including Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. At its peak, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan included 22 partner nations. Partnership does not include the security guarantee of Article 5. Ukraine and Georgia want membership in NATO and at the Bucharest summit in 2008 NATO encouraged this, but NATO enlargement is controversial and there is discussion of different architecture to guarantee security.

A wise persons report (2016) commissioned by the Finnish government concluded that Finland and Sweden should stick together, whatever the decision, but that membership would provoke Russia. It described Russia as an “unsatisfied power” that “has made unpredictability a strategic and tactical virtue, underpinned by an impressive degree of political and military agility.”

5. Afghanistan

NATO has been involved in Afghanistan since the U.N. Security Council authorized the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that operated from August 2003 to December 2014. ISAF was NATO’s longest mission employing more than 130,000 troops from 51 NATO and partner nations, including Canada. A new NATO-led mission (Resolute Support) was launched in January 2015 to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.

In his meeting with Secretary General Stollenberg in April, President Trump said he would like more NATO members to re-involve themselves in Afghanistan.

While Canadian Forces left Afghanistan in March 2014 after a twelve-year campaign and the loss of 161 men and women, Canada continues to support a number of programs and activities.

NATO’s current mission in Afghanistan, RESOLUTE SUPPORT, was launched to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions in January 2015. A total of 39 countries (and all NATO members with the exception of Canada and France) have contributed a total of 13,459 troops at last official count.

6. ISIS and Terrorism

President Trump told Secretary General Stollenberg during their April meeting in Washington that he hopes that “NATO will take on an increased role in supporting our Iraqi partners in their battle against ISIS.” In his first major foreign policy address abroad (May 21), President Trump told Arab leaders in Riyadh that the fight against terrorism ‘‘is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it.’’

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What results can we expect from the Brussels summit?

NATO Leaders will want to hear President Trump explicitly confirm his commitment to Article 5.

President Trump’s pronouncements aside, reinvigoration of the Alliance begins with political will, and this is a hard commodity to coalesce.

President Trump will reiterate his demand that the Allies spend 2 percent of GDP on national defence, the target originally set by NATO in 2002. Without an agreed strategy on what the spending is to support, binding commitments before 2020, the date set at the 2014 Wales summit, are unlikely.

Commitments would have to include actual capability requirements as well as agreement to make those resources available for combat. The Afghan and Libyan missions were handicapped by the caveats imposed by some NATO members on use of their personnel and equipment.

President Trump will likely push for NATO to formally join the anti-ISIS coalition. Germany is reportedly pushing back against the idea but some form of NATO commitment may be forthcoming. In meeting with reporters last week Secretary General Stollenberg said ““Allies who are arguing in favour are pointing to the fact that by joining the coalition NATO could send a clear message of political support.”

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Canadian involvement at the summit?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be pressed about Canada’s financial commitment to NATO. During his address to Parliament in June 2015, President Obama also pushed Trudeau for more spending, saying not once, but three times that “NATO needs more Canada.

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Mr. Trudeau is likely to respond to President Trump as he did during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February when he said that “there are many ways of evaluating one’s contribution to NATO” noting that Canada has “always been amongst the strongest actors in NATO.”

Trudeau will likely cite Canada’s leadership of a multinational NATO mission in Latvia (a commitment he made at the Warsaw summit in 2016), as part of broader Canadian support to Operation REASSURANCE, and note the “significant procurement projects” — especially the ongoing construction of new warships and the purchase of fighter jets – and Canada’s renewed activist internationalism.

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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told Parliament that the Defence Policy Review – which may include new spending for defence – is scheduled to be announced on June 7.

In practical terms under Operation REASSURANCE, Canadian fighter jets patrol the Baltic skies, and since April 2014 Canada has deployed five Halifax-class frigates in support of NATO reassurance measures. Canada is providing humanitarian and Special Forces support to a U.S.-led multinational effort to support pro-Iraq forces battling the Islamic State.

In terms of readiness, Canadian forces already have achieved significant interoperability on land, air and sea with the U.S. through NORAD, our binational aerospace and maritime surveillance agreement, and through both joint exercises and active operations in theatres like Afghanistan and Libya, and now in Latvia.

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Public Opinion and NATO

Public opinion continues to support NATO.

A spring 2017 Pew Research Center survey of six EU nations (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom), the U.S. and Canada finds positive views of the military alliance.

Asked about their own country should militarily defend a NATO ally (i.e. Article 5) if embroiled in an armed conflict with Russia, there is strong support in the Netherlands (72 percent), Poland (62 percent), United States (62 percent), Canada (58 percent) and France (53 percent), to living up to their mutual defense commitment as a member of NATO.

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BrusselsNATOSummit5.jpgTwo-thirds of Canadians hold NATO in high esteem, a rise of 10 percent since 2015, with rising support across demographic groups and with strong support amongst the major parties: Liberal Party (75 percent), Conservative Party (74 percent) New Democratic Party (65 percent).

Germany has the fourth-largest defense budget in NATO, but only 40 percent of Germans believe they should come to the aid of an ally with. More than half (53 percent) do not support such aid.

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In a 2015 survey a third of those surveyed said their country should increase its national defense spending, while nearly half (median of 47 percent) want to keep spending the same and 14 percent favor decreasing defense spending. The figures for Canada were 31 percent increase spending, 52 percent stay the same and 13 percent saying decrease spending.

A Gallup survey in February, 2017 revealed 80 percent of Americans support the Alliance. When Gallup first asked Americans about their views on NATO in July 1989, 75 percent thought the alliance should be maintained. This percentage dropped to 62 percent in 1991, months before the Soviet Union’s formal collapse, staying at that level during NATO 1995 intervention in the Bosnian War.

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About the Author

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. He is Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP working with the Business Council of Canada. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He is a member of the advisory councils of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the North American Research Partnership and participant in the North American Forum. He is a past president of the National Capital Branch of the Canadian International Council. He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate. He writes on international affairs for the Globe and Mail and he is a regular contributor to other media.

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Canadian Global Affairs Institute

The Canadian Global Affairs Institute focuses on the entire range of Canada’s international relations in all its forms including (in partnership with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy), trade investment and international capacity building. Successor to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI, which was established in 2001), the Institute works to inform Canadians about the importance of having a respected and influential voice in those parts of the globe where Canada has significant interests due to trade and investment, origins of Canada’s population, geographic security (and especially security of North America in conjunction with the United States), social development, or the peace and freedom of allied nations. The Institute aims to demonstrate to Canadians the importance of comprehensive foreign, defence and trade policies which both express our values and represent our interests.

The Institute was created to bridge the gap between what Canadians need to know about Canadian international activities and what they do know. Historically Canadians have tended to look abroad out of a search for markets because Canada depends heavily on foreign trade. In the modern post-Cold War world, however, global security and stability have become the bedrocks of global commerce and the free movement of people, goods and ideas across international boundaries. Canada has striven to open the world since the 1930s and was a driving factor behind the adoption of the main structures which underpin globalization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and emerging free trade networks connecting dozens of international economies. The Canadian Global Affairs Institute recognizes Canada’s contribution to a globalized world and aims to inform Canadians about Canada’s role in that process and the connection between globalization and security.

In all its activities the Institute is a charitable, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization that provides a platform for a variety of viewpoints. It is supported financially by the contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Conclusions or opinions expressed in Institute publications and programs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Institute staff, fellows, directors, advisors or any individuals or organizations that provide financial support to the Institute.

Canada and the Nuclear Security Summit

Why this week’s nuclear summit is an opportunity for Trudeau

The Globe and Mail

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Belgium and Pakistan, this five-minute video narrated by former U.S. secretary of defence William Perry should be required viewing for the world leaders gathering this week for President Barack Obama’s nuclear security summit.

The video describes the delivery, detonation and grim aftermath of a nuclear bomb set off in Washington, D.C. The central message is that a nuclear incident – whether through accident or design – is a “nightmare scenario” worth considering.

Mr. Perry, along with fellow public servants George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, created the Nuclear Security Project in 2007 after writing about the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Their ongoing work through the Nuclear Threat Initiative sets the context for this week’s summit.

For Canada, once the world’s biggest producer of uranium, there is an important role to play in helping to secure the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb.

Shortly after taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama set out his ambitious agenda for reducing the risk of nuclear weapons. During a speech in Prague, he boldy declared his goal of “a world without nuclear weapons,” and promised to press for congressional ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to negotiate a new arms-reduction treaty with Russia.

Progress has been modest. An arms-reduction treaty with Russia took effect in 2011; sanctions continue to be applied against North Korea over its nuclear and missile-testing programs; a dozen countries, including Ukraine, no longer have weapons-usable nuclear materials; and in 2015, after long negotiation, an Iranian nuclear deal was negotiated.

But challenges and threats remain. The U.S. Congress has yet to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mused about using tactical nuclear weapons and the Russians have cut off most security co-operation with the United States. And, perhaps most important, a series of nuclear summits aimed at securing, within four years, all vulnerable nuclear materials has come up short.

With this context in mind, a comprehensive agreement covering all nuclear materials should be the leaders’ goal this week. This means the global logging, tracking, managing and securing and eventual disposal of all fissile nuclear material.

For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who described nuclear terrorism on Tuesday as “one of the gravest threats to international security,” there is a leadership opportunity.

For many years, Canada was the top uranium producer, but it’s now Kazakhstan. Together with Australia, the three nations account for more than two-thirds of global production. What if the three agreed to become permanent stewards of used uranium products?

They would permanently “own” their uranium and ensure that its waste, including radioactive and fissible material, was properly disposed of, perhaps in mines no longer in production. While this doesn’t solve the problem of existing nuclear waste, it would control most new supply.

The International Atomic Energy Agency would provide on-site accounting oversight and supervise the transportation of all uranium. Rates would reflect risks to make it commercially and politically viable.

Given their secure geography, Canada and Australia would have to take the lead in long-term global disposal, but this requires leadership and persuasion.

Saskatchewan is home to Canada’s uranium mines and the industry is one of the largest employers of indigenous people. People in Saskatchewan strongly support their industry. They recognize the value of nuclear medicine research, but they oppose nuclear waste storage. They will need to be convinced about the safety, security and economic returns of long-term stewardship.

Nuclear energy, which emits no carbon, is also a key piece of the solution to climate-change mitigation. China is betting heavily on nuclear energy in its migration from coal. France derives about 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy. Nuclear power supplies 50 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.

The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. We have to do a better job of handling its waste and curbing nuclear proliferation. As both a producer and user, Canada can take the lead in the control and containment of our own uranium.

Managing the nuclear genie will depend on technological innovation and the kind of multilateral policy creativity that we hope to see in Washington this week. The alternative, as Mr. Perry’s video portrays, would be a nightmare.

 

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Canada and the World

Note to Canada’s next government: Diplomacy is not a sign of weakness

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2015

Allies are usually friends but adversaries are not always enemies. Our next government needs to recognize this distinction to give Canada better leverage in the changing international order.

At the end of the Second World War, Canadians helped construct a new international order.

Idealism guided our efforts in designing the United Nations. Realpolitik drove the creation of NATO. The West’s collective security alliance contained Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, an erstwhile ally but no friend. NATO now constrains Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an erstwhile friend but no ally.

The United States is Canada’s enduring, if occasionally frustrating, friend and closest ally. Strengthened daily by deepening economic integration, this relationship now includes Mexico.

Geographic propinquity gives Canada a special place in Washington and our interpretive role leverages our standing. Canadians have roots in every corner of the globe. When we are on our diplomatic game, Washington welcomes our global perspective.

We are well placed to interpret the United States. Foreign nations, confused by the White House and Congress, look to us for explanation.

Our ability to arbitrage this interpretive capacity requires a global diplomatic service constantly gathering insights. Even when we don’t like the incumbent government we need to be there. Keeping our ambassador in Havana throughout the Castro era allowed us to be a useful fixer in the recent re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba relations.

The University of Southern California’s Geoffrey Wiseman has edited the book Isolate or Engage which concludes that when it comes to dealing with adversarial states, engagement works better than isolation. Policy makers must distinguish between efforts at regime change (for example, Islamic State) and regime behavioural change (such as Russia in Ukraine, China in the South China Sea).

The U.S. withheld relations at various times with the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Libya, Iran and North Korea. “More often than not,” writes Prof. Wiseman, “this policy has frustrated U.S. foreign policy goals.” With Vietnam, for example, it hampered U.S. efforts to recover the remains of fallen servicemen. Isolation of Cuba damaged U.S. relations with the rest of Latin America.

To isolate or to engage increasingly breaks down on party lines in the United States. In his first inaugural address, President Barack Obama pledged to foreign adversaries to “extend a hand if you unclench your fist.” It’s not easy. President Obama’s ambiguous Syrian red-line left him looking weak but his patience and perseverance with Iran achieved a nuclear agreement. By contrast, many of the Republican contenders for 2016 would isolate China and put U.S. boots on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. Nor do they like the Iran deal or the Cuban accord.

Conservative foreign policy under Stephen Harper is too often binary. Mr. Harper has shunned the United Nations, telling a Montreal audience in May: “Gone are the days when Canadian foreign policy was about nothing more than trying to be liked by every dictator with a vote at the UN.” This attitude explains why Canada speaks 190th, ahead of only San Marino and Palau, at this week’s General Assembly.

In recent years, we broke relations with Iran, recalled our ambassador to Russia and circumscribed contact with North Korea, moves that created headlines and puffery about “toughness.” They also removed our ability to influence and provide insight.

Avoiding high-level contact with China for nearly five years earned a reprimand from the Chinese premier. It also reduced our economic opportunities with the second-largest global economy. Giving Russia’s Foreign Minister the cold shoulder in Iqaluit – so he didn’t attend – was an ungracious finale to our Arctic Council chairmanship.

Diplomatic relations are not an endorsement of good housekeeping. Rather they give us vital communications, in-country observation and consular protection for Canadians.

Why not engage China, as agreed, on closer economic collaboration and maritime energy corridors? Why not engage Russia in the Arctic? Why not work with China and Russia on containing jihad and managing climate change and cyberspace?

Trying to shape the behaviour of friends, adversaries and enemies is a constant effort requiring hard and soft power.

A recent study assessing Canadian international engagement concluded that our spending on defence and development assistance, key indicators of engagement, has fallen by half since 1990. We have become, argued authors Robert Greenhill and Meg McQuillan, international “free riders.”

International engagement requires a robust foreign service, Canadian Forces ready for action and generous development assistance. For the next government, this means political will and multiyear budgeting commitments.

“To jaw-jaw” said Winston Churchill, no appeaser, “is always better than to war-war.” In an era of protracted conflict and asymmetrical warfare, the international order needs constant attention and strategic patience. To engage is not a sign of weakness.

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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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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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On the Visit of Chancellor Merkel and the Ukraine situation

CTV News Channel: Will Putin change tactics?

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson explains whether Putin will agree to anything and stick to a plan or push further into Ukraine.
http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=547440

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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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Ukrainian official says Russian forces have seized the eastern city of Novoazovsk even as Moscow remained silent on whether its forces had crossed the border. Deborah Gembara reports.

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Ukraine's Security Council releases a video of what it says is a Russian tank in the southeastern town of Novoazovsk, bolstering claims that "Russian military boots are on Ukrainian ground." Rough Cut (no reporter narration)

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Video: Ukraine releases video of purported Russian tank in Novoazovsk
 

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Video: Footage shows Canadian soldiers participating in NATO training exercises in Poland

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Sanctions and Mr. Putin

How Harper can get at Putin, and other tips on sanctions

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 05 2014

Sanctions started with the travel and banking blacklist of Vladimir Putin’s closest cronies – the new nomenklatura. After the annexation of Crimea, bans were put on arms sales and the export of energy-related technology.

Last week, Western capital markets closed to Russian state banks. Western governments also expanded the list of Russian banking, arms and energy companies banned from doing business in the West.

Will these new sanctions work?

In the short term probably not as Russians are behind their President. Recent Russian polls put Mr. Putin’s popularity at over 80 per cent with strong confidence in the direction of the country, their military and government.

At the World Trade Organization, the Russians say the sanctions could trigger a fight that would “ultimately undermine the credibility of the multilateral trading system.” It will test the national security override provision in the WTO.

Outside of the G7 and the European Union, only a few nations are applying serious sanctions to Russia. There are still loopholes for Russia to avoid or evade them.

Sanctions are only as strong as the weakest link.

The Western arms ban only applies to transactions after the Crimean invasion. France intends to sell two warships – Sevastopol (as in occupied Crimea) and Vladivostok – to Russia. As the New York Times editorialized, “financial sacrifice is one thing; arming Russia is another.”

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to cock a snook at Mr. Putin, do a favour to French President François Hollande. Pre-emptively purchase the ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. Rename them Frontenac and Champlain, after our great French warrior-governor explorers. Sign the Canada-Europe trade agreement on their deck.

For sanctions to bite they need to be progressively ratcheted up. The rest of the world needs to buy in. Sanctions work better when targeted, calibrated and comprehensively applied.

As with armed force, threat of sanctions has deterrent value. As with force, their application record is mixed.

The challenge, pointed out Jimmy Carter in his Nobel lecture, is avoiding the “injustice” of sanctions, aimed at penalizing abusive leaders, that “inflict punishment on those who are already suffering from the abuse.”

Sanctioned nations – Rhodesia after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence, South Africa over apartheid, Cuba since Fidel Castro, China after Tiananmen Square, Iraq after the first Gulf War and currently North Korea and Iran – have proven resilient. They adapt and find alternate sources through the black market or other rogue regimes.

In Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, Peterson Institute scholars’ Gary Hufbauer and Jeff Schott look at the effect of sanctions since the First World War.

Sanctions were assessed “at least partially successful” in one-third of the 204 cases examined.

Used to punish and deter, as well as to assuage domestic constituencies, they were more effective when applied between friendly nations, likely because they shared norms of behaviour.

Financial sanctions are becoming increasingly effective through better tracking. Named companies and individuals become “radioactive,” curbing their ability to travel and profit.

In their look at three decades of sanctions on Iran, the Iran Project concluded their impact on the kitchen table helped persuade Iran to return to the nuclear bargaining table. The challenge is knowing when to convert a “purely confrontational strategy” to one combining pressure and positive signals.

Sanctions are having an effect on Russia. Russia’s central bank raised its interest rate to 8 per cent last week noting the “negative impact” of “external political uncertainty.” Russian annual growth was downgraded by the IMF to 0.2 per cent.

Western leaders need to pressure the new beneficiaries of the liberal international order, especially those in the G20, to join in the application of meaningful sanctions. With global trade and investment rights come community responsibilities.

Within the G7, set a timetable for additional sanctions if President Putin does not comply.

For Mr. Putin to get away with invasion, annexation and the murder of innocents is wrong. Hold him to account.

Sanctions are imperfect but a better tool than using force. “Peace” Ronald Reagan observed, “is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Hitting the bad guys in their passports and pocketbooks helps encourage compliance.

Sanctions oblige patience, fortitude and disciplined unity – difficult virtues for democracies. But at stake is the integrity of our liberal international order.

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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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Harper in ukraine

Harper Visits Ukraine Amid Russia Moves Ahead of G-7 Meet

By Andrew Mayeda Mar 21, 2014 12:01 AM ET

Photographer: Stuart Davis/Bloomberg

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Mr. Putin’s reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the community.”

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets his Group of Seven counterparts to discuss the crisis in Ukraine next week, he’ll be the only leader able to give a first-hand account.

Harper heads to Ukraine today, where he will cement his status as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sharpest critics within G-7. He will meet Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev tomorrow and repeat his condemnation of Russia’s “illegal military occupation” of Crimea, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The trip comes days before G-7 leaders meet during a nuclear security summit in The Hague to discuss how to respond to Russia’s actions. The dispute over Ukrainian territory has set off the bitterest confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Harper’s animosity toward Putin and Russia is driven by a principles-based foreign policy and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind to his counterparts, said John Kirton, director of the G-8 research group at the University of Toronto.

“He’s regarded as a man of conviction who’s very clear,” Kirton said in a telephone interview yesterday. Paraphrasing former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Kirton said of Harper: “The man’s not for turning.”

There’s little doubt about Harper’s views. In June, he accused Putin of supporting “thugs” in the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and said the G-8 had evolved into the “G-7 plus one.”

Imposed Sanctions

Like the U.S. and other allies, Canada has imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on Russian officials. Harper’s government has also recalled its ambassador to Russia, suspended military cooperation and pledged C$220 million ($196 million) in financial aid to Ukraine.

“Mr. Putin’s reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the community,” Harper said after Crimea voted to join Russia in a March 16 referendum.

Canada has also clashed with Russia over territorial claims in the Arctic. In January, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada planned to claim the North Pole, prompting Putin to promise to devote “special attention” to Russia’s Arctic military presence.

Trading Relations

Harper’s verbal attacks have come despite the relatively small trading relation between the two countries. Canada trades more with Peru and Algeria than it does with Russia, and Canada is the only G-7 country not among the list of Russia’s top 20 trading partners.

At the same time, Canadian companies such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX) Inc. have seen an impact from the crisis in Ukraine. In Russia, Valeant sells $400 million to $500 million worth of over-the-counter medicines like AntiGrippin for treating colds. Sales growth in the country was as high as 20 percent and has slowed since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine dispute to low double digits, Chief Executive Officer Mike Pearson said.

The visit also gives Harper the opportunity to bolster political support among the nation’s 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who’s now vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Canada had a population of 32.9 million in 2011, according to the last national census.

“It’s heartfelt, but it’s also very good politics,” Robertson said.

‘Energy Superpower’

Harper, who has called Canada an emerging “energy superpower,” may also use the trip to emphasize Canada’s potential as a reliable supplier of crude and natural gas. The European Union is looking at ways to reduce its reliance on Russian gas exports, according to a draft EU document released this week.

The crisis underscores the need for Canada to build crude pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals that would enable shipments to Europe, said former natural-resources minister Joe Oliver.

“A lot of countries are under the Russian boot,” Oliver said in an interview in Toronto on March 14, five days before he was appointed finance minister. “We present ourselves, not currently but hopefully, as a potential source of energy to Europe.”

As a member of NATO, Canada can play a “small but important role” in encouraging other countries in the alliance to recognize the threat posed by Russia, said Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Strong Support

“I expect that he’ll offer very strong support of the Ukrainian government in Kiev and that he’ll lambaste Russia for its intervention in Crimea,” Paris said. “Whether that criticism goes beyond words, mild sanctions and the symbolism of recalling an ambassador remains to be seen.”

Harper will also meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and then travel to Germany for an official visit, where he’ll meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Harper, 54, has shown that he has a “binary” view of foreign policy that categorizes countries as good or bad, Robertson said.

“It’s the autocrats versus the democrats,” he said. “It’s the Cold War 2.0.”

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