Ukraine and the Democracies

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The democracies need to push back hard

Unless the democracies stand up — and stand together — there will be more Ukraines

Colin Robertson,  Special to Financial Post Mar 01, 2022

Our fraying rules-based international order is in danger of unravelling completely. Might makes right is enjoying a come-back. Unless the democracies stand up — and stand together — there will be more Ukraines. Democracy, under assault at home and from outside, is on the line. For Canada, standing up means we need to increase our defence and security premiums and, in concert with our democratic allies, rethink our global strategy

Bob Rae, our ambassador to the United Nations, got it right when he tweeted that Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal” and that “every possible assistance must be provided the people and government of Ukraine.” For now, that will mean money and equipment, including arms, to the Ukrainian patriots resisting Russian aggression, as well as humanitarian aid through the Red Cross and other organizations for the victims of the war, especially the displaced within Ukraine. We also need to open our doors to those who do not want to live under the Russian yoke.

After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Canada was the first western nation to recognize Ukrainian independence. The ties of history and family are strong, especially in western Canada, with over 1.4 million Canadians claiming Ukrainian roots. Canadian governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have actively supported initiatives to grow and strengthen Ukrainian governance and, since 2015, to help train Ukraine’s armed forces.

The great strength of democracies is our fundamental belief in norms of fairness and decency. But Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping have never shared these values. A democratic and prosperous Taiwan and a Ukraine moving in that direction disprove their claim that autocracy is superior to democracy. And let’s not delude ourselves, if Putin gets away with Ukraine, Xi will soon swallow Taiwan.

The weakness of the West is our failure to robustly defend our values. But push back we must and so the next tranche of sanctions must bite not just the personal pocketbooks of President Putin, his cronies and kleptocratic entourage, but their passports as well. Why should they and their families enjoy their mansions in London, study at Harvard or skiing in the Rockies?

The West also needs to continue beefing up its deterrence through NATO’s collective security alliance. At their Wales summit in 2014 the allies each pledged to commit two per cent of their GDP to defence spending by 2024. Canada currently spends just 1.39 per cent, which means we are outpaced by all our NATO G7 partners: the United States (3.52 per cent), the United Kingdom (2.29), France (2.01), Germany (1.53, and rising to at least 2.0, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in the wake of the Russian invasion), and Italy (1.41).

Our habit of seeing the world as we would like it to be is no longer sustainable. As John F. Kennedy put it, “only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.” Surrounded by three oceans, and with the Russians and Chinese now active in the Arctic, we need a deployable, combat-capable Navy with destroyers, frigates, submarines, and attendant air and logistical support.

In addition to the ongoing disinformation and cyberattacks, Putin may decide to counter western sanctions by cutting off the Russian energy supplies to which our European allies, especially Germany, are addicted. Canada and the United States need to help out by ramping up production and getting tankers across the Atlantic (another reason we need more Navy). In the longer term, as a matter of national security, we need gas pipelines to both coasts and the LNG terminals that complement them.

As of last week, we live in a much messier and meaner world. The defining struggle going forward is between democracy and autocracy. Checks on abuse of power and human rights violations have eroded. Democracy is on the back foot. Freedom House reports 16 consecutive years of decline in global freedom, with fully 38 per cent of the world’s population living in “not free” countries, 42 per cent in only “partly free” countries and just 20 per cent — only one in five people on the planet — in “free” countrie

No democracy is perfect, but Canada’s is clearly in the top tier. We can share our experience, especially in managing pluralism, which is increasingly important in an age where tribalism and identity politics are on the rise. The Trudeau government needs to move now on its long-promised initiative to help advance “peace, order and good government.”

In the decades after World War II, the United Nations promoted the notion of fundamental rights. Canadian John Humphrey was instrumental in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the Cold War the democracies actively advanced, albeit imperfectly, the cause of liberty and representative institutions in their domestic and foreign policies. It was all part and parcel of the larger effort to create an open, rules-based international system built on shared resistance to totalitarianism.

The system worked so well that we have enjoyed a remarkable period of peace and prosperity. But complacency set in. We are now called on once again to redeem and reinforce the norms and rules that ensure our democratic values and protect our way of life.

Aftershocks by Thomas Wright

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‘Aftershocks’: The Pandemic as New World Order Force Multiplier

 

Aftershocks: Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order

Macmillan/September 2021

By Colin Kahl and Thomas Wright

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

February 20, 2021

History on the hoof can be treacherous but Aftershocks: Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order by scholars Colin Kahl and Thomas Wright stands up. What would happen in a global crisis, they ask, if world politics were dominated by national governments that refused, or were unable, to cooperate with one another? Well, we found out and it was a disaster with the global death toll now approaching six million. An intercontinental war is no longer required to accelerate a global contagion.

Aftershock is the story of how our highly interconnected world floundered in what quickly became individual national efforts to cope with a global contagion in an age of gross inequality, rising populism and nationalism, and escalating geopolitical competition especially between the US and China. All of this complicated and ultimately confounded what should have been a coordinated international response.

The authors’ perspective is rooted in history. Indeed, the first chapters of this four- part book are devoted to previous pandemics, especially that of 1918-20 and its effect on world order. The subsequent parts deal with the crisis unleashed by the COVID pandemic, using case studies to illustrate the various disjointed national responses.

Kahl and Wright explore our current world disorder as nations locked down and vaccine nationalism became the order of the day. Illiberal leaders and autocrats took advantage to consolidate power and game elections. Ironically, their efforts to further erode their citizens’ freedoms, and crack down on dissent were aided by new digital technologies, including surveillance apps developed to stop the spread of the virus.

The pandemic has also been characterized by clashes between democratic leaders who wanted to control the outbreak and new world order populists who denied its severity. The net effect, Kahl and Wright argue, has been to reverse decades of poverty reduction in the developing world and erode democracy and civil liberties. The net result, the authors conclude, is probably a fatal blow to our rules-based order.

Kahl and Wright explore our current world disorder as nations locked down and vaccine nationalism became the order of the day.

The final section looks to a post-COVID world, the requirement for pandemic preparedness in vaccines and protective equipment. Kahl and Wright suggest like-minded nations create their own institution but global problems like pandemics and climate change are better addressed through global effort.

Aftershocks is also important because Colin Kahl is now US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and,as such, principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for defense policy. Kahl previously served as Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama administration.  Thomas Wright directs the Center for the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. Aftershocks is in many ways a companion to his earlier and excellent All Measures Short of War: The Contest For the 21st Century and the Future of America.

Kahl and Wright argue that the pandemic is an unnecessary and, as we are learning, unfinished tragedy. In the case of the United States, they are scathing in their assessment that “there simply was no excuse for one of the world’s most powerful nations to be ranked the fourteenth-worst among all countries for deaths as a percentage of the population.”

From the time he first heard of the dangers posed by the virus, Donald Trump’s response was to misrepresent the threat and its remedies because it interfered with his re-election bid and his efforts to portray himself as the dealmaker-in-chief of his now stillborn China trade pact.

History may not repeat itself but the lessons of the 1918-20 pandemic and the more recent bouts with SARS, MERS and Ebola that make up the first part of the book should have left the West, including Canada, better prepared. Everyone had known some sort of global pandemic was possible. Some countries had even planned for it, but when it arrived, most leaders “were flying blind”.

Around the world, a “competitive, self-help logic” dominated national responses. Shipments promised to other nations were diverted with “sauve qui peut” as the dominant leitmotif. It was not helped by viral disinformation and conspiracy theories, courtesy of new technologies and willing accomplices, including Big Tech.

The main villain in this story is the Chinese Communist Party, which covered up the virus, failing to share vital data and actively repressing doctors and journalists who tried to alert the public. The reforms inspired by SARS were largely swept aside as the country’s medical authorities were sidelined. Instead, China’s leadership contrasted their success in containing the virus with the West’s incapacity.

Beijing’s disinformation campaign against the West included the claim that the virus came to China from the United States. They also cast doubt on American-made vaccines. Using the offer of pandemic assistance to advance their geopolitical interests in Europe, Africa, and Latin America was another demonstration of the claimed superiority of their governance model.

The main villain in this story is the Chinese Communist Party, which covered up the virus, failing to share vital data and actively repressing doctors and journalists who tried to alert the public.

The World Health Organization has still to determine the origin of the virus but discounting a leak from the Wuhan laboratory would be a mistake. Hopes that China would become a responsible stakeholder in the global order have been dashed by Xi Jinping’s repression policies at home and bullying abroad.

The dupe in this tale is the WHO and its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In contrast to his predecessor, Gro Bruntdland, who took on the Chinese during SARS, Tedros bent over backwards to appease Chinese sensitivities. But two years later, the WHO has never been able to get what it wanted from Chinese authorities, who continue to obfuscate, deny and deflect. The pandemic demonstrated that the WHO is not fit for purpose and throughout the crisis failed to offer coherent advice on how to contain it.

Canadian policy-makers need to wake-up. The pandemic exposed the vulnerability of global supply chains as Canadians ruefully learned when flights sent to China for PPE supplies returned home empty. Shortages of critical medical supplies mean governments must put a premium on reliability and redundancy. Re-establishing dependable vaccine production is essential.

For Canada, this means a hard-nosed assessment of our interests and capacities. It will require more investment in defence and security. Not just the warships and fighter jets but cyber-security of our hard and soft infrastructure – satellites, grids, pipelines and data. We need reliable and redundant sources for masks, medicines and vaccines. We should look to the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief and its youth corps of volunteers to complement the burden we put on the Canadian Armed Forces.

Aftershocks makes a compelling case that the pandemic marks the end of an American-led international order where the United States and its democratic allies automatically had the upper hand in international institutions. Biden’s best intentions notwithstanding, the old order is not restored simply because Trump is no longer in the White House.

We must prepare for a world in which we are increasingly hit by global shocks against a backdrop of great-power rivalry. The liberal democracies need to pool resources and move on reform of critical organizations like the WHO. We can expect resistance from China and Russia. Nor can we assume that the USA, subsumed with its domestic travails and the China challenge, will lead. Instead, faced with frustrations at home, it may well revert to what Adam Tooze calls “privileged detachment”. The economic and security implications for Canada will be especially profound.

Looking forward, cooperation on transnational challenges, like pandemics and climate, will no longer be insulated from great-power rivalry. The lingering aftershocks of the pandemic will continue to weaken states and regions. We can expect new problems — conflict and disease, displaced people and refugees — that will further fragment the global order.

Since Aftershocks was published, nations came together at COP26 and the World Health Assembly. Both demonstrated that multilateralism is the route to solving the global challenges posed by climate change and pandemics. But they also demonstrate that an accord is not possible without buy-in from the great powers. It underlines why middle powers like Canada need to double-down on quiet diplomacy and being helpful fixer and bridge builder, while avoiding the temptation toward self-righteousness.

Aftershocks is a grim but necessary read. Middle powers such Canada need to take heed and prepare accordingly.

 

Putin, Ukraine and Canada

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For Russia, invasion would come with a heavy cost. So what’s Moscow’s endgame?

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday. (Mikhail Klimentyev/The Associated Press)

As the threat of an invasion of Ukraine again appeared to slip into a holding pattern, Western leaders and diplomats were left scrambling Tuesday to interpret conflicting signals coming out of Moscow.

Famously described by Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” Russia put its willingness to play by its own rules on full display with a token withdrawal of some troops exercising in Crimea and the offer of renewed security dialogue with the West.

Russia made those gestures after several days of delivering sharp anti-Western rhetoric — and after allied intelligence sources warned again that an invasion could happen as early as today.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that — notwithstanding the messages coming from the Kremlin — Russia still has more than 100,000 combat-ready forces poised on Ukraine’s border.

“There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue. This gives grounds for cautious optimism,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a meeting of the Western alliance’s defence ministers.

“But so far, we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.”

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defence Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, Russian armoured vehicles are loaded onto railway platforms after the end of military drills in South Russia. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service/The Associated Press)

Over the past several months, NATO has seen Russia move troops and equipment into the region, move them out while leaving their equipment behind — then move them back in just as quickly.

“So the movement of forces, the movement of Russian capabilities doesn’t represent real de-escalation, but we will monitor, we will follow what they are doing,” Stoltenberg said.

Following the movements of the Russian military may be the easiest part of figuring out where this crisis goes next.

President of Finland Sauli Niinisto recently sat for an interview with the New York Times about his enduring dialogue with Vladimir Putin. He told the Times he noted a change in the Russian president’s “state of mind, decisiveness” during a recent long conversation. He said he believed Putin felt he had to seize on “the momentum he has now.”

Haunted by the Soviet Union’s fall

That sort of nuance is missing from the political and diplomatic calculus of the West, said veteran Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

“It comes down to Putin because he has a view of history that sees the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century being the dissolution of the Soviet Union,” said Robertson, a vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“And I think, before he leaves, he’s determined to restore as much of that as he can. He’s in his late 60s now and I think he’s determined to do it before he leaves — bring Ukraine back into Russia by force, if necessary, preferably by bluff.”

WATCH | In Russia-Ukraine crisis, the threat of an invasion remains high:

Russia’s claims of troop withdrawal are unverified, U.S. says

22 hours ago

Duration 2:02
Russia released video of some troops moving away from the border with Ukraine, but the U.S. says it hasn’t been verified and the threat of an invasion remains high. 2:02

Russia’s parliament, the Duma, attempted to further dismantle Ukraine on Tuesday by voting in favour of a motion calling on Putin to recognize as independent republics the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Russian proxy forces have been fighting Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry responded sharply, saying that if Putin supports the resolution, “it will have much broader, destructive consequences for the international rule of law” and global security.

‘Sacred soil’

Matthew Schmidt is an associate professor and national security expert at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. He said the emphasis NATO allies place on geopolitics and the rules-based international order may mean very little to Putin — who may be looking at the current standoff through a quasi-religious lens.

It’s not enough, Schmidt said, to say Putin wants to reassemble the old Soviet Union. Putin is a subscriber to an early 20th century philosophical and political movement called Eurasianism, he said — a creed that rejects Russia’s integration with Europe.

An Ukrainian soldier looks out from a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Verkhnetoretskoye village in the Donetsk region on February 1, 2022. (Anatoli Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Eurasianism died out during communist rule but rebounded in the early 21st century — and Putin has written about it.

“He said this is quasi-religious … the idea that there is sacred soil that exists outside of that, the territorial borders of Russia, and that what you need to do is regain that sacred soil and the ethnic Russians that are on it, whether they want to be part of your state or not,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt said the idea of Putin looking at Ukraine through a nationalist or ethnic-identity lens is one of the most alarming things about the standoff over Ukraine.

It’s also something non-Russians tend to overlook in their eagerness to interpret Putin’s actions and motivations, he said — the possibility that the consequences of invading Ukraine mean little to him in the face of a quasi-religious quest.

“So if that’s driving him, I think all bets are off,” said Schmidt.

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Vadim Ghirda/The Associated Press)

Russia has said consistently that while it doesn’t intend to invade Ukraine, it wants security guarantees. Moscow has demanded a legally binding promise that Kyiv will never be allowed to join NATO and it wants NATO to roll back its deployments in eastern Europe to 1997 levels.

The threat of imminent invasion has prompted Western countries, including Canada, to scale back and even relocate some embassy operations. Last weekend, Canada withdrew its military training troops from Ukraine after the United States and the United Kingdom shut down their own training courses.

Schmidt said Putin has succeeded in making NATO more relevant than it has been in decades, but the withdrawal of Western training missions has handed him a minor victory inside Ukraine.

“He’s taught the Ukrainians they can’t rely on the West,” said Schmidt. “That is important to prepare the battlefield for what comes next.

“He embarrassed the West and that’s what he wanted.”

Be Prepared: Standing Committee on National Defence

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‘Be Prepared’: Threats and Readiness in an Evolving Security Reality

Former senior diplomat and current Senior Advisor and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute Colin Robertson was invited to present his views on threats to Canada’s security and the Canadian Armed Forces readiness to meet those threats before the House Standing Committee on National Defence on February 14th. This is a summary of his remarks before the committee.

Colin Robertson

February 14, 2022

In our new Parliament, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence (NDDN) will be busy this week examining Threat Analysis Affecting Canada and the CAF Operational Readiness to meet those threats. It’s a mouthful, but as Boy Scouts and Girl Guides will appreciate, it boils down to “Be Prepared”.  A prepared Forces is a prerequisite to Canadian security.

The work of parliamentary committees does not get much notice but their deliberations help build cross-party consensus on public policy, a key to good governance. In their study of operational readiness,  members of the National Defence committee need to keep in mind three overriding considerations: 

First, we need to rethink how we look at security.

It’s been 18 years since we last conducted a national security review and the threats to Canada continue to evolve. A good starting point is the excellent recent CIGI report Reimagining a Canadian National Security Strategy with companion studies that include a look at democracy and disinformation, biosecurity, autonomous weapons and our border with the United States. As to the mechanics of a review, look to the United Kingdom’s recent year-long integrated review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development that sets out a strategic framework for achieving the UK’s national security and international policy objectives between now and 2025. Not only is it comprehensive and costed-out, but it all got done in a year.

Ours is a meaner, messier world. In his address outlining his priorities for 2022, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the rules-based multilateral institutions that Canada helped engineer and sustain are not fit for purpose. Polling confirms what we can see and hear: our citizens have less faith in democratic institutions. While the election of Joe Biden has resurrected confidence in US leadership, that trust comes with reservations, especially among Europeans.

The threat index has expanded in recent years to embrace climate change, pandemics, terrorism, poverty and inequality. This devil’s brew accentuates state and inter-state conflicts resulting in more displaced persons than at any time since the Second World War. Conflict itself is changing, with hybrid warfare, untraceable cyberattacks, disinformation, drones and mercenaries. A politically polarized US is less willing and able to carry the internationalist burden. A rising, aggressive China and a revanchist Russia have revived great power rivalry and the ideological and systemic divide between authoritarianism and democracy.

Canada’s strategic culture is of expeditionary forces being sent abroad, through the Boer War, First World War, Second World War, Korean War, with NATO deployments in Europe and multiple peacekeeping operations. In this century, international deployments have included a decade in Afghanistan and more recently in Mali, Iraq, Latvia and Ukraine.

Deployments should be considered through the lens of our national interests and fundamental values. Before making deployments we always need to ask ourselves: what will we gain; what are the risks; what is success; how and when do we get out?

Our national interests are the security of the country and a stable global rules-based order. Our fundamental values start with democracy. To advance our interests and values we enter into collective arrangements, notably NATO, which is currently reviewing its Strategic Concept — for endorsement by leaders at their June summit in Madrid. For what should be there look at the Alphen Group’s recent Shadow Strategic Concept.

Second, our approach to addressing defence modernization is taking far too long to produce useful results.

Operational readiness relies on maintaining and updating our equipment fleet. Government procurement requirements too often handicap industry from getting the job done. The auditor general says our procurement system needs major reform. Other questions persist: given the times and evident increased operational tempo are the budgets sufficient? Are we investing enough in the enablers — digitalization and data management — that will deliver and manage an effective force that can win future wars?

A politically polarized US is less willing and able to carry the internationalist burden. A rising, aggressive China and a revanchist Russia have revived great power rivalry and the ideological and systemic divide between authoritarianism and democracy. 

Operational readiness of our Forces starts with meeting recruitment targets and then ensuring conditions are sufficiently attractive to retain those recruits. We’ve prioritized cultural change to address sexual misconduct. We also need to look at the terms and conditions of service. Let’s think creatively about how we attract, train and grow the kind of talent that can master the technological challenges of our digital age and address new threats like cyber-warfare and disinformation.

We rely on the Forces as first responders to deal with floods, fires and ice-storms and to rescue our long-term care facilities during pandemics. These calls only increase demands on limited resources. Governments — federal, provincial and municipal — should look at creating a corps of volunteers to complement civil defence and disaster relief. The Germans do this well and we should look to them as a model.

Third, changing geopolitics and new threats require a new grand strategy that combines purpose, priorities and budget.

In doing so we need to keep in mind Sir Lawrence Freedman’s characterization of strategy as “an ability to look up from the short term and the trivial to view the long term and the essential, to address causes rather than symptoms, to see woods rather than trees.”

Canadian strategy has always revolved around the United States. The sundering of British North America with the American Revolution meant that for the Canadian colonies, the new republic was now the threat. This condition prevailed for most of the next century and a half. The threat of “manifest destiny” enveloping Canada, especially in the wake of the Civil War with the battle-hardened Union Army, was a powerful boost to Confederation, along with the construction of the railroad from coast to coast. While we relied on Britain for defence, the looming American presence drove both our national trade and economic policy and the “open door” immigration policy that settled western Canada.

The great change that turned the US from threat to partner and ally, came with Franklin Roosevelt and Mackenzie King. Subsequent governments built on their scaffolding, enhancing and extending defence and trade agreements. With the removal of the American threat, successive Canadian governments got on with the work of creating a sound economy and political stability at home, necessary prerequisites to playing an active role in international politics.

To balance the preponderant American influence, Canada embraced multilateralism, internationalism, and the rules-based order. Two world wars, involving valour and sacrifice, propelled Canada from colony to nation and thence to a functional middle power. Brilliantly engineered by our diplomats, notably Lester Pearson, Escott Reid, Norman Robertson, and Hume Wrong, the concept of functionalism meant that capacity rather than mere size, should weigh in representation and a voice at the table.

“The golden rule of Canada-US relations is very simple. We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Americans are very important to us. We know they are, notwithstanding the differences, our best ally, our closest neighbour, our biggest customer.”

Balancing the US relationship through active multilateralism has largely guided Canadian foreign policy ever since. In practice, it meant a constant effort to diversify our trade, most recently through the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), while ensuring continued access to the US market with the recent renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), reincarnated as the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). It has also meant finding niches, such as peacekeeping and human security, where we could be the helpful fixer or a bridge with the developing world through, for example, active leadership in the Commonwealth and Francophonie, where the US was not present.

Secure under the US defence shield through NATO and NORAD, and with access to the US market, our grand strategy, balancing the US and multilateralism, mostly worked. Much depended on the vigour and commitment of prime ministers. Brian Mulroney, who mastered the balancing act, captured the practical effect of this strategy:

“The golden rule of Canada-US relations is very simple. We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Americans are very important to us. We know they are, notwithstanding the differences, our best ally, our closest neighbour, our biggest customer. There is also a rule of global politics – Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a significant degree by the extent to which we are perceived as having real influence in Washington.”

New threats and changing geopolitics – a less reliable USA, ineffective multilateralism and a broken rules-based order — now obliges us to re-examine and re-think our grand strategy.

At a minimum, the insurance premiums for national security have gone up. We are going to have to find more money for defence and also for the civil instruments of national security. This means more investment in diplomacy, development and in communicating abroad our messages on democracy, multilateralism, and the rules-based order. Military power wins battle but to win wars in today’s world requires both hard power and soft power. In our meaner, messier world Canada needs more of each.

In 2014, NATO governments, including Canada, pledged to meet a target of two percent defence spending by 2024. According to NATO, Canada currently spends 1.39 percent, outpaced by NATO G7 partners the United Kingdom (2.29 percent), the United States (3.52 precent), France (2.01 percent), Germany (1.53 percent) and Italy (1.41 precent).

In terms of development assistance at 0.31 percent of GDP, Canada is also a long way from the 0.7 percent UN target, outpaced again by our G7 partners: the United Kingdom (0.7 percent), Germany (0.73 percent) and France (0.53percent).

We took advantage of the end of the Cold War to reduce defence budgets, confident that we could continue to rely on the American security umbrella. The Americans are fed up with carrying the load and successive presidents have challenged us to do more, especially now that it’s time for NORAD renewal. We claim sovereignty over our Arctic but struggle to exercise it. We need a budgeted blueprint with deadlines. We can learn a lot from Nordic partners like Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. What will the role of NATO be now that the Arctic is part of the geo-strategic chessboard?

As a trading nation, we depend on freedom of navigation. As a maritime nation fronting on three oceans, we need to ask ourselves whether we have the balance right among our Army, Air Force and Navy. We don’t necessarily have too much Army or Air Force, but we do need more Navy. Our potential adversaries are investing significantly in their navies, especially in the Indo-Pacific. So must we. The new offshore patrol ships perform an important role. But a deployable, combat-capable Navy requires destroyers, frigates, submarines, with air and logistic support.

Military power wins battle but to win wars in today’s world requires both hard power and soft power. In our meaner, messier world Canada needs more of each.

Investing in operational readiness only when we feel pressed and then doing so on the cheap undermines our national interests. Without an overarching strategy and shared cross-party view of our national interest and how to go about advancing and protecting it, we will continue to be late, unprepared and obliged to follow rather than lead.

Parliamentary committees are the unseen and mostly unappreciated workhorses of democratic government. In the new information age where tweets and soundbites move narratives, considered cross-party discussion, drawing on expert testimony, gets little attention. But these hearings and committee discussions behind closed doors do a lot to inform and educate legislators. They also help them come together in support of the national interest.

In an era of hybrid warfare, gray zones and twilight struggles, developing cross-party unity on our security and defence strategy and requirements is essential to sustain support through changes of government. It is the only way we can be sure our Forces will achieve the operational readiness necessary to support our values and national interests.

Contributing Writer Colin Robertson, a former Canadian foreign affairs officer who served in Washington, New York and Los Angeles, is senior advisor and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa. This article is adapted from a presentation to the Defence Committee of the House of Commons, February 14, 2022.

COVID, Canada, China and Olympics

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Doctors say claim that Beijing’s 1st Omicron case came from Canada isn’t based on scienc

Health minister calls it ‘an extraordinary view’

A man gets a throat swab for the COVID-19 test at a mobile coronavirus testing facility outside a commercial office building in Beijing on Jan. 17, 2022. Beijing’s first reported case of the Omicron variant has prompted stepped-up measures in the nation’s capital, just weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games. (Associated Press)
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Doctors say an allegation out of China that Beijing’s first Omicron case may be linked to mail received from Toronto should be treated with deep skepticism.

Chinese health authorities said earlier Monday that a case of Omicron in Beijing may have spread from a package received from Canada. They urged citizens to stop ordering parcels from abroad as the opening of the Winter Olympics approaches.

“I find this to be, let’s say, an extraordinary view,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference Monday.

“Certainly [it’s] not in accordance with what we have done both internationally and domestically.”

Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said health officials “cannot rule out the possibility” that the patient was infected by goods from overseas carrying the virus.

The centre claims the package in question was routed through the U.S. before arriving in Hong Kong and then its final destination in Beijing.

But medical experts say the theory that such a shipment could spread the virus contradicts what recent studies say about COVID-19’s ability to survive on surfaces.

WATCH | Experts skeptical of China’s claim that Omicron came from Canada package:

Duration1:38

China blamed Beijing’s first case of the Omicron variant on a package from Canada, something that experts were quick to say is ‘not based on science.’ 1:38

“I don’t think any of that’s based on science,” said Dr. Anna Banerji, an associate professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

She said the airborne Omicron variant “would never survive” on an envelope shipped across the world.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says the virus is primarily transmitted through the air.

“While mail may be contaminated, the risk of COVID-19 infection when handling paper mail or cardboard packages, including international mail, is extremely low,” it said in an emailed statement.

“We know that the virus is most frequently transmitted when people are in close contact with others who are infected with the virus (either with or without symptoms).”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say studies show an “inability to detect viable virus within minutes to hours” on porous surfaces, like paper.

An April 2020 study published in The Lancet journal concluded that “no infectious virus could be recovered from printing and tissue papers after a three-hour incubation.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Donald Vinh, a professor with McGill University’s division of experimental medicine, said the chance of such a package actually infecting someone is “very, very low.”

“Is it believable or likely or probable that this has happened? And the answer is no,” he said.

Olympics drawing near

China’s claim comes as it tries to clamp down on cases ahead of the Winter Games, set to open in Beijing on Feb. 4.

The Chinese government has introduced strict pandemic control measures — including frequent lockdowns, universal masking and mass testing — in a bid to drive new transmissions to zero. On Monday, the country announced it won’t be selling Olympics tickets to the general public due to concerns about the virus.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and now vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he thinks China is getting an excuse ready in case there’s an outbreak during the Olympics.

“If things were to go badly, then they can suggest it came from the outside and not from within China because they’ve made every effort to try and contain, taking a zero tolerance approach, completely shutting down cities up to now,” he said.

Guy St-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he expects to see more finger-pointing if there are outbreaks during the Olympics.

“It is easy for China to blame Canada as there is no way to investigate the issue to say if it is true and if so, did the virus amount really constitute a threat?” he said.

“As China has more and more difficulty with its zero-COVID policy, it will blame foreigners for its predicament.”

The claim about the Canadian parcel comes at a time of heightened tensions between Ottawa and Beijing following China’s imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for nearly three years — an apparent act of retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Late last month, China’s foreign ministry warned that Beijing’s relations with Canada stand “at a crossroads.”

Robertson said he thinks the Chinese government would like to open up the relationship again.

“But they’re dealing with — in the case of Canada and most western countries — public opinion which has shifted dramatically over the last couple of years and is now highly suspicious of the Chinese, particularly around its human rights record,” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called the news reports out of China “comical.”

“Stories like this remind us that from the beginning of the pandemic, some of the news and reporting out of China could not be trusted,” he said.

Changes in Senior Public Service

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Expect continuity in Canada’s foreign policy and national security corridors after DM shuffle: analysts

By Neil Moss      
Trade consultant Eric Miller says David Morrison will bring a new approach as deputy minister of international trade.

While two new principal national security and foreign policy advisers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are starting in the Privy Council Office as part of an immense shuffle in the senior civil service, no sharp policy turns are expected.

The shuffle of 18 senior public servants announced on Jan. 5—coupled with the retirement of 10 others—has brought some new and familiar faces to the epicentre of Canada’s foreign policy decision-making world.

Jody Thomas who has spent the last year gripped with the sexual misconduct crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces as the deputy minister of National Defence, becomes Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) national security and intelligence adviser. Dan Costello, who was the assistant deputy minister of international security and public affairs at Global Affairs has been tasked to be by Trudeau’s side as his foreign and defence policy adviser.

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Thomas replaces Vincent Rigby who retired last year, while Costello takes the place of David Morrison who has been shuffled back to Global Affairs to be the deputy minister of international trade. Before joining the PCO, Morrison was the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs. He has been Trudeau’s G7 sherpa since 2018—a role he is keeping.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he sees the shuffle not as a change in foreign policy direction, but a continuity.

“It also reflects [interim Privy Council clerk] Janice Charette’s sure grasp of the public service,” he said, but noted that Canada has found itself in an evolving world. “The international order has shifted. The rule of law doesn’t exist internationally anymore.”

Robertson said more emphasis will have to be put on Canada’s diplomatic service and those involved in Canada’s international presence.

“You want people with experience and expertise and that’s what I am seeing in this latest shift,” he said.

Before becoming an assistant deputy minister, Costello was Canada’s ambassador to the European Union from 2015 to 2019. He was also posted abroad as ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012.

Robertson said he can bridge the civil servant world to the political arena, as a former chief of staff to then-foreign affairs minister Bill Graham.

“What you want, especially in the senior civil service, are people that understand the politics. That’s often a criticism of civil servants is that they simply don’t appreciate the political perspectives of things. Good public policy is rooted in good public policy, but also in the appreciation of the politics,” he said.

Thomas had been the deputy minister at DND since October 2017. Prior to that, she was the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and a special adviser to the deputy secretary of cabinet operations in the PCO.

Replacing Thomas as the deputy minister of national defence is Bill Matthews who rejoins new Defence Minister Anita Anand (Oakville, Ont.). They were No. 1 and No. 2 at Public Services and Procurement Canada since 2019. The pair will be tasked with confronting the sexual misconduct crisis, as well as consequential defence procurement for naval ships and fighter jets, and confronting extremism in the Armed Forces.

With Morrison taking over as the second in command of the international stage, John Hannaford is being moved to taking over as deputy minister of natural resources—an important role with the Liberal government’s focus on fighting climate change. He has held the trade role since 2019; previously he was Trudeau’s foreign and defence policy adviser. He has also served as Canada’s ambassador to Norway from 2009 to 2012.

Trade consultant Eric Miller, president of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, said Morrison is “well trusted” and “very smart.”

“He is willing to think differently because he has had a different career trajectory to some extent than many of his peers. With trade diversification back on the agenda, I’d be curious to see how he tackles that issue and whether he’s taking some different approaches than some of his predecessors,” he said.

Before rejoining the civil service in 2013, Morrison was the executive secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund.

Miller said keeping the G7 Sherpa role will expand Morrison’s working power in his new role.

“Holding that role is an indication of how much the system trusts him, which is a lot,” he said. “And how effective they think he is in delivering.”

While not having a heavy background in international trade, the role could be seen as a sign that the government needed someone who will approach the role with a different mindset after a litany of trade issues with the Biden administration.

“He is somebody who is well positioned to do that,” he said. “By the fact that he has a broad background that has covered development and national security and foreign policy and multilateral institutions and so on that he’s well positioned to take on this challenge,” he said.

Both the Hannaford and Morrison moves show that the government is going “strength to strength” in two departments they feel that they need to.

At Global Affairs headquarters, Christopher MacLennan is becoming deputy minister of international development and holding onto his role as Trudeau’s G20 Sherpa. He was previously the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs

Taking over for Matthews as second in command at Public Services and Procurement Canada will be Paul Thompson, who was an associate deputy minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Michael Vandergrift is adding the role of deputy secretary to the cabinet for plans and consultations to his position as the deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs.

With Charette continuing to operate as an interim clerk, the shuffle of deputy ministers could be a testing ground for who is next in line to become Canada’s top public servant.

Graham Flack has been tasked with looking over the government’s finances as the secretary of the Treasury Board. He has been the deputy minister of Employment and Social Development since 2018.

Replacing him will be Jean-François Tremblay who was the deputy minister of natural resources after being the deputy minister for Indigenous services, transport, infrastructure, and communities.

Public Service Changes

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Expect continuity in Canada’s foreign policy and national security corridors after DM shuffle: analysts

By NEIL MOSS      
Trade consultant Eric Miller says David Morrison will bring a new approach as deputy minister of international trade.
In one of the largest senior civil service shuffles in Canada’s history, David Morrison, far left, leaves the Privy Council Office to become the deputy minister of international trade, Jody Thomas, second from left, and Dan Costello, second from right, enter the office as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser and his foreign and defence policy adviser, respectively, while Bill Matthews, far right, becomes the deputy minister of National Defence. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade and photographs courtesy of Twitter

While two new principal national security and foreign policy advisers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are starting in the Privy Council Office as part of an immense shuffle in the senior civil service, no sharp policy turns are expected.

The shuffle of 18 senior public servants announced on Jan. 5—coupled with the retirement of 10 others—has brought some new and familiar faces to the epicentre of Canada’s foreign policy decision-making world.

Jody Thomas who has spent the last year gripped with the sexual misconduct crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces as the deputy minister of National Defence, becomes Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) national security and intelligence adviser. Dan Costello, who was the assistant deputy minister of international security and public affairs at Global Affairs has been tasked to be by Trudeau’s side as his foreign and defence policy adviser.

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The key issues and people influencing Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy. Weekly.

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Thomas replaces Vincent Rigby who retired last year, while Costello takes the place of David Morrison who has been shuffled back to Global Affairs to be the deputy minister of international trade. Before joining the PCO, Morrison was the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs. He has been Trudeau’s G7 sherpa since 2018—a role he is keeping.

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau has two new foreign policy and national security advisers in the PCO. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said he sees the shuffle not as a change in foreign policy direction, but a continuity.

“It also reflects [interim Privy Council clerk] Janice Charette’s sure grasp of the public service,” he said, but noted that Canada has found itself in an evolving world. “The international order has shifted. The rule of law doesn’t exist internationally anymore.”

Robertson said more emphasis will have to be put on Canada’s diplomatic service and those involved in Canada’s international presence.

“You want people with experience and expertise and that’s what I am seeing in this latest shift,” he said.

Before becoming an assistant deputy minister, Costello was Canada’s ambassador to the European Union from 2015 to 2019. He was also posted abroad as ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012.

Robertson said he can bridge the civil servant world to the political arena, as a former chief of staff to then-foreign affairs minister Bill Graham.

“What you want, especially in the senior civil service, are people that understand the politics. That’s often a criticism of civil servants is that they simply don’t appreciate the political perspectives of things. Good public policy is rooted in good public policy, but also in the appreciation of the politics,” he said.

Thomas had been the deputy minister at DND since October 2017. Prior to that, she was the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and a special adviser to the deputy secretary of cabinet operations in the PCO.

Replacing Thomas as the deputy minister of national defence is Bill Matthews who rejoins new Defence Minister Anita Anand (Oakville, Ont.). They were No. 1 and No. 2 at Public Services and Procurement Canada since 2019. The pair will be tasked with confronting the sexual misconduct crisis, as well as consequential defence procurement for naval ships and fighter jets, and confronting extremism in the Armed Forces.

With Morrison taking over as the second in command of the international stage, John Hannaford is being moved to taking over as deputy minister of natural resources—an important role with the Liberal government’s focus on fighting climate change. He has held the trade role since 2019; previously he was Trudeau’s foreign and defence policy adviser. He has also served as Canada’s ambassador to Norway from 2009 to 2012.

Trade consultant Eric Miller, president of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, said Morrison is “well trusted” and “very smart.”

“He is willing to think differently because he has had a different career trajectory to some extent than many of his peers. With trade diversification back on the agenda, I’d be curious to see how he tackles that issue and whether he’s taking some different approaches than some of his predecessors,” he said.

Before rejoining the civil service in 2013, Morrison was the executive secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund.

Miller said keeping the G7 Sherpa role will expand Morrison’s working power in his new role.

“Holding that role is an indication of how much the system trusts him, which is a lot,” he said. “And how effective they think he is in delivering.”

While not having a heavy background in international trade, the role could be seen as a sign that the government needed someone who will approach the role with a different mindset after a litany of trade issues with the Biden administration.

“He is somebody who is well positioned to do that,” he said. “By the fact that he has a broad background that has covered development and national security and foreign policy and multilateral institutions and so on that he’s well positioned to take on this challenge,” he said.

Both the Hannaford and Morrison moves show that the government is going “strength to strength” in two departments they feel that they need to.

At Global Affairs headquarters, Christopher MacLennan is becoming deputy minister of international development and holding onto his role as Trudeau’s G20 Sherpa. He was previously the associate deputy minister of foreign affairs

Taking over for Matthews as second in command at Public Services and Procurement Canada will be Paul Thompson, who was an associate deputy minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Michael Vandergrift is adding the role of deputy secretary to the cabinet for plans and consultations to his position as the deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs.

With Charette continuing to operate as an interim clerk, the shuffle of deputy ministers could be a testing ground for who is next in line to become Canada’s top public servant.

Graham Flack has been tasked with looking over the government’s finances as the secretary of the Treasury Board. He has been the deputy minister of Employment and Social Development since 2018.

Replacing him will be Jean-François Tremblay who was the deputy minister of natural resources after being the deputy minister for Indigenous services, transport, infrastructure, and communities.

Democracy in America

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From Policy Magazine  (and it also appeared in the Financial Post January 6)

American Democracy is Stronger Than its Enemies

Colin Robertson

January 4, 2022

So, is democracy in America done? About to be served out like Thanksgiving turkey?

Much of the slew of commentary around the anniversary of the January 6th storming of the US Capitol takes as its theme, not without elements of smugness and schadenfreude, that the United States is spiraling downwards. But to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of democracy’s demise in our next door neighbour have been greatly exaggerated.

The declinist case boils down to a lament over America’s political polarization (rancour and division in American politics is as old as the Republic), its dysfunctional government (by design, the founding fathers set up a system of checks and balances to prevent radical change, as well as a federal system that, like Canada’s, relies on a separation of powers), its gun culture (rooted in its revolutionary origins and enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution) and the nationwide Republican attacks on voting rights (a serious threat that is being contested in the courts by civic groups and the federal Justice Department).

Then there is Trumpism. As historian Jon Meacham argues in his splendid Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels Donald Trump fits into the type of American “loud mouth” that in the last century included Huey Long, Father Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy.

Meacham points out that American history is littered with moments of democratic crisis. This is what comes of trying to create a pluralistic, multi-ethnic democratic republic across a vast expanse of land with an18th century constitution. The goal is not perfection but a more perfect union, something with which Canadians should identify.

For Meacham, five elements – the presidency, Congress, the courts, a free press, and a civic-minded people – really matter. As long as two or three row in the right direction, the American experiment will continue.

As for American decline, consider the following: its military remains the most powerful in the world. The US Navy secures the sealanes that have made possible the globalization that lifted billions, most of them in China and the developed world, out of poverty. When there is an earthquake or tsunami or famine or Ebola outbreak the first and best responders are the men and women of the US Armed Forces.

Its deterrent power, the backbone of collective security alliances like NATO and NORAD, has also preserved the general peace for over 75 years. Americans are tired of playing sheriff but when they retire, as we saw in Afghanistan, we don’t like the result. Think of  Gary Cooper in High Noon for a sense of the lonely life of the sheriff.

The US has lots of flaws: excessive individualism, self-indulgence, racism and inequality. Its primary and secondary schools are under-nourished. But it continues to educate the world’s best. In the latest global rankings seven of the top 10 universities are American. Xi Jinping sent his daughter to Harvard. The list of Canadian leaders who have studied and worked in the US or for US companies is long and distinguished.

When it comes to democracy, the commentariat focuses on politics and its reflection in social media. But for most Americans, the ins and outs of politics are not central to their daily lives.

No other nation comes close in Nobel laureates, especially in the sciences. California alone is home to 10 percent of laureates, part of the reason that the future begins in California, from music and cinema in Hollywood, to the tech and digital world of Silicon Valley.

Then there is American soft power. Its popular culture — in film, music, sports and fashion – has global appeal. To truly appreciate America, you need to immerse yourself in its social history, brilliantly captured, warts and all, in the filmography of Ken Burns.

The classic account of the spirit of America is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Written after a tour in the 1830s of the still immature Republic, de Tocqueville described a people who were boisterous, bumptious, and disrespectful know-it-alls. They “seldom take the opinion of their equal, a man like themselves, upon trust” and they doubted “the general notion of…intellectual superiority.” At its worst this trait produced the nativist and racist “Know Nothings” , the Ku Klux Klan, and Donald Trump.

Americans’ saving grace, observed de Tocqueville, in contrast to their European counterparts, is that they are ambitious, creative and forward-thinking. Most of all, they were enthused with democracy and the belief that with hard work and luck anyone could succeed. That hasn’t changed. Americans are still the best at taking an idea, then making it, growing it and marketing it to the world.

This confidence of forward motion has taken a beating in recent years. How to deal with racial and economic inequality is debated daily. When civil protest takes to the streets or Capitol Hill, it is not pretty. To  paraphrase Mark Twain once again, citizenship is what makes a democracy; autocracies can get along without it. What keeps a democracy on its legs is good citizenship.

When it comes to democracy, the commentariat focuses on politics and its reflection in social media. But for most Americans, the ins and outs of politics are not central to their daily lives. Neither is Twitter, As Pew surveys reveal only about one in five Americansuses Twitter. It’s a useful tool for we in the chattering class, but never forget that most tweets come from a small minority of users playing to an echo chamber.

The best definition of American democracy is still the 1943 letter from E. B. White (remembered today as the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little) responding to the Writer’s War Board.

Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don’t in don’t shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee.

Over 40 years ago, as a young diplomat in New York, I got to know Alastair Cooke, the legendary BBC correspondent who for over half a century would deliver a weekly letter from America that I first listened to on my father’s shortwave. Cooke had recently hosted a personal history of the United States for PBS.

New York had almost gone broke. Times Square was dirty and dissolute. There were gas lines. Jimmy Carter told us to turn down the heat. I thought then, as others do today, that the US really was falling off the cliff. But Cooke cautioned me with the words that concluded his series: “America is a country in which I see the most persistent idealism and the blandest of cynicism and the race is on between its vitality and its decadence.”

The symptoms of democratic decline in America are readily apparent. But like Cooke, my bet is still on the energy and vitality of the American people and their institutions.

To Rule the Waves

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From Policy Magazine 

To Rule the Waves

By Bruce D. Jones

Simon and Schuster/2021

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

December 14, 2021

If oceans were once the boundaries of our existence, today they constitute the front lines of commerce, climate change and the new geo-strategic rivalries that are shaping the twenty-first century. These themes are all included in Bruce Jones’ To Rule the Waves: How Control of the World’s Oceans Shapes the Fate of the Superpowers.  For Canada, with three oceans to our north, east and west, this new paradigm presents challenges but also opportunities, if we can seize them.

Dr. Jones directs the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution. His book combines history, geography, economics, science and technology and if you enjoyed Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series, you will like To Rule the Waves.

The book is also a travelogue taking us from the Amazon to the Arctic, from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific. Jones travels on the Madrid Maersk, the second biggest container ship in the world. He visits a submarine pen in northern Norway, that could be a James Bond set, but that is once again re-occupied by NATO,  There are stops in the world’s biggest ports, including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but as Jones notes, the US no longer has a port in the world’s top 10.

When we hear the word “globalization”, writes Jones, it means that 85 percent of global trade moves by sea, and roughly two-thirds of the world’s supply of oil and gas is either found at sea or moves by sea to its final market. Most of it is bound in bulk carriers and mega container ships like the Maersk Madrid and as the pandemic has demonstrated when this complex web is disrupted it plays havoc with supply chains. It’s why you can’t find what you want in the store or on-line.

To give you a sense of how shipping has improved in productivity and efficiency, Jones says Maersk’s founder, Peter Maersk, sailed a cargo ship around the Baltic Sea at the beginning of the 20th century. It held the equivalent of 20 containers worth of goods, and it had a crew of 26. The Maersk Madrid can carry 25,000 containers with a crew of 23.

When we hear the word “globalization”, writes Jones, it means that 85 percent of global trade moves by sea, and roughly two-thirds of the world’s supply of oil and gas is either found at sea or moves by sea to its final market.

The oceans are also vital to telecommunications. Few recognize the relationship of our oceans to the or finance or communications with more than 90 percent of global data flowing through a complex grid of more than four hundred seafloor cables linking every major market in the world. The cables were first laid in the 1850s, at the height of British maritime power and they require continuous replacement and upgrading. In 2017, Microsoft and Facebook collaborated to lay the fastest cable yet  across the Atlantic, capable of transmitting data at a rate of 160 terabits per second. These are vital links, but as former NATO Commander, Admiral James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman write in their recent thriller 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, it does not take much to disrupt them.

One of the most important features of American power is to provide this global good of freedom of navigation on our oceans.  China depends on the ocean-bound commercial and energy flow and this creates its “Malacca Dilemma”. As China grows, the more dependent it becomes on the US Navy and so, after a five-century gap, China is once again becoming a naval power.

The result, says Jones, is that sealanes in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea are rapidly becoming the most important zone of confrontation between the world’s great military actors—the United States and China – but also Russia, Japan, India, and others. China’s navy is establishing a presence and reach out to the western edges of the Indian Ocean while Russia has bolstered its presence in the Arctic, from where it reaches down into the North Atlantic. So far, writes Jones, we’ve not seen great power tensions rise to the level of direct military confrontation; but the “tidal pull that precedes a tsunami is gaining strength”.

China’s naval fleet is expected to rise from 355 in 2021, to 460 by 2030, as compared with 297 ships currently in the US Navy. China is also expected to surpass the United States in numbers of submarines. The US Defense Department’s latest report on China’s military power, projects that by 2030, Beijing will possess 187 major surface combatants, and 70 attack submarines.

If China continues to expand its reach and ambition, the US will have to forge a kind of “alliance of alliances” that links the capacity of NATO, the EU, the Quad. The US must push its allies to think hard about how they would respond to a Chinese military bid to reclaim Taiwan.

To meet the China challenge, Jones recommends a “multi-geography” response using America’s continuing global reach, and that of its allies, to deter China by creating risks and costs for Beijing far from its shores.

The Allies can take advantage of a new China dilemma—the more its global reach grows, the more it has far-flung vulnerabilities. Putting pressure on vulnerabilities, like its fishing fleet in Angolan waters or its oil interests in the Strait of Hormuz, is likely a lower risk than confronting China in its own maritime backyard. A retooled NATO, writes Jones, can be a useful buttress to American power in the Arctic and the Atlantic. But this will require the allies, including Canada, to augment their sea power.

Fronting on three oceans – the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific – Canada’s  coastline is the world’s longest. Our oceans are deeply integrated into our lives and our livelihood and if we are to diversify our trade we will depend on the oceans for transportation.

At the end of the Second World War, having helped secure the North Atlantic, Winston Churchill would say of the Battle of the Atlantic, the war’s longest campaign,  that it was the “only thing that ever really frightened me during the war”. By war’s end, Canada had the fourth largest navy in the world with 95,000 sailors and 434 commissioned vessels. Today, Canada has around 15,000 sailors with twelve frigates and four submarines. The first of our new offshore patrol ships, HMCS Harry DeWolfe, recently sailed through the North West Passage. Our15 new surface combatants, are expected in the 2030s.

Climate is a peril to our oceans and it is visibly changing our Arctic. Sea level has never risen as fast as it is rising now. Approximately 680 million people (nearly 10 percent of the 2010 global population) live on coastal land that is less than 33 feet above sea level.

The AUKUS agreement that will see the US share its nuclear submarine technology with Australia. Canada turned down the opportunity for nuclear submarines during the Mulroney government, mostly for reasons of cost, but as we look re-evaluate our own commitments in the Indo-Pacific, we should, at a minimum, seek admission to the technology discussions of both AUKUS and the Quad. We should also build a security relationship with India and continue to enhance the defence partnership with Japan especially as we look to our next generation of submarines.

We think of the South China Sea as a trade route but it is also a source of fish stocks, with several hundred million Chinese and South Asians looking to it as their source of protein. Globally, industrial-scale fishing has depleted an estimated 90 percent of open-water fish stocks.

Climate is a peril to our oceans and it is visibly changing our Arctic. Sea level has never risen as fast as it is rising now. Approximately 680 million people (nearly 10 percent of the 2010 global population) live on coastal land that is less than 33 feet above sea level. This number is projected to reach more than 1 billion by 2050 because the world’s ice sheets and glaciers are losing large amounts of ice. The resulting water flows into the oceans. At the same time, ocean temperatures are rising, and warmer water expands and takes up more space than cold water.

We face the triple dilemmas of inequities caused by globalization, the naval arms race, and climate change all of which profoundly affect Canada. Deglobalization, says Jones, is not the answer Instead the US and its allies should “reanimate their engagement with globalization”. The benefits of globalization, writes Jones, and the cost of reversing it, combined with the “reality that all countries’ fates are tied together, make it tempting to hope that logic rather than fear will prevail” not just for inequity and also for climate change, where we can also apply technology, one area where the US and West have an advantage. As for the arms race, Jones says we must rely on diplomacy.

To Rule the Waves is a compelling read: lucid, illuminating and sobering. The Canadian code of arms bears the motto ‘A Mari Usque ad Mare’ – from sea to sea, to which we must now add another sea. Once aspirational, it now reflects a reality that Canadians must appreciate if we are to sustain our livelihood, our climate, and our security.

Two Michaels

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The Two Michaels’: Dissecting a Diplomatic Drama

The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War

By Mike Blanchfield and Fen Osler Hampson

Sutherland House Publishing/November, 2021

Reviewed by Colin Robertson

December 1, 2021

Over their thousand days in captivity, the plight of the Canadian hostages known as “The Two Michaels” increasingly dominated public Canadian conversations about China. Now, we have a telling of the concurrent story that was unfolding behind the headlines in theTwo Michaels:  Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War.

For authors Mike Blanchfield and Fen Hampson, the book is their “letter” to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Blanchfield and Hampson have succeeded in their joint effort to “gain some insight into the broad geopolitical reason behind their imprisonment” and “what so many were doing to win their freedom.”

Mike Blanchfield writes on foreign affairs for Canadian Press and his journalist’s skill keeps this 260-page, 23-chapter account brisk and factual. Fen Hampson, Chancellor’s Professor and Professor of International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, is one of Canada’s foremost political scholars. His books, notably his superb account of Brian Mulroney’s foreign policy, are rare examples of making academic research accessible and readable to the wider community. In this book, Hampson and Blanchfield draw on reportage — Canadian and international — as well as submissions and testimony from the Meng Wanzhou extradition hearings, among other sources. The book also benefits from their interviews with eminent Canadians including Mulroney, former UN Ambassador Allan Rock, respected attorney Brian Greenspan, longtime diplomat and former hostage Robert Fowler, as well as Vina Najibullah, whose articulate and passionate support for her husband, Michael Kovrig, did much to build public support.

The Two Michaels begins with the Trudeau government’s decision in December 2018 to proceed with the US extradition request for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and follows through the many efforts of governments, legislators, diplomats, lawyers, eminent persons and civil society that ultimately helped secure their release in late September.

Reading The Two Michaels left me with three main observations and a recommendation:

First, Canadian governments need to proceed with great care and circumspection when it comes to extradition requests because they can blow up in your face. Mr. Trudeau’s admission that he was well aware of the US request infuriated Beijing and led to the seizing of the two Michaels as hostages as well as the application of various economic measures designed to coerce Canadian compliance.

Did those advising Mr. Trudeau think through the implications of our actions? Other nations were also approached to arrest Meng as she traveled through Asia and Europe in late 2018, but demurred. We did not and came out looking like chumps. Better to have followed John Manley’s advice to have shown some ‘creative incompetence’ at the Vancouver Airport an let her continue with her onward flight to Mexico.

Having seized Meng Wanzhou, the Trudeau government then doubled down, cloaking itself with their interpretation of ‘the rule of law’. This left no room for maneuver, a cardinal sin in diplomacy. For Beijing, this reinforced the argument that Canada was simply a  puppet of the United States. As Blanchfield and Hampson relate, there was considerable legal counsel, including that of eminent defence lawyers and former Supreme Court justices, to cast doubt on the government’s high-mindedness.  It did not help that our then Canadian ambassador to China, John MacCallum, a former Trudeau minister publicly shared his misgivings in contradiction to the government line.

If the two Michaels are the heroes of the book, the villains are Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

The second observation is that the two Michaels behaved with grace and courage throughout their ordeal. And it was an ordeal. Having visited Chinese jails as a consular officer I can tell you they are not a place in which you’d want to spend any time. Kovrig and Spavor found solace in exercise, meditation and, when they were finally permitted, the luxury of reading. The choice of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is poignant. One of my father’s favourite books, it recounts Frankl’s survival through the Holocaust and life in Auschwitz based on this principle: “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

A third observation: If the two Michaels are the heroes of the book, the villains are Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. As President Trump told John Bolton, his then national security advisor, Meng Wanzhou was the “the Ivanka Trump of China.” In the looming Sino-US confrontation, she would be parlayed in exchange for unspecified Chinese concessions in the battlefield over technological supremacy. If Mr. Trump got Canada into this mess, then Joe Biden got us out by making it clear to Xi Jinping that to continue holding the two MIchaels would be an impediment to any improved relationship. The swap would never have occurred without American pressure. It was baffling that anyone described the timing of the joint departures — Kovrig and Spavor to Canada and Meng Wanzhou to China — as coincidence.

The dramatic plunge in how Canadians and our western allies now view China is due to a number of factors; concerns over human rights in Xinjiang, the crackdown in Hong Kong (home to over 3000,000 Canadians), its aggressive behaviour with Taiwan and towards its neighbours in the South China Sea. Then there is its wolf warrior diplomacy of which Canadians have had more than a taste. While we can debate whether China is a superpower, it eclipses India and Japan  as a dominant Asian power according to the Lowy Institute’s Power Index. Xi has abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s advice to “Hide your strength, bide your time, never take the lead.”  For Xi , “The East is rising and the West is in decline.” Xi’s answer to those who refuse to kowtow is to apply coercive diplomacy as punishment. It also serves as a deterrent. As the old Chinese idiom goes, “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys”.

The best advice on handling Xi Jinping and his coterie in the Chinese Communist Party comes from former Canadian ambassador Rob Wright and is referenced in the Two Michaels. Wright, who also served as our ambassador to China and deputy minister of International Trade, told the House of Commons special committee on China that, “To the extent that we can influence the government of China on their form of detention, we [should] do so.” As to the best way to deal with China, Wright observes:

“My own view is that little is achieved by shouting publicly, loudly, at the Chinese on these issue… What helped was deliberate, ongoing, diplomatic contact with Chinese officials, working with them to ensure that Canadian citizens were treated fairly, that we had access to them, and that they were given a fair hearing under Chinese law to the extent possible…we need to maintain a strong diplomatic presence there and a deliberate context, but to the extent possible, not turn these into public issues that made them, in some cases, more difficult to manage.”

Managing an aggressive China is the challenge of our times. The Declaration on Arbitrary Detentions is a positive step. Now endorsed by 66 nations and the European Union, it brings to bear the power of multilateralism. But now we need to add teeth to the Declaration, likely drawing on the Magnitsky laws now on the books of many western nations. They target the individual perpetrators of human rights abuses by hitting them and their families in their ability to bank, travel and reside in democracies.

As this book attests, we’ve got to expunge hostage diplomacy as a tool of statecraft. We owe it to the two Michaels.