Thank you very much, and thank you for the invitation.
I wish to raise two issues concerning Canada's involvement in NATO. The first is a neglected area of strategic significance—namely, the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap, which is the very busy sea-line of communication in the North Atlantic that was notorious during the Cold War for enemy sub activity. The other is NATO's potential participation in Canada's Arctic, which I suggest should be discouraged.
The North Atlantic and the sea-lines of communication to NATO Europe are returning to prominence. This is largely driven by Russian naval developments and, to a much lesser degree, Chinese. NATO maritime defence co-operation therefore needs to be reconsidered. The end of the Cold War has removed the North Atlantic from the defence and security agenda. Supreme Allied Command Atlantic, or SACLANT, was the primary structure for allied North Atlantic defence, but it was stood down and was replaced by the generic Allied Command Transformation. Allied naval co-operation moved to the periphery, concentrating on missions in the Persian Gulf and off the Horn of Africa related to the series of conflicts that captured allied attention at the time.
More recently, allied naval attention has concentrated on the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea in response to Russian activities attended by the two standing NATO maritime groups under the command of Allied Maritime Command, MARCOM, located in Northwood, England.
With the North Atlantic returning to the defence agenda, several priorities emerged that naturally raised issues for the Canada-U.S. relationship and Canada-NATO relationship. The Royal Canadian Navy and the United States Navy have a long history of co-operation dating back to World War II and through the Cold War. Since then, the RCN has remained actively engaged with the USN, particularly evident in the ability of Canadian vessels to integrate and thus replace American vessels in the U.S. carrier task force.
This also extends to select NATO nations, especially the United Kingdom, and to the Royal Navy. However, this capability has been largely limited to the tactical level of co-operation. Command-and-control arrangements like those under SACLANT during the Cold War as well as related exercises among the allied navies, formal divisions of areas of responsibility, and protection of the sea-lines of communication are largely absent.
At the same time, antisubmarine warfare, especially related to the North Atlantic and former Soviet threat, are also absent as a training priority. The RCN in particular, once the allied exemplar, has largely lost its ASW expertise. Post-Cold War tasks naturally obtained priority over ASW, reflecting the threat environment of the last two-plus decades even though submarines have proliferated within the developing world. Nor was there any pressing need to exercise the reinforcement of NATO's northern flank. Limited and shrinking naval resources on both sides of the Atlantic relative to the political and operational demand required choices to be made, and the obvious choice was to neglect the North Atlantic. Moreover, Russian naval activity in the North Atlantic largely disappeared as a function at the end of the Cold War and with the lack of resources in the context of the political, social, and economic upheavals that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Even with the emergence of the post-9/11 terrorist threat and its maritime dimension, there was no need to resurrect these arrangements. The maritime terrorist threat to the east coast of North America in particular was primarily an area for intelligence co-operation. However, over roughly the last decade, political relations between NATO and Russia have deteriorated. New generations of Russian naval capabilities, including longer-range surface and subsurface cruise missiles, now pose a growing maritime threat. As a result, NATO's northern flank has re-emerged as a security concern. Maritime defence cannot be ignored, and this issue, especially over the Atlantic, brings the coastal European allies and thus NATO into play.
There are two distinct albeit interrelated perspectives on this. One is that of NATO Europe, with an emphasis on the members bordering the North Atlantic, and the other is that of USNORTHCOM/NORAD. To cut to the chase, the issue involves the seams and gaps between EUCOM and NATO, between NORAD and USNORTHCOM, between USNORTHCOM and EUCOM, and ultimately Canada's assistance to all of these organizations.
The other issue I want to touch on is the suggestion, at least by my reading of “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, that NATO exercises in Canada's Arctic may be a possibility in the future, reversing a long-standing practice of inviting individual NATO members but not NATO as a whole. This, I think, needs to be discouraged.
Of course, this sounds very contradictory. If Russia and the sea-lines of communication are potentially at risk in the North Atlantic, why say yes to more attention for the GIUK gap, for example, and not Canada's Arctic? My answer to this is that Russia is attempting to upset European security, of which the GIUK gap is one conduit and an essential transatlantic link.
To date, however, Russian participation and activity in the Arctic has been fairly productive. This is largely a function, I think, of the Arctic Council and its mandate and the importance of the Arctic for Russia.
I'm not suggesting that Canada cease to surveil the Arctic, which it does principally via NORAD and its air and aerospace warning air control and maritime warning missions. Instead, I am suggesting that Canada needs to re-investigate with its allies the surveillance responsibilities of the North Atlantic, which will necessitate a conversation with NATO, NORAD, and USNORTHCOM and its U.S. fleet forces, as well as EUCOM.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. It's a great honour to be back.
I'm going to address three issues today, but before I do so, let me tell you about an article I was reading this morning that was written four years ago by my friend Jack Granatstein, in which he raised the question as to whether Canada should stay in NATO. He didn't answer the question, but my point is that he was raising the question four years ago.
He wouldn't raise that question today. I don't think anyone would raise that question today. We have seen, for instance, the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. We have credible evidence of widespread Russian intervention through cyberspace in elections in western countries, including the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the U.S. election, with our most important ally. I'll talk about cybersecurity in a few minutes, but there's no question that it's better to be together than to be divided. Our opponents will seek to divide us. That is a strategic move on their part, and NATO is therefore just as important today as it has been in the past.
There are three areas that I will address, first of all with a couple of additional comments on the Arctic, to add to my colleague's points, which I agree with; secondly and briefly, with regard to cyberspace; and then with a couple of minutes on NATO spending and the question as to whether Canada needs to raise its percentage of GDP in terms of financial contributions.
On the issue of the Arctic, I think it's important to underline that there are in fact, from a security organizational perspective, two Arctics. There is the European Arctic, which the Americans regard as part of U.S. European Command, which is very much a NATO co-operative exercise. There is the North American Arctic, which from an American perspective is NORTHCOM, and from a Canadian perspective is a NORAD mission, not a NATO mission. That dividing line goes up Baffin Bay and the Nares Strait, dividing Greenland from North America, in terms of those two different organizational missions.
There is very little prospect, I think, that the United States is going to let NATO into a NORTHCOM domain. When the Europeans talk about bringing NATO into the Arctic, insofar as they're talking about Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, I think that's a good thing. That's something we can support, but in terms of the North American Arctic, we have that very much under control with our American allies.
Also, as the point has already been made, that's not where the security threat is anyway. That's mostly a surveillance and a search and rescue mission. There are things that we can do to improve that, such as, for instance, buying a full six satellites for RADARSAT Constellation instead of the present three. I can talk about that at greater length if you wish, but NATO is not coming to the North American Arctic. NATO does...and is already in the European Arctic.
In terms of cyberspace, I think this is an issue of enormous concern, particularly because Russia is becoming exceedingly adept in this domain. We've seen real impacts of this. But all of the normal considerations that apply in any military domain apply with regard to cyberspace, such as the security dilemma. Canada and our NATO allies need to be very careful, through our own actions, not to create an arms race in cyberspace to feed Russian anxiety and a Russian desire to build up. Our actions should be defensive, not offensive, unless we are actually attacked and can attribute that attack back to a state actor.
There are also real concerns about escalation. How do you actually keep a conflict confined to cyberspace? At what point do people start to look at nodes in the communication network, at fibre optic cables on the ocean floor, and at satellites in orbit?
A cyber-conflict can escalate out of control very quickly. Therefore, a defensive stance rather than an offensive stance is absolutely necessary here. There's nothing terribly unique about cyberspace. Let's not lose sight of all of these strategic considerations that apply in other domains when we start talking about computers.
Finally, on Canada's contribution to NATO, the 2.0% of GDP is a goal. It's one that different countries measure in different ways in terms of their contributions. Canada is actually quite cautious in measuring what constitutes military spending. For instance, we don't count the Canadian Coast Guard. Other countries have armed coast guards. They count them as part of their military spending. One way to ramp up Canadian military spending in a very quick way is to put a light deck gun on the front of every Canadian Coast Guard vessel, with a couple of Canadian Forces personnel on board to man the weapon. You would get an instant boost. It would be the same with the patrol boats that operate on the Great Lakes and on the east and west coasts dealing with illegal immigrants and smugglers. Generally, other countries would count RCMP missions as part of military spending. So it depends on what you count.
The other thing we don't count right now is this incredible amount of future spending that is locked into our procurement plans. We're not counting the Canadian surface combatants, which will be in the range of a $60-billion expenditure. We don't count the replacement aircraft for our fighter jet fleet and other things. Canada has made some really major commitments in terms of future spending—in most cases not with contracts signed, but still, commitments made, and commitments that will need to be kept from a practical perspective. That needs to be explained to our allies, that we are in fact seeking to recapitalize the Canadian Armed Forces.
My last comment in that regard is that given the renewed importance of NATO, and given that we do desperately need to recapitalize the Canadian Armed Forces, this is the time to accelerate those big defence procurements. It's simply not acceptable to think that most of these new ships won't arrive for a couple of decades. It's simply not acceptable to punt the fighter jet procurement issue past the next federal election, which is what I suspect is happening right now.
If we're going to be a serious partner in NATO, we need to carry through on our promises. We don't need to raise defence spending just because the American president says we should. We need to keep our plans, our promises, with regard to defence spending so that we have a capable armed forces that can be a reliable ally in missions that are important to Canada.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much for inviting me to address the committee today on Canada's involvement in NATO.
My comments will relate to the extremely important and very topical issue of NATO's nuclear posture. I bring to these comments my professional expertise in the area of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including heading the Canadian delegation to international conferences to review the operation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The treaty sets out the international rules and obligations for the 191 states party to that treaty, which the North Atlantic Council in its September 20 statement described as “the heart of global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts for almost 50 years”.
Canada, of course, is a non-nuclear-weapon state party to that treaty, as are all of the other NATO members with the exception of the United States, the U.K., and France, who are nuclear-weapon states party to that treaty. The treaty sets up two groups. The vast majority are the non-nuclear, with five declared nuclear-weapon states.
Under article VI of that treaty, as interpreted unanimously by the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, all states party to the NPT, whether non-nuclear or nuclear, are under a legally binding obligation “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”. This legally binding international obligation stands in sharp contrast to the strictly political commitment made by NATO member states to its nuclear posture, and not a legal obligation, there being no reference whatsoever to nuclear weapons in the North Atlantic Treaty.
From the 1970 entry into force of the NPT, there has been a controversy over the self-evident contradiction between the non-nuclear-weapon states party to that treaty, such as Canada, Norway, and the Netherlands, and our participation in a nuclear-armed alliance. The justification has always been that NATO's nuclear posture predates the treaty and therefore is somehow justifiable, although there is no wording in the treaty to that effect or that would support that. Canada in the past has tried very hard to minimize this contradiction in the most productive way—that is, to live up to the NPT's “good faith” nuclear disarmament obligation—by championing measures like a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Even in the dark days of the Cold War, when the U.S.A. was adamantly against it—in UN meetings of the UN western consultation group that I chaired, they would smash their fist down on the table, accusing NATO test ban co-sponsors like Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands of treason against NATO for doing so—we still supported it. In fact we were a lead co-sponsor of the test ban treaty. Finally, in the end, the U.S. joined it.
At the end of the Cold War, with the resulting huge decreases in the nuclear arsenals of the then Soviet Union and the United States, conditions were such that the 1990 London summit of NATO heads of government even made the following statement: “However, in the transformed Europe, [NATO member states] will be able to adopt a new NATO strategy making nuclear forces truly weapons of last resort.” Such a declaration was totally in keeping with one of the central lessons of the Cold War—very, very relevant for today—that a nuclear war can never be won and so must never be fought. The only possible utility of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others until such time as they are entirely eliminated.
The logical consequence of this summit declaration was a new post-Cold War NATO strategic doctrine adopting a “no first use” policy. Tragically, that was not the result of the NATO 1991 review of its strategic doctrine. Instead, unbelievably, the most powerful conventional military alliance on earth reiterated the need for nuclear weapons as a means to prevent war and not just to deter the use of other nuclear weapons. Every strategic doctrine review since then has reaffirmed the necessity of nuclear weapons, not only to deter their use by others but for the prevention of war. In effect, NATO is saying to all the 162 other non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT outside of NATO, “Don't do as we do, do as we say.”
To go back to the NPT, despite repeated pledges at NPT review conferences held every five years since the 1990 London summit that they would pursue concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament, first the bilateral Russia-U.S.A. negotiations floundered, and then, most recently, all nine nuclear-armed states—five inside the NPT and four outside—began nuclear weapons modernization programs, with the trillion-dollar plus American modernization program dwarfing all the rest, since Trump has raised the amount from a trillion dollars to more than a trillion.
This program is of particular relevance to NATO non-nuclear-weapon states like Canada that are party to the NPT, because it involves the introduction of U.S.A. so-called tactical nuclear weapons into five non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT that are also NATO basing countries—namely, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey—to receive upgraded B61 nuclear weapons with lower yield and greater precision. I say “so-called tactical”—that's a typical term by former disarmament ambassadors—because it is inconceivable that any detonation of nuclear weapons, however precise, would not have strategic effects.
These lower-yield, more precise tactical nukes are the very characteristics that caused the U.S. Congress to ban the development of these weapons in the 1990s. Congress argued that they created, quote, “the illusion of usability,” when the only rational use of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by anyone.
In the meantime, the vast majority of the international community was becoming increasingly frustrated by the failure of the conference on disarmament to agree even on a work program, never mind actual steps towards nuclear disarmament. Despite this, Canada continued to espouse a step-by-step process akin to walking slowly forward on a conveyor belt toward the ever-receding nuclear disarmament horizon while the belt itself hurtled in the other direction towards a world with ever-increasingly lethal nuclear weapons.
This dissatisfaction led ultimately to the majority of UN member states launching a multilateral negotiation for a nuclear prohibition treaty by a majority vote of the UN General Assembly in December 2016. This negotiation culminated in a new treaty text, which was approved by 122 UN member states on July 7 of this year and opened for signature at the UN on September 20, 2017, and which now has 53 signatories. If those 53 signatories ratify, it will come into effect within 90 days after the ratification.
By this point, Canada abandoned all pretext of pursuing meaningful nuclear disarmament measures as required by its article VI obligations under the NPT and instead unequivocally threw its lot in with the western nuclear-weapons states party to the NPT. This spurning of multilateral disarmament negotiations against all our history and tradition culminated in Canada agreeing to an extraordinary statement issued by the North Atlantic Council commenting on the nuclear prohibition treaty on the very day it opened for signature, which I think has to mark one of the lowest points in NATO's history.
The statement contains multiple errors, misinterpretations of international law, and just plain inanities, which would be bad enough if they were only being mouthed by nuclear-weapons states, but which are shockingly inappropriate for a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT like Canada, with its long and proud history of championing nuclear disarmament even in the darkest days of the Cold War. The most egregious assertion in this NAC statement is that the nuclear ban treaty, quote, “risks undermining the NPT”. Precisely the opposite is true. Those states that sought to prevent the ban treaty negotiation and that are now futilely trying to prevent it coming into force are of course the ones that are undermining the NPT. The second blatantly inaccurate statement is that the nuclear ban treaty, quote, “will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here's the treaty. I've attached it to my written statement. I hope everyone reads it.
Article VI of this treaty lays out in detail two methods for nuclear-weapons states to join the treaty, through a destroy-and-join methodology or a join-and-destroy process, with the IAEA, from whom they received advice, as the appropriate international body to take control of all resulting fissile material from deactivated nuclear weapons.
I'll go to my closing point. I'll leave out the inanities listed in my written statement.
The September 20 NAC statement ends with the extraordinary words that “[NATO] would not accept any argument that this [ban] treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary international law”. Happily for the rest of us, it is not up to NATO but instead is up to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to determine what constitutes customary international law.
But having raised that issue, perhaps they might want to read once more the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, to which I referred earlier, on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons except in the very narrowest of circumstances where, quote, the “very survival” of a state might be at stake. The court ruled that in every other circumstance, the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the threat to use them, would be manifestly illegal under international law because of the inability of the use of nuclear weapons to meet the fundamental requirements of international humanitarian law in terms of discrimination between military and civilian targets and proportionality between the military objective and collateral damage. Thus, the statement by the head of the U.S. Air Force at the Halifax security forum last weekend to the effect that he would never follow an order to use nuclear weapons that was illegal under international law was perhaps even more meaningful than he had intended.
So where does all this leave Canada? The answer is clear. It is our legal obligation under article VI of the NPT to begin the process—this of course will take a while—of signing and ratifying the nuclear ban treaty by absenting ourselves from NATO's nuclear doctrine and beginning a dialogue within NATO with the aim of convincing other non-nuclear-weapon states in NATO to similarly renounce NATO's unnecessary, dangerously provocative, and counterproductive nuclear posture. Three NATO member states, by the way, voted in favour of the ban treaty negotiation, so there are allies out there.
How can NATO, the most powerful conventional military alliance on earth, assert that it needs nuclear weapons for its security while we tell North Korea, facing off against the United States and its allies, that it does not?
Thank you very much.
First I want to clarify one point, though, coming out of what Dr. Byers said, and that relates to what Canada would have to do in order to ratify the treaty. I, of course, in my comments, talked about the fact that we would have to start the process of disassociating ourselves from NATO's nuclear posture. There's a history of countries taking smaller steps in that direction, with the famous NATO footnotes, including, for example, Norway's, which does not allow any presence of any nuclear weapons in their territory. But article I of the ban, of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, the new treaty, states very clearly that one of the obligations of a state party is that they do not assist, encourage, or induce in any way any prohibited activity. Of course, prohibited activity is anything to do with nuclear weapons, including possessing them, developing them, or modernizing them. That language was developed to get rid of the ambiguity between the NPT and non-nuclear-weapon states, such as Canada, party to nuclear alliances.
I think on a plain reading of the treaty, Canada has to signal its intention that it wants to disassociate itself from NATO's nuclear posture. As I said, Norway and the Netherlands participated in the negotiation but ultimately voted against the treaty. Estonia, Italy, and Albania all voted for the launch of the negotiation, but then, under incredible pressure from NATO, did not participate in the negotiation.
It just gives you some idea that, within NATO, if that dialogue was started by Canada.... You know, the first step is always the hardest. Say Canada initiated the dialogue—this would be within NATO—raised these issues, and said, “Look, we want to sign this treaty. We want to live up to our NPT obligations. We want to start this dialogue in NATO.” There is a moribund non-proliferation and disarmament committee that I think, back in the day, wasn't moribund. Foreign Minister Axworthy addressed it at one point. If we started that dialogue, there would be tremendous pressure on many other NATO states to engage in that. I mean, just the fact that the Netherlands, under direct majority resolutions from Parliament to participate in the negotiation...that's why they did. It shows that the members of the public of various NATO countries are extremely interested that we get out of this moving in the wrong direction and really start to make some progress.
The other point I would like to make is that NATO is really in a position to lead globally. If NATO can take the step of saying that we don't need nuclear weapons, then that puts the lie to others who are beginning to think they need them, because now the argumentation is all going in the other direction, with more and more discussion of more countries thinking that they need nuclear weapons. Really courageous action is needed to get us out of this deadly track that we seem to now be on.