Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My name is Kerry Buck, and I am Canada's permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council. As you mentioned, I had the chance to meet some of you in Brussels, in the fall. I must say what an honour it is to appear before you today, alongside Lieutenant-General Hainse and Lieutenant-General Whitecross. I hope our discussion will inform your study on NATO.
What I'd like to do is highlight some of the challenges the alliance faces and explain Canada's participation in and contribution to Euro-Atlantic security. For nearly 70 years, NATO's goal has remained the same: to preserve peace and safeguard our collective security. That role is as relevant as ever. Today's security challenges—be they Russia's military adventurism, extremism and terrorism in Iraq and Syria, North Korea's nuclear testing, or the increasing use of cyber-attacks—are putting our rules-based international order to the test.
As a trading nation with a global focus, Canada without question understands the importance of establishing a stable and predictable international order based on the fundamental principles of territorial integrity, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Having strong international institutions like NATO is very much in our national interest, as pointed out in her address to Parliament on Canada's foreign policy priorities, in June.
Canada's defence policy, entitled Strong, Secure, Engaged, shows that Canada and the Canadian Forces can greatly contribute to peace, stability, and prosperity in the world. That contribution includes support for diplomacy, development, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, capacity building, and the implementation of the global women, peace and security agenda.
As a last resort, it also includes the use of force alongside allies and in accordance with international law. A robust commitment to NATO's article 5 also remains at the heart of Canada's national security policy. It is this unity that makes NATO unique and binds the European and North American partnership. In today's world, trans-Atlantic co-operation is needed more than ever, and NATO is a force multiplier.
While NATO's purpose has not changed since 1949, the security environment has become increasingly complex and the alliance has had to adapt. This has meant reinforcing its deterrence and defence posture to prevent aggression against allies. NATO also projects stability beyond its territory by building security capabilities with partners, and working more closely with like-minded international actors, the United Nations and the EU in particular.
Following Russia's aggression in Ukraine and build up of forces and capabilities along the alliance's periphery, NATO has embarked on the most significant reinforcement of its collective defence since the end of the Cold War. At the Warsaw summit in July 2016, leaders agreed on an enhanced forward presence, centred on four battle groups deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
Canada, as you know, committed to lead a multinational battle group in Latvia comprising troops from Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. This is a major undertaking that puts us in the company of the United Kingdom, who leads in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania, and the United States in Poland. Canada also regularly contributes aircraft for NATO air policing, including Iceland and Romania in 2017 and 2018, and a frigate in support of maritime patrols in European waters.
NATO's approach is defensive in nature. It responds to Russia's violation of international borders in eastern Ukraine, and the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. Canada fully subscribes to NATO's two-track approach to Russia: deterrence and dialogue. To quote the NATO Secretary-General, this can be summarized as follows:
NATO continues to seek a more constructive and predictable relationship with Russia.... And encourage[s] Russia to act within the norms and rules of the international community. Transparency and predictability are critical.
As NATO is working to reinforce its deterrence posture toward Russia, it remains open to meaningful dialogue to help diffuse tension and potentials for misunderstanding.
Looking beyond Russia, it's become apparent that NATO's collective security can only be assured by having stable neighbours on its borders. This is why NATO formally joined the global coalition against Daesh and why it remains engaged in training Afghan security forces to prevent that country from again becoming a safe haven for terrorism. NATO is also increasing its support for partners across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond to help them enhance their resilience and provide for their own security. Outside of the NATO construct, but still contributing to allied security, Canada is providing training, advice, and assistance to Iraqi security forces and capacity-building support to regional forces, and is conducting air operations in Iraq and Syria through the provision of tanker support, maritime surveillance, and tactical transport.
Beyond the military effort, there's a broad consensus that the struggle to defeat Daesh requires a long-term, multi-pronged approach. That's why Canada's integrated and comprehensive response to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, close to $3 billion over three years, leverages and focuses Canadian humanitarian, stabilization, and development expertise where we can make a real difference, including in the region.
Lastly, I want to touch on the North Atlantic. Canadians know that the North Atlantic is the vital link between Europe and North America. We also know that Russia is investing heavily in military modernization, including by improving capabilities to operate in the North Atlantic. That is why NATO agreed at the 2016 Warsaw summit to strengthen NATO's maritime posture and situational awareness in the North Atlantic. Work is ongoing with NATO to fulfill this commitment, and there's a key role for Canada to play in this issue with NATO to maintain the safety of the lines of communication across the Atlantic, vital to the security and prosperity of Canadians.
Looking ahead, there will be a NATO leaders' summit in Brussels in this summer. As we prepare, we're focused on the future of the alliance, how Canada can contribute to shaping it, and what we will gain from it. Clearly, we will seek to maintain unity. For almost 70 years the allies, including Canada as a founding member, have stood shoulder to shoulder. This unity is our strongest deterrent to aggression. We will continue to ensure that NATO is fit for purpose and remains capable of responding to today's and tomorrow's threats as they arise and evolve in complexity. We will contribute to NATO's efforts to project stability in the fight against terror as we build defence capacity in Iraq and as we continue to support reform in Ukraine. We will also continue to identify ways in which to advance issues related to inclusive security at NATO.
Going into the 2018 summit, we expect NATO to bring forward a new action plan on women, peace, and security. NATO has come a long way in implementing gender perspectives in its public outreach, pre-deployment training, and partner education, for example, but there's more to do. Our intent for the action plan is to reinforce several areas, including increasing the number of women in allied militaries and in international deployments, building partner nations' defence capacity to implement UNSC Resolution 1325, and increasing the number of women in NATO staff, for example. Canada works hard at all levels of NATO to promote the women, peace, and security agenda, and in many ways we're seen as a leading ally in that regard.
The NATO summit this summer will move forward our work on deterrence and defence and discuss alliance modernization, NATO-EU cooperation, and the threat environment. As I said, Canada's core priority is to highlight how Canada is an indispensable ally to NATO, and how NATO is indispensable to Canada's security and prosperity.
Good morning. I'm pleased to be able to be at this committee today. Thank you for the invitation.
I would like to start by stating my role as a representative of the chief of the defence staff on a permanent basis at NATO. I fill two main functions. First of all, I represent the chief of the defence staff on the military committee at NATO, which works to provide military advice by consensus to the North Atlantic Council. Secondly, I support Canada's permanent representative to NATO, Ambassador Buck, by providing military advice to shape discussion and initiatives at NATO on behalf of the chief of the defence staff. In both of these functions my focus is on providing the best military advice to support political decision-making in line with Canadian interests.
Ambassador Buck has given you a strategic overview of NATO's current areas of focus. From a military perspective, I can describe the two main tasks as ensuring the success of current operations and making sure we are prepared to face the next security challenge.
In its 2010 Strategic Concept, NATO identified its three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management, and co-operative security. Allied militaries have a role to play in supporting each of these tasks.
For the 20 years leading up to 2014, NATO was focused mainly on crisis management outside the alliance territory—in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan, for example. However, since Russia's adoption of a more assertive and aggressive posture—most starkly demonstrated by its illegal annexation of Crimea—coupled with an increasingly complex security environment characterized by terrorism, hybrid threats, and climate-related challenges, to only name a few, there has been a more balanced approach to all three core tasks.
As such, collective defence has received renewed attention due to the potential threats posed to NATO territory by both Russia and increased terrorism. At the same time, co-operative security is also being bolstered because the allies have recognized that projecting stability to partner countries beyond NATO's borders also contributes to making the alliance more secure.
Canada has a long history of providing valued military contributions to NATO operations, and it continues to do so. Currently we are providing Canadian Armed Forces personnel and capabilities to missions across the three core tasks.
To be more specific, NATO's renewed focus on collective defence is clear in the decision taken at the 2016 Warsaw summit to strengthen the alliance's deterrence and defence posture.
As Ambassador Buck explained, Canada is playing a lead role in supporting collective defence by serving as a framework nation of the multinational battle group in Latvia as part of NATO's enhanced forward presence. This is a significant contribution on many levels.
First of all, it sends a very strong signal of alliance unity when North American allies send soldiers to deter and defend against attack in Europe. Secondly, the battle group that Canada leads currently includes contributions from six other allies plus the host nation, Latvia. More than any other enhanced forward presence battle group, this shows a commitment to working with other allies and improving interoperability among forces. Finally, this contribution represents the first persistent Canadian military presence in Europe since we withdrew our force from Germany in the early 1990s following the end of the Cold War, and this return to Europe has been noticed by our allies.
Under the Canadian Armed Forces' Operation Reassurance, we fulfill our previously mentioned forward presence commitment to Latvia, and we also contribute a frigate to NATO's standing level force on a rotational basis, as well as regularly providing fighter aircraft to conduct air policing in Iceland and Romania.
In terms of Canada's military contribution to another core task, namely crisis management, Canada's recent history shows its strong commitment to NATO's effort to bring stability, considering post- or prior engagements in Afghanistan and Libya. We also continue to contribute to NATO's KFOR mission in Kosovo.
Turning now to co-operative security, the military has a role to play in helping partner countries build their own capacity to face and withstand security challenges. The Canadian Armed Forces are currently playing a very strong role in building military capability in Ukraine, a NATO partner. We're also providing training to that force encountering improvised explosive devices and disposing of explosive ordnances under NATO's training and capacity-building program in that country.
As I said earlier in my statement, apart from current operations, my other priority, as the Chief of the Defence Staff's representative to NATO and a permanent member of NATO's Military Committee, is making sure that NATO is prepared militarily for the next security challenge. Without going into too much detail, this means making sure that the alliance has the structures and mechanisms in place to be able to plan operations, integrate forces from many nations, and command and control them. It also means identifying the kinds of capabilities we need both now and in the future.
As Canada's defence policy has highlighted, Canada rarely operates alone. Strong partnerships with allies and international organizations, including NATO, are critical to ensure that we are prepared to deal with the complexity of today's security environment.
To sum up, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Canada's role within NATO's military structures, and what it means for the Canadian Armed Forces. First of all, Canada is a well-respected ally around the table, and the recognized professionalism of our armed forces means that we are taken seriously when we speak. We have a strong history of showing solidarity with our allies and of answering the call when it comes, which gives us credibility. From a military perspective, we will continue to be involved in both deterrence and defence, and the projecting stability agenda, these being key NATO priorities for the foreseeable future.
Let me close by stating that our participation in NATO, whether in representing Canada at the military committee, or serving on multinational teams in the international military staff or on one of NATO's strategic commands, gives us influence in a strong political-military alliance that has stood the test of time and has proven its adaptability.
I count myself as fortunate to be able to support the chief of the defence staff and Ambassador Buck in representing the Government of Canada as we shape the future of this alliance.
Thank you very much.
I am Lieutenant-General Whitecross, and I have been commandant of the NATO Defense College since November 29, 2016.
I am responsible for accomplishing the missions set out by the NATO Military Committee, which I will outline in more detail momentarily.
The NATO Defense College, or NDC, is a unique academic institution, the only one of its kind in the alliance. Originally located in Paris, it was founded in 1951 by General Eisenhower, who saw the need to “develop individuals, both on the military and the civilian side, who will have a thorough grasp of the many complicated factors which are involved in...creating an adequate defence posture for the North Atlantic Treaty area”.
Policy guidance for the college is set out in the military committee document, as noted by the North Atlantic Council in July of 2016. The mission of the college is to contribute to the effectiveness and cohesion of the alliance by developing its role as a major centre of education, outreach, and research on transatlantic security issues.
To foster forward and creative strategic thinking on the key issues facing the alliance, the NATO Defense College is directed to do the following three high-level tasks.
The first is to provide senior-level education and bring together senior-level military and civilian officials to interact on NATO issues in a unique, diverse, and multicultural setting while cultivating multinational consensus-building and providing opportunities for multinational networking. Second, the college engages in comprehensive outreach and support of alliance strategic objectives. Third, the college conducts strategic security studies and research in support of the alliance's wider goals. In executing the NDC mission, the principles of academic freedom are respected, ensured, and extended to faculty, staff, and course members.
Organizationally within NATO, the NDC is an agency of the military committee and is directed by the commandant. The education and research activities of the college are coordinated with Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk and allied command operations near Mons, Belgium, which are both represented on the NDC's academic advisory board.
The NDC staff is composed of approximately 130 military members and civilians from 20 NATO nations and a non-NATO contribution from Switzerland. The academic program is not delivered through a permanent faculty, but instead the NDC receives lectures from high-level academic, governmental, and military speakers.
This allows the NDC program both to remain current and to constantly evolve. Of note, and what makes the NATO Defense College both unique and gives it a competitive edge over national defence and security institutions, is that the NDC curriculum is solely focused on NATO business.
We educate 21st century leaders by taking military officers and civilian officials out of their comfort zones on intellectual, personal, national, and professional levels in order to enable them to learn more about the other world views in a culturally rich environment. We help course participants develop and refine their communication and negotiation skills—and for many of those, not in their first language—and, most important, to build consensus. Study provides a fair amount of general intellectual capital and imparts a certain degree of intellectual humility, a good quality in those who may be charged in the future with some very weighty responsibilities.
Lastly, course members learn not only from books and professors, but also from each other, and they create their own professional networks.
The NDC offers two long courses and a series of shorter and modular courses.
In brief, the senior course is 20 weeks in length and aims to better prepare colonels and lieutenant-colonels and equivalent-level civilian officials of the alliance, the Euro-Atlantic area, the Mediterranean dialogue, the Istanbul cooperation initiative, and selected contact countries for senior appointments in NATO and multinational staffs or NATO-related duties in their capitals. The NATO regional co-operation course is 10 weeks in length and aims to link issues of concern to both the Mediterranean dialogue and the Istanbul cooperation initiative nations, and to NATO, and to develop mutual understanding and networking amongst participants.
The course is open to officers of the rank of brigadier-general to lieutenant-colonel and to civilian officials and diplomats of equivalent rank from relevant ministries such as defence, foreign affairs, and others concerned with strategic security issues. NDC also has a similar short course for one to three star officers and civilians of equivalent rank.
The NATO Defense College successfully executes its triple mission of education, research, and outreach, providing excellent educational products, a solid research program, and a focused outreach effort.
A significant undertaking is under way to develop a strategic plan to better link these three tasks together. This plan will guide NDC evolution to ensure alignment to the military committee's guidance through a set of cascading goals, tasks, and objectives benchmarked to key performance indicators.
Work on the development of the NDC strategic plan commenced in earnest in 2017, and will continue through 2018, to be brought for approval to the Military Committee and ultimately the North Atlantic Council, to ensure that NDC continues to serve the needs of the alliance and its constituent nations into the future.
In terms of attendance trends, evaluation of the root causes is still required. However, although the NDC is seeing a significant increase in interest by partner nations, there is a stagnation in the numbers of NATO nations participating, with the level at 16 to 19 out of the 29 nations.
For the last two senior courses, approximately 20% of the seats were filled by civilian course participants, including diplomats. An ongoing challenge and particular area of focus, given its nexus with the women, peace, and security agenda, is that the number of female course members remains low, at 11% and 6% for the two most recent senior courses. There were even fewer on the NATO regional co-operation course, although that is to be expected due to the relatively fewer numbers of women from the countries attending this course, which is aimed at participants from our partner nations in and around the gulf and the MENA region.
The NATO Defense College is working to encourage the participation of more women in the courses offered, and on staff. By the very nature of its multinational staff and course participants, the NATO Defense College reflects a high degree of diversity, cutting across the boundaries of nationality, service, level, experience, gender, religion, culture, and more. I consider this diversity to be both a strength and a force multiplier.
As noted in my direction and guidance for 2018, I am committed to ensuring NDC is a respectful workplace, promoting teamwork, mutual respect, and fairness for all. I believe this respectful workplace is fundamental for an educational environment, and will contribute to one that encourages a growing participation by women.
Secondly, consistent with NATO's acknowledgement that gender perspectives are an important consideration—in the long term to achieve gender equality, and in the short term to help commanders at all levels make decisions to achieve operational effectiveness—general perspectives will be accounted for in all three NDC missions of education, outreach, and research. I have designated a gender adviser at the NDC to move us down the road of gender mainstreaming.
Thirdly, I personally take every opportunity to encourage dialogue related to the WPS agenda. In the fall of 2017, the NATO Defense College co-sponsored a workshop with Queen's University on gender perspectives. As you know, it is not only about integrating women, as gender perspectives are not synonymous with women's perspectives. They consider the needs of and impacts of men and women, boys and girls, noting that the word gender itself no longer has a binary meaning.
I also had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address on gender mainstreaming at the European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The audience was more than 100 early- to mid-career security sector professionals from approximately 50 countries in Europe, Eurasia, the Pacific region, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.
The NATO Defense College is also in discussion with the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations and Allied Command Transformation, to host their annual discipline conference.
Mr. Robillard, as you said, the 2% metric is a way to measure the allies' contribution, but other methods and metrics are possible.
In sum, we look at cash capabilities and contributions. The capability, interoperability, agility, and capacity to deploy troops who are trained and able to do the job is the key thing for NATO and the alliance. Canada has always been there. We've participated in every NATO mission and operation throughout NATO's long history.
The 2% metric, as I said, is one of those metrics. It measures the overall percentage of defence spending, as you know, against GDP. Canada's new defence policy—“Strong, Secure, Engaged”—has injected significant new resources into Canada's defence plans. This significant investment is recognized by our allies.
For 2017, Canada is estimated to have spent roughly 1.31% of its GDP on defence. We rank 15th among NATO members in this regard. However, if you look at us per capita, for instance, we're ranked 6th. We make a healthy contribution to NATO, and we have reversed the decline in defence spending, which was the pledge made at Warsaw.
More importantly, as I said, we are also investing more under “Strong, Secure, Engaged” in our capabilities. NATO's target is to spend 20% of defence expenditure on major equipment by 2020, and under “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, it's forecast to reach 32.2%. There are other metrics as well, but I won't go into the details of those.
My main message is that Canada has respected troops and capabilities, and we deploy highly trained, highly capable troops when NATO needs them.
NATO's prime focus has to be to respond to any threat from any direction at any time. I'll argue that NATO has the capabilities to do so; but NATO, as with any organization, is an organization that adapts, and NATO is also adapting to those threats.
Let me back up a minute. After the end of the Cold War, NATO's focus, as General Hainse said, had shifted very much to out-of-area crisis management operations. There was a certain peace dividend in Euro-Atlantic space and there was less focus on collective defence. With 2014—and you mentioned the illegal annexation of Crimea—it was clear that NATO had to return to collective defence, so it did so. It tripled the size of the NATO response force. It installed a number of smaller headquarters throughout not just the eastern flank, but also the eastern and southeastern flanks, to connect national forces to NATO forces. It constructed the VJTF, the very high-readiness joint task force, a kind of spearhead force; and it put the four new battle groups into the eastern flank—Poland and the Baltics—where Canada is a framework nation, as I mentioned.
NATO has done a lot on collective defence. Many of those decisions, for example, the battle groups in the east, were taken at the Warsaw summit. As we head into the summit this summer, we will be doing what I call “consolidating” those elements and ensuring that there are adequate follow-on forces, reinforcements, and military mobility to strengthen that presence. But can it do the job? Yes, it can.
As NATO focused again on collective defence, it was still very much engaged in out-of-area activity, but there has been a shift there. NATO is still engaged in Afghanistan; its longest running mission. At the same time, there was a recognition that NATO and its allies could do more to project stability outside of NATO's periphery, using some other means than large-scale operations, through a combination of defence capacity building, what we call “projecting stability”. As a result, there's been much more done, for instance, in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Jordan, and around NATO's periphery to help project that stability.
You asked what the prime focus was, and NATO has to do it all. As I said, there's been a real sea change since 2014, and NATO has adapted to meet that change in the security environment. There's also consolidation. At the forthcoming summit, we expect there will likely be an adaptation of the NATO command structure, more on projecting stability, more on defence capacity building, including in places such as Iraq, and more consolidation of NATO's deterrence posture on the eastern flank, and in the southeast as well, with Romania and Bulgaria
There's an agreed methodology to report defence expenditures. Those agreed definitions have remained largely unchanged since 1950. Overall defence expenditures are defined by NATO as payments made by national governments specifically to meet the needs of its armed forces, those of allies, or of the alliance. They're very detailed instructions, which have been agreed by the alliance underneath that broad rubric, and include the following categories: military personnel, civilian personnel, pensions, operations and maintenance. I won't go through the whole list.
There are some, I won't call them, “different” interpretations, but allies will at times structure their armed forces differently to meet their own security and defence needs. For instance, in some countries a border or coast guard would be an integral part of the armed forces. It makes defence sense for some allies to do it that way. It doesn't for Canada.
Someone said that defence expenditure is a case of apples and oranges, that there are a lot of variations, but that's not quite true. There are agreed definitions, and we use that methodology pretty consistently, and there is a push-back function too. There are conversations between the NATO international military staff, international staff, and ours to make sure that what we're all reporting on defence spending is within those guidelines. It's a very structured process with a whole lot of due diligence included.
Canada, as we went into the defence policy review and from having done many internal reviews, discovered that we had been under-reporting to NATO, so there was an increase entirely consistent with the NATO guidelines, but we sought to capture more of the Canadian defence spending at the time. That's legitimate defence spending according to NATO's definitions.
Maybe I'll start, and Lieutenant-General Whitecross will come in for the NDC's perspective.
There's currently a NATO action plan on women, peace, and security. It's pretty comprehensive, but going into the summit this spring, we want to increase our level of ambition. NATO has done a pretty good job on a few things. It's actually done a pretty good job on awareness raising outside of NATO, with the NATO allied publics, on the women, peace, and security agenda as well as through conversations targeted at women populations to show what NATO does and to present all the work that NATO has done on inclusion, or inclusive security as I call it.
NATO has also done pretty well in integrating a gender perspective into operations. There's mandatory pre-deployment training for instance for deployment to NATO operations. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe issued a directive for all NATO operations to integrate gender perspectives up and down the command chain. NATO has done pretty well on that front, but there's still more to do. There's also been integration of gender into NATO policies.
There are still gaps. There's more to be done on integration of gender into NATO policies. As I explained at the North Atlantic Council, Canada takes a very pragmatic approach to ensure, for instance, when an operation is in the field, that it understands the place of women in the community within which it is operating and that it understands, as NATO is doing defence capacity building, that it's in everyone's security interests to have more women trained in partner nations' armed forces. That's an area where we want to do a bit more.
Finally, there's the percentage of women both inside NATO and inside alliance militaries. Inside NATO, there's both good news and bad news. There's been a bit of backsliding in terms of the number of women in the institution, but there have been some really important senior nominations or senior appointments. General Whitecross is the first female commander of NATO Defense College. The deputy secretary general is a woman. I am Canada's first woman ambassador to NATO after 66 years.
Some improvements have been made in allied militaries. We're doing better than almost any other grouping in the world, but it's still not good enough. For instance, since 1999, there's been only a 4% increase in the number of women in allied militaries averaging up to about just under 11% in 2016. So there's more to do.
Thanks very much for that.
NATO is primarily a political military alliance, and I will insist on the political part of that. Quite often, in the view of the public, it's seen as primarily a military alliance—yes—but it has a big political role.
The values of democracy are written into the Washington treaty, and to be frank, inside the alliance, adherence to those principles of democracy has waxed and waned over the years. It is what it is. We're an alliance of democracies, and at times, democratic choices and other political developments inside some of the alliance has not gone in the direction of full respect for democracy, and I'm talking about the past. There have been governments inside the alliance ruled by juntas, and so on.
That doesn't detract from the weight and the value of the alliance as a political alliance, an alliance of shared values. In a way, it becomes a space where we can keep people in the tent, keep allies in the tent, and try to reinforce and re-instill those values.
You asked about the public appreciation for NATO. NATO has done a lot to help publicize what NATO's mandate is inside the alliance, and NATO has a couple of public diplomacy campaigns running right now. We learned for instance that Canadians know of NATO and know that they support NATO, but they don't know enough about what NATO does. We're not in a bad space on that front, but the more public diplomacy by committee members, the better.
The NATO association is doing a great job of spreading good news. We're trying to focus on getting the message out to youth and out to a broader swath of the population across the alliance, not just youth but also women, to ensure that there's a greater understanding of NATO's political role as well.
This is a really difficult post in Rome, so thanks for that.
I have a couple of things. In the last year, we've undergone an academic curriculum review that looked at what kind of education the NATO Defense College provides based on the future security environment. We did that based on the fundamental documents that have come from NATO headquarters, ACT and ACO in Norfolk, and, in Mons, SACEUR.
We put those together and looked at the objectives that were currently in mind, and then we identified whether or not we needed to make changes. I'm happy to say that the curriculum review has identified a number of what I think are good, substantive changes, particularly a refocusing on Russia, for obvious reasons, in a seminar format that we hadn't done in the past, a refocusing on China, and a larger influential engagement on the MENA region in terms of the “projecting stability” pillar of NATO. In terms of the academic curriculum review, we've done that in the last year, and we're just starting to implement those changes.
We're also in the process, as I mentioned in my opening comments, of doing a strategic planning effort for the college to take it into whatever the NDC will look like in the future in the 2020-30 time frame, to make sure there aren't gaps that we're missing in our responsiveness to nations' needs in the alliance. I think there's more that the college could do, for example, in distance learning and the like. There is a huge increase in the appetite of our partners to get into some of the courses, but coming to Rome could be a bit to endure given the cost, so it's good to be able to provide another alternative. We're looking at different ways to spread the message, as it were.
On the last point in terms of the doctrine work, we're constantly in discussions with the headquarters, but within the college we also have a research division that has links to think tanks around the world in many countries, including here in the headquarters in Brussels. We're constantly relooking at how we're providing the education. As I mentioned, we don't have in-house faculty who do that. We actually take from the outside the academics, the government folks, and the military folks from around the world, and we bring them to the college so they can provide current and relevant information to the course members.
Article 5 has grown with the times. It is embedded in international humanitarian law, the law of self-defence. It's clear that this body of law has evolved over time to recognize that an armed attack can take different forms, and yet will still reach that article 5 threshold. For instance, in Warsaw, leaders recognized that a cyber attack could amount to an article 5 attack.
The challenge for NATO these days is that there's what we call a grey zone. It's that grey zone that the Russians occupy so well. For instance, General Gerasimov is the Russian chief of defence staff. His doctrine talks about a continuum of warfare wherein about two-thirds of their tools of warfare aren't armed attack. The Russians will use active campaigns of different disinformation throughout every stage of warfare. Dealing in that grey zone becomes a challenge for NATO and for other countries seeking to respond to attacks that are just below that article 5 threshold.
The good news is that there's a much deeper understanding of hybrid threats and cyber threats. NATO has done a lot, and I mean a lot, to update plans, strategies, to harden cyber infrastructure inside NATO and among allies so we can respond and prevent such attacks that fall below the article 5 threshold.
NATO has also done a lot to increase its situational awareness with a real investment in the intelligence analysis, hybrid fusion cells, active steps to counter misinformation, and to keep eyes on those hybrid or asymmetric threats that could amount to something, or to prevent them at source.
We're living this in a very real way in our battle group in Latvia. There are active and constant Russian misinformation campaigns targeting our battle group and the other battle groups in the Baltics and Poland. We've hardened our cyber capacity. We've trained our troops during pre-deployment training about preventing and not being susceptible to misinformation. We've got people at the centre of excellence, StratCom, and we're working with the centre on hybrid.
A lot is going on to respond to that grey zone and to limit the grey zone and to know when to act.
That was a long answer, I apologize.