November 20, 2016 1:00 pm

Transcript Season 6 Episode 11

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block on Sunday, November 13, 2016. Hosted by Tom Clark.



Episode 11, Season 6

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guest Interviews: Minister Harjit Sajjan, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky,

General John Vance, Husain Haqqani, Rose Gottemoeller

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia




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Welcome to this very special edition of The West Block. I’m Tom Clark. And this is the Halifax International Security Forum. People are here from 70 countries around the world, all sharing the same concern and that is the future of democracy, peace and war in what appears to be a changing environment.


Now, this discussion happens just two weeks after the election of Donald Trump. In fact, this is the first major forum to be held since that seismic event in the United States and there are a lot of questions on the table: The future of international security alliances, the future of trade, the future of human migration, and of course as always, the future of what happens in the Middle East—so much to talk about, so let’s get going. And let me start off by introducing my panel.


First of all, Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, and, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky. You are the senior fellow of the Future of Diplomacy project at Harvard University. You also served in the Reagan White House and were the—if I get this right—the deputy undersecretary of state for global affairs. Did I get that right?


Paula Dobriansky: Undersecretary.


Tom Clark: Undersecretary. Somebody else was the deputy. The person who worked for you was the deputy. And of course, General General Vance, an old friend, the chief of the defence staff of the Canadian Armed Forces. Welcome to you all.


Minister, let me start with you, and let’s address the Republican elephant in the room if I can. You know Donald Trump is still putting together his cabinet and I understand that. And yet over the past couple of weeks he said a number of things. Not the least of which are NATO is obsolete. The Russians may have a legitimate claim of some description to Crimea. You’ve been following what Donald Trump has been saying. Is there anything that he said that you agree with?


[Audience laughter]


Minister Sajjan: If we look at the challenges that we all face, the security challenges around the world, and the conflicts that we face and the complexity that these conflicts have, no one nation can deal with it alone. No one nation has the one solution. That’s why it’s so important to work together.


Tom Clark: Ambassador, let me pick up on one thing that the minister just said. He was talking about multinational alliances, which of course makes me think of NATO. And although your expertise lies largely—and I want to get into this with you later—about our relationship, the west’s relationship with Russia in this new changing environment. But give me a perspective, an American perspective on this notion of free riders in NATO. It was a hallmark of what Donald Trump talked about but is it really just restricted to the Republicans or to the Trump crowd? Or is this more a broad based view in the United States?


Paula Dobriansky: The election really placed a premium in economic issues and you know interestingly enough it’s not different. But this year was different in the emphasis placed on our role in the world. And you do have very clearly not only manifested by–in this case—the two candidates at the time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both of them talked about burden sharing. And why did they talk about burden sharing in the context of the NATO alliance was primarily and fundamentally because of the discontent and the desire for a changed way in which the United States does business abroad. We care about national security, but we’re looking for others to also come up and also share that burden.


Tom Clark: General Vance, we’re talking about international alliances. You know Canada like so many other countries base their planning and their mission readiness on the basis of a multilateral response in a multinational approach to defence and security. If that starts to fray, if that comes under question what happens to a coordinated security response say to Russia if there’s a disagreement on the international instruments that we have to do that?


General Vance: Well thanks Tom. I think that the advent of multilateral military operations and alliances in many forms most recently coalesces of the willing are largely a function of necessity. It’s not just an ideology. Most of the conflicts that we’re involved with in the world today, those ones that have endured for some time and the new ones demand more than what any one country can do by itself or even a block of countries. So as you’re pondering the relevance or perhaps the concerns about where multilateral military operations will go, I think we need to think about the very sort of fundamental foundation of why we do this. It’s because we have to.


Tom Clark: Ambassador, let me bring that back to you. If in fact we go through a period of redesigning or questioning some of the international alliances, put yourself in the Kremlin right now. You’re seeing that there is this discussion, this disagreement happening maybe between Washington and Brussels, and the allies themselves uncertain how to proceed with it. What does the Kremlin do?


Ambassador Dobriansky: Well, I think that we’re already witnessing this. I think the President Putin has seen an opportunity and the costs are low. And there’s a kind of complacency regrettably that I think even despite the recent steps taken of forward rotational deployment in NATO, I think that he sees opportunities and he will continue further. It’s striking to me that many of the Nordic countries, the Nordic countries, I underscore that. And I’ve had conversations with their respective defence ministries. They are concerned about what kind of aggression we might see next in Europe. The fact of the matter is, you still have aggression in Eastern Ukraine at play. You also have the illegal annexation of Crimea. You have also aggression in Syria and really atrocities occurring as we know and we see every day on TV. I would be very concerned if there is this disunity. You raise a crucial point because I think if I was in Moscow and I was watching this I’d say there’s a complacency. There’s a lack of importance attached to not only the values but the alliances and also the institutions that preserved peace, stability and security post-World War II, no less the Cold War. It’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for Moscow.


Tom Clark: On that note, we’re going to take a short break. We’ll be back with more of The West Block right after this.




Tom Clark: Welcome back to The West Block at the Halifax International Security Forum. I want to go over to Husain Haqqani. Mr. Haqqani works with the Hudson Institute now. You were the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. I want to add another plate to this table that we’re laying out. Nobody could have missed during the campaign the comments that Donald Trump was making about Muslims, about either banning them outright from coming into the United States or putting them under some sort of registry. He’s walked that policy backwards and forward more than once or twice. But in terms of the broader Muslim world and especially where it intersects with security. What affect is that going to have?


Husain Haqqani: The harm has already been done. Only half of politics is policy, the rest of it is emotion and sentiment. We’ve sentiment unleash in the United States. A similar sentiment has been unleashed in the Muslim world as well. So you have ISIS celebrating the fact that you have somebody who positions the United States as an enemy of the Muslims because that’s what they want. And I think that one of the biggest healing acts that President Trump and his team can do is to actually go back to a position where there are Muslims who are recognized as America and the west’s allies. Minister Sajjan here represents a very interesting and unique phenomenon. He’s a man in a turban with a brown face like mine, who is the national defence minister of Canada. And Canadians don’t think the heavens have fallen because he’s different to them.


Tom Clark: The consequences of not doing that type of reach out?


Husain Haqqani: Well I think we will see enhanced recruitment for groups like ISIS as well as, I think Al-Qaeda will return, especially in the subcontinent in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And we will see a lot of people not necessarily joining radical groups but ending up sympathizing with them.


Tom Clark: Ambassador, let me tap you on this. The whole idea we’ve left out one big region and of course that’s Asia-Pacific. And so fill in the picture if you can of what this—let’s call it instability for right now—means for that part of the world.


Ambassador Dobriansky: It was striking to me at the very time when there was the aggression in Eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, there were a lot of reports out in Asia, in Japan and in Korea about what was going on. And the reason why was because there was an abrogation of the Budapest Memorandum. We forget Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in return for the protection of their territorial integrity and sovereignty. And there was an expectation of accountability here. Well, the articles out in Asia were playing out. What will that mean for us in terms of extended nuclear deterrents? Can we count on our alliances? Can we count on our friends? So it’s not just a regional issue. It has global ramifications and it’s one that we should be very, very concerned about.


Tom Clark: When we’re faced with this instability and this questioning of the world order whether it’s a new world order or it’s an amendment of the current world order, whatever it turns out to be. Where’s the effective role for a medium-sized country like Canada like so many other countries who are in our position? I mean the idea that we can’t alone, and you made this point, no one country has the answer. But what is the most effective way? Is it getting back? I know you want to get back into peacekeeping. We’ve got 600 Canadian troops ready to go. General, I think I’m right on that point. Is that the method we go at the same time that we’ve got this perceived threat perhaps in Eastern Europe, why would you go to Africa?


Minister Sajjan: Peace operations are not done in isolation. We need to connect it into the new world order per se. We need to look at peace operations of reducing the youth that are going into these organizations so that it doesn’t empower some of those radical groups and the recruitment into groups like Daesh or Al-Qaeda. And look at the Maghreb crisis that’s coming from there. It’s impacting Europe and that’s having a greater impact on the security as we look at Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. So everything is interconnected.


Tom Clark: As we are going over this landscape of the change in the world order, we have to sort of resell the idea it seems to me to the skeptical or to those who feel that there is a better, different way of doing things. So sell me on the idea of sending 600 Canadians somewhere in Africa.


General Vance: The fact is that there is a range or a continuum of events or initiatives that you would use your military for. One of those is peace support operations and there’s nothing wrong at all. In fact, there is great value as the minister said in trying to look at conflict prevention, conflict mitigation, conflict termination, trying to set the conditions for termination and reducing harm throughout the time that you’re doing so. Those skeptics wondering why you would send the military on a peace support mission are skeptical because they haven’t really seen a great number of examples of military success that cause very decisive positive change in a long time. It is becoming less and less clear to our publics that we are being successful when it takes a great deal of time because of the entrenched challenging nature of the conflicts that we’re in. People have a hard time with that. And I would say that peace support operations offer an opportunity to address conflict before it gets worse or as it’s winding down to try and seal the deal and bring to bear comprehensive approach.


Ambassador Dobriansky: May I add to this?


Tom Clark: Please do.


Ambassador Dobriansky: I think that the military component that you’ve described as preventive action and mitigation, I think is crucial. But let me also add to that mix, the political side. I mentioned leadership, and when I look back on the debates that have ensued over these past years in the United States, one of the big issues has been the role of the United States abroad. I personally come down on the side that the United States must lead. By the way, that doesn’t mean that in leading that we’re not engaged in burden sharing and that we’re putting on the table our blood and treasure. But it does mean that we are engaged and we do have a strategy. And we’re not leaving vacuums in different parts of the world where others can make mischief. We know from 9/11 that we are not removed from the rest of the world. We’re not immune and we’re not separate. And toward that end, it’s absolutely essential not only to make the military investment, but if you don’t have the political investment as well, it’s not going to have the kind of impact that is so desired and has been lacking in these past years.


Tom Clark: Thanks very much ambassador. We’re going to go back to the audience. But before we do that, we’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be back with more of The West Block right after this.




Tom Clark: Welcome back to The West Block coming from the Halifax International Security Forum. I have with me Rose Gottemoeller, the deputy secretary general of NATO. Well you’ve had a heck of a couple of weeks haven’t you?


Rose Gottemoeller: Certainly have.


Tom Clark: Listen, and let me ask you very simply. Is NATO obsolete like the president-elect says?


Rose Gottemoeller: Well actually Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and the President-elect Trump had a great conversation today and they talked about the future of the NATO alliance and the future of the relationship between the United States and NATO. And both agreed that we have work to do in the NATO alliance just as our panelists have been talking about the necessity of burden share and being spread across the alliance, but that we also have important missions going forward. I want to get in your discussion a moment ago of the role of peacekeeping. NATO focuses actually on two important missions now. One is deterrence and defence, as we are now bringing our forces to bear to counter aggressive Russian action in Eastern Europe, in Ukraine. But also, it focuses on projecting stability. And projecting stability has an important role in that it ensures that in the future we prevent terrorist threats from coming, not only to Europe but also to Canada and to the United States as well.


Tom Clark: But let me throw at you the comment that the ambassador made. And it’s simply this, that the Kremlin is watching our response to things. So it’s watching what we did in Ukraine or what we didn’t do in Ukraine. It’s watching what we’re doing in Eastern Europe. Particularly right now it is monitoring very closely the comments of the incoming administration and what it may do to NATO. Is this questioning that’s going on now materially hurting the alliance?


Rose Gottemoeller: What I see is that it is driving the alliance closer together and really making countries focus on this necessity of further expenditure on defence. I can’t say we’ve completely reversed the trend. But this year for the first time in a long time we’re going to have a 3 per cent increase in defence spending across all the countries of the alliance. Some countries haven’t stepped up to that 2 per cent requirement of GDP that’s really deep in NATOs policy documents. But nevertheless, across the alliance we’ve got a 3 per cent increase and that’s a good step in the right direction.


Tom Clark: You wouldn’t necessarily disagree with the idea though that many countries that are paying maybe 1 per cent of GDP should actually pull out the chequebook and write it up, right?


Rose Gottemoeller: Correct, people have to pull up their socks in many capitals. I don’t dispute that at all. But I think people have gotten the message as well.


Tom Clark: Thank you very much, I appreciate it. There was somebody else who wanted to speak back here.


Mark Fitzpatrick: Mark Fitzpatrick from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. One of the most effective commercials during the American election was the one in which Canadians from various walks of life said ‘America, you’re great. America, you’re great.’ It may be time for another such commercial. But the question is to our hosts, how would they advise the president-elect to lead the free world in the months and year ahead?


Tom Clark: Minister, do you want to take on that question?


Minister Sajjan: [Laughs] I look forward to having a conversation with the new administration, not with the campaign team.


Heather Hurlburt: Heather Hulrburt from New America. I’d like to continue this advice theme and ask each of you to offer your advice to the current administration. What would you like to see in its last 60 days, specifically in relationship to Russia and NATO?


Ambassador Dobriansky: Well one of the things that I had wished that this administration had done, and when I look at the congressional delegation over here bipartisan, it’s one of the acts that our Congress agreed on is to provide lethal military assistance, Republicans and Democrats to Ukraine. Ukraine had requested such assistance to defend itself. And regrettably the executive branch did not support that in the way in which it had been advanced by the legislative branch. So, in the remaining days, I think that would be a strong signal as to the importance that we do attach to deterring that aggression and the importance we attach to what had had happened there. I might just add one footnote on the issue about the advice. It’s interesting to me that a former NATO secretary general has just wrote a letter to President-elect Trump and they said ‘Do not have any kind of deal undertaken with the Russians that will undermine our collective defence and national security. And don’t use Ukraine as a bargaining chip.’ I think that was also an important message for the incoming administration.


Tom Clark: And would it be safe to assume general and minister that you would prefer not to give advice to the Oval Office at this point?


Minister Sajjan: Yes, exactly.




Tom Clark: General, I assume you agree with your minister.


General Vance: Of course.


Michael Bociurkiw: Hi, I’m Michael Bociurkiw. I’m the former spokesperson for the OSC Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. A quick question: My former colleagues have been observing a record number of explosions in Eastern Ukraine. The Minsk agreements do not seem to be working. Most diplomatic levers seem to have been pulled already. Along this path of giving advice, what advice minister and ambassador perhaps would you give to those diplomats around the table?


Tom Clark: Can I just pick up on that and throw it to you ambassador? Do you really have any expectations that with the talk of detente for lack of a better word with the new administration and with Russia, can you foresee in the next four years with what we know already that Putin would pull out of Crimea?


Ambassador Dobriansky: I think that first of all what was successful with the Baltic States we were consistent in holding a non-recognition policy. We have to have consistently a non-recognition policy about the illegal annexation of Crimea.


Tom Clark: But if you turn down the heat and the new administration is suggesting that they might want to do that. They want to get along with Putin. If they turn down the heat, then what’s the incentive?


Ambassador Dobriansky: Well again, this goes back to my point earlier about the costs. Here, a new administration’s coming in. They’re naturally going to want to engage but the question is engaging over what? And will we be engaging in a way in which we’re giving up our own national security interests and undercutting those areas that matter to what we stand for. And undercut literally the principles, values, rules of the game that we’re identified with. So I think it would be a grave mistake and it would certainly send not a signal just to Moscow but across the globe to many others. And what is at foot in China and in the South China seas and elsewhere that well, here’s an opportunity to advance and move forward.


Tom Clark: I want to thank the panel: Harjit Sajjan, Minister of Defence; Ambassador Paula Dobriansky thank you so much; and General Vance good to have you here.


And thank you for all of your thoughtful comments. I have a feeling we’ll be having this conversation every day for maybe the next four or five years. Thank you all very much for being here.


Thank you all very much for watching. The West Block returns next week from its usual position in Ottawa. Until then, I’m Tom Clark. Have a great week.

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