Founded in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been the cornerstone of transatlantic security for almost 70 years. In today’s highly complex and unpredictable international security environment, the NATO political, military and economic alliance remains important, and continues to provide its 29 member states, which include Canada, with collective security and stability.
As a founding member of NATO, Canada has been a reliable and strong member of NATO for almost seven decades, and remains committed to NATO and the collective security of NATO countries. Canada and NATO have a mutually beneficial relationship: Canada has much to gain through its membership in NATO, and NATO benefits from the contributions that Canada has made and continues to make.
Witnesses repeatedly told the Committee that Canada matters to NATO, and that NATO matters to Canada. They held the view that Canada is a well-respected ally within NATO. They emphasized Canada’s long history within NATO as a founding member and its evolution within NATO since 1949.
As well, they highlighted Canada’s leadership within NATO and the high value of its contributions to NATO, and its programs and its operations over the years. Canada, for example, has contributed to every NATO mission since 1949, and continues to provide valuable leadership and contributions to NATO’s operations, as evident from its decision to lead NATO’s multinational enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroup in Latvia.
Witnesses also spoke about the recognized professionalism and the high-level of interoperability of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the degree to which they are respected within NATO.
However, in order to continue to be relevant today, and into the future, NATO and its member countries must remain vigilant in responding and adapting to new threats and rapid changes in the international security environment. In recent years, the resurgence of Russia as an aggressive and revisionist military power, for example, has prompted NATO’s largest reinforcement of collective defence and deterrence since the end of the Cold War. At the same time, the persistent threat from transnational terrorist groups has compelled NATO to enhance its efforts to project stability in conflict-prone regions throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.
The Committee repeatedly heard that Canada could do more to support NATO, its member countries and its partner countries. Witnesses told the Committee that the Canadian public must be better informed about global threats and the importance of NATO in being able to defend against them.
Witnesses advocated increased public education about the threats that Canada faces, and about national defence issues and NATO’s value in protecting our security and prosperity. Witnesses also suggested that Canada should take on a leadership role within NATO on such issues as promoting the United Nation’s Women, Peace and Security agenda, nuclear disarmament, security sector reform and Arctic defence.
They also proposed that the Canadian defence industry should be provided with more support to facilitate its participation in NATO’s joint procurement projects. Witnesses pointed to improving Canada’s defence procurement process, allocating funds for researching and developing new technologies, and investing resources in cyber capabilities as important steps toward improving the CAF’s capabilities and – by extension – enhancing Canada’s contribution to NATO. In their view, the result would be an increase in Canada’s engagement with NATO.
Witnesses underscored that NATO’s solidarity is its greatest asset. They noted that NATO has overcome challenges in the past, and must continue to do so in the future. Ultimately, NATO’s strength and value lies in the unity and interoperability of its members. At its core, NATO is a values-based alliance, committed to the principles of individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law.
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