The New NATO and the Evolution of Peacekeeping:

Implications for Canada

Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs

Chairman : The Honourable Peter Stollery 

Deputy Chair : The Honourable Raynell Andreychuk

Seventh Report

April 2000


The Honourable Peter Stollery, Chairman (since November 1999)
The Honourable John B. Stewart, Chairman (until November 1999) 
The Honourable Raynell Andreychuk, Deputy Chair


The Honourable Senators:

Norman Atkins Consiglio DiNino
Roch Bolduc Jerahmiel Grafstein
*Bernard Boudreau, P.C. (or Dan Hays) Rose-Marie Losier-Cool
Pat Carney, P.C. *John Lynch-Staunton (or Noël Kinsella)
Eymard G. Corbin Nick Taylor
Pierre De Bané, P.C.


*Ex-Officio Members 

The Honourable Senators Beaudoin, Christensen, Finnerty, Forrestall, Graham, Johnson, Kenny, Lewis, Mahovlich, Meighen, Milne, Perry, Poy, Prud’homme, Robertson, Roche, Rompkey, Spivak and Whelan, were members of the Committee or participated in its work on this study.

Line Gravel
Clerk of the Committee


Extract from the Journals of the Senate, Thursday, March 2, 2000:

The Honourable Senator Stollery moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cook:

That, notwithstanding the Orders of the Senate adopted on Thursday October 14, 1999, on Wednesday November 17, 1999 and on Thursday December 16, 1999, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs which was authorized to examine and report upon the ramifications to Canada: 1. of the changed mandate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Canada’s role in NATO since the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the end of the Cold War and the recent addition to membership in NATO of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic; and 2. of peacekeeping, with particular reference to Canada’s ability to participate in it under the auspices of any international body of which Canada is a member, be empowered to present its final report no later than April 14, 2000; and

That the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize the findings of the Committee contained in the final report until April 28, 2000; and

That the Committee be permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to deposit its report with the Clerk of the Senate, if the Senate is not then sitting; and that the report be deemed to have been tabled in the Chamber.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Clerk of the Senate
Paul Bélisle


When the Cold War effectively ended in 1989, NATO had been in existence for forty years. For forty years, its primary role had been to ensure the security of Western Europe against possible aggression from the Warsaw Pact. With the diminution of that threat, the Alliance was faced with a sudden need to rethink its whole raison d’être. By the end of the 1990s, not only had NATO added a new peacekeeping mission that was quite distinct from its original purpose of collective defence, but also it had come to include former adversaries as member states of the Alliance. These changes corresponded to a shift in the nature of the primary threat to global security. Since the end of the Cold War, internal unrest and civil war, and the threat to peace from terrorism and rogue states, had become major concerns. As well, there was much greater attention paid to humanitarian motives as a basis for United Nations and even NATO action. At the same time, the European Union continued to develop as a political and economic entity. As it did so, the concept of a European Security and Defence Identity distinct from NATO began to emerge.

In this context, the Senate resolved on March 26, 1999 "That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs be authorized to examine and report upon the ramifications to Canada of the changed mandate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Canada’s role in NATO since the demise of the Warsaw Pact, the end of the Cold War and the recent addition to membership in NATO of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic; and of peacekeeping, with particular reference to Canada’s ability to participate in it under the auspices of any international body of which Canada is a member."

To carry out its work, the Committee held hearings in Ottawa as well as a series of interviews in European capitals, at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, D.C. We appreciate the valuable advice we received from all of our witnesses and are particularly grateful for the assistance of Canada’s Ambassadors in the cities we visited and for the work of their knowledgeable and helpful staff.

Likewise, we were supported by capable and diligent research staff, Peter Berg, Wolfgang Koerner, David Goetz and David Murphy, while in the preparation of this report, Jim Mitchell and Nigel Chippindale of Sussex Circle provided invaluable assistance. As always, the work of the Committee was made possible by the capable efforts of its translation staff, Paul-André Gravelle, Dominique March, Marielle Papineau and Huguette Pellerin and the proffreader, Yolande Guibord. Finally, we are very much indebted to the Clerk of the Committee, Line Gravel for her efficiency and unfailing support as well as her administrative assistant Louise Archambeault.

Most of the study was completed under the leadership of Senator John B. Stewart, former Chair of the Committee. Even after his retirement in November 1999, he continued to provide invaluable input and advice to the project. His unique knowledge and dedication will be missed by the Committee.

Peter Stollery

Table of Contents


Context for the Study
The Committee’s Approach
The Structure of the Report

Chapter II: Canada and the "Old" NATO

The Nature of NATO during the Cold War
Article 2: A Broad Alliance
Article 5: Collective Defence
The Soviet Threat
Flexibility of the NATO Arrangements
Canada’s Experience in the Old NATO
Early Contributions
Defence Role and Multilateralism
Economic Expectations of NATO Membership
Frustration over Lack of Influence
Criticisms of the Canadian Contribution and Military Capacity

Chapter III: The New NATO

The End of the Cold War
Reshaping NATO
A New and Broader Role for NATO
NATO and Humanitarian Interventions
The New Strategic Concept
Sanctions for Out-of-Area Action
Nuclear Weapons Policy
NATO and the European Union
NATO Enlargement
The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council
Future Considerations for Canada and NATO
Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter IV: The New NATO – Legal Issues

Legality of "Out-of-Area" Operations
The Washington Treaty
The UN Charter
Legality of Non-Article 5 Operations
The Washington Treaty
The UN Charter
Legality of Unilateral Action – and Alternatives
Direct Action by the General Assembly
Emergency Situations
Overall Implications
Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter V: Kosovo

Background to the Conflict
The Crisis
NATO Involvement
Negotiations Fail
NATO’s Response: Operation Allied Force
The Campaign
Serbian Withdrawal
The Aftermath
Reflections and Considerations
The Effectiveness of the Air Campaign
War Without Casualties?
Achieving Stability?
Humanitarian Intervention?
National Interests and Interventions
The Reasons for NATO Intervention

Chapter VI: Human Security and the New Peacekeeping

Canada and the Human Security Approach
The New Peacekeeping
The Charter and the New Peacekeeping
Canada’s Role in the New Peacekeeping
Military Implications
The Problem of Using Human Security as a Basis for Policy
Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter VII: The European Security and Defence Identity

The Evolution of ESDI
Restructuring European Forces
The Revolution in Military Affairs
Sharing the Burden
Problems to be Resolved
The Feasibility of ESDI
A Continuing U.S. Role
Implications for Canada
Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter VIII: Parliament and Canada’s External Security Commitments

Canada’s Increasing Involvement in UN and NATO Operations
Canadian Law and Practice
The Direct Role of Parliament
Past Canadian Practice
The Situation in Other Countries
Possibilities of an Enhanced Role for Parliament
Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter IX: A Final Word


Appendix 1: Glossary

Appendix 2: Witnesses


This study was begun in April 1999 by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. In keeping with the mandate given to us by the Senate(1), the Committee set out to meet two objectives which can be briefly stated as follows:

While these objectives continued to guide the Committee throughout its work, our perception of the issues evolved over the course of the study.


Context for the Study

When the Committee began its work, it was agreed there was no need for a fundamental review of Canada’s policy toward NATO. In its fifty years of existence, NATO had proved to be one of the most successful security alliances ever created and, for Canadians, the virtues of peacekeeping as a security vocation for Canada appeared unassailable.

In part, our assumptions stemmed from the fact that Canada had undertaken major foreign and defence policy reviews just a few years ago. These reviews were carried out in 1993-1994 by two Special Joint Committees of the Senate and House of Commons, and several of our current members were participants at the time. In the defence review, Canada’s continued membership in NATO was not seriously questioned and, aside from some downsizing and the closing of certain headquarters and bases, the role of the Canadian Forces was not substantially altered. On the foreign policy side, there was a sense that, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, there was a need for Canada to reach out to the former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact states. This was reflected in a shift from a focus on military security to broader notions of global security and a call for the continuation of Canada’s "multilateral tradition."

Moreover, the events that came to form the backdrop of our current inquiries had not yet been fully digested at the time of those two policy reviews. Indeed, some were happening only then. There were the chilling examples of Somalia and Rwanda, both of special importance to Canadians. The former involved crimes committed by our own troops, while in the latter case a competent and well-intentioned Canadian commander was not given the requisite authority and resources to stop a slaughter of horrendous proportion. The first instance raised questions of command and leadership in the Canadian Forces, the second touched on issues of institutional weakness, even ineptitude, on the part of the United Nations.

Despite this, most Canadians still had faith that peacekeeping could be made to work and remained a proper mission for the Canadian Forces. Thus, for Canadians the murder of Shidane Arone in Somalia was a tragic anomaly in the behaviour of Canadian troops. For many, Rwanda was an unfortunate case of an international institution being overwhelmed by events it could neither have predicted nor controlled.

Events in the Balkans were further confirmation of the principal lesson learned from Rwanda, namely that bureaucratic inertia, differing political agendas and a lack of political will can prove as lethal as any battlefield weapon.(2) By contrast with the slow emergence of facts about Rwanda, the "CNN factor"(3) meant that the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo were immediately accessible, if not comprehensible. For the members of the Committee, the conflict in Kosovo, which unfolded as the hearings proceeded, provided highly instructive insights. It was not our intention to focus solely on Kosovo nor to treat this tragedy as a case study. But as we listened to our witnesses and formed the basis for our questions, Kosovo became a natural reference point.

What we quickly came to realize was that current roles of peace-making and peace-enforcing are not at all the same as the peace-keeping role which Canada has championed for decades.(4) The latter implies that a peace exists to be kept. It presumes that there is a degree of geographic demarcation between opposing sides. It assumes that a settlement can be negotiated once warring sides are exhausted or have reached a stalemate, thereby enabling the United Nations to step between the factions with their consent.

Completely different are cases such as Rwanda, Somalia and the Balkans, where the United Nations entered conflicts that were continuing and did so without the full consent of all the parties. In the former Yugoslavia, there was frequently no geographic demarcation between the warring sides, and often it was hard even to identify the political actors. In their efforts to protect civilians and to deliver humanitarian assistance, UN forces invariably came into conflict with those who were trying to gain or maintain power for themselves.

We were also reminded that when the United Nations Charter was drafted, the framers were primarily concerned with preventing aggression by one state against another. By contrast, the world community is today mainly confronted by civil wars, which are more difficult to deal with. In such situations, the precepts of collective security on which both the UN and NATO were founded are of limited utility.

We saw that in recent years there has been a transformation in the nature of peacekeeping. It has moved from a classic model of preventing hostilities between states (or communities within states) to a more ambitious effort to protect the basic human rights of individuals in situations of conflict. This new concept of peacekeeping is founded in large measure on concepts of "human security" and "humanitarian intervention" which themselves are still developing. They have major implications for Canada and its role in the world.


The Committee’s Approach

As we explored these and related issues, the following questions emerged for the Committee as the key ones to be answered:

We also recognized that the context for answering these questions was in a continuing state of evolution and that policy was being made – explicitly or de facto – even as we carried out our study. We saw that, despite the end of the Cold War, Canada’s defence policy and commitments are playing an ever more prominent role in our larger foreign policy. In particular, the new concepts associated with human security have come to be central to both defence and foreign policy, and Canada has taken a lead role internationally in this regard.

The recent Speech from the Throne, for example, stated that "the government will give increased prominence to human security in its foreign policy." It also affirmed that "the Government will . . . ensure that the Canadian Forces have the capacity to support Canada’s role in building a more secure world . . . ."

Thus the new peacekeeping is becoming an increasingly influential factor in shaping Canada’s foreign policy; it has important bearing on Canada’s traditional defence and security relationships, notably our present and future role in the NATO Alliance and in the United Nations.


The Structure of the Report

The Committee believes the Senate will want to explore the implications for Canadian policy of these changes in the world and of the new concepts that are emerging to deal with them.

To this end, in fulfillment of its mandate, the Committee has in this report:

On this basis, the Committee has developed the conclusions and recommendations set out in the chapters that make up this report.

Committee members appreciate that some of our recommendations may prove challenging both to current policy and to Canada’s capacity to operate militarily in support of that policy. But we also believe that only through careful consideration of the new security environment, and honest assessment of Canada’s place in it, can Parliament determine what these new realities should mean for Canadian foreign and defence policy.

Chapter II: Canada and the "Old" NATO

For fifty years, membership in NATO has been one of the pillars of Canadian foreign policy. For the first forty of those years the central objective of the Alliance, and of Canada’s contribution to it, remained constant – to ensure the security of the West in any confrontation with the Warsaw Pact countries.

The end of the Cold War changed nearly everything with respect to NATO and other aspects of foreign policy, as Chapter III will discuss. But first it is important to review briefly the origins of NATO and of Canada’s role in the Alliance, partly to understand how important are the changes of the past ten years, and partly to demonstrate that some aspects of the "old" organization and its goals still remain, as do long-standing concerns about the adequacy of Canada’s contribution and military preparedness. These are matters which we will take up later in this report.


The Nature of NATO during the Cold War

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by the original 12 member states in Washington on April 4, 1949. Four more European nations joined the Alliance between 1952 and 1982, completing the membership of the "old" NATO.(5)

NATO is first and foremost a military alliance. Yet it has always been more than just a collective defence arrangement in which members pledge to assist one another if any comes under attack. It is also a political alliance, not only linking individual countries that were once adversaries, but cementing North America with Western Europe. And it is a community of values and common goals in support of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law – the core values of western civilization.


Article 2: A Broad Alliance

The breadth of Alliance doctrine is expressed in Article 2 of the Washington Treaty – what has come to be known as the "Canadian Article." The article states:

The parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

Thus, while the Canadian proponents of NATO recognized that its primary explicit purpose would be collective defence, they understood that its success would require the pursuit of political and economic goals as well.(6) Even at the beginning, the economic aspect was less important than the political, since the Marshall Plan was already helping to rebuild European industry.

The themes of Article 2 were reiterated throughout 1948 by Louis St. Laurent, then Secretary of State for External Affairs, and subsequently were taken up by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson. In 1949, during Senate hearings on the North Atlantic Treaty, Acheson argued that "the central idea of the treaty is not a static one . . . " and that "the North Atlantic Treaty is far more than a defensive arrangement. It is an affirmation of the moral and spiritual values which we hold in common." During 1949 hearings of the U.S. Senate, Acheson and other administration witnesses argued that what they were proposing was very different from previous military alliance systems.(7) On other occasions, however, Acheson referred to Article 2 as the "least essential article."

What made the Treaty different from previous military alliances was that it was based on a clearly articulated support for "democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."(8) For some countries, including Canada, the broadening of the NATO purpose through the inclusion of Article 2 was critical in encouraging legislators to approve the Treaty. Needless to say, it was the Soviet threat, not moral suasion, that ultimately convinced most of the signatories to join the Alliance. Yet, since Article 2 did not commit the signatories to any specific action, its inclusion could be said to have provided something for everyone at no apparent cost.


Article 5: Collective Defence

Collective defence was provided for under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty(9). In this article, the signatories agreed that "an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all . . . ." They agreed that "each Party to the Treaty would assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." (10)

Article 5 is often described as requiring an "automatic" response by member states in the event of hostilities. This assumption, however, is not consistent with a strict interpretation of the Article. Whatever action might be deemed necessary is in fact "left to the discretion of each party, and armed force is seen only as a possible option."(11) It was the manner in which U.S. forces were deployed in Europe that gave Article 5 its real substance. In the early 1950s, the United States deployed its military forces and nuclear weapons forward in Europe, mainly in Germany, so as to ensure that any Soviet attack on a NATO ally would immediately be seen as constituting an attack on the United States.(12)

Strategies changed over the years, moving first to the threat of "massive nuclear retaliation" and then to "flexible response." But, what did not change was the forward deployment of U.S. forces(13). For many years, as discussed below, Canada contributed substantial forces to this deployment strategy.


The Soviet Threat

Following the end of World War Two, the alliance with the Soviet Union rapidly dissolved. In our hearings, we were reminded that underlying the growing concern with the Soviets was the fact that, as Western leaders soon realized, the "United Nations was not capable of fulfilling its original mandate of providing collective security against international aggression." This conviction was strengthened by the Czech coup of February 1948, the Berlin blockade later that year and other East-West confrontations that indicated Moscow’s aggressive ambitions. Hence one function of NATO was to ensure that West Germany remained solidly within a western alliance military and political alliance. While NATO was intended as a defensive organization, it was meant to provide collective security "through a true political unity of purpose, as much as through any deployment of arms and armies." (14)

Of particular importance was the creation of a unified military command that would bring American conventional military power and technology, as well as the American nuclear umbrella, to bear on European security. This served two basic purposes. First, "it established the principle that Soviet aggression against NATO members would never be local in scope, or treated as an isolated occasion." Second, "it gave the Western European countries the military muscle to resist Soviet pressure to align themselves politically with the U.S.S.R. even if they were not in fact occupied by Soviet forces." Finland provided the example for this latter concern. Although democratic and essentially western, it was, nevertheless, within the Soviet orbit because of the large Soviet military presence on its borders.(15)


Flexibility of the NATO Arrangements

A key point about the North Atlantic Treaty is its simplicity of language and lack of detail. "There is no specified military strategy, no requirement for any particular set of bureaucratic arrangements or military organization, beyond the creation of a North Atlantic Council and a defence committee, both called for in Article 9." (16)As such, the Treaty left considerable latitude for reform and for the creation of new cooperative arrangements. Limits on changes have been imposed only by national interest or inertia, not by the Treaty.

This simplicity and generality has meant flexibility for the Alliance to grow and adapt in pursuit of its objectives. Most observers have found this to be a strength of the organization. But lack of formal rules also meant that the governance of the organization could be dominated by its strongest members and that the processes were not always as transparent as many desired. Flexibility helped the inner circle to have its way, while others (often including Canada) sat in the ante-chamber awaiting word. Nevertheless, working with countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Canada was able to amplify its influence, particularly during the early years of the Atlantic Accord.

During their investigations, members of the Committee became concerned about the nature of the Alliance’s decision-making process and were left unconvinced by claims of its democratic and equitable nature. They concluded that a democratic alliance of voluntary participants should require that all have a seat at the table when decisions of consequence are being considered.


Canada’s Experience in the Old NATO

According to Professor Robert Bothwell, Canada’s participation in the formation of NATO was motivated by three basic concerns. First, there was the need to ". . . entice the Americans into a regular relationship with the rest of the world" in order to subject what had emerged as the dominant western power to the constraints of multilateral relationships. Second, there was the need for security, which in 1949 was seen as much in ideological as in military terms; the spread of communism had to be stopped. Finally, there was the desire for wide-ranging political, economic and cultural ties with Europe.(17)

Canada also saw a need to help keep the United States engaged in Europe at a time when there were substantial domestic pressures to withdraw; indeed, the pressures of post-war isolationism were also felt in Canada. As well, Canada supported the creation of an alliance that would solidly link a recovering West Germany with the three great Western powers, the U.S., Britain and France.


Early Contributions

From the outset, Canada was actively engaged in both the defence of Western Europe and the projection of an Atlanticist vision. Our military contribution to European security during the early years of the Alliance was considerable. Canada emerged from the Second World War economically strengthened and a major military power. We were seen to have ". . . an obligation to the defence of Western Europe that surpassed even the obligation of the Europeans, for whom defending themselves and their immediate neighbourhood was about all one could ask in the Alliance’s first decade." We accepted this obligation and determined, as did the Americans, that we would take responsibility not only for our own defence but for extending the "umbrella" to our European allies. Our military presence in Europe came to have great political and operational significance.(18)

By 1953, Canada was allocating more than 8 percent of its GDP to defence spending, a massive increase from 1.4 percent in 1947. During the final year of the Korean War, Canada’s defence/GDP ratio was the fourth highest in NATO. Our defence budget that year accounted for 45 percent of all federal spending. Along with these efforts, Canada operated a Mutual Aid Program for Europe, which, for example, made available to Great Britain advanced F-86 Sabre fighters. From 1951 onward Canada deployed in Europe a well-equipped brigade group and an air division whose strength would eventually reach 12 squadrons, totalling 240 aircraft. For a time, the RCAF in Europe was flying more advanced fighters than even the United States Air Force, prompting one American general to remark of the 1953 military effort in that theatre that "Canada (was) responsible for the biggest contribution . . . to the expansion of West European air defence."(19)

Such a robust contribution could, of course, not be maintained. The expense was simply too onerous and Canada also had important responsibilities with regard to the defence of North America through NORAD. Moreover, the recovery of the European nations meant that Canada’s contribution would inevitably be diluted. The scope of this early commitment, however, is not often remembered by our allies, or even by Canadians, when the question of Canada’s current contribution to NATO is raised.


Defence Role and Multilateralism

Canada’s strategic position has always been unique, not only within NATO but also in the world. No other state, certainly none our size, finds itself in a similar situation. We live next to a superpower with which we have a very close economic relationship and which in great measure guarantees our security. And we have seldom contemplated the conduct of military operations independent of our major allies.

These realities have certain consequences for Canadian military planning and diplomacy. States can normally measure the adequacy or otherwise of their military programs against a military yardstick – the capabilities of one or more potential enemies. In our case this has not proven so. The purpose of Canadian defence programs and activities has long been to pursue our international security objectives through support to an alliance policy. In terms of Canadian national interests, the rationale for much of Canadian defence policy has been to support our national objectives by maintaining influence with our allies. This role of influence has often been considerable; indeed, some of those interviewed in Bonn argued that had Canada not been in NATO, the Alliance might not have survived.


Economic Expectations of NATO Membership

For years, Canadians were told, by both their own officials and their allies, that membership in NATO would bring economic benefits in terms of access for Canadian products to European markets. A strong military commitment was seen to be the golden coin, not only of diplomacy, but also of trade. As regards the latter, at least, matters have changed. The original expectations regarding the benefits of participation in NATO for Canadian trade with EU countries now appear to have been exaggerated. While Canada exports over $23 billion in goods and services to the EU annually, this represents only 1.7% of EU imports, compared to 20% from the U.S.A. and 63% for trade between EU members.


The Committee’s previous studies, however, show that Canada-Europe investment flows are substantial, with 20% of Canada’s investment abroad going to EU countries and 20% of foreign investment in Canada coming from the EU.(20) Likewise, Canada and the EU each have some $50 billion in fixed assets in the other’s economy; for Canada, EU fixed assets are approximately one-third the magnitude of those owned by U.S. interests.

Consequently, during the Committee’s examination of Canada’s trade relations, members were surprised to be told by officials of the European Union that Canada was not economically important in the eyes of Europeans.(21) This attitude did not seem consistent with either the spirit of Article 2 or economic reality.

The Committee concluded that European leaders regard security and transatlantic trade as distinct matters, each to be dealt with separately(22). Their apparent assumption is that Canada will continue to participate in NATO and its various missions, if it sees such participation as desirable for reasons related to its own security and defence.


Frustration over Lack of Influence

While Canada always remained a staunch supporter of NATO, there were frustrations from the outset. The underlying objective was to influence decisions about both security and the broader class of matters envisioned in Article 2. In 1948, even before the conclusion of the talks leading to the Alliance, Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King became annoyed about being taken for granted in discussions relating to a response to the Berlin blockade and, as a consequence, refused Canadian participation in the airlift operation.(23)

In the mid-fifties, concerns about being excluded from the inner decision-making club of Great Britain, France and the United States led Canada to join, with the Norwegians and Italians, in pressing for measures to democratize decision-making. These initiatives came to little. The 1968 decision of the Trudeau government to re-orient Canadian foreign policy on détente and to reduce the military contribution to the Alliance was, according to Professor Bercuson, responsible for further marginalization of Canada’s position within NATO,(24) Not everyone saw it that way at the time, however; recently declassified Cabinet documents reveal that in 1969 the Honourable Donald Macdonald, Minister of National Defence, expressed the view that even a complete withdrawal of forces from Europe would not adversely affect Canada’s credibility and influence.(25) To several of our witnesses, the most important impact of the Canadian decision was to provide fuel to those who argued for a scaling down of American efforts.(26)

When viewed from the perspective of Canada’s initial hopes for the Alliance, we can conclude that NATO has never lived up fully to those expectations. The central objective that was achieved was the avoidance of armed conflict with the Soviet Union in Europe. But, as noted by one of our witnesses, it is extremely difficult to determine the degree to which this achievement can be ascribed to NATO.(27)

One thing that the Committee did determine was that Canada’s influence in NATO has declined over the years. Professor Stairs argued that "we simply must recognize that our military contributions to NATO activities . . . have now reached the point at which they can hardly be expected to significantly reinforce our diplomacy, not, at least, in ways that matter."(28) It is worth asking, however, whether even a substantial increase in Canada’s contribution would lead to greater influence in NATO decision-making.

The aspiration to subject the United States to multilateral relationships, and thus increase Canadian leverage, was dismissed by those who commented on the matter. According to Bercuson, Canada’s support for NATO enlargement – the current expression of this general aspiration – has not been justified by any discernible impact of expanded membership on U.S. leadership in NATO.(29) Nevertheless, an important aspect of Canada’s role remains that of counterbalancing influence.


Criticisms of the Canadian Contribution and Military Capacity

A critical perspective on Canada’s contribution was offered by Mr. Bruce George, MP, Chair of the Defence Committee in the British House of Commons. Mr. George argued that a country of Canada’s size and stature should be doing more to pull its weight in the Alliance. Canada was described as "punching below its weight" and as not accepting its fair share of the Alliance burden. As well, Canada’s decision to pull its CF-18 fighter-bombers out of Germany was characterized as short-sighted. Others on the British Committee suggested that Canada should expand its ground forces and re-invest in heavy armour.

Mr. George’s views seemed to be shared by the Conservative opposition on that Committee. However, others encountered during our visits were generally more understanding, or at least less outspoken, in their comments on Canada’s foreign and defence policy. Nevertheless, it is clear that in other member countries, criticisms of Canada’s contribution to NATO are seldom far below the surface.

Some of the Canadian witnesses were equally critical of Canada’s contribution and defence preparedness over the years. Major General (Ret’d.) Lewis MacKenzie suggested that if all the Canadian troops currently serving abroad were brought home, Canada would still be unable to meet the basic commitments set out in the 1994 Defence White Paper.(30) Others argued that Canada has always traded troops for influence, and that if we expect to be able to exercise influence within NATO, our military commitments will have to be increased. This is not merely a matter of increasing numbers, but, they pointed out, of responding to the rapid rate of technological change in military hardware and of providing forces equipped and trained to work as partners with the Americans and others. The idea that our material contribution equals influence is still adhered to by many.



Over its first four decades, NATO evolved but remained essentially true to the original purposes of the Washington Charter. Canada’s role declined, particularly in military terms, but the basic objective remained the same – to help ensure the collective security of the Alliance against the threat of the Warsaw Pact countries. As the Cold War came to an end, Europe began a series of dramatic transitions that brought about a new security balance and called into question the continuing relevance of NATO. At the same time, economic and social pressures in virtually every Western country caused a re-examination of defence spending and in many cases led to substantial cut-backs in military budgets. This was certainly the case in Canada.

The late 1980s saw the beginning of the end for the old NATO. The 1990s brought the start of the continuing efforts to remake the Alliance that are discussed in Chapter III. For the Committee, this examination of Canada and the old NATO helped to provide the context within which to understand the changes that have taken place subsequently and the challenges that face NATO and Canada today.

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