Canada and NATO: Key Outcomes from the Warsaw Summit

On 8 and 9 July 2016, heads of state and government from member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met in Warsaw, Poland, to agree on a collective response to defence and security challenges facing the Alliance.

As a NATO member, Canada took this opportunity to help shape NATO strategy, making commitments in support of the Alliance.

In recent years, the global economic crisis and a resurgent Russia, as well as conflict and instability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, have tested the unity of NATO members and their ability to fulfill the Alliance’s three core tasks. These are: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security, as mandated in its 2010 Strategic Concept.

In light of these challenges, and in a demonstration of solidarity, Canada and its NATO allies made commitments in Warsaw to enhance their collective defence and deterrence posture in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as their support for stability in the MENA region.

Reassurance and deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank

Following Russia’s 2014 military intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, which NATO has condemned as illegal and illegitimate, Allied leaders suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia. This halted over 20 years of confidence-building and partnership between NATO and Russia.

Nonetheless, NATO has been urging communication between itself and Russia through the NATO-Russia Council. The goal is to encourage political and military transparency and to prevent any further escalation of tensions.

The Alliance’s concerns regarding Russia’s destabilizing policies and activities extend beyond Ukraine. NATO’s strategy continues to adapt in response to Russia’s military provocations along the Alliance’s borders. At the Warsaw Summit, Canada along with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany committed to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence on its eastern flank.

In early 2017, Canada will contribute 450 personnel to, and lead, a multinational battle group in Latvia. Through Operation REASSURANCE, Canada will also deploy a frigate to join NATO maritime forces in the region, and it will offer up to six CF-18 fighter aircraft to conduct regional surveillance and air policing activities. In addition, Canada has an ongoing, separate mission in Ukraine called Operation UNIFIER.

The Alliance is also implementing its strategy to address challenges posed by hybrid warfare, which blends conventional/unconventional, regular/irregular, and information and cyber warfare. Russia employed these tactics in its intervention in Ukraine.

To counter the growing threat of cyber-attacks, Allied leaders committed to a Cyber Defence Pledge at the summit to urgently enhance the cyber defence of their nations’ networks and infrastructures.

The intention is to improve resilience and attack response. These emerging threats exploit the blurred lines between NATO collective defence and national-level defence and security responsibilities, enabling Russia and other actors to take advantage of these vulnerabilities.

Security challenges emanating from NATO’s southern flank

From Libya to Syria, Iraq to Afghanistan, there is an arc of instability along NATO’s southern border that is resulting in a historic humanitarian and security crisis. Millions of refugees have been pouring into Europe seeking safety, security and opportunity. A number of terrorist attacks inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have also occurred on the territory of NATO member states.

Responsibility for countering these national security threats lies with the intelligence, police, border security and humanitarian agencies of individual member states. However, NATO and the European Union cooperate on a number of fronts in this area.

For example, NATO cooperation to date has included the use of NATO maritime assets to provide real-time information on migrant flows to Turkey, Greece and the EU’s Border Management Agency, FRONTEX. Although NATO is not a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Allied leaders agreed, in principle, at the Warsaw Summit, to provide direct NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) support to enhance the knowledge of its operating environment.

NATO leaders also agreed at the summit to a May 2016 request by the Government of Iraq to provide in-country training to Iraqi security forces. This would expand on NATO’s Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative, which was established in August 2015, to train Iraqi forces in facilities in Jordan and Turkey.

This training includes explosive ordnance disposal and de-mining, civilian-military planning, and advice on security sector reform. It is expected that in-country training and capacity building will begin by January 2017. During the Warsaw Summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will contribute to efforts aimed at building counter-improvised explosive device capacity. This would be an expansion of Canada’s Operation IMPACT.

Security and development support in Afghanistan

Through combat, diplomacy and development assistance, Canada has sacrificed lives and devoted military and financial resources to countering terrorism and to nation-building in Afghanistan for over a decade.

The commitment of Canada and NATO to Afghanistan is ongoing. NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan will continue to deliver training, advice and assistance to Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). As well, it will ensure their financial sustainment until the end of 2020. In Warsaw, Mr. Trudeau announced that Canada’s contribution to funding the ANDSF will be $195 million over three years.

Additionally, Canada will contribute $270 million in development assistance in Afghanistan through a “women’s and girls’ rights first approach” over the next three years. This development assistance aims to improve access to health care for women and children, address gender-based violence, and promote the full participation by women in Afghan society, among other goals. It is in line with the commitment by Canada and Afghanistan to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.

An alliance of shared values

At the Warsaw Summit, NATO member countries approved additional measures to implement the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security; Children and Armed Conflict; and, Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

They endorsed the NATO Policy on the Protection of Civilians that aims to protect civilians from the negative consequences of NATO operations, including from physical violence and the threat of physical violence by other actors. For instance, in Afghanistan, NATO appointed its first Children and Armed Conflict Adviser to contribute to the training of the ANDSF.

For NATO to remain relevant, it must continuously adapt to current and evolving threats. At the Warsaw Summit, Canada confirmed its role as a leading NATO ally in the Alliance through its commitments to Central and Eastern European allies and by supporting stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Related resources

NATO, Warsaw Summit Communiqué, 9 July 2016.

Author: Melissa Radford, Library of Parliament