Toronto hosts Atlantic Treaty Association 62nd General Assembly – October 2016

By Migan Magardichian

Reporter -The European Club of Canada

img_0278Toronto, October 12, 2016 – The second and final day of the 62nd Annual Atlantic Treaty Association General Assembly, presented by the NATO Association of Canada took place at the Westin Harbour Castle. This conference brought together politicians, academics, strategists and representatives from various organizations to discuss Transatlantic security and the importance of the Transatlantic Alliance.

The panels discussed (a) Political Cooperation: The art of diplomacy; (b) Military collaboration: Planning and capacity building and (c) Economic Cooperation: The road to peace and prosperity.

In the Diplomacy panel, it was mentioned that while NATO affirms the United Nations values, diplomacy with certain players does not work when values do not match. Canada’s involvement should be on a ‘need to’ basis instead of a continuous basis and that the best deterrence to being attacked, is being ready for such attacks.

The conference also presented an opportunity for questions and comments. One of which addressed a gap between what Canada says they must be doing and what they are willing to do. Prof. Dr. Julian Lindley-French questioned the panel on this issue and stated that Canada has lofty ambitions of stabilizing and defending while in reality the defense budget has decreased. The reply included comments about Canada having an aging society and how in such societies, welfare costs rise and defense at times becomes a discretionary item – and it shouldn’t be. It was also noted that the government is in the midst of a defense policy review.

With respect to innovation, it was said that the countries that are doing well on the innovation front are also those who have a robust defense sector, and as much as we might not like to hear it, military industrial complex is a driver of innovation.

Dr. Duncan Stewart who discussed disruptive technologies emphasized the importance of treating Cyber Security as seriously as we treat Air, Land or Sea security and conveyed the most sense of urgency. In the presentation, he mentioned a simple fact that demonstrates the importance and link of technology to defence: half of the value of a F-35 jet is in software.

Dr. Jon Lindsay also put the importance of technology in perspective by adding that more machines are connected to the Internet than there are people on the planet.

However, what is technologically possible doesn’t always have political utility. He stated that “Security doesn’t make money”, which adds to the difficulties in balancing technological possibility and political utility.

The differences between different types of deterrence were also discussed. Nuclear deterrence works because it creates clarity on what the costs are, who has the weapons or who is developing them. Cyber weapons on the other hand depend on deception and this has the effect of taking risks we wouldn’t otherwise take.

The Moderator of this panel, Prof. Dr. Julian Lindley-French who regularly blogs on this topic, stated that he believes we have lost the culture of worst case planning.

Some agreed that the only way this would change is if we are faced with shock.

What this might mean can be summed up in the words of Dr. Duncan Stewart, who says we need more people who speak the language of policy, technology and the military.

With every panel, the need for more public engagement and consultations were emphasized. It was agreed that this is a two way street, the issues must be communicated and the public must be informed and educated on these matters. The conference was a great platform for open discussion, contribution and constructive criticisms.

The presenter of the conference, NATO Association of Canada is celebrating its 50th year. Membership is open to the public with reduced rates for seniors and students. The organization also provides internship opportunities for students.

Migan Megardichian – Reporter / The EUROPEAN Club of  Canada

Photo report by Marek J.D.GOLDYN / The EUROPEAN Club of Canada

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The Atlantic Treaty Association creates a network to facilitate Euro-Atlantic relations and brings together high representatives of partner countries in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. The General Assembly engages discussion on various issues regarding terrorism, security, migration, cyber war and climate change. Join us again this year for another thought-provoking Assembly.

 

 

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