In the spring of this year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tasked eight think tanks in different NATO countries to investigate and report on why defence ‘matters’ to member countries. The Atlantic Council of Canada was given the opportunity to undertake the project for Canada…
This report has interesting implications for both Canada and the future of NATO. It was found that Canadians do appreciate that ‘defence matters’. Canadians support their troops, and are aware that defence is important for Canada’s foreign policy debate. Despite this, there is some disconnect between recognizing the importance of defence, and actual knowledge of what this entails in today’s international climate. The report also found that despite the recognition of the importance of defence, Canadians are unaware of their national interests, and what threats may exist for them in the world. As such, it is more difficult to justify increased or even maintained defence spending and NATO engagement...
…the primary recommendations from the report are as follows:
1) The Canadian government needs to do a better job of informing its citizenry of the importance of national defence to Canadians from emerging security threats. A better civil-military alliance should be fostered and supported by the central government as well, to better ensure Canadians are aware of the threats facing our Forces regularly, and to ensure continued defence spending as required. This process should also include the private sector.
2) NATO states need to put a halt to disputes over burden sharing until the Alliance has better established the mandate of the organization in the coming years.
3) An inquiry should be set up in order to investigate the possibilities of a division of efforts based on regional concerns, i.e. Canada and USA become responsible for North American security, Europe becomes responsible for European security including Russia and the Mediterranean, and shared regions are a joint effort.
4) NATO should also look into possibilities of NATO states creating their own ad-hoc coalitions with non-member states, for ‘managing even the most challenging crises’ in other theatres.
Each of these recommendations would increase the understanding within both Canada and other member states of why and how much defence ‘matters’ to individuals and NATO member states.