THE ALLIANCE AND CANADA
The Right Hon. the Lord Carrington, Secretary General, NATO
March 9, 1988
Chairman: Ronald Goodall, President
The 1987 white paper on defence has been the subject of much discussion and some controversy. Certain parliamentarians debate the need for Canada to remain in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, although their own particular colleagues seem to debate otherwise. Canada's military strategies and commitments continue to create daily news headlines. In fact, one could argue that military strategies and commitments founded and created this country.
One is constantly reminded of this military past at almost every other turn in the road when travelling through this province. On frequent trips to the family's hideaway on Lake Huron, I pass through the townships of Holland and Keppel and am a stone's throw, or should I say within a grenade's throw, from the township of Arthur. Holland Township was, apparently, named after one Major Samuel Holland who served with Wolfe at Quebec and later became Surveyor General of Canada. Keppel Township was named after Captain Henry Keppel of Her Majesty's Navy who saw service in the seas off China and Japan and who was made admiral in 1869. The township of Arthur was, of course, named after the man who poet Alfred Lord Tennyson described as "England's greatest son," Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington.
Turning from the military past to the military present, one listens to the debate on the need for a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and recalls that Canada is militarily unique in already possessing a submarine fleet strategically positioned inland at the West Edmonton Mall.
This is the second time that our guest speaker has spoken to this audience. In January 1985, some six months after taking up his appointment as Secretary General for NATO, he reflected on World War If and urged our continuing commitment to NATO. His speech was entitled "Forty Years On." f note that next year marks the 40th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed in Washington on April 4, 1949.
The Right Hon. the Lord Carrington was educated at Eton and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards and served throughout World War 11, taking part in the campaign in northwestern Europe. He reached the rank of major and was awarded the Military Cross. Entering the House of Lords after the war, he first held ministerial office in 1951 when he was appointed parliamentary secretary of state at the ministry of agriculture and fisheries. Lord Carrington served as United Kingdom high commissioner in Australia from 1956 to 1959 and then returned to office, successively as: first lord of the admiralty; minister without portfolio and leader of the House of Lords; secretary of state for defence; secretary of state for energy; and secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs.
In 1982, he became chairman of the General Electric Company, which position he resigned to become Secretary General of NATO in June 1984. He is chairman of the trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, a venerable institution where I have spent many hours. In a few months' time, Lord Carrington becomes the full-time working chairman of Christies International PLC. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Right Hon. the Lord Carrington, who will address us today on "The Alliance and Canada."
The Right Hon. the Lord Carrington
Any of you with the misfortune of having to speak regularly for their lunch will know that survival depends on a number of professional sleights of hand. The trick is to avoid being pinned down by precise titles; to ask more questions than you provide answers; never to say everything you know about a subject in one speech; and - above all - to seek refuge in the security of the moving target, by never speaking more than once in the same place.
As someone who can usually be relied on to be perfectly safe in these respects, I am acutely aware that I have already fallen into the biggest trap of all. The fact that it is more than three years since I last addressed The Empire Club is no real consolation - many of you may feel that it is not long enough. Neither does it help to know that your slightly conservative name belies a serious group of experts drawn from contemporary walks of life. This could indeed be the day when "the Empire strikes back."
Since the main technique which usually keeps me out of trouble has failed on this occasion, I may as well accept defeat and dismantle the other defences. I will therefore speak frankly - or as frankly as habit will allow - of current concerns affecting the NATO alliance and, if I may, of Canada's role too. When I was last here, in January 1985, East-West relations looked very different from the way they do today. At that time, there was only a glimmer of hope that we might make progress; that we might move ahead with the task for which NATO is really in business - the search for a system of security which meets the needs of East and West at much lower levels of arms and armed forces than at present. What a transformation there has been in the three years since then, culminating, of course, in the recent agreement on intermediate-range nuclear forces. By removing a whole group of nuclear weapons, the INF agreement has brought the first real downturn in the arms buildup, it has also done so in a way which protects Western security and sets valuable precedents for the future.
But there are never unmixed blessings in international affairs. Though there is now a climate of success and new opportunity, there are new challenges too, particularly in terms of public attitudes and aspirations. Let me illustrate what I mean by putting events in wider perspective. Looking back over the postwar period as a whole, it seems to me that there are really three sorts of phases in East-West relations.
The first is when there has been a fright of some kind - Berlin Wall, Cuban missile crisis, or Czechoslovakia. With such confrontation, the security problem is obvious and urgent. However unpleasant, government and public opinion alike accept the need for strong defence. The second phase is when there is an East-West stalemate; when fear gives way to disillusion and NATO is seen as being concerned with the arms race rather than with constructive policy. In the early 1980s, for example, after Afghanistan and the Euro-missile controversy had taken their toll, there was no dialogue whatever between East and West. In these conditions, public support for defence erodes and extremist views, such as those in favour of unilateral disarmament, easily gain ground among reasonable people. The third phase is where we are now and what we used to call détente in the early 1970s.
Stagnation gives way to hope and enthusiasm. There is success in East-West relations and in arms control. In these conditions, the problem is not lack of movement but of how to manage progress sensibly, in a way which protects our interests, and does not lead to euphoric military asset stripping that could leave us bankrupt and insecure tomorrow.
These three phases are not so much cycles, as spirals. They do not reproduce themselves precisely each time round, just as history does not repeat itself. What is special at the present time is not NATO policy; NATO has always believed in going down a twin track of political negotiation, as well as military effort. The new factor is Mr. Gorbachev and the changes underway in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, vastly different from anything we have seen before. As a result, many people now have the impression that the long, dark days of overtly aggressive Soviet policies are over and that we should not only give peace a chance, but should give it a push in the right direction by reducing our defence effort. They may be right about Mr. Gorbachev's peaceful intentions, but whether they justify less caution on our part is a different matter. It is therefore of some importance that we should take trouble to analyse Soviet policy properly.
Now I am not one of those who believes that the more sophisticated Soviet approach to domestic and international relations which we are now witnessing should be dismissed as mere image-building. Nor do I think that we are seeing no more than a change of tactics - that having failed to control Western Europe and elsewhere by military intimidation, the Russians have now got "smart" and are seeking the same old domination by a policy designed to lull us into a false sense of security and control us when our defences are down. The present position is more complex than that.
The clearest indication we have of Mr. Gorbachev's intentions are his domestic reforms. No one of goodwill can fail to welcome a Soviet leadership which seeks to cut unnecessary military expenditure, liberalize the economy, and increase personal freedom and choice. These are all things devoutly to be wished. But the fact that this Soviet domestic process tends to coincide, at present, with concern for better relations with the West, does not mean that an identity of interest can be guaranteed to persist over the long term. Mr. Gorbachev remains a Communist and it is his system which he wants to make more efficient, not ours. We cannot be sure that orthodox communist objectives have been abandoned, particularly when one remembers, for example, that MarxistLeninist ideology incorporates the concept of "temporary retreats" in the continuing class struggle.
When it comes to foreign policy, we can make guesses at Soviet motives. A simple desire to live in harmony with the West at reduced military levels is one possible interpretation. But Mr. Gorbachev may also want foreign policy success in order to defuse domestic opposition to the immediate effects of perestroika and glasnost - both of which may hold longterm promise but will initially unsettle many of those with a vested interest in the status quo; he may be wooing us because he wants access to Western technology; he may want to contain the influence of the United States; or contain the specific challenges presented by such developments as SDI; above all, he may want to redirect resources currently devoted to military overkill in order to drag his economy out of the smokestack era. He may be influenced by a measure of all of these considerations. We can go on speculating endlessly about motives, but my point is that we don't know for sure.
The uncertainty is compounded when you remember that things can change quickly in a totalitarian state, especially one as vast and complex as the Soviet Union. The recent troubles over Armenia and Azerbaijan took us all by surprise. Things are certainly changing fast in Eastern Europe and if this present state of flux there were to turn into overt dissent, the consequences could make Europe as a whole look a far less safe place than it does at present.
Question marks are also raised by current Soviet arms control and confidence-building proposals. The calls for "new thinking" have obvious immediate appeal to Western public opinion. To be against them, it would seem, is to be against Truth, Beauty and Motherhood. But is it accidental that these ideas also happen to play on the most sensitive aspects of Western security? Is it, for example, a pure coincidence that Soviet proposals for the denuclearization of Europe would have the effect of giving them a considerable advantage at a time when the Warsaw Pact still enjoys a vast superiority in conventional and chemical forces? Similar decoupling or wedge-driving motives might be seen in proposals for zones of peace in the Nordic region or the Balkans.
Now this is not the crude Soviet threat scenario, red in tooth and claw. My point is simply that there is enough uncertainty about Soviet motives, enough doubt about the durability of present intentions for them alone to be taken as a reliable guide for policy. Military capabilities also have to come into the reckoning.
The military situation in Eastern Europe has not yet evolved with more enlightened Soviet political thinking. The recent INF agreement may augur well for the future, but the present reality is that only 4 per cent of the world's nuclear forces are due to be eliminated. The root problem of European security is still a Soviet military machine with forces which are well in excess of what can conceivably be needed for defence purposes. In Europe NATO remains outnumbered by roughly three to one in tanks and artillery and by two to one in combat aircraft. Crude numbers can of course be argued over endlessly - and are. Capabilities are what count. And it is the Soviet capacity for surprise attack and rapid armoured offensive action that is of greatest concern to the West. They are capabilities which a defensive alliance such as NATO neither has nor aspires to.
Soviet forces, nuclear as well as conventional, have been constantly modernized and upgraded. Indeed, one of the questions which those who attribute wholly benevolent motives to current Soviet policy have to answer is why, after engaging in major improvement of their own short-range nuclear forces, the Soviet Union should mount a publicity campaign against the steps which NATO will need to take in due course to keep its own nuclear deterrent up to date and effective. It is wholly mischievous to claim that these would be violations of the letter or spirit of the INF Treaty, when they have nothing whatever to do with it.
My apologies for this background to those of you who are not blessed with an Olympic boredom threshold - winter or otherwise. But it really is important to be aware of the uncomfortable practical obstacles which still lie between us and the less militarized, less nuclear world we all hope to live in; and I wanted to explain why people like me still call for defence effort, much in the same way as a householder bothers to keep up his insurance policy, even if he has not been burgled and crime statistics are down; why people like me are serious about the radical arms control agenda which NATO has put forward, while believing that we must still do enough by way of defence to induce the Soviet Union to negotiate balanced results; why we feel that the trust and confidence which is lacking in East-West relations has to be built up by agreements which can be verified properly rather than by public gestures which can't; why people like me welcome the INF agreement as an important step while saying that one swallow doesn't make a summer and much remains to be done.
Fortunately, the task is not left entirely to people like me. Exactly one week ago the NATO Summit took place in Brussels and I must say it was a resounding success - despite some initial press reluctance to accept good news for what it is. Two points struck me as of particular significance. The first was the endorsement of an arms control effort which pays full regard to our security interests. President Reagan will go to Moscow in the spring seeking 50 per cent cuts in strategic forces with the full support of the alliance. Beyond that, the separate statement issued on conventional disarmament objectives demonstrated the importance the alliance attached to engaging the Warsaw Pact in serious negotiations which will lead to a reduction of the most visible threat we face. Meanwhile heads of government rejected any denuclearization of Europe or negotiations, at this stage, to remove any categories of the nuclear deterrent forces remaining after INF. The second point which emerged from the summit was the fundamental political unity, strength, and confidence which came through loud and clear.
The two policy statements issued during the meeting clearly dispel any notion that NATO is entrenched in a quasiMaginot mentality, allowing itself to be outflanked by Soviet public declarations. But of course these things are generally easier for Mr. Gorbachev. He is free, more or less, to change his mind from day to day - as he did during the latter stages of the INF negotiations last year - without the need to consult his allies. NATO, of necessity, moves more slowly, its decisions built up through the truly democratic process: 16 sovereign nations, with their geographic, economic, and political differences, all have to agree before a position can be taken. East-West relations should not be seen as a competition, we seek cooperation. But one cannot escape entirely the analogy of the tortoise and the hare. We may not be flashy, but there is an inner strength and reliability about NATO's declarations, when they come, which inspire rather more confidence about the longer term.
Another thing which the summit highlighted was that Western solidarity is not a passive activity or an unequal partnership, dominated by one member, but a cumulative effort supported by each and every ally. The focus on this side of the Atlantic will inevitably be on the dynamic approach by the United States to arms control, looking back to the INF agreement and forward to the goal of 50 per cent reductions in strategic forces, an aim which is supported by all. But several countries brought their own contributions - implicit or otherwise. There is the increasing role of Spain following the positive outcome of their referendum; the new hope for improved cooperation in the southeastern flank, following the reopening of discussions between Greece and Turkey; the attendance of the French head of state at a NATO meeting for the first time since France left the integrated military structure; or indeed the improving contribution from Canada as a result of the current defence modernization.
Indeed, I have no doubt that Canada will have an important role to play in all the future activity of the alliance which lies ahead after the summit, both political and military.
In the political field, Canadian membership has always been an important source of strength. For Europeans "why NATO" is a question which hardly needs to be asked, given the central security problem which lies on their doorstep. For the United States as a superpower with global responsibilities and interests, the question can be answered with not much more difficulty. For Canadians whose borders have not been threatened for 175 years, the positive answer which has been given is the result of a very careful and deliberate appreciation of the international scene. I don't want to embarrass you by listing all your virtues. Let me just say that the leading part which Canada plays on questions of disarmament and on the human aspect of international relations reminds us of the fundamental reasons for NATO's existence - not to arm or to disarm but to treat the root cause of East-West tension which comes from the denial of human rights and freedoms. I venture to suggest that NATO membership provides you as Canadians with a central forum in which to place these concerns on centre stage, as well as the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
But the role of Canada in the military field is no less important. Your defence white paper was warmly welcomed by the alliance for two reasons. First in reaffirming that Canadian security - like that of other Western nations - is best preserved within NATO. Secondly in holding out the prospect of a revitalized Canadian contribution to conventional defence. The presence of Canadian forces in Europe is not just a political demonstration of enduring shared values and interests. They are also a real element in the alliance defence posture. Do not suppose for a moment that because your contribution may be relatively modest by comparison with others, it is regarded as an optional extra.
Strengthening conventional defences has been a vital concern for the alliance for almost as long as the military structure has existed. But the problem has not reduced over time. We cannot expect to overcome our deficiencies by expecting early or easy results from arms control. Any negotiations will be protracted and successful only if we keep up our strength meanwhile. No one, if they think about it, wants deliberately to compensate for deficiencies in conventional forces by a greater reliance on nuclear weapons. Indeed the INF agreement has brought the problem into sharper focus and underlined the need for improved conventional effort. A revitalized and effective Canadian contribution takes on particular significance at this juncture.
Most of the planned improvements for Canadian forces respond directly to specific alliance deficiencies - the strengthening of the air and ground forces in the central region, in Lahr; the planned growth, and structuring of the navy, given the crucial importance of the sea lanes in the Atlantic and High Arctic; the improvements in reserve forces, given NATO's need for prepared reinforcements.
There has to be in every Secretary General an element of the examination board. And I will not pretend that the consolidation of forces in the central region does not pose other problems. The decision to end Canada's reinforcement role in Norway shows in fact just how important the Canadian contribution has been, because urgent work is still underway to find alternative cooperative solutions to plug the gap in the northern flank.
More generally, defence resources continue to be a problem for the alliance as a whole - the more so when the euphoria of a first arms control success encourages public opinion to relax effort when the military realities remain very different. Canada has a rather good modern record in increasing defence expenditure, but much remains to be done to overcome the "rust-out" of equipment during the 1970s. I therefore hope that you, along with other NATO members, will maintain steady growth and sustained commitment to defence improvement. You have certainly made a very welcome start in terms of quantity and quality and this is recognized on both sides of the Atlantic.
I must conclude this speech with more than a casual summing up, because it is for me something of a swan song. Predictions are particularly hazardous at present, given the degree of movement which exists both in East-West relations and within East and West themselves. But one major feature is that the prospects for real progress in arms control and disarmament, and for a better relationship with the East more generally, are brighter than they have been for many years past. I dwelt earlier on the potential fragility of the improvement, not as a Cassandra, but because it seems to be that our policy response should be to do all we can to nurture steady growth, to encourage progress, while insuring sensibly against the risk of failure.
To these ends, we are already working in the alliance on a comprehensive philosophy linking the requirements of security with arms control: it needs to be elaborated further in future. We are already pressing for negotiations on conventional forces and for a global ban on chemical weapons: effort should be redoubled in these areas despite the long and difficult tasks implied by both. We are pledged, at the same time, to maintain the effectiveness of our conventional and nuclear forces; we must ensure that this is realized in practice, not as an arms buildup, but, in the words of the Summit Declaration, "by keeping up to date where necessary." As part of this pattern there is now increased recognition in the alliance of the need to relieve some of the defence burden carried by the United States and share it more evenly among the alliance as a whole: we must seek to achieve this through improved patterns of cooperation and more efficient use of resources. We have in the summit a clear message for public opinion: we must continue to maintain public support for necessary defence effort - a task where Canada, if I may say so, has an excellent record. Finally we have in the INF episode, and in our political solidarity and military determination which brought it to successful conclusion, an excellent lesson for the future.
NATO will, I know, continue to rely on Canada to contribute to all the objectives I have mentioned and to make the practical sacrifices necessary to support them. Not because - to paraphrase Lester Pearson - this will enable you to wage war; but because it will help you successfully to wage the peace.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Maj.-Gen. Reginald W. Lewis, a Past President of The Club.