The West Block, Season 8, Episode 11


Episode 11, Season 8

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller,

Minister Pavlo Kimklin, Senator Mike Rounds

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

The United States is playing a leading role everywhere.

It’s not just about cash. It’s about capabilities and contributions. And you needn’t do all three. NATO is taking a leadership role and that’s sending a very strong message of unity as well.

And we need to pay attention to what’s happening in Russia and China.

Well I think the western alliance is still speaking with one voice.

It’s Sunday, November 18th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, for a special edition of The West Block.

We’re here in Halifax at the International Security Forum, where political and military leaders representing over 70 countries are here to talk about the biggest issues in global peace and security, from war and propaganda, to populism; it’s all on the agenda. We begin today with an interview with Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: It’s my pleasure.

Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome to Halifax.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: Thank you very much.

Mercedes Stephenson: What is the biggest threat facing NATO right now?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: NATO really looks at two threats that are really, I would say of equal weight to the alliance. One is the threats that are emanating from our neighbourhood to the north and east and frankly, we were very concerned starting in 2014 with Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the destabilization of the eastern part of Ukraine, the Donbass. So clearly, we have to be alert to those challenges that Russia poses us, from the north all the way down to the southeast to the alliance. But in addition to that, we are very concerned and 2014, again, was the watershed year. That was the rise of Isis, their seizure of Mosel, their turning towards a caliphate. So, we’ve had also a major threat from violent extremism and terrorism to confront and so I would say each of those has equal attention in the NATO headquarters.

Mercedes Stephenson: Do you think that there’s concern NATO has become ineffective against Russia in the sense that they are still in Crimea and Donbass poisoning who they don’t like in England, cyber interference, propaganda attacks, including here in Canada where we’ve seen that. Are they really being deterred by NATO?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: It’s interesting that this is a global challenge, I think, these kinds of hybrid threats, these kinds of how shall I put it? Episodes of mischief making are really global. Russia is a player. We also are concerned about China. We’re concerned about North Korea. We’re concerned about Iran, so NATO alone cannot confront all of these threats but we have to think about it as really a global problem that all players have to work on responsibility confronting. I would say, and we just came off our trident juncture exercise up in Norway, and here for the first time in many years the NATO alliance showed that it was up to the task of collective defence in an important way.

Mercedes Stephenson: But the Russians interfered in that. They were jamming GPS signals.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: We’d expect them to do that and that was something that was very clear from our exercise leaders. They said we expect that kind of play from the Russians and in fact, I thought this was fascinating, they said it gave our guys better practice, because having a kind of real-time effort by the Russians to impinge on the exercise gave our guys a better chance to figure out what they needed to do and to respond.

Mercedes Stephenson: I’m wondering about a different kind of threat, perhaps rival force. There’s been this discussion, especially from Merkel and Macron about what they call a “real European army”, setting up a defence force, a military that is all these different European countries coming together. That would suggest to me that maybe they don’t have a lot of faith in NATO.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: Frankly, from where I sit in NATO headquarters in Brussels, same with my boss Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, it’s a good thing if the European allies pull up their socks and begin spending more on defence. This has been clear from the time of again, the Russian seizure of Crimean, the so-called Wales defence investment pledge in 2014, called on all allies to increase their defence spending, to begin spending 2 per cent of GDP and to try to reach that goal by 2024. So this has been really a longstanding push from headquarters and when you talk about the Europeans spending more in a European environment, that’s okay from their perspective but three important conditions have to be met.

First, those forces that are developed in Europe have to be available for NATO missions and operations.

Second, we can’t have competing requirements coming from the European Union and from NATO when we’re asking the same countries, European Union members and NATO countries to build up capabilities, they have to be the same requirements.

And then we also have to be able to engage non-EU NATO allies who are extraordinarily important to the alliance: the United States, Canada, Turkey in the south, Norway in the north, the Western Balkans countries, they have to be fully engaged in the European efforts as well. So it’s a matter of not shutting the rest of the non-EU NATO allies out that’s the issue.

Mercedes Stephenson: I know that the chairman of the NATO military committee right here in Halifax was expressing concern about this, that there could be competition for resources and there is limited spending. Some were suggesting part of the reason for why the Europeans are wondering if they need their own force when they already have NATO is that they don’t trust America to back the alliance anymore in collective defence with Donald Trump as the president. You are an American, how do you think Donald Trump’s presidency has affected NATO?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: Well first and foremost, President Trump has been very tough about pushing the burden sharing message and again, I think that’s a good thing. It’s helped really to reverse the cuts. From 2014 on, we have seen an increase in defence spending but just over the last two years since President Trump came to office but there’s been an additional $41 billion that has flowed in. Actually, it’s getting higher. I understand it’s now about $47 billion. So the funds are increasing and we have stopped what had been really a drop-off in defence spending among NATO allies, so I think that’s a really, really important positive aspect of what’s been going on since President Trump came to office.

Mercedes Stephenson: Canada has troops in Iraq. Do you think that that mission which is a NATO mission is going to continue?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: It’s just getting started actually and by the way, I wanted to say a big thank you to Canada. Canada has been active over many years of course. In Ukraine, you are the lead nation for the battle group on the borders with Russia in Latvia. It’s been terrific the kind of leadership Canada has been taking and now Canada’s stepped forward to take the leadership of our new training mission in Iraq and this is going to make a big difference to really, I think, restoring the institution of the Iraqi Army, armed forces training and education overall, but also helping them deal with some real-time problems, like the massive amount of unexploded ordinates and training people to deal with unexploded ordinates, with mines and that type of thing.

Mercedes Stephenson: Now you mentioned Canadian troops, and certainly, I believe the vast majority of our troops that are deployed are on NATO missions but we’re not meeting that 2 per cent defence spending target. And what the government tries to argue is oh, but we’re meeting it in other ways with troops. Did you accept that argument or should Canada be spending more?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: Well, we do talk about the three C’s and I want to make it clear, cash is one thing, enhance defence spending through defence budgets is one thing but also capabilities and contributions, such as contributing troops to a mission abroad as Canada has been doing. So all three of those go into how we think about defence burden sharing in the alliance. But frankly, it is important for all the NATO allies who are not yet spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence, to pay attention to that commitment made in Wales in the defence investment pledge, to move in that direction by 2024. So we’ll continue talking to our Canadian alliance members about that matter. But let me just say, I’m really very, very impressed with the contributions that Canada has been making.

Mercedes Stephenson: China has claimed the South China Sea as their own. They’re engaging an increasingly aggressive and overt military and naval activity in that area. Could that potentially be a NATO mission?

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: I like to keep repeating and underscoring, you have only to look at the name of NATO to know the answer to that question. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and so our area of operation is in basically the Trans-Atlantic and the space between Europe and North America.

Mercedes Stephenson: Although Iraq isn’t there.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: Well that’s true. That’s a very good point and we do contribute to counter-terrorism missions elsewhere and have contributed for many years to the resolute support mission. Before that, ISAF in Afghanistan, as an effort to fight terrorism and ensure that we’re pushing back against violent extremism, so that’s a very good point. But in terms of, you know, NATO becoming a global alliance, which is what is implied by your question, I think we have to stick to our knitting. We have to stick to where we see our major geographic threats and that is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization area.

Mercedes Stephenson: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: It’s been great talking to you. Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, an interview with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister about the challenges facing his country, especially from Russia.


Mercedes Stephenson: In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and the war in Ukraine has continued since then. Over 10,000 have been killed and the situation appears to continue to escalate with false elections being run by the Russians in Eastern Ukraine. They’ve been condemned by NATO, Canada and other allies. As well, now we’re seeing Ukrainians blocking ships going into Crimea and Russian threats of retaliation. Here to talk to us about that today is Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin.

Minister, thank you so much for joining us.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: Thanks for having me.

Mercedes Stephenson: I’d like to start by asking you about some of these recent developments. We don’t see Ukraine as much in the Canadian news anymore but the war there is still very real. What’s going on, on the ground?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: It’s actually really a shame. It’s not just about this political wave of attention to Ukraine. It’s also about understanding and having emotion about Ukraine. And we have real hot war in Ukraine, almost every night Ukrainian soldiers are killed along the Dutch Line, because the Russians keep sending through the Occupy Donbass regular troops, mercenaries and of course, a whole lot of weaponry, at the same time with the total clampdown on human rights in everything in the occupied Donbass and a big attempt to resettle people from Russia and to squeeze out real Ukrainians and real Crimean [00:11:15], so real Crimean’s who have for their land in Crimea. You’ve mentioned [00:11:24] in the Russian attempt for creeping annexation but it’s a mixture of conventional means we’re talking about. And also what’s normally called hybrid or non-conventional with a fundamental attempt of this information and you need to learn actually from Ukraine because the Russian role is to undermine and we can have democratic institution also here, and you should be really vigilant and prepared for fighting the Russians in the sense of their conventional but especially non-conventional attempts.

Mercedes Stephenson: Why is that propaganda so dangerous for some people who think it’s just Twitter? It’s just words. It’s not tanks and guns.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: Because of a real trust and credibility or for a democratic institution. So deliberate attempt to undermine through cyberattacks, through the whole way of disinformation, basically creating trouble, stirring up trouble and saying aha, democratic institutions are not the most effective ones. So to have a kind of advisor in front of you who is weakened, who does not have any more the sense of Trans-Atlantic solidarity. And Trans-Atlantic solidarity is basically what works against Russia, is exactly what the Russian attempts, you know, keep stagnating.

Mercedes Stephenson: So if Canada could be targeted and there are Canadian soldiers in Ukraine helping to train Ukrainian forces, the West—

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: We extremely appreciate it. It’s a great way of having not just strategic partnership and not just friendship but being allies in fighting against the Russian aggression and fighting for the democratic future of Ukraine. We extremely appreciate it.

Mercedes Stephenson: Is the West doing enough, though? And you met with Mike Pompeo and he said they will never accept Crimea being a part of Russia. And the West talks about it and says that NATO is there and sends those troops but they’re not arming you, they’re not stepping in and stopping Russia. Do you think that deterrent value is still there?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: We have defence supplies from a number of Western countries. Let me just mention Javelins from the United States, but we definitely need more because strengthening our ability to counter Russian threats would definitely serve the whole democratic world.

Mercedes Stephenson: Do you think you’ll ever get Crimea back?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: Definitely. Occupied Crimea and the Russian occupation is going nowhere. So fundamentally, we will be able to get Crimea back. It’s about our ability to counter the Russians but of course, it’s also about our ability to become a really sustainable and very effective democracy. It’s a kind of beacon for the people who live in Crimea and now are under total pressure and under Crimean occupation.

Mercedes Stephenson: Does that mean the Ukrainian government has to work on democracy and corruption as well?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: Look, on democracy, we are democratic society now. But the challenge of corruption, the challenge of creating a real rule of law like you have it here in Canada, and it’s also one of the important points of Canadian assistance, is definitely there and we have to be up to this challenge.

Mercedes Stephenson: Do you think Russia will act, again, in other countries as it has in Ukraine?

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: Yeah, definitely. Look, they don’t have any red lines anymore. They crossed all the red lines in Donbass in Crimea, in Syria. And fundamentally, Russia is a kind of [00:15:15]. Russia as a whole society is dependent on this external, you know, drive to look like a great power, like a new empire and the people would need more and more in the sense of this drive and it’s extremely dangerous, not only for Ukraine but for the whole democratic world.

Mercedes Stephenson: Minister, thank you so much for your time today.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Kimklin: It was a pleasure.

Mercedes Stephenson: Coming up, an influential Republican senator who’s pro-Trump joins us to talk about the United States role in the international community.


Welcome back to a special edition of The West Block from the Halifax International Security Forum. There’s been a lot of discussion this weekend talking about America’s role in the world and President Trump. Here to join us to talk about that is Senator Mike Rounds. Thank you so much for joining us, Senator.

Senator Mike Rounds: I appreciate the opportunity to visit.

Mercedes Stephenson: What is America’s role in the world right now and do you think there’s an increase in isolationism?

Senator Mike Rounds: I think America understands that it has a role to play. I think America also understands that it wants participation from other leading countries as well and I think that’s where part of the discussion goes on. I think that’s what the president is sharing is that he wants other neighbours, other countries, other allies to help in this process. He does want to be a leader and we want to be leaders. Sometimes our president has a different way of approaching things, but within the United States Senate, you find some pretty strong bipartisan support for some of our major alliances, including NATO. And that’s the reason that we’re here this week is to share with everybody else we’re on solid ground, we believe in NATO, we want to see it continue on, and we want to see it continue to be strengthened and we want their help to do so.

Mercedes Stephenson: You sit on the armed services committee and there is a report that came out this week I’m sure you’re familiar with saying that Russia and China are catching up to the United States. There’s also been a question about whether the president might cut the military budget to reduce the deficit. Are you anticipating a cut in military spending?

Senator Mike Rounds: I would be surprised if we actually have a cut in military spending. Now, saying that, this year and next year, the two most recent budgets, the ones that we’re in right now, we actually increased defence spending by about $168 billion dollars over that two-year time period. So the Department of Defence has resources available and it desperately needed after several years of what we call sequestration where there was cut after cut, and if we don’t start now to modernize and to look at our strategic weapon systems, to look at the fifth domain of cyber, and if we don’t stay ahead of them, at that point several years from now, we would be in trouble and that’s the message we’re sending.

Mercedes Stephenson: A report says that the CIA believes that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia directly ordered and was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. I know you’ve talked about taking greater action on the world stage. Is it time for the U.S. to be tougher on Saudi Arabia?

Senator Mike Rounds: I think we’re going to have to make a response and I think clearly the administration and the CIA is part of the administration is publicly saying exactly what they found out. How they move into the next step, which is sanctions or in expectation on the part of the Saudi government that they’re going to respond, that remains to be seen yet. But nonetheless, there will be action taken and this is unfortunate because Saudi Arabia has been an ally. They’ve been one of our allies in our fight against terrorism. We want that to continue on but we can’t allow them to do what Russia does, which is to try and execute people in other countries and so forth. So there is a penalty to be paid. What the expectation of that penalty is, I don’t have the answer to but I’m quite certain the administration will make proposals and then it will be up to Congress to decide whether or not those proposals are appropriate.

Mercedes Stephenson: In terms of public language, Canadians see the president’s tweets. They pay close attention to what he’s saying, and there’s concern in Canada about some of that and about some of the rhetoric coming from the White House that Republicans are supporting. Do you think there’s an issue with the kind of language, like invaders that President Trump is using?

Senator Mike Rounds: Yeah look, the president is not necessarily speaking in politically correct terms. He’s having casual conversations with the American public but as the president of the United States those conversations go worldwide. This president has been very transparent. He says what’s on his mind. What I tell people is as I see the tweets and so forth, and I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s tweeting, but I do care about what his actual actions are. So, if he does a tweet and I disagree with it, I’ll say I disagree with it.

Mercedes Stephenson: But can that language inflame people or encourage, for example, neo-Nazi’s, who have been praising some of his wording?

Senator Mike Rounds: It can to any type of a faction have an impact. It can have an impact on our allies, it can have an impact on his supporters and it can have an impact on those people that literally don’t agree on the same things that he does because it energizes them. You saw that in the election. People were saying they had an impact on this. They were sending a message to President Trump. That’s a part of the political process today. So when it comes to the tweets and so forth, would I be doing it that way? No. The president has shown that it’s been a successful way to the White House. It’s transparent and what I tell people is, I take it with a grain of salt and what I really want to know is what are the actions that he’s taking? So, it’s not necessarily that the tweeting necessarily dictates what his actions will actually be, but it does suggest some of the thought processes that he has.

Mercedes Stephenson: One last very quick Canadian question for you. As you know, there’s steel and aluminum tariffs that are national security related on Canada right now brought by President Trump. You’re from South Dakota, a lot of trade with Canada. Do you agree that Canada’s a national security threat?

Senator Mike Rounds: Now look, most of have said that we think that was a mistake for the president to use that particular section of the law. There were other sections that he could have had. Canada is our closest ally. We all recognize that. What the president was suggesting was that our steel trade and our aluminum trade is in real trouble. Our industries are in real trouble. He wanted to be able to find a way to rebuild our national steel and aluminum manufacturing processes. What I think most of us have said, though, is you have to give credit for the fact that our closest ally is manufacturing steel and aluminum and if that is the case, they should be a part of our economy as well. And so for most of us—look, in South Dakota right now our soybeans are part of a retaliation by China. They’re down in value. We’d like to store soybeans, we’d like to store corn during this time in which our prices are down, but in order to build a grain bin you’ve got to have steel and aluminum. So our producers are saying gee, I’m going to get hit not only with lower prices on my soybean but I’m also going to get hit with paying more to put up a steel bin to store them in for a while. So my folks are feeling that as well. But most of my farmers, my producers are also saying, this is the first president in generations that’s cared enough about us to actually go in and challenge and try to make a better deal. And we’re going to give him enough time to see if can be successful in doing so. I’m very pleased that we’ve got a proposal on the table and according to everything we’re seeing about November 30th we should have a deal put together with Mexico and Canada. If that happens, I think we can move fairly quickly on the issues of tariffs on steel and aluminum. At least that’s my hope.

Mercedes Stephenson: Senator, thank you so much for your time today.

Senator Mike Rounds: [00:23:16 Good night.]

Mercedes Stephenson: That is our show for today. Thank you for joining us on this special edition of The West Block from Halifax. We’ll be back in Ottawa next week and we’ll see you then.

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