Friday, July 8, 2016

Canada to Send 450 Troops, Armored Vehicles, Frigates, and Jets to Lativia

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

WARSAW, Poland — Canada is sending hundreds of troops to Latvia for the long haul.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the NATO leaders' summit in Poland on Friday that Canada will take command of a 1,000-strong multinational force in Latvia, as the alliance beefs up its presence in the Baltics and Poland in response to recent Russian actions.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance revealed that Canada will send about 450 soldiers along with armoured vehicles to the Baltic state as part of an "enduring" NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

The Canadians will form the "nucleus" of a battlegroup in Latvia, Vance said, that with the addition of forces from other allies, is expected to grow to about 1,000 troops. Germany, the United States and Britain are leading similar forces in Lithuania, Poland and Estonia.

Allies are expected to begin announcing contributions at a conference next week, while officials indicated the first Canadian troops could begin arriving in Latvia early next year. Vance couldn't say how long they would stay.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg "has been clear this is an open-ended commitment," Vance said. "And so Canada has committed to that. We'll take it as it comes. But it is intended to be enduring."

There had already been fears NATO and Russia are on the brink of a new Cold War, if they aren't already in one. The lack of any clear timetable for when Canadian troops will come home from Eastern Europe may well add to those comparisons.

In addition to the troops, Canada will deploy up to six CF-18s to Europe on an occasional basis to help patrol allied airspace. It will also continue sending naval frigates to the region, as it has done since April 2014.

The combined efforts will bring the number of Canadian military personnel in Eastern Europe at any given time up to a maximum of 800, which the government says is Canada's largest sustained military deployment to the continent in over a decade.

Appearing with Vance, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan pushed back on the Cold War comparisons.

"This is about sending a right message of cohesion within NATO," he said, "giving confidence to member states, and showing how important deterrence is so we can get back to a responsible dialogue."

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Stoltenberg said alliance members "don't want a new Cold War. The Cold War is history and it should remain history."

However, the NATO chief also said the world has seen a more assertive Russia that is willing to use military force, as exemplified by its annexations of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine. He said that is why the deployment of allied forces into Eastern Europe is necessary.

"They will send a clear message that an attack on one ally will be an attack on the whole alliance," Stoltenberg said. "I believe this approach, with defence and dialogue, is the only viable long-term approach to Russia."

Eastern Europe allies had been asking NATO to bolster its presence in the region as a deterrent against Russia trying to destabilize them in the same way it did Ukraine. That includes crossing into their territory, inciting Russian speakers within their borders and cyber attacks.

Russia has denied any such intentions, and instead has accused NATO of instigating the current standoff by expanding into former Soviet territory and trying to undermine its sphere of influence. It has also warned against any military build-up on its borders.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

R22eR Soldiers pass on life-saving tips to Ukrainian troops

By: Mathew Fisher, National Post 

YAVORIV, Ukraine — Seven thousand kilometres from Quebec, but only 10 hours by road from the bloody battlefields of eastern Ukraine, about 200 soldiers mostly from Canada’s storied Royal 22nd Regiment, the Vandoos, are helping to prepare Ukrainian infantry, medics and combat engineers to defend their country against Russian-backed separatists.

More than anything, the Canadian training mission, which began last summer near the Slovak and Polish borders, tries to instil NATO fighting principles and western ethics.

“They are very highly motivated,” said Maj. Bruno Turmel, deputy commander of the Vandoo company which has been here since January. “What they are learning is to be inter-operable with us and the Americans and all the other partners that are here and to build their war fighting capacity and capability.

Turmel, who served twice as a military trainer to Afghan security forces, said he had learned “a lot from the Ukrainian officers and soldiers. They are patriotic and many of them have combat experience.”

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The Vandoos replaced mentors from the Ontario-based Royal Canadian Regiment, who started the mission last August, and will be succeeded next month by the western-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

The training mission was set up by the Harper government in reply to a request for help from Kyiv, which does not have enough resources to defend itself from its much larger and wealthier neighbour, Russia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be in Warsaw this weekend for the NATO leaders’ summit, will discuss whether to continue the training program when he meets Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv afterward.

The Canadians have seven different “lines of effort” taking place simultaneously at several locations around the country. But most of the troops work in a sprawling Ukrainian army base outside Yavoriv, where the training ground is nestled in green hills reminiscent of Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

The longest course offered by the Canadians lasts 55 days. It teaches basic and small unit fighting skills to infantry. There are also leadership courses for senior non-commissioned officers, courses for military police and anti-mining training.

One of the key areas is teaching Ukrainian medics battlefield emergency treatment practises. Such skills are urgently needed as the brutal war in the east grinds on.

Sgt. Yann Gauthier, who did three combat tours as a medic in Afghanistan, was amazed at how quickly some of his students applied the lessons he taught.

“Within a week after graduation, they can go directly to war,” he said.

About 70 per cent of the Canadian trainers — including three of the five medics teaching combat first aid and more specialized course — served in Afghanistan.

That experience “helps me a lot here,” Gauthier said. “It gives me credibility with the Ukrainians. Whether it is on the battlefield in Afghanistan or Ukraine, the body needs the same thing if it is bleeding to death. The techniques are almost the same so we can apply what we learned in Afghanistan.”

Instructor/soldier Arthur Woichenko describes the course offered by the Canadians as “priceless.”

“You can tell when a person already has some experience on the battlefield and has experienced that with his own blood. Looking him in the ey,e you feel it and understand why such methodologies and so important,” he said.

“I have participated in other courses before and we only got basic knowledge. Here, we get practical tasks. I have crossed out what I knew beforehand and absorbed all the information like a sponge because it was so important.”

Graduates are also given a combat first aid kid worth $350.

One of the goals of the 13 NATO nations training Ukrainian forces is to wean them from their top-down Soviet-style leadership and delegate more decisions to junior officers and sergeants.

“The culture is definitely different than what we are used to working with. The decision-making is more highly concentrated in the higher echelons,” said Maj. Jean-François Lamarche, a combat veteran in Kandahar who mostly works in the field with Ukrainian platoons during the 55-day courses.

Although the program had been “quite successful … of course there has been some resistance. It is a new way of thinking for them. But we are not teaching them this as ‘100 per cent the way to go.’ What we do is present them with a way to do things.”

Lt. Alexei Chebutav, who fought Russian-backed forces around the rebel-held city of Donetsk, said there was much to recommend the Canadian approach.

“In the Canadian Armed Forces the accent is on non-commissioned officers,” he said. “In the Ukrainian army a lot of instructors still act according to the rules of the Soviet time.”

“I always tell my soldiers that the experience we get with you can help to save our lives,” Chebutav told his mentor, Lamarche, as their course wound down Monday.

“You leave your souls here and our guys appreciate it very much.”

Canadian Navy modernizes and upgrades its training system

DND Press Release

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), in the midst of modernizing and upgrading its training, held a ceremony today in Esquimalt to officially mark the creation of the reconfigured Naval Training Development Centre (Pacific) and Naval Fleet School (Pacific) as a part of its Future Naval Training System (FNTS) initiative.

The FNTS will assist in developing RCN sailors, allowing them to operate Canada’s current and future warships. Over the last three years, all naval training elements have been brought together in order to provide the RCN with coherent, sustainable, and well-supported means of generating naval forces into the next decades. The new Technology Enabled Learning Strategy will increase the effectiveness and flexibility of the Naval Training System, while reducing the demand for infrastructure.

“We built this training system knowing future operations will be dynamic and complex," said Captain (N) Mike Knippel, Commander Naval Personnel and Training Group. "Using the latest technologies, we are preparing our sailors to effectively operate the new warships and deliver excellence at sea. The new training system is more cost effective, relevant, and capable of meeting the demands of the 21st century.”

Similar ceremonies were held on June 29, 2016, at Naval Fleet School (Quebec) and will be held on July 15, 2016, at the new Campus Atlantic in Halifax.

The mission of the RCN is to generate combat-capable, multipurpose maritime forces that support Canada’s efforts to participate in security operations anywhere in the world. Our training system is key to achieving a maritime force that is capable of effectively accomplishing this mission.

The Technology Enabled Learning Strategy is based on four design principles: distance and distributed learning technology, Multi-Purpose Reconfigurable Trainers, persistent access to learning and training devices, and networked training. This approach enables the use of universal classrooms and the campus model, resulting in reduced demand for single purpose training facilities.

The application of Multi-Purpose Reconfigurable Trainers, supported by reconfigurable training spaces at training campuses, is expected to reduce the overall costs of trainers, simulators, and training tools by enabling the re-use of hardware, software, and infrastructure to meet different training objectives. Through efficiencies gained from reconfigurable and mobile equipment, the physical footprint of the training system can be reduced.

As a part the modernization efforts, the Commandant of Canadian Forces Fleet School Esquimalt, Commander S.E. Hooper, relinquished command of his former school and immediately assumed command of the newly named Naval Training Development Center (Pacific). Simultaneously, the Commandant of the formerly named Naval Officer Training Center VENTURE, Commander Todd Bonnar, relinquished command and promptly assumed command of newly named Naval Fleet School (Pacific).

Campus Pacific (Esquimalt) reconfigured the Fleet School Esquimalt and the Naval Officer Training Center VENTURE into Naval Fleet School (Pacific) and the Naval Training Development Center (Pacific). Naval Fleet School (Pacific) will deliver individual and career courses, while the Naval Training Development Center (Pacific) will be the RCN’s Center of Excellence for engineering, damage control, command, leadership, and professional development curriculum and courseware development.

Campus Atlantic (Halifax) will reconfigure the Canadian Forces Naval Operations School and Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School into Naval Fleet School (Atlantic) and Naval Training Development Center (Atlantic). Naval Fleet School (Atlantic) will deliver individual training, with the addition of Submarine Training, while the Naval Training Development Center (Atlantic) will focus on combat, operations, and seamanship training curriculum and courseware development.

Naval Fleet School (Quebec), formerly Canadian Forces Fleet School Quebec, will continue its role as a training site, delivering various courses to the Naval Reserve.

For the complete version of the Future Naval Training System Strategy, please contact MARPAC Public Affairs.

Sajjan: CF-18 Replacement Still Undecided

By: Ian MacLeod, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan insists government must move “quickly” selecting a new fighter jet, but acknowledged Wednesday the procurement plan remains way up in the air.

“We need to look at options that can bring us the right capability, for the right price and that can suit for Canada. It’s important that we move quickly,” Sajjan told reporters before meeting with defence and aerospace industry executives to discuss the major restructuring of Canada’s military, including replacing the fleet of CF-18 jets. The new defence policy is expected in early 2017.

But Sajjan refused to detail when and how the government will proceed. Asked what he meant by “quickly,” he replied: “I can’t give you a timeline just yet.”

He was equally ambiguous when confronted with the Liberal’s 2015 election promised to scrap the former Conservative government’s planned purchase of 65 F-35 stealth fighters and, “immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft.”

Fourth-generation Super Hornets just can’t do the job in the Arctic, retired U.S. Air Force general insists

“No decision has been made on procurement,” Sajjan said when asked if government is reneging. “I want to make sure I have all the necessary information, the right data. Once I have all the information, then we’ll go down the path of making a decision.”

The shifting Liberal narrative on a fighter jet replacement reflects an internal government struggle over how to fulfill the election promise without triggering a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit by F-35 builder Lockheed Martin, the U.S. aerospace giant, a senior Defence Department official recently told the Ottawa Citizen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons in June the stealth fighter “does not work, and is far from working.”

Multiple sources have told the Citizen the government is intent on a sole-sourced purchase of Super Hornet fighters from Boeing as an “interim” measure. Sajjan recently visited Australia, which bought 24 of the aircraft about five years ago for $2.5 billion, to replace antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.

“We looked at the situation they were in, they provided us with good information, but we want to make sure we have a much wider perspective,” Sajjan said Wednesday of the trip.

A move to the Super Hornet would close what Sajjan began referring to this spring as a “capability gap” with the 77 CF-18s that are running full throttle to meet with Canada’s commitments to NATO and NORAD’s North American air defence.

We looked at the situation they were in, they provided us with good information, but we want to make sure we have a much wider perspective

“Between our NORAD and NATO commitments and how many jets are serviceable at one time, we cannot meet both those requirements simultaneously. That’s (what I mean) when I talk about capability gap,” he said.

“The Canadian Armed Forces have been risk-managing this problem for some time now and the previous government found it acceptable. I do not, and I want to make sure that we give all the tools necessary not to put the Canadian Armed Forces in a scenario to risk-manage.”

Sajjan then injected a new term into the debate: “(A) capability gap will lead to a capability loss. That’s exactly what’s happening with our navy right now. We require Spain and Chile to assist us with resupplying because we do not have ships right now to resupply us.

“I don’t want to go from a capability gap to a capability loss,” with fighter jets, too, he said.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Defence Minister to Make Announcement Regarding CF-18 Replacememt

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will shed some light on how the government plans to replace Canada's aging fighter jets in an address to defence and aerospace industry officials Wednesday.

The much-anticipated update will not include an announcement on what aircraft will replace Canada's CF-18s, said Sajjan's spokeswoman, Jordan Owens. The minister will instead lay out what "short-term next steps" the government intends to take on the file.

The Liberals have been under pressure to say something about the replacement plan since reports last month that they were considering buying Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets without a competition.

The government has insisted no decision has been made, but it also says new warplanes are urgently needed to address a "gap" in the air force's fighter jet capabilities. In particular, the Liberals have said there aren't enough CF-18s to meet all of Canada's defence commitments.

Critics, however, have pointed to Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood's comments to the Commons defence committee in April as proof the Liberals are manufacturing a crisis.

Hood said the CF-18 fleet should be able to operate through 2025 thanks to a $500-million upgrade ordered by the Conservatives in 2014. Twenty-six out of 77 CF-18s have already undergone structural work to fly through the mid-2020s, and electronic upgrades are planned.

Owens said Sajjan's speech will provide more detail on the current state of the CF-18 fleet. The minister will also talk to industry representatives about other military procurement projects, many of which are facing delays and other problems.

The Liberals promised during last year's election that they would hold an open competition to replace the CF-18s. At the same time, they promised not to buy the F-35. This, however, created a potential legal situation if the government was seen to discriminate against the stealth fighter.

The F-35 has previously won competitions in South Korea, Japan and Denmark.

Postmedia reported in June that the government was considering whether to use an exemption in federal procurement laws to buy Super Hornets as an "interim" measure to address the capability gap. That would let it to sole-source the planes without fear of a lawsuit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons last month that the F-35 "does not work and is far from working." A few weeks later, he refused to say whether his government remains committed to holding an open competition to replace the CF-18s.

"We are working very, very hard and thoughtfully to ensure that we deliver to our forces the right jets the right way at the right price," he told reporters at the time. "That's what Canadians expect of us, and that's what we are going to be doing."

The previous Conservative government announced in 2010 that Canada would be buying 65 F-35 stealth fighters without a competition. The Liberals, who at the time were in third place in the House of Commons, were critical of not holding a competition.

Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the U.S. defence giant behind the F-35, have engaged in fierce lobbying and public relations campaigns to convince Canadians and politicians that their fighter jet is best for the country.

USAF General: Super Hornets Can't Do Job in Arctic

By: Matthew Fisher, Post Media, Ottawa Citizen 

A recently retired senior U.S. Air Force general with decades of experience defending the margins of North American air space agrees with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that there will be a “capability gap” in defending the northern approaches to the continent.

But retired Lt.-Gen. Michael Dubie, a deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command until last year, offered a different explanation for the gap and recommended that Canada find out the best way to defend the continent by holding a competition.

After Postmedia reported last month that the government was close to buying Boeing’s fourth-generation Super Hornets to replace some of its current fleet of CF-18s, the prime minister told the Commons that Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-35 would not be able to fill the developing capability gap because it “is far from working.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada had to act now to close the gap in order to be able to fulfil its responsibilities in NORAD and NATO.

Dubie dismissed the idea that the F-35 was still somehow an experimental aircraft.

After noting that “every new airplane ever designed takes a whole lot of time to operationalize,” the former test and evaluation pilot said the U.S. Marine Corps had already declared IOC (initial operational capability) on its variant of the F-35 and that the USAF planned to do the same by the end of the year with the model that the Harper government had been considering buying.

“The milestones are being met. They are on track,” the former three-star general said of the F-35. “Sure, there are problems, but this airplane is going forward and it is going to be in the fleets of many countries for many decades to come. They already have 50,000 or 60,000 hours and it is just getting better as the bugs are ironed out.”

The capability gap was not because the F-35 was not ready, he said, but would occur if Canada and other countries did not purchase the right aircraft to confront a rapidly evolving threat.

“The threat — and let’s be candid here — is that the Russian threat is evolving and it will become harder to combat in the future without fifth-generation aircraft,” Dubie said.

“NORAD has to continually evolve with technology and with capability because the threat against North America is going to evolve, too. The F-35 is designed for the threats of the 21st century and those threats will require a much more sophisticated platform than we have in fourth-generation aircraft.”

This was because the F-35 had “a suite of advanced avionics that provide a superior 360 degrees of situational awareness that can target, track and, if needed, engage a variety of threats to North America whether it be small bots (swarms of tiny weapons), UAVs, advanced long-range cruise missiles, all the way to commercial airliners.

“The threat is going to become more complex. Information dominance across all spectrums will be essential. That is the F-35’s strength.”

Dubie, whose father was from Trois Rivieres, Que., emphasized that he did not wish his remarks to be construed as a criticism of the Canadian government.

“I am not trying to be disrespectful to your prime minister or your minister of defence. I am not being cavalier,” he said. “I am not saying he is wrong. I am saying the threat is going to demand fifth-generation aircraft.”

A command pilot with 1,500 hours on the F-16s and hundreds of hours on other jets, Dubie said he had reached this conclusion based on what he had learned from flying missions charged with intercepting Russian aircraft.

“Around Alaska, they have become incredulous about the aggressiveness of the Russians,” he said. “They are launching complex package of airplanes — bombers, Mi-G-31s (fighters) and tankers — with navy ships below. When we send out AWACS (reconnaissance planes), F-22s and tankers, they are sucking up all our data. It is an orchestrated, sophisticated air campaign the likes of which we have never seen before. They are getting better and more aggressive.”

Dubie’s opinion is significant because of the key jobs he has held helping to oversee the defence of North America and because he does not work for either Lockheed or Boeing.

Since last November he has been the president of Revision Military Technologies, a Vermont-based subsidiary of Montreal’s Revision Military Inc., which makes military eyewear and tactical gear.

While not closely informed on the manufacturing schedules of the F-35 or the Super Hornet, which first flew 21 years ago, he said that “what I do know about the Super Hornet is that it is near the end of the line. As I understand the timeline, the F-35 would be available to cover any capability gap on the NORAD mission.”

Dubie rejected the reasoning of F-35 critics who have said that because it has a single engine and the Super Hornet has twin engines, the latter aircraft was a superior choice for operations across the vastness of the north. He noted that the USAF had operated single-engine F-16s for years from a base in northern Alaska, and intended to soon replace those jets with F-35s that had “even more reliable” engines.

The Danes and Norwegians intended to defend the High Arctic with F-35s, too, he said.

“I am not against the Super Hornet,” Dubie said. “What I am saying is that the F-35 will have greater inter-operability with the U.S. fleet and other NATO partners.”

Asked what was the most prudent way for Canada to make the crucial, multi-billion dollar decision about which aircraft was best to defend the country for the next 40 years, Dubie replied “the ultimate question is why would you not have an open competition in Canada? If you have a competition, the strengths and weaknesses of the air frames will come out.

“I cannot envisage any scenario in which the F-35 does not come out better than the Super Hornet or any other aircraft. Fourth-generation jets, they just aren’t as capable.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Canada ranks 23 out of 28 NATO countries on defence spending

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News 

The Trudeau government won praise Monday along with some European allies who have chosen to put more into their militaries, despite only promising to increase defence spending by a whisker in the current budget year.

New figures released by NATO ahead of this weekend's leaders' summit show Canada inhabits the lower third of NATO membership in terms of defence spending, with the government planning to spend an additional .01 per cent of the country's gross domestic product on defence.

The increase, which is only anticipated because the 2016 budget year is just getting underway, will see Canada's defence spending rise to .99 per cent of GDP from .98 per cent.

To put that in perspective, the North Atlantic military alliance has established two per cent of GDP as its annual investment benchmark. Canada is ranked 23rd out of 28 member countries, wedged between Hungary and Slovenia.

It has been a source of frustration for the Americans, something that manifested itself last week in U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to Parliament, where he pointedly called on the Trudeau government to meet the NATO measure because "the world needs more Canada."

The irritation was also felt in Brussels, where NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has struggled to convince hesitant allies to pry loose cash in the face of a resurgent Russia.

"Last year, after a long period of decline, we saw a small increase in overall defence spending by NATO's European Allies and Canada," the secretary general said Monday.
'A very long way to go'

Stoltenberg, who has regularly but diplomatically rebuked nations for failing to meet the two per cent standard, chose to focus his praise on what's known as "real" defence spending — the total dollars each ministry pours into its budget without accounting for the corrosive effect of inflation.

He said NATO is pleased to see an expected increase of three per cent in defence spending by European Allies and Canada in 2016. That amounts to about $8 billion US, and 22 of the allies are planning bigger budgets.

"So, we are both spending more and we are spending better," he said. "But we have a very long way to go and we must keep up the momentum."

According to NATO figures, Canada will set aside $20.3 billion for defence in 2016, an increase from $19.4 billion last year.

Stoltenberg's praise raised a few eyebrows among defence experts, who point out it comes just a few days after the Liberal government committed to send troops and headquarters formation to a NATO high-readiness brigade, which is slated to deploy to eastern Europe.
Troops from the U.S. Army's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team parachute from a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during a NATO-led exercise held together with Canada's 3rd Battalion and Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, and Poland's 6th Airborne Brigade in southern Poland in May 2014. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
"If we were not going to take a leadership position on one of NATO's key priorities, I imagine that we would be having a very different conversation right now," said Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. "We have been getting a free pass on our actual budget commitments because we are heavy lifters when it comes to operations."

Perry noted the country's No. 23 ranking at NATO and said there's little in the Liberal government's plans or public statements that will change that.
Risk of a 'hollow force'

During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised not to cut defence expenditures and to live up to Conservative pledges of an additional two per cent annual increase, starting in 2017.

The government is in the midst of a strategic defence review, which could be completed in time for the next budget, but Perry said the Liberals seem to have other priorities.

"Our allies will remain disappointed with the actual amount of money we put on the table, and I suspect we can fob off the criticism by showing up for operations," he said.

But Perry warned that strategy runs the risk of further wearing down equipment and personnel, creating a "hollow force."

A spokeswoman for National Defence responded that government agreed at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales that bigger budgets were in order, but that committing to a "fixed target" was not something Canada was prepared to do.

Dominique Tessier said the NATO two per cent benchmark is "a statement of aspirations" and the prodding by allies was meant "to reverse the trend of falling spending on defence among allies and to optimize the use of available funds."

NATO chief sees Canada's troop commitment as 'open-ended'

By: Nahlah Ayed, CBC Foreign Correspondent 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg applauded Canada's decision to contribute land troops to a small force aimed at deterring Russia in Eastern Europe, a commitment that he describes as "open-ended."

In an exclusive interview with CBC News ahead of this week's pivotal NATO summit in Warsaw, the secretary general also dismissed critics suggesting the 4,000-strong force is an unnecessary provocation of Russia that risks raising the temperature in a region where tensions are already high.

The multinational spearhead force, initially announced by NATO leaders in 2014 in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, is expected to receive final approval at this week's summit of 28 leaders, including Canada's Justin Trudeau, in the Polish capital.

After cajoling from NATO, including a public plea from Stoltenberg, Ottawa announced last week it would lead one of the four high-readiness battalions NATO wants to deploy in the Baltics, committing likely somewhere between 500 and 750 soldiers to Latvia.

Three other battalions in Estonia, Poland and Lithuania would be led by the U.K., U.S. and Germany.
Canadians troops take part in a joint exercise with Polish troops not far from Ukraine's western border earlier this year. Canada will lead one of four battalions in a rotating force to patrol borders in Latvia. (CBC)
"I…welcome the fact that now Canada will be back with land troops in Europe," Stoltenberg said in the interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Asked how long Canada is expected to maintain the commitment, he replied, "This is an open-ended thing."
Baltic countries worried

Russia's annexation of Crimea, and its role in destabilizing Eastern Ukraine has left NATO countries on Russia's border anxious they might be next.

The new force will see Western troops only rotating through the region, apparently to remain compliant up to a longstanding agreement with Russia that prohibits placing large numbers of combat troops on the Eastern edge of NATO.

Still, rotating or not, Russia has bristled at the idea of any Western forces pushing up on its border, describing the plan as reminiscent of "Cold War sabre-rattling," and a "waste of money" better spent on fighting international terrorism.
'NATO does not seek confrontation, we don't want a new Cold War'- Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general

Germany's foreign minister also criticized recent NATO military exercises in Poland, saying "the one thing we shouldn't do now is inflame the situation with loud sabre-rattling and warmongering.

"Anyone who thinks a symbolic tank parade on the alliance's eastern border will bring security is wrong," he said in a recent German newspaper interview.

Some Western military experts, meanwhile, have also described NATO's deterrence measures as half-hearted and inadequate.

In the interview, Stoltenberg countered that the force "will send a clear signal that an attack on one country will trigger a response from the whole alliance," he said.

He added that NATO is simultaneously pursuing a more constructive relationship with Russia.

"NATO does not seek confrontation, we don't want a new Cold War. We don't want a new arms race," he added.
Friendly overtures to Russia

At a pre-summit press conference held today, Stoltenberg said NATO was working with Russia to hold a meeting of the NATO-Russia council shortly after the Warsaw summit.

At the conference, he lauded Canada and other allies for taking on leadership of the high-readiness force.

"This is a great contribution to our common security. And a clear signal that our nations will defend one another, on both sides of the Atlantic."

Stoltenberg also told reporters NATO leaders will likely approve the deployment of AWACS surveillance planes in the fight against ISIS.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Looking back on Beaumont-Hamel, 100 Years Later

By Bryan Mackay, Army Public Affairs
Article / Project number: 16-102

Ottawa —For Newfoundlanders, July 1, 2016 marks not just Canada Day, but also the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, part of the first day of the Battle of the Somme in France during the First World War.

Newfoundland soldiers in St. John's Road support trench on July 1, 1916.
Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives Division (NA 3105), St. John's, NL
Newfoundland soldiers in St. John's Road support trench on July 1, 1916. Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives Division (NA 3105), St. John's, NL
The 1st Newfoundland Regiment was formed in 1914, after Newfoundland joined the war alongside Britain. After assembling and training a small battalion, the Regiment fought at the Gallipoli peninsula, as part of the campaign against Turkey. When that campaign finished in early 1916, they were then moved to the 88th Brigade in the Western Front.

After two months, they were notified that they were to participate in the Somme Offensive in France.

The Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916 with British artillery hammering the German trenches for a week, in an attempt to weaken their defences. The artillery barrages concluded with a massive explosion beneath Hawthorne Ridge 10 minutes before the assault.

Unfortunately, this gave the German forces a heads-up that the real attack was about to start, and enough time to ready their defences. Furthermore, the German defences were not crippled by the artillery fire as British strategists had anticipated; their barbed wire was still mostly intact.

It was in these conditions that the 86th and 87th Brigades would be sent into battle, at 7:30 a.m.

Most of the initial wave of soldiers perished in No Man’s Land and on the uncut wire that lay before the German trenches. However, due to conflicting and confusing information, it was believed that some of the soldiers sent out had in fact managed to breach the German defences. Thus, Major-General Beauvoir De Lisle ordered the 88th Brigade to join the attack near Beaumont-Hamel at 9:15 a.m.

Like the Brigades that advanced before them, a lack of cover made them easy targets for German artillery. At 9:45 a.m., 30 minutes after the Newfoundlanders began their charge, British officials called off the attack. The rest of the day would be dedicated to slowly recovering what survivors there were.

Out of the 800 members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, only 68 were available at roll-call. The exact numbers of casualties in the Regiment varies from account to account; however, it is generally agreed upon that around 700 men were killed or wounded.

Despite the Regiment’s destruction, they rebuilt and continued to serve.

Over the course of the First World War, 6,200 Newfoundlanders would serve in the Regiment’s ranks; 1,300 of those would die, and 2,500 would be wounded or taken prisoner. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment would fight at Flanders, at Somme once again, and at Passchendaele.

The Regiment began to become recognized as a competent and deadly fighting force among the Commonwealth forces, culminating in the Regiment being rechristened as the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. It was the only Regiment during the First World War to receive the honor.

While the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel was seen as a failure, initial reception was not all doom and gloom. Officials at the time were quick to interpret and present the bloodshed as positively as they could.

Walter Edward Davidson, Newfoundland’s Governor, wrote, "These brave dead were among the best in our land. It is a national loss. Their places will never be filled, but their memory will never fade. God rest their heroic souls!”

Newfoundlanders touted the event as a stunning example of bravery and romantic self-sacrifice, a triumphant moment in the country’s history that showed to the world the capability of their nation.

This would change following the First World War, when Newfoundland found itself faced with immense economic and political turmoil. After the province joined with Canada in 1949, Beaumont-Hamel began to be seen more as a tragic and pointless event. Many believed a generation of talented young men that could have improved Newfoundland’s post-war standing and preserved its independence had been lost for no good reason.

Following the war, Newfoundland’s Great War Veterans Association pushed for the funding and creation of memorials. The National War Memorial at St. John’s was officially unveiled on July 1, 1924 and was followed by the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, at the site of the battle itself, in 1925. Both were officially unveiled by Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force from 1915 to the war’s end in 1918. Today, they stand as memorials to all Newfoundlanders who have fought and fallen in battle.

For the 100th anniversary in particular, several special events are being planned. In addition to the usual ceremonies at the memorials, soil at Beaumont-Hamel will be patriated, and brought back to Newfoundland and Labrador for ceremony.

Regardless of the changes in the way Beaumont-Hamel has been interpreted since that fateful day, July 1 will remain a day to remember and honor those that died.

Preventing the Use of Children as Soldiers: A critical new operational capacity for the CAF

By: Dr. Shelly Whitman and Darin Reeves, CDA Institute 

CDA Institute guest contributors Shelly Whitman and Darin Reeves, the Executive Director and Director of Training at the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, respectively, comment on how the CAF can be better positioned to address child soldiers as part of a conflict mitigation strategy. This is based on their submission to the Halifax Defence Policy Review round-table.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) should build upon its recent, proven experiences within the broad spectrum of operations conducted at home and around the world, bridging uniformed military and civilian defence workers, civilian aid agencies and the governments of Canada and Canadian partners, with a re-​conceptualization of the human security frontier.

Working together with other Canadian diplomatic, humanitarian, and developmental assistance efforts, the CAF should as part of its “whole-​of-​government” approach be empowered to make the protection of children and youth a priority, as was seen when Canada hosted the first international conference on war-​affected children in 2000. This approach recognizes Canada as a middle power to whom all states, from the least developed to the most powerful, can rely upon as “honest brokers”; emphasizes Canada as a champion for the promotion of human rights; and permits us to reclaim a special place in the world of human security.

Realistic, contemporary threats to Canadian security have emerged both from domestic and international sources. A common theme shared among these threats has, unfortunately, been the exploitation of children and youth by those with ill-​intent, whether taking advantage of porous borders and ethnic strife, failing political institutions, economic disparity or extremism. The recruitment and use of these children, whether as child soldiers or as part of a criminal enterprise, has exploited children not in spite of their age – but because of it. In addition, the recruitment and use of children is an early warning indicator for mass atrocities that has yet to be fully recognized by the international community. This recognition by Canada presents a very unique opportunity to promote tangible action that can contribute significantly to overall conflict mitigation.

This reality is no longer confined to failed and failing states abroad, but has reached back and affected Canadian households and Canadian interests. Assessing and addressing the effect of this recruitment and use of children as soldiers and members of criminal enterprises on Canadian defence policy is a complex issue, one that engages the whole of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF across their spectrum of responsibilities – defence of Canada and continental North America, the advancement of national interests, and support to peace and security operations internationally and law enforcement agencies domestically.

However, this issue is also broader than DND and the CAF, engaging Canadian law enforcement, border services, and other concerned federal and provincial agencies. By recognizing the unique challenges posed by children and youth recruited and used as soldiers and in criminal enterprise, training to address these challenges, and working cooperatively with concerned agencies and partners, the CAF will be uniquely poised to confront this issue at its earliest stages abroad, support and build capacity at home, and take a lead humanitarian role in the protection of children and human rights around the world.

It is also critical that we begin to see how better to utilize Canadian Police expertise both for international missions as well as to resolve domestic threats that have international linkages and consequences. Deployment of Canadian police personnel to peacekeeping operations has steadily declined to an all-​time low. Yet the contributions that can be made by Canadian police officers to help build capacity in conflict zones, to train, mentor and lead by example in both Francophone and Anglophone contexts has not been truly understood. Corruption in many police forces around the world, combined with the very nature of police operations that requires more contact with civilian populations, means there is a critical juncture to impact change by well trained and vetted Canadian police personnel.

The recruitment and use of children as soldiers internationally has been shown to share many commonalities with the recruitment and use of children in criminal enterprise. In being prepared to support Canadian law enforcement and civilian authorities, the CAF must be ready to face this phenomena. This readiness, honed around the world and across the spectrum of conflict from the earliest days of peacekeeping through to the subsequent period of peacemaking and full combat operations within an environment of “whole-​of-​government” engagement, will enable the CAF to take on a multitude of roles in support of contemporary operations, including:
As trainers and capacity builders to other forces in a prophylactic approach to regional and domestic violence and instability by instructing in the effective, lawful and humanitarian establishment of security conditions and the protection of civilians through a child-​centric approach;
By focusing on the demonstrated link between the recruitment of child soldiers and subsequent outbreak of the worst forms of violence, Canadian intelligence, empowered and knowledgeable in the phenomena of child soldiers, will be well suited to foresee conditions leading to regional instability. By seeing the early warning signs of impending violence, conflicts that historically have employed the worst forms of humanitarian abuse can be prevented or contained, leading to earlier resolution of conflict and reduced humanitarian need.

It should also be noted that resource or personnel constraints need not be a hindrance to advancing this new niche for theCAF. It is entirely possible that experienced CAF veterans, who are looking to stay engaged in meaningful work, can be a resource to compliment the training and capacity building role of CAF in this realm. As an example, based on the work of our own organization, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (“the Dallaire Initiative”) is partnering with Wounded Warriors Canada to train CAF veterans in a skills transition program that is specifically designed to assist the Dallaire Initiative’s training and doctrinal outreach around the world. This could be equally extended to retired Canadian police personnel.

In working within the contemporary world of UN peace operations, operations in support of Canadian interests at home and abroad, and other missions to counter threats to international peace and security, CAF personnel are increasingly being exposed to the very worst forms of violence and abuse of the most vulnerable members of any society – children. Studies have demonstrated a significant link between exposure to children in armed conflict by soldiers and subsequent rates of associated operational stress injuries. By educating and training CAF personnel in recognizing and constructively addressing the phenomena of child soldiers, they are better prepared to face this psychologically and emotionally corrosive reality. To quote our founder, LGen Roméo Dallaire (ret’d), “The abuse of youth as instruments of war is a reality that can’t be resolved on the day you face them in the field.”

The Canadian government has now very publically stated its desire to reengage at the United Nations. It is important that Canada has a clear strategy for what this reengagement may look like. Given the CAF roles outlined above combined with civilian expertise in Canada, we have an opportunity to align ourselves with key priorities of the United Nations while also claiming our niche in the world. The UN Secretary-General’s commitment to a “Rights Upfront” approach can be augmented with a “Child Rights Upfront” approach that is championed by Canada.
Dr. Shelly Whitman is the Executive Director of the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative based at Dalhousie University. Darin Reeves is the Director of Training for the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative based at Dalhousie University. (Image courtesy of National Defence and the CAF.)

Poll: Canadians want open competition to pick new jet,

By: Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail

The Trudeau government will suffer a blow in public opinion if it skips an open competition and hand-picks the new fighter jets that will replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s, a new poll paid for by a manufacturer has found.

The survey, conducted by Nanos Research, found large support for the position that the Liberal Party held in opposition, namely that the Canadian Forces should go to tenders to buy their next fighter jet. However, officials have refused in recent public comments to commit to a competition, insisting instead on the urgent need to fill a “capability gap” between the low number of available CF-18s and the demands of Canada’s NATO and NORAD commitments.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians was paid for by Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the stealth F-35, and provided in full to The Globe and Mail.

A Canadian CF-18 fighter takes off from CFB Trenton in Trenton. Ont. Thursday October 11, 2001. (KEVIN FRAYER/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

It found that 82 per cent of respondents would have a “negative or somewhat negative impression” of the government if it sole-sourced the purchase of new jet fighters to a company without competition. On the other hand, 97 per cent of respondents said it would be important or somewhat important for the government to launch an “open and transparent selection process” for the new fighter jets.

Pollster Nik Nanos said the Liberals are reaping what they sowed in opposition, when they lambasted the Conservative government for trying to buy F-35s without going to tenders. In the poll, 59 per cent of respondents said Canada would get poor or very poor “value for tax dollars” if it opted out of a competition.

“The risk for the government is that they engage in a potential sole-source [contract], which isn’t what Canadians would expect from a Trudeau government,” Mr. Nanos said in an interview. “Polling suggests that if they do sole-source it, there will probably be negative fallout for the Liberals.”

Mr. Nanos said he composed all of the questions that were asked between June 24 and 26. The random survey, conducted by telephone and online, offers a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which manufacturers the Super Hornet, have been calling on the government to launch a competition for new military aircraft.

The opposition has accused the Liberal government of trying to rig the process to avoid purchasing F-35s, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some of his key ministers dismissing the aircraft as overly pricey and risky.

When asked for the criteria that should guide the government’s choice, respondents to the poll favoured “asserting sovereignty over Canada’s North” (67 per cent), opting for the aircraft with the “most advanced technology” (65 per cent) and the one with the “greatest positive impact” on job creation (58 per cent). In contrast, selecting the “lowest cost” aircraft was deemed extremely important by only 20 per cent of respondents.

“What Canadians would like to see is a certain level of self-interest for Canada, which involves asserting sovereignty over Canada’s North and creating jobs that are connected to the most advanced technology out there,” Mr. Nanos said.

Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have promoted their respective aircraft as being the best suited to patrol in the Arctic, and both argue they would offer the best package of technological benefits for Canadian industry.

Canadians do not seem to share the federal government’s sense of urgency on the file, as only 29 per cent of respondents said it was extremely important for the government to choose a new aircraft “as quickly as possible” to replace the CF-18s that were bought in the 1980s.

“People tend to equate making fast decisions with potentially not spending tax dollars wisely,” Mr. Nanos said. “The key message is let’s have a transparent and open process, make it competitive and take the time for the best solution to come over.”

In the last election, the Liberals made a clear promise that they would not buy the F-35. Instead, Mr. Trudeau proclaimed that a Liberal government would launch an “open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft.” However, he did not say what would happen if the F-35 were to win that competition.

In early June, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was twice asked whether he would pursue an “open” competition to buy new jets, and twice responded about the urgent need to replace the CF-18s to meet Canada’s international commitments.

“We are looking at a gap that we have to deal with. These jets should have been replaced a long time ago,” Mr. Sajjan said.