251,287 cables indexed
Reference ID: 10OTTAWA21
Subject: Canadian PM and NATO S-G Discuss Afghanistan, the Strategic Concept, and the Arctic
Origin: Embassy Ottawa, Canada Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Created:20 Jan 2010 Released:20 May 2011

This is the cable as released by WikiLeaks. This cable is not redacted.

This cable has been published by APTN (Canada), CBC (Canada) and Greenpeace (UK).

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000021


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/20
SUBJECT: Canadian PM and NATO S-G Discuss Afghanistan, the Strategic
Concept, and the Arctic


CLASSIFIED BY: Scott Bellard, Political Minister Counselor,
Department of State, Political Section; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C/NF) Summary. In a meeting in Ottawa with the NATO Secretary
General, PM Harper promised to consider a training role in
Afghanistan after Canada's combat mission ends in 2011, while
noting the importance of managing messaging to avoid
characterizations of ""withdrawal."" Mounting Canadian deaths, the
perceived lack of progress on the ground, and a problematic Afghan
Government are eroding public support in Canada for the mission.
Canada wants to see strong and capable expeditionary forces within
NATO, and rejects any ""sphere of influence"" for Russia. Canada
opposes a NATO role in the Arctic. End summary.

2. (C/NF) Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper met on January 13
in Ottawa with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a
series of sessions devoted to Afghanistan, the NATO Strategic
Concept, and the Arctic. According to Kelly Anderson, Deputy
Director of the Defence and Security Relations Division at the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the meetings
with the PM were unfortunately overshadowed by unfolding events in
Haiti. SecGen Rasmussen met separately with Minister of National
Defence Peter McKay and Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt
Natynczyk. Rasmussen also visited Canadian troops who had recently
returned from Afghanistan.

3. (C/NF) According to Anderson, SecGen Rasmussen assured his
Canadian interlocutors that he was not coming to Ottawa to ""cause
problems"" related to the 2011 end of the Canadian combat mission in
Afghanistan that the Canadian House of Commons had mandated in
March 2008. In his media appearances, the Secretary General
avoided criticism of Canada's decision and refrained from calling
for a reversal of the decision. The media also sought to draw him
into the current politically-charged debate over treatment of
Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody by Canadian Forces.
In his meeting with the PM, SecGen Rasmussen sought Canadian
commitment to a post-2011 role in training Afghan security forces
as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. PM Harper
promised that the government would look at the possibility, while
noting the difficulties in providing effective training outside

4, (C/NF) SecGen Rasmussen and PM Harper agreed on the importance
of managing the messaging related to the 2011 target also set by
President Obama for troop reductions if warranted by conditions on
the ground. It is important that this not be interpreted as a date
for withdrawal of NATO forces. PM Harper observed that the U.S.
target date was ""not helpful politically"" to his government,
especially if he needs to make the case for continued Canadian
engagement. SecGen Rasmussen expressed concern that the Canadian
withdrawal in 2011 could produce a ""domino effect,"" increasing
domestic pressure on Germany and France to withdraw as well. PM
Harper rejected the parallel, saying that Canada has ""been there in
a big way"" and that the circumstances of Canada's decision are not
comparable to other ISAF troop contributors.

5. (C/NF) PM Harper described th three major domestic
vulnerabilities he faces with respect to retaining support for the
Afghanistan mission, with the mounting Canadian death toll (so far,
139 troop death, one reporter, one diplomat, and two aid workers)
the most damaging. The perceived lack of progress on the ground in
Afghanistan is a second challenge that also saps public support.
Furthermore, there is the ""problematic"" Afghan government, which
raises questions of legitimacy and effectiveness. PM Harper said
that he supports and encourages the transition to Afghan lead on
security, urging a special focus on police. He argued that the
Canadian ""Village Approach"" provides a successful model that could
be useful in planning for ISAF transition. The PM urged that
transition to Afghan lead at the provincial level should be done
""as much as possible, as soon as possible,"" wherever conditions

OTTAWA 00000021 002 OF 002


6. (C/NF) In a subsequent discussion on the NATO Strategic
Concept, PM Harper commented that it should be ""short, with a focus
on key issues."" He reiterated a long-standing Canadian call for
the development of strong and capable expeditionary forces within
NATO militaries. He urged continued transformation away from
territorial defense toward forces able to deploy rapidly where they
are needed, whether out-of-area or in response to a territorial
threat to a member nation under Article 5. PM Harper also called
for closer civilian-military coordination, urging that NATO forces
must be structured to work more closely with civilian elements,
especially UN missions. SecGen Rasmussen noted that he had
recently been at a retreat with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,
where these issues were also under discussion. He suggested
inviting the UN Secretary General to the Lisbon Summit. SecGen
Rasmussen also told PM Harper that the Strategic Concept will offer
a vehicle for reform and streamlining within NATO, and that he
plans to draft the document.

7. (C/NF) SecGen Rasmussen opined that Russia does want a
cooperative relationship with NATO. PM Harper commented that
Moscow needs to work more constructively with the international
community. He specifically rejected any notion that Russia had a
claim to a ""sphere of influence,"" and argued that it is important
that NATO maintain its ""Open Door"" policy. SecGen Rasmussen
observed that, in order to improve NATO-EU cooperation, ""we need to
solve Cyprus."" Despite the political challenges, he cited a need
for arrangements with the EU that make practical cooperation
possible in theaters such as Afghanistan, where it is vital to

8. (C/NF) In side comments following the lunch session, PM
Harper cautioned SecGen Rasmussen that he saw no NATO role in the
Arctic. PM Harper contended that it is not like Antarctica, in
that the Arctic is inhabited and largely delineated by defined
national territory. It should not be a center for future conflict;
practical issues such as Search and Rescue are addressed by the
Arctic Council. According to PM Harper, Canada has a good working
relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO
presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions. He commented
that there is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war, but that
some non-Arctic members favored a NATO role in the Arctic because
it would afford them influence in an area where ""they don't
belong."" (Note: Deputy Director Anderson commented to pol/miloff
that FM Cannon had specifically requested points on NATO and the
Arctic in preparation for his meeting with Secretary Clinton on
January 22 in order to underline the importance of the issue to
Canada. End note)