Options for Canada's Future in Euro-Atlantic Organizations (2013-2030)

Frédéric Mérand, Nicola Contessi, Jérémie Cornut, Dominika Kunertova
Content Type
Working Paper
Centre for International Peace and Security Studies
Over the next 20 years, the empowerment of individuals and new information and communication technology will reverberate in the security field with implications such as the growth of cyber-terrorism and the spread of nuclear technology to non-state actors. Power will be diffused among states and from states to informal networks, leading to a less Western-centric globalization. Demographic patterns and a growing demand for resources will have adverse consequences on defence spending and energy security. Among Euro-Atlantic states, there is broad agreement on the nature of future threats: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, regional conflicts, and cyber attacks. Russia is alone in identifying a Europe-specific phenomenon, the expansion of NATO to the East, as one of the main external military threats to its national security. While no major new conflict is predicted to arise in the Euro-Atlantic area, there will be no shortage of crises originating from outside this area, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, requiring a response from Euro-Atlantic organizations. In the Euro-Atlantic area, it is expected that Russia will reclaim its traditional sphere of influence by intensifying efforts to strengthen regional organizations, sometimes in cooperation with China or smaller states. The Arctic may become one of the new geostrategic hotspots. A relatively cohesive club, NATO remains the most successful military alliance in contemporary history. As an inclusive, regional, and crosscutting organization, the OSCE is less central to key Canadian interests, but it provides a fairly low-cost means to establish a diplomatic foothold and contribute to building a security community in Eurasia. While NATO and the OSCE are expected to remain the pillars of the Euro-Atlantic order, one important question that underlies this report is why Euro-Atlantic-based organizations are necessary to deal with global risks. NATO's civil-military focus is likely to become more central as future multinational interventions place increasing demands on NATO capabilities. Predictions for the OSCE are more difficult to make given its protracted impasse, but the need for confidence building among disagreeing powers remains present. While Canada should not reconsider its membership in these organizations, it should support planned reforms and initiatives that will make them more relevant. Both NATO and the OSCE are moving in the right directions by taking seriously transnational, including cyber-threats. Applying lessons learned, they are likely to continue to improve coordination of civilian and military capabilities to address new risks. Energy security is also likely to move up the agenda of both organizations. To address the shift in global power, and in particular the renewed assurance of Russia, the OSCE must renew its original focus on confidence building, including through multi-track initiatives. Eschewing enlargement for the time being, NATO would be well-advised to nurture its relationship both with Russia and with new partners through political and technical cooperation. In times of austerity, both organizations will have to do more with less. Administrative reforms such as results-based management should be encouraged. At NATO, Smart Defence provides interesting opportunities for Canada to streamline defence procurement and optimize capabilities.
Security, Defense Policy, NATO, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Terrorism
Political Geography
Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Canada, North Africa