LOCATION: Elements Dining Room at the Westin Nova Scotian
The first discussion of Day Two focused on the uncertainty within the international defence community following the recent U.S. presidential election. Moderator Gideon Rose began the session by reminding panelists that the familiar world of mutually beneficial cooperation is being challenged. He stated that now more than ever, the conversations that take place in Halifax will be significant in predicting what happens next within the “global operating system,” a metaphor used by Admiral Harris. Speakers felt that while there was uncertainty, the threats to our security hadn’t changed in practice – yet. The discussion then continued to focus on the possible consequences of President-elect Trump’s victory. The panelists debated and mostly agreed that America’s allies have a collective responsibility in holding the new U.S. administration accountable for their future foreign policy decisions.
“I am firmly convinced that our commitments to our allies will remain as strong tomorrow as they were yesterday.”
“The United States’ enduring interests remain the same. Whether we have a president in the White House that pursues that interest… that we just don’t know yet.”
“It is totally inconceivable to me that America, after 70 years, will give up what they fought so hard to maintain.”
“Exit would be a disaster…complacency would be almost as bad.”
Uncertainty continued as a theme in the discussion on China’s trajectory in establishing its global role in the world. Moderator Michael Auslin noted the timeliness of the conversation given that next year will mark the forty-fifth anniversary of President Nixon’s engagement with China. The panel debated the role of regional powers in the Indo-Pacific region, including India and Japan, and their relations with China. Given its influence in the region, India has increasingly had to navigate China as both a continental and maritime power on its borders. The panelists concluded the discussion by contemplating China’s ability to fit into the global world order moving forward and whether it is more likely that China will create its own version of a global operating system.
“The road ahead for China looks far bumpier than it did three, or five, years ago.”
“When the Chinese government senses a power-vacuum, they do not hesitate to use force.”
“The rise of China and how it fits in—or doesn’t—in the international order is our greatest challenge.”
“We want China to be part of the global operating system”
“As the world’s largest democracy, India has to give up its reticence in foreign policy.”
Moderator Yalda Hakim opened up the plenary with a reminder of just how important the discussion on Syria was. She encouraged all participants to remember that cities like Aleppo continue to be subjected to bombardment. Ms. Hakim then asked the panelists to offer solutions that would end the suffering of civilians. Speakers strongly agreed that something must be done, beginning with addressing the root causes of conflict. The conversation concluded with the call for developing a much more comprehensive strategy that addresses the growing global network of terrorism.
“As long as the Assad regime is present, Daesh will rise.”
“Some of the great acts of genocide in history are taking place while we sit and talk about less important issues.”
“It’s not beyond a reasonable expectation that we will see Daesh attempt a strategic counterattack.”
“We should have intervened.”
This intimate conversation explored the checks and balances in the United States’ three branches of government – the executive, the legislative and the judicial – within the wider context of the recent presidential election. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) agreed that there are ways for both Democrats and Republicans to work together to assist President-elect Trump in governing the country. Both stressed that cooperation between the two parties was even more critical when it comes to major pieces of legislation. Their discussion also addressed the importance of recognizing and respecting the election result as a display of what the American people want.
“I don’t give a damn what the president wants to do… we will not waterboard. We will not torture people.”
“Is it up to us to override the American people? I don’t think so.”
“There may not be when we come together here next year, a European Union.”
“I hope so” – on whether the United States will sign a free trade deal with Britain before the EU
“We benefit from trade with Mexico and Canada, and we need to preserve it.”
This panel discussed the necessity and relevance of NATO in light of the recent US presidential election campaign. Every speaker stressed that the commitment to the alliance will remain strong, but agreed there was a need for increase defence spending. The panel concluded that more – not less – NATO is needed as the world faces new and more dangerous threats. They also underlined the importance of upholding mutual obligations that extend beyond security in order to ensure stability – both among its member states and in the larger community.
“Defense spending is not spending, it’s an investment.”
“We are standing between NATO and the Stan bloc.”
“There are concrete and very powerful steps afoot in terms of building up defense capacity and being able to defend and deter.”
In the final plenary session on Saturday, panellists were asked to reflect on climate change as not just an environmental threat, but an economic threat. Speakers agreed that there is a final opportunity in transitioning to a ’new energy economy’. The panel noted that President-elect Trump’s commitment to becoming a more fossil-focused country could actually take the U.S. backwards. Taylor Wilson noted that new energy sources have jump-started struggling economies in the past. Speakers concluded that climate change, rising water levels and natural disasters have the potential to become a major security in the medium term. They also agreed that if the U.S. walked away from the Paris agreement, it will be a massive blow to the planet.
“We can look at the new energy economy as a threat, or we can look at it as a tremendous opportunity.”
“We have one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Half of that population live below sea level.”
“Coal comes with a price, not only to CO2 emissions but with environmental and health costs.”
“I’m not hopeful that our contributions will meet our Paris goals if the Trump administration maintains the course it set in the election.”
“If US steps away from renewables China will become a global leader.”
LOCATION: VIA Rail Station
LOCATION: Westin Lobby
“The Defence Secretary, who will deliver a keynote speech at the Halifax International Security Forum that opens on Friday, says he expects a significant gap between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric to date and what the president-elect will actually do once in office. The message from London is: Give the new guy some time.”
“HAPPENING TODAY — HALIFAX SECURITY FORUM: The annual Halifax International Security Forum kicks off today in one of Morning D’s favorite parts of Canada. Among the bold-faced names headed north for the meetings that runs through the weekend: Sens. McCain, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), retired Gen. John Allen and James Baker, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. The full schedule is here.”
“’I think one of the reasons why it would be good to have him is that he has recent combat experience in both theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). So he really understands complex situations on the ground,” McCain told The Daily Beast, on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum.”
“The defence secretary of the United Kingdom and his Canadian counterpart kicked off an international security conference in Halifax today with reassurances they expect key military alliances will endure as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take power.”
‘“We witness different kind of statements during election periods [that] are not materialized after,” Gen. Pavel, chair of NATO’s military committee, said in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum, an annual gathering of 70 countries on foreign affairs and defence matters.”