November 22-24, 2019
Halifax, Nova Scotia
LOCATION: Elements Dining Room at the Westin Nova Scotian
The John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service ON THE RECORD
Presented by Mrs. Cindy McCain
Day Two of the Halifax International Security Forum began with the presentation of the second annual John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service. It was awarded by Mrs. Cindy McCain to the People of Hong Kong for their courage in championing democracy in the face of opposition to their human rights. Mrs. McCain said her late husband would have been proud to witness thousands and thousands of human hearts insisting on their own – and future generations’ – freedom and agency.
The Prize was accepted by Emily Lau and Figo Chan, who stand on the metaphorical and literal front lines in Hong Kong’s battle for freedom. Chan highlighted that democratic values not only belong to the people of Hong Kong, but they are shared by us all. Lau expressed her gratitude for the international community’s steadfast support, promising to bring the prize back to Hong Kong and fight on. The struggle continues and many challenges remain, but the people of Hong Kong can be certain of one thing: The world is paying attention.
“It’s unnatural to the human heart to surrender its own agency. That is what’s happening in Hong Kong today”
“This is a great honour for our people, who are fighting on the streets at this very moment”
“My dear friends, we have a long and difficult road ahead. But it will be gratifying to know that when we are on that journey, we have your support”
Halifax Chat ON THE RECORD
Commander, United States Indo-Pacific Command
Chief International Correspondent, BBC
While visiting Beijing last week, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned that the United States and China are “on the foothills of a Cold War.” The West’s relationship with China is fraught with numerous risks, rewards and rivalries. But are we truly on the verge of a new Cold War?
Lyse Doucet welcomed Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, to this year’s second Halifax Chat. Admiral Davidson began by challenging the narrative that a new Cold War is unfolding, he stressed that American values of liberty, democracy, and free trade remain highly competitive across the Indo-Pacific. Rather than containment, the American approach to China is to referee; making sure they play by the world’s long-established rules. In the meantime, the United States will put its money where its mouth is and continue to equip its Indo-Pacific allies with the tools necessary to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st Century.
“Hong Kong is an international city. It’s a city that is steeped in freedom and liberty, and people around the world are watching”
“The message is: freedom is worth defending around the globe. And that requires not just the United States but our allies too”
Plenary 3: The World’s Democracies: The Importance of Being Allies ON THE RECORD
President, Boeing International
United States Senator from Virginia
Chair, Public Affairs and Communications, Global Public Affairs
Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to the President, Kurdistan Regional Government
Chief of the General Staff, Polish Armed Forces
Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
What does it mean to be an ally with the most powerful nation in the world? Moderator Tom Clark believes that alliances used to be a relationship based on trust and goodwill. Increasingly, it seems that they are transactional and are unpredictable from day to day. Despite the changing nature of alliances in the world, all roads still lead back to Washington D.C. Smaller allies like Canada need to figure out what the new landscape is. What is the new world that we live in? How does this alter the democratic order?
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine thinks that this is a temporary change not a permanent one, but says that allies have every right to be worried. America’s message should be: “You can count on us. And that’s not what’s being projected right now.” Kurdish Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir provided the view from the receiving end of a broken U.S. alliance. “We were left alone,” he said. What does it mean to be an ally when this happens? Who can blame countries for turning to China, when they feel they can’t trust the United States?
It isn’t just shifting politics that redefine alliances. Sir Michael Arthur reminded us that the digital and technological revolution will forever alter how alliances are understood and conducted. America used to be at the forefront of this innovation in space and cybersecurity. Have they dropped the ball as a leader in these industries? At the end of the day, Singapore Ambassador Keng Yong Ong said that alliances may change, but interests do not. Perhaps Poland’s General Rajmund Andrzejczak is correct in reminding us that you cannot buy freedom. You cannot buy values. These are the interests that will never change.
“American foreign policy has paid always looked at Latin America from an east-west axis, not a north-south axis. But we all go by the name “Americans.” We all have deep cultural connections. We should try to go from Patagonia to the Yukon and have more alliances there”
“We want to be sitting at the table. We have been on the front line. We have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We opened our doors and borders to host IDPs from Iraq and refugees from Syria”
“Our strategy is to build a national capacity, to be credible, and be an energizer for other NATO countries”
“We need to think about what the existing rules-based international order has given us. There are problems, but they are not so critical that we need to give up everything that we have”
“Company to country partnerships is one of the new elements in the global architecture. It doesn’t replace government to government relations, but it plays an important role going forward”
Plenary 4: Institution Evolution: International Law and Global Order ON THE RECORD
President, International Committee of the Red Cross
President and CEO, United States Institute of Peace
Executive Secretary, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy
The times they are a changin’ and global legal institutions are struggling to keep up. As China rises and America retreats, how can institutions circa 1945 stay relevant in 2019? Perhaps the ongoing disruption to the international rules-based order is what’s needed. Call it a recess for our global law and order system. It’s time to take a hard look to see if people in the streets advocating for human rights still have representation. How can we counter the actions of those who seek to keep them silent? Institutional reform must come from within and there’s growing impatience with states that seek to make the rules, then discard them. The world is changing – we can either keep up with it or be painfully left behind.
“The issue today is that we don’t have safe humanitarian space for neutral and impartial humanitarian action based on needs, and not on political needs or priorities”
“I think that we have the opportunity to grasp this moment of extraordinary disruption and violence, but against the backdrop of enormous peace and developments. We all need to double down on figuring out how to breathe back meaning into our values and institutions”
“You cannot discuss Africa without bringing Africa to the discussion table”
LOCATION: Atlantic Ballroom
Halifax Chat ON THE RECORD
United States National Security Advisor, Executive Office of the President
Foreign Affairs and Defense Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
Say what you will about President Donald Trump – he certainly has his plate full of challenges from Europe and Africa to Asia and the Middle East. National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, is the man tasked with helping deal with them.
During the day’s second Halifax Chat, Nick Schifrin from PBS had the opportunity to talk to Robert O’Brien. The first topic of discussion was no surprise: Ukraine. The country has been at war for years now, but is the United States doing enough to help keep the Russian Bear at bay? O’Brien responded that no other country has been as generous on the world stage as the United States. When crisis hits, when natural disaster strikes, the American government is always the first to offer help. But being generous is not easy. The U.S. has its own problems to deal with at home and must be sure that every cheque sent abroad is being spent effectively.
What about China? According to O’Brien, the issue does not begin and end with the Uyghur re-education camps in Xinjiang. What he worries about most is the surveillance infrastructure that China has built in recent years. With Huawei, this surveillance regime will come right to our doorstep – and it won’t knock before walking in the door.
“I don’t think the President repeats Russian disinformation. We’re going to have to wait and see what the official reports will say. The President ought to be taken at his word”
“It’s tough to be generous in a way that the U.S. is. We have problems at home, and every dollar we spend abroad is a dollar not spent on single moms in the US”
Plenary 5: 2020s Vision: Responsibility to Pro-Tech ON THE RECORD
Senior Correspondent and Blogger, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Chief, Communications Security Establishment
Minister of Defense of Ukraine
Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Chief International Correspondent, BBC
We all carry smartphones in our pockets, wear smartwatches on our wrists and keep laptops in our backpacks. These devices have become indispensable. They enable us to remain connected, informed and in tune with the world around us. But what is poised to connect us, may also be the very thing that pulls us apart.
Minister Andrii Zagorodniuk agrees. In a country like Ukraine, where history is being written as we speak, foreign assaults on people’s hearts and minds threaten to derail their very future on a daily basis. The key, according to him, is to keep up. Yet, Shelly Bruce from Canada’s Communications Security Establishment thinks that we should focus on doing more. Resilience is crucial and a capacity to stay one step ahead of such threats can help us remain secure.
But Golnaz Esfandiari reminded us that these threats do not only emanate from foreign actors. In Iran, the government has been using the Internet – intended as a tool for free expression and open dialogue – as an instrument of repression against its own citizens. The fifth plenary of the 2019 Halifax International Security Forum made it clear the threat of cybersecurity is real, complex and present. The question remains: Will we be able to gaze up from our smartphones and start paying more attention to the world around us?
“Do you know how long it takes to hack a simple phone? 60 seconds. It happens all the time”
“Using cyber attacks, the Iranian government tries to censor journalists even outside of the country”
“It all adds up to be resilient as a nation, so you can raise the bar and the costs against people looking to have a good cyber time”
“We have a real challenge working with tech industry because we don’t have the expertise and the time. We need the industry to come to us and share”
Secretary of the Navy, United States
The United States Navy is the most powerful in the world and the only one that can project power to every corner of the globe. Secretary Richard V. Spencer brought fighting words to the Halifax Address this year. He wanted to reassure allies across the world that America stands strong with them.
Although its never their first choice, the United States is ready and willing to engage with those who seek to undermine stability. “We have the resolve,” he said, and “we are willing to deliver the fight no matter what.”
With China and Russia on the rise, uncertainty in the Arctic and digital attacks in cyberspace, Spencer added that no matter the state of politics, there is a military-to-military relationship that is strong and spans all countries big and small.
When nations persist in criminal conduct, the United States is prepared. While they hope that countries will follow the rules, they also keep watch. At the end of the day, if a country shares its democratic values, then they will learn, adapt and innovate together.
Plenary 6: End of the Earth: The Arctic On the record
Executive Director Canada, and Editorial Director, Cross-Platform Content, POLITICO
Member of Parliament, The Storting, Norway
Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command & United States Northern Command
Secretary of the Navy, United States Navy
The true north strong and free? While China dreams of a polar silk road and Russia builds icebreakers, is Canada doing enough to safeguard the land of the midnight sun? Also, climate change is causing the Arctic ice to melt which could lead to a power shift and the beginning of a new global order. How will Canada navigate these drastic changes that are taking place in its own backyard?
Retired Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Airforce Tammy Harris believes that Canada is not yet an Arctic leader, but it needs to be. Crafting an effective Arctic strategy means working alongside American neighbours, European allies and the Indigneous peoples of Canada. It means creating an Arctic secure in technology, infrastructure and military capabilities. As China and Russia set their sights on the Arctic, the region is at risk of becoming caught in the crossfire of a great power struggle. Tensions are heating up, along with the planet, and all NATO allies have a shared interest in deciding who will be the king of the north.
“Every nation in this room needs to figure out: what are we going to do in the Arctic? It will be a huge, herculean effort to put an end to what we’ve started”
“It is better to let China join our club, than to let them create their own club”
“We need to be up in the Arctic and present in order to be attentive to what’s going on, because things could change dramatically in a short period of time”
“We are not trying to militarize the Arctic, but we need to have the ability to defend ourselves”
LOCATION: VIA Rail Station
Afghanistan and Iraq: America’s Long Goodbye
Arab Spring Review: Renew
The Chinese Century is Coming: That’s What Xi Said
Climate of Conciliation: Reaching the Skeptics
Democracy in a Digital World
India à la Modi
Iran Provokes, the World Chokes
Israel’s Friends, and Neighbors
NATO@70: The Trials and Tribulations of Being America’s Ally
Our Allies: Our China Challenge
Russia and China in Africa: The New Scramble
Space: The Final Command
Sudan’s Success: Transition in Progress
Tokyo – Seoul: Past Problems, Future Friends
Trading with Trump: Art of the Deal
Turkey: It’s Istanbul, Not Constantinople
Ukraine: All Hands On
Venezuela: Revolution Betrayed
White Supremacists and the Changing Face of Terror
Who’s Your Data?
O’Brien’s comments were made in a news conference with reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum, a gathering of diplomats and military officials from leading democracies. In a public session afterwards, O’Brien said, “The president may very well sign the bill… but that bill is going to become law, looking at the numbers. … I’d be very surprised if that bill does not become law soon.“
Former lawmaker Emily Lau and activist Figo Chan of Civil Human Rights Front to accept honour on behalf of the city’s residents. Some see recognition from the Halifax International Security Forum as a direct challenge to Beijing
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer denies a New York Times report that he had threatened to resign or be fired if President Trump stopped the military from removing Eddie Gallagher from the Navy SEALs.
Spencer, speaking on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, said if the president requests the process to stop, the process stops. “Good order and discipline is also obeying the orders of the President of the United States,” he said.
Barasso was responding to a question at the 2019 Halifax International Security Forum, where The John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service was presented to two residents of Hong Kong in support of their pro-democracy activism. Barasso shared the stage with a bipartisan congressional delegation and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.
“Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said Saturday that he would comply with any order by President Trump regarding the case of a Navy SEAL whose continuance in the elite unit is being reviewed by the service after a controversial murder charge.”