LOCATION: Elements Dining Room at the Westin Nova Scotian
Day two began with the establishment of the John McCain Prize for Courage in Public Service. The annual prize will honour outstanding courage and leadership in public service. The John McCain Prize for Courage in Public Service will first be awarded at the Halifax International Security Forum’s 10th anniversary in November 2018.
General Hulusi Akar, Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces
The Halifax International Security Forum welcomed the Turkish Defence delegation for the first time this year. General Hulusi Akar, Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces delivered the first Halifax Discourse of 2017 on a wide range of issues related to Turkey’s military objectives. He emphasized the fact that conflict has become more nuanced, with covert operations, proxy wars and cyberwarfare. While reaffirming Turkey’s commitment to NATO, the General didn’t mince words in cautioning allies from using terrorist organizations as proxies to fight other terrorist organizations. General Akar emphasized that religion and terrorism should not be conflated. Despite fewer lasting peace agreements or settlements in the Middle East, he noted that Turkey’s priorities remain the safety and stability of the state and region.
“In this security environment, some states resort to means other than conventional war – such as blunt undeclared proxy and hybrid Warfare. We can call this new security environment Cold War 2.0, or post-post Cold War era. In this era, we need quantum leadership to creatively deal with rapid change, uncertainty and decentralization.”
“Using some terrorist organizations to eliminate other terrorist organizations or using them as proxies will lead to dangerous implications on the global security environment.”
In 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan. The result of this demonstration of power and destruction has been no nuclear weapons used in war for over 70 years. But with the end of the Cold War, have we forgotten about the terrible power of nuclear weapons? Are some states indifferent to the responsibility that comes with being a nuclear power? Panelists tackled these questions with a focus on Iran, North Korea, and America’s role in deterring potentially rogue states and actors. One panelist noted that in order to have peace, you must be ready for war. While emphasizing diplomatic levers in resolving disputes, the panel argued that deterrence – particularly nuclear deterrence – is key. And this means that if the world still needs nukes, there are major upgrades needed in the equipment and infrastructure needed in the United States to maintain credible nuclear deterrence. As rhetoric in North Korea, Iran, and America escalates, panelists emphasized the importance of dialogue to deescalate before deterrence becomes irreversible action.
“The way the process works is this simple: I provide advice to the President. He’ll tell me what to do and if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, Mr. President, it’s illegal.”
“Japan and Korea do not trust the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States. We need to think about plan B.”
“We have to admit the policy strategy in North Korea is a failure.”
“How do we bring in other partners into this very old effort of stopping North Korea from doing certain things, including gaining nuclear weapons, which we have failed at.”
China hopes to revive the ancient Silk Road with a modern and comprehensive initiative: One Belt and One Road. By land and sea, China aims to take a larger role in world affairs and global trade. But is trade following the flag? Is China seeking more than just economic partnerships? Panelists discussed and interpreted China’s plans through military and economic lenses, including the idea that trade is becoming increasingly politicized – even weaponized. In the context of the South China Sea and China’s persistent military activity in this space, panelists looked at the potential security component of the One Belt and One Road initiative. General Fenton and Secretary Spencer reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to free navigation of the seas in the face of China’s planned maritime silk road. But with 60 states signed on, and with an increasingly free trade wary United States, it is evident the initiative has buy-in in the region and beyond.
“While China is weaponizing its capital, it’s not trashing established rulebooks.”
“Most Asian countries view the Chinese one belt policy as a necessary evil.”
“The world needs to tell China that if they want to trade on the world stage, they need to follow the rules of the world.”
“Security is inextricably linked to economic prosperity.”
In 2000, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It called for women to be participants in peace building and have freedom from discrimination. Seventeen years later, have those goals been reached? Today, only a fraction of women serve as peacekeepers, police, operation leaders, and negotiators. What can be done? Panelists discussed the growing understanding that women have a central and unique role in conflict resolution and peace. Today’s complex and multifaceted conflicts are no longer state to state exercises, but include communities and organizations at the grassroots level and importantly, both genders. There was consensus that if women do not play key roles in conflict resolution and in peacekeeping forces, there is a lessened chance of success. To ensure maximum participation, women must be seen as more than just mothers or wives of terrorists or just as victims. History has shown us that time and time again, women have played key roles in deescalating conflict and ensuring reconciliation. But there’s more work to be done.
“We keep saying we need women to secure peace, but we need to know which women. Having the right women at the table is critical, it is not just having women at the table.”
“There is a belief that women should be seen not heard. You have a huge obstacle to overcome. That mindset represents itself in the religious circles and in the government.”
“It is the right of every woman to be included in decision making…when she is at the decision position, she is in her real position.”
“When women are included in a peace process, you are ensuring a more enduring process.”
“The value proposition – from a straight cold, calculating, I want to win perspective – the value proposition of diversity, gender, broader skill sets has increased now, and will increase exponentially into the future, or we will fail in achieving conflict resolution conditions.”
LOCATION: Atlantic Ballroom
The 2017 Forum welcomed the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the second Halifax Chat of the 2017 Forum. H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah provided an overview on the state of Afghanistan and what the future holds. Nation building has continued since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. The American intervention after 9/11, while not without challenges, has led to improvements in the economy, security, and human rights. In particular, Dr. Abdullah highlighted the fact that millions of women living in areas under government control are active in the private sector, attend school, are members of parliament, and enjoy better protection of human rights. Despite challenges, including the continued presence of the Taliban and the arrival of Daesh, Dr. Abdullah looks forward to parliamentary elections in 2018, presidential elections in 2019, and is proud of Afghanistan’s talented and vibrant young population.
“As far as the leadership role of the United States in Afghanistan, it has been very evident over the past 16 years, they are still playing that leading role.”
“My hope is on the resilience and energy and inspiration of our own people, but I urge our partners to stay committed, it is doable, and we will see a better future for us, and for all.”
Was 1989 the last good year? The Berlin Wall crumbled, dictators fell, and communism ended across Europe. Fukuyama predicted the ‘end of history’ as liberal democracies would become the world’s de facto system of government and many agreed. Today, democracy is showing cracks and tyrants consolidate power. How did we get it so wrong? Panelists discussed Russia’s active role in the post-Cold War world in an aim to set the record straight. All agreed that Putin has been waging a cyber war with the West, undermining its institutions, while waging a real war in Georgia and Ukraine. Putin’s shadow looms large over NATO members, particularly Poland and the Baltic States, who continue to beef up defences against the Russian threat. With Russia’s intervention in its neighbourhood and beyond and a presidential election in 2018, uncertainty remains as to whether or not 1989 was truly the last good year.
“What we have had from our current President is confusing messages about where he is on Putin and Russia.”
“There is no doubt that the current state exceeds what we can call a Cold War. Open war is what we see in the Ukraine, and it breaks all rules of a civilized world.”
“I believe we are fighting not only for the eastern flank of the transatlantic community, but for the whole transatlantic community itself.”
“It is far more important what President Trump doesn’t say. He has never ever said a bad thing about Vladimir Putin.”
When it comes to military deterrence, space remains the final frontier. While decades have passed since President Reagan’s ’Star Wars’ initiative, interest in the weaponization of space has continued. Since the launch of Sputnik, hundreds of satellites have been launched for a variety of purposes by both state and non-state actors. This panel’s discussion focused on the uses of these satellites and whether some may be weapons in disguise. From the military perspective, General Hyten sees space as another medium of military activity, comparable to ships at sea or planes in the air. In the 60 years since the launch of Sputnik, thousands of pieces of space junk poses a threat to functional satellites and space stations. All agree that states must go where no one has gone before to form rules, laws, and norms around the use of space.
“Almost every technology that you would use in space for a beneficial purpose could also be used as a weapon.”
“Can you define what a space weapon is? Any satellite that can drive into another satellite is still just a satellite, but it is also a weapon. So do you legislate satellites?”
“With the China anti-satellite test in 2007, there is a new spurt to the whole issue, and countries like India are beginning to think how we should respond to this. Do we need to develop deterrence?”
Fake news. Propaganda. Foreign Influence. These are challenging times in the digital world. The U.S. presidential election has shown that the Internet is a heavily contested space where facts and alternative facts abound. What responsibility does a behemoth like Google have in the digital space? The Halifax chat with Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt focused on the future of the Internet and what’s at stake in the present. The assumption that good ideas and truth would prevail has been shaken. State and non-state actors continue to mask misleading content while circumventing Google’s checks and balances. But in a world where truth and facts are a matter of opinion, where is the line for what stays and what gets removed online?
“Ten years ago I thought everyone was going to be able to deal with the internet because we all knew the internet was full of falsehoods, as well as truths.”
LOCATION: VIA Rail Station
LOCATION: Westin Lobby
The top US nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against an order from President Donald Trump for a nuclear strike if it were “illegal.” Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, Gen. John Hyten, who is the commander of US Strategic Command, shared what would happen if he were ordered to launch a nuclear strike.
“The top U.S. nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against President Trump if he ordered a nuclear launch the general believed to be “illegal,” saying he would look to find another solution. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if a president ordered a strike he considered unlawful.”
“The top officer at U.S. Strategic Command said Saturday an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused if that order is determined to be illegal. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Strategic Command, told a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday that he and Trump have had conversations about such a scenario and that he would tell Trump he couldn’t carry out an illegal strike.”
“Eighteen years after fleeing the war in Kosovo, Bea Rexhepi met the leader of the country she left behind in the place that first took her in. Thaçi, who is in Nova Scotia this weekend for the Halifax International Security Forum, said he wanted to visit the base to say thank you for what Canada did. His own country, he added, has changed a great deal since the late ’90s.”
“Fire and fury if necessary. But not necessarily fire and fury. That’s the message delivered by a top United States military officer about the North Korean nuclear threat.“The president’s direction to me is to create the conditions for diplomacy to work by being ready (militarily) all the time,” Gen. John Hyten said Saturday morning during a panel discussion at the Halifax International Security Forum.”
“One of the world’s top technology executives is urging democratic countries to turn to youth in a bid to find innovative solutions to looming security problems. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., was in Nova Scotia on Saturday, speaking to the Halifax International Security Forum.”