LOCATION: Elements Dining Room at the Westin Nova Scotian
Presented by Mrs. Cindy McCain to the People of the island of Lesbos, Greece
The second day of the Halifax International Security Forum began with the presentation of the inaugural John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service. It was awarded by the late Senator’s widow, Mrs. Cindy McCain, to the People of the Greek island of Lesbos, for their outstanding efforts in supporting refugees. The empathy and sense of service that the People of Lesbos showed, is exemplary of the values that John McCain stood for. The award was accepted by Giannias Svoros and Xenophon Koukoutas, both of whom served in the Lesbos Scouts, which provided aid and support to migrant families. They highlighted how the People of Lesbos, the decedents of refugees themselves, rose above xenophobia to defend the highest ideals of liberal democracy.
“John loved coming here to discuss and argue with a few friends the issues of peace stability and progress.”
“Our ideals inhabit the human heart. “
“We are the grandsons of refugees, and the grandsons of those who stood by refugees.”
“Simple human decency is not as rare as it sometimes may seem when we watch the world on TV or the internet.”
“He believed a shared commitment to justice was more important than our differences.”
“The people of Lesbos decided that it was our duty to help them, and not leave them helpless.”
The first Halifax Chat of the weekend featured an open conversation with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., moderated by BBC World News Presenter Yalda Hakim. His key message: the importance of maintaining a unified alliance structure, as a means of countering emerging threats and preserving democratic values globally. General Dunford provided insights on the shift towards great power competition in the most recent US National Defense Strategy and the steps the US military is taking to maintain its technological competitive advantage. General Dunford also fielded questions from the plenary, covering a variety of topics, including the US South-Asia Strategy, the importance of regional partnerships for countering global terrorism, and the US role in NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe.
“Our relative competitive advantage has eroded over the last 10 or 15 years as we were singularly focused on dealing with violent radicalism.”
“AI has extraordinary potential. Whoever masters AI will have a massive competitive advantage.”
“The National Defense Strategy is a sobering read … we are losing our military edge.”
“We cannot buy our way out of many of the challenges we have. We need to think our way out.”
“The emphasis now on our education system is to teach our future leaders on how to think in the 21st century.”
Admiral Philip S. Davidson, Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command introduced members of the plenary to a discussion on the security challenges facing the Indo-Pacific. The rapid growth of the middle-class in the region will have massive implications in the coming decades and will impact the prosperity of all democratic nations around the world. For these reasons, the US has outlined its policy of promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, which aims to promote mutual liberal values and politics, as well as maintaining freedom of navigation throughout the region. Numerous challenges remain in the region: a nuclearized North Korea, radicalized terrorism, Russian obstructionism, and an increasingly confrontational China. Admiral Davidson highlighted how commitments to multilateral security are the cornerstone of US policy in the Indo-Pacific, and pursuing engagement and dialogue with all actors in the region remains essential.
“An open indo-pacific means that all nations should enjoy open access to the air and sea routes that maintain the prosperity that benefits all nations.”
“Where America goes, we seek partnership and collaboration, not domination.”
“Americans fought and bled on these lands, not to conquer them, but to help rebuild them.”
“The United States is an enduring Pacific power. That will not change.”
What does a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific look like? What can the US and its allies do to counter Chinese provocations in the East and South China Seas? How should states in the region view China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative? These were some of the central questions discussed during the third plenary session: Asia Values: A Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Speakers from each of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries – the US, India, Australia, and Japan – shared their perspectives and insights on these vital issues.
One of the most immediate questions discussed was over the terminology of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ itself. Different states in the region have different geographical priorities, and ensuring that partner nations’ concerns feel validated will be important for security cooperation. Chinese economic influence in the region requires states to value their relationships with China, but the panelists were unified in their belief that democratic states can and must defend their values and attempt to bring China to the table. Facilitating dialogue between states will be critical in resolving territorial disputes throughout the Indo-Pacific, including in the South-China Sea and Kuril Islands between Japan and Russia.
“Asia Pacific used to end in South East Asia. When it ended in South East Asia, China loomed very large. When you extend it to the Indian Ocean, China looms a little less large, because another large nation is there: India.”
“For the time being, we basically support what the US is trying to do, vis-a-vis China. Because what China is trying to do is not in line with market principles…they need to get rid of special and differentiated treatment.”
“Economic prosperity and security are interlinked…Being the second largest economy but not taking a leadership role, I think that is problematic.”
“We have more work to do to reassure South East Asia that we see ASEAN as central to the region…but, I don’t think we need to be overly prescriptive either.”
“We are not going to antagonize China over infrastructure building, so long as is it transparent, accountable, and financially sound…we have to be selective.”
“We have a very attractive proposition for the long term. If Australia can somehow regroup domestically, recover some of our self-confidence, and promote those values in the region, I think we can be successful.”
Militaries should reflect the diversity of their societies, shouldn’t they? Or is this just ‘politically correct’ thinking without basis? Perhaps ideas like diversity and equality are intrinsically Western conceptions, or are those who make that argument merely concerned with maintaining a hold on power? All panelists agreed that women play a key role in adding value to the security space – whether in the combat arms or at the negotiating table during conflict. Key challenges remain in attracting women to a career in the military, including ending stereotypes on the roles of men and women in the military and accepting that war is no longer just sticks and stones wielded by strong men. Difficult but necessary decisions, like the Canadian Armed Forces’ Operation HONOUR to root out and eliminate harmful inappropriate sexual behaviour, must be taken. Diversity of thought and diversity of gender, race and other demographics are key to a winning team at home and abroad.
“Many people argue that this is a Western argument of feminism – they could not be more wrong.”
“We don’t just need to reflect our societies because it’s a good thing to do, we need to because… it makes a healthier military…it also needs to be a critical mass all throughout the institution.”
“There is no earthly reason why it shouldn’t be 50-50.”
“Its not about arguing the case that we need more women, its about getting more women to join and how to keep them once we’ve got them.”
“The glass ceiling has largely been broken…women can look up and see that women can achieve those most senior levels.”
LOCATION: Atlantic Ballroom
The Turkish Minister of National Defense, Hulusi Akar, was the featured speaker for this year’s second Halifax Chat. He spoke with Mr. Robin Shepherd, Senior Advisor with Halifax International Security Forum. Issues discussed ranged from the recent murder of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to Turkish-NATO relations, and Turkey’s leadership in handling the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis. Minister Akar highlighted the strong lines of communication between Ankara and the White House, and that despite particular issues of disagreement, Turkey shares the same broad values and objectives.
The two most powerful non-democratic states in the world are Russia and China. What threats do these counties pose to the democratic world in the short- and long-term? How do the threats differ and how are they the same? This was the focus of the fifth plenary session – Beijing’s Cravings, Kremlin’s Gremlins: Freedom’s Foes. US Senator Chris Coons began by arguing that Russia has positioned itself as a spoiler. It is actively disrupting global democratic institutions and coercing its closest neighbours. China, on the other hand, remains deeply imbedded within the international political order and economy. It is utilizing more subtle means to expand its influence.
The panelists discussed how China and Russia are strategically cooperating on specific issues, including Ukraine and Syria. However, China’s growing influence in Central Asia – Russia’s historical backyard – could breed division in the coming years. The speakers were in agreement that China poses a larger threat to the democratic order in the long-term. This is especially true as it positions itself to take a commanding role in emerging technologies, such as 5G and artificial intelligence. Panelists were also unified that the best way to counter these threats is through maintaining solidarity and a collective commitment to liberal values.
“Putin is essentially a mixed-martial artist. China, instead, is playing the long game. China will replace the world’s rules. Russia will punch holes, but will not fundamentally change the world’s rules.”
“ Russia has already lost in Ukraine, because Russia lost Ukrainians.”
“Collectively, we South East Asian nations might only be half of China’s population, but we believe we have the moral high ground.”
“Before the 2016 election, China preferred Trump to be president. If you asked them afterward, they would probably say they regretted it.”
With over 68 million forcefully displaced persons, and 28 million refugees, the world is currently facing the largest migration crisis in history. The scale and importance of this issue demand its inclusion in this year’s Forum and it is the focus of plenary six, Migration Aggravation: Failing States Flooding Borders.
The panel featured several distinguished speakers, including US Senator Tim Kaine, who was adamant in his view that efforts to address global migration must be based on permanent commitments rather than episodic ones. Mrs. Cindy McCain, Chair of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, spoke to the dangers of populist politics and the use of fear-mongering to vilify migrant populations. Dr. Comfort Ero, the Africa Program Director of the International Crisis Group highlighted the need to broaden our collective narratives of migration to better understand the south-south threat it poses, which represents the majority of total global migration. Dr. Norbert Röttgen, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the German Bundestag offered the European perspective on this issue and spoke to the EU’s difficulties in managing the migration crisis. The panelists spoke passionately and frankly about the importance of this issue and their shared sense of frustration with the current state of global migration governance.
“The United States is not exercising the leadership on this issue that it should…sadly, the words and actions of the United States are going exactly the same direction on this issue, and we are going the wrong way.”
“We do have a crisis, not just a crisis of the refugee framework, but a crisis of conflict prevention and management.”
“It is a national security problem, whether you agree or not, because it destabilizes the area.”
“No. We don’t have a global commitment on refugee protections. These commitments are not a matter of word, but a matter of deeds.”
The final Halifax Chat of this year’s Forum featured bi-partisan representatives from the United States Senate. Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire and Senator Mike Rounds from South Dakota focused their discussion on the continuing relevance and importance of the Trans-Atlantic relationship. Both Senators spoke to the enduring commitment of the United States Senate to the NATO Alliance. The Senators stressed the importance of their European partners in meeting their defense spending target of two percent of GDP, but also emphasized that the United States must value the other ways in which European nations contribute to the collective security of the Alliance. This engaging dialogue underscored the United States’ continuing commitment to its allies and partners on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Now is the time to send the message to Mr. Putin that we are committed.”
“We have to remember that congress controls the power of the purse…we do have the ability to have influence, and, when we work together, there is real power.”
LOCATION: VIA Rail Station
Afghanistan: Pivot of Asia
Africa: Global Security’s Next Big Story
After Brexit: EUphoria or EUlogy?
Climate Consequences: It’s the End of the World as We’ve Known It
Curbing Corruption: Global Magnitsky
Demography: Destiny’s Child
Germany and its Alternatives
Globalizing Dignity: Democracy Works
Indo-Pacific Security: Battle of the Billions
Iran: Protection by Pulling Out?
Monroe’s Doctrine Disinterred
Nafta My Own Heart: Friends With What Benefits
NATO Plus 2%
Oceans 1: Our Collective Resource
The Quad Squad: Asia’s Democracy Defenders
Testing Turing: AI Update
USA: U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!
Venom in Venezuela
Wavering on Uighurs, Firmer on Burma: Where Muslims Are Minorities
The top U.S. military officer said Saturday that it’s problematic that American tech companies don’t want to work with the Pentagon but are willing to engage with the Chinese.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told the Halifax International Security Forum that the U.S. and its allies are the “good guys.”
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Halifax International Security Forum Saturday that the increased presence of military troops at the U.S.-Mexico border is “not to deny access to migrants.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina are leading a bipartisan delegation attending an international security conference in Canada. The group is participating in the 10th annual Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Three hundred delegates from around the world are discussing strategic cooperation on common global security goals.
Michael Macdonald/Canadian Press
The highest-ranking military officer in the United States is insisting U.S. troops will not come into contact with the thousands of migrants from Central America heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comment Saturday at a defence and security conference being held in Halifax.
America’s top soldier says the world is witnessing a return of an open competition between the U.S. and its allies and old adversaries Russia and China.
Gen. Joseph Dunford says the U.S. is having to adapt its military strategy to confront new challenges presented by the re-emergence of these old foes.
That’s a change from the 1990s and early part of this century, when the Allies could “project power when and where necessary to advance our collective interests relatively uncontested,” he told delegates at the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday.
Two Greek Scouts have received the inaugural John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on behalf of all the residents of the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos for their “heroic support” of refugees.