Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I Learned At A Press Conference Plus Some Old NATO Lessons.

No, I didn't go to a press conference.  Never been to one, and rarely pay attention to those that President/Prime Minister endure.  No, I was asked to do a tv interview this evening after the Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson and Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Phil Breedlove [SACEUR] held a joint press conference on SACEUR's way out of town.

The two issued statements that really did not say much of consequence--Canada loves NATO, NATO loves Canada, woot! and all that.  The Q&A with the reporters was somewhat more informative.  The Canadian planes (F-18s) are not armed, although they could be if necessary.  NATO had planned to have military exercises with Ukraine, but those seem to be on hold now that the crisis is crisis-ing (thanks, Murray B).  The CDS kind of laughed at the idea of having discretionary money when a reported asked him if he would want Canada to re-join the NATO AWACS program.  SACEUR said again (he said it yesterday, too) that Canada left the program responsibly.... so much so that I was surprised to hear that Canadians still serve on these planes.

Perhaps Canada will get increased readiness out of this, with the six pilots being able to practice against Romanian MiG's (some of which the Russians still fly).  But I can only imagine that the increased spending on this will mean less money elsewhere in the CF budget for readiness in Canada. 

Some good clarifications: the North Atlantic Council (NATO's decision-making body) gave him the authority to do the reassurance package in the North, Central, Southern fronts via air, land and sea until the end of the year.  So, this is short term with no plan for long term basing in East Europe.  However, the nicely timed NATO summit in Wales will be an opportunity to figure out the medium to long term.

Indeed, SACEUR indicated that there would be a series of meetings to set up the Wales Summit: the CHOD meeting (all of NATO's chief of defenses), the NAC/D ministerial (meeting of all of the defence ministers), and the NAC/FM ministerial (meeting of all the foreign ministers).  Reminded me of the work we had to do in the Pentagon every six months to prepare for these meetings.

Of course, the truly important thing is that when I did my brief TV spot for CTV's Power Play, the anchor/host (Don Martin) called me Sam.  That is a first--plenty of mistakes about the last name but not the first. 

Anyhow, it was an interesting afternoon as we live in interesting times.

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