Blue Skies Podcast with Erin O'Toole

Erin is joined by Robert Baines, the President of the NATO Association of Canada to discuss the importance of the NATO alliance as it marks 75 years of providing peace and security for its members. They discuss the role of Canada in the alliance and how NATO helped usher in the post-WWII era of prosperity and opportunity. They also discuss risks facing the alliance today ranging from the war in Ukraine to political indifference in some countries.

What is Blue Skies Podcast with Erin O'Toole?

blue-sky (verb)
: to offer ideas that are conceived by unrestrained imagination or optimism.

Hosted by Erin O’Toole, President and Managing Director of ADIT North America. Erin is the former Member of Parliament for Durham and former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. The Blue Skies political podcast explores issues facing Canada and the world in a format that brings together thought leaders for an informed and engaging conversation.

Welcome to Blue Skies. I'm Erin O'Toole. One of the reasons I wanted to make sure the Blue Skies podcast continued after I left parliament is the important need for long form serious conversations about issues affecting Canada, issues affecting the world. And that's something we're going to have today. We are seeing an end to the established history that the world has had since World War II.

As Robert Zellick, a previous guest on the Blue Sky's podcast, described it, our holiday from history is over. The calm established in the post-World War II rules-based system is under strain. Populism, economic challenge, pandemic polarization, the rise of a multipolar world, particularly in China, is changing the landscape.

Some of our institutions are being put under great strain as a result of that. On April 4th, NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, will celebrate 75 years. That North Atlantic peace and security that we've enjoyed for our lifetime is now under strain. With war in Ukraine raging on more than two years, the NATO structure set up.

safeguard against the aggression of the old Soviet Union is now being challenged by Vladimir Putin's Russia. And so as we approach the 75th anniversary of this foundational principle of international peace and security, NATO, it's a time to re-examine why it's so important. So I can't think for me, as a former parliamentarian cabinet minister and RCAF officer,

celebrates its 100th anniversary a few days before this. We're so fortunate today to be joined by Robert Baines, somebody I'm happy to call a friend, who is the president of the NATO Association of Canada. Educated at the U of T and at York University, literally right out of school, he had a specialization in foreign affairs, in public policy, and has worked for the last decade with the NATO Association and has been leading it since 2017. He's also served in uniform himself for over 20 years, both in the Canadian Armed Forces Army Reserve and the Navy Reserve. So we've got an officer, a gentleman, a corporate leader. Robert, welcome to Blue Skies.

Thanks so much, Erin. A real pleasure. I've listened, a long time listener. Great to be on here. And I think all Canadians are also rightly proud of the roles that you've played in your life, supporting Canada and all that we hold dear. And likewise, an absolute pleasure to call you my friend as well.

Well, thank you. A check will be in the mail for that, uh, that night. And or nice endorsement, Robert, but, um, seriously, there's a lot to celebrate with this conversation. We're going to start there. But blue skies is also about blue sky and the challenges facing us. You know, blue skies, we do it in optimistic form, but NATO is under strain. We're going to talk a little bit about that and comments in recent years from leaders of countries that are important part of NATO.

Ha ha ha!

But you have some big events planned in Canada for the celebration of the peace and security that 75 years of NATO has given us. What does your association have planned to mark this important milestone?

Yeah, well, Erin, I really appreciate you giving me that shout out there. The NATO Association is actually quite an old think tank, as far as Canada is concerned, started in 1966. So we've got a lot of past events that we've put on that have been strictly defense oriented. I'm talking about, you know, procurement, all the nitty gritty about what are our force expectations and requirements? What kit are we buying? What planes, what tanks? What are our ships going to look like?

A lot of our celebrations for NATO 75th are turning the focus more onto Canadian way of life. What is it that we're celebrating? We're celebrating Canada's survival in peace and security for 75 years. Europe's survival for 75 years. This is not something that's normal in the history of humanity. And so what does that mean? It means that we have to be, how shall we say, including.

the idea of security in everything we do. So we're putting on concerts. We're gonna have a NATO concert in Toronto in September. We're putting on events where we're celebrating the different various NATO member. We've got, what do we have, a violinist coming in, I think from Poland. We've got a film festival coming in. We've got art picked out from every NATO country to help to explain what it is we're defending.

which is cultural flourishing, just the enjoyment of a fine day, having coffee with your friend. So it's really about community for us. We're gonna be participating in a lot of different places that you wouldn't expect to see NATO, and that's our whole way of working. We're having a NATO beer festival. We're not expecting people to come for the NATO, we're expecting them to come for the beer, and then we're explaining how NATO helps to maintain everything we have, because it's such a difficult thing to...

to raise consciousness on, that security is kind of this invisible piece of infrastructure that's undergirding everything we've got. When we talk about how much it costs Canada to maintain our security, well, that's just like our roads. It's a part of everything else. It's a part of our education, our health, our social services. Security has to be put into that calculus. So that's a lot of what we're doing. celebrating big time on April 4th, but the rest of the year as well, participating in as many aspects of cultural flourishing throughout Canada as we can.

a great way to describe it. You're not just celebrating an important military alliance. It's what we were fighting and defending, which is our way of life, which is arts, which is culture, which is the tranquility of sitting in the park and reading a book unencumbered by the threat of war. And often, you know, I think Canadians don't realize because we take for granted a little bit our liberty, the fact we're protected by


three oceans and by distance, but countries like the Netherlands, like France, countries that have been occupied have seen how this can be fleeting and those simple pleasures, artists and activists can be locked up, thought control and police state can be enforced. So celebrating what our men and women in uniform defend, I think is a great way to celebrate NATO.

It's also a very important time to remind people that Canada was an important part of the creation of NATO. And that's probably why the NATO Association, the Atlantic Council before that, has been such a longstanding NGO. Can you talk a little bit about Canada's role in the creation 75 years ago of NATO?

100%. Well, I mean, I know you like history, Erin. I love it myself. And so to be able to kind of look at the creativity of ideas around the Second World War, all this death and suffering really brought on some heavy thinking. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, of course, being right up in the front, but it was dozens, hundreds, thousands of people putting their thoughts towards how can we stop?

this from ever happening again. We tried that already after the First World War, League of Nations, you know, disarmament, that was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Well, didn't end up that way and we realized we needed non-zero-sum collaborative endeavors like NATO, where everybody puts a little bit in and gets a hell of a lot more out of it. And that idea of an attack upon one is an attack upon all is just so...

brilliant as a response to what happened in the late 1930s, where one country after another was gobbled up. And it's not like those countries didn't have bilateral treaties of protection. All of them had like these different spider webs of agreements with the UK, with each other. But once one of those countries got attacked, then the politicians had to kind of step back and go, hold on. Are we willing to sacrifice our people?

to go in alone to help our, you know, Czechoslovakian friends? Ah, well, I don't know. It doesn't look like the UK's going in. Don't think France is going in. Let's try to parlay, try to ramp down, you know, some of the high feelings and try to get through this without a major war. And that was the number one lesson we learned. We can't do that, not bilaterally. It has to be multilateral. And in the case of NATO, Canada was right in the forefront of getting that idea together.

that we would, like a hockey team, if you pick on one of us, all of us are coming at you. And we're gonna train for it. We're gonna make sure we know each other, how to work with one another, and we're gonna show that we can defend one another. And Canada, under Louis Saint Laurent, signed up to that in the few years before the negotiations, that of course there's a hell of a lot of negotiating to get this done. Because if you think about it, the US, this is not just a hegemonic US empire.

every country has a veto. It's built through consensus, which is essentially pooling our sovereignty. And as you'd imagine, the US was not on with that at first. But the brilliance of it shone through, and eventually the United States was convinced that this was an extremely useful endeavor. First time this idea had ever really come out in the history of humanity. And if you think about it, it's a very lumberjack sense of justice. You...

that you keep peace by showing that you can take care of yourself. And even if somebody does end up picking on you, you can make sure that you've got your friends to come in and kind of save the day. But the one part I love about the Canadian element of the founding of the treaty is that the US just wanted it to be a military alliance. That was supposed to be it. Well, the Canadians and several others, especially the Norwegians and the Italians, started really pushing this idea that it should be a community, that it should have values as well attached to it.

that there should be ideas of economic stability, of maintaining the different institutions that help preserve democracy and all of the values that NATO stands for. I'd recommend all of your listeners just take a look at the NATO Treaty. It's only two pages, two pages front and back. And it shows out our values, what it is we're fighting for, tells what we're gonna do, but the most elegant thing about it and the only reason it survived.

is because this doesn't say who we're against. It just says that we're protecting one another. It must've been so tempting for them to mention the USSR at the time or the Warsaw Pact. They kept that out of the founding document and that's the reason it's been able to maintain to this day. It would work if there was an alien invasion, it would work if there were zombies. The whole point is it doesn't matter who's against us. It's that we're protecting what we're for.

And that's the brilliance of it. And I know that has always been a strong part of Canadian foreign policy and why any Canadian, once they hear about it, they're all on board. It's just making sure they have the five minutes to hear about it.

I said, well, we're giving them more than five minutes here today, Robert. And I love the way you described that. It's, it's what we're fighting for. It's going back to you celebrating the 75th with concerts and a beer fest. It's our values. It's our way of life. It is the Western Alliance based on our military interests, but our shared values. And I agree. I think Canadians probably also don't know that. Louis Saint Laurent in Canada played a key role. Uh, last week I was in.

the UK and I visited Chartwell, Churchill's residence. And Churchill used to describe Canada as the linchpin between Europe and the United States. And I think when it came to NATO, making sure that the Americans, which is really the foundational protector within NATO, knew that it was a military alliance and much more, and that full contribution by the United States literally established the post.

war peace. The fundamental element of NATO that an attack on one nation was an attack on all, really established the prosperity and the globalization and the trade and the liberalization of trade and relations that we've seen since the signing of the NATO Charter. And now we see that being strayed and strained and questions about the Alliance coming underway, despite the fact that the Alliance has increased in size just in the last year. Talk about how the Alliance was meant to be an evolving group of countries sharing those military interests, but also those values and talk about the new countries that just joined the treaty.

Oh, it really is. It's one of those things where we usually only hear the bad stuff, right Erin? I mean, certainly during pandemic, I think we all went into a bit of a downward spiral when we just kept seeing everything that's terrible going on in the world because if it bleeds, it leads. And we're not interested about hearing about some festival that's going on somewhere in the center of Europe and everybody's flourishing and having a great time and making lots of money and you know, living as our ancestors would only dream of. And so you don't hear about that. But NATO is one of those stories writ large. It's part of lots of other stories as well, both amazing, you know, exemplars of the best in humanity and a lot of failures too. The challenge I find is that, you know, throughout the past 75 years, there've been, you know, this huge expansion that has helped to really ensure the development of so many countries. Most of them are now part of the EU, of course, but it's all part of that slow course correcting, problem solving kind of collaborative endeavor that NATO is a part of. And it's part of the larger rules based international order, of course. And the thing is, I sound very optimistic. I think you're generally optimistic as well, but we have to look at it through grounded eyes. There's a lot of stuff wrong with it, with NATO, with… the EU with the rules-based international order, with Canada itself, but it's the best thing we've ever come up with. So from the historical point of view, I just, I really strive to make sure that people have that larger vision of, okay, so we've got a lot of problems. First of all, NATO itself is one that assesses how it's doing every 10 years and comes up with a new strategic concept. It has done that every 10 years since its founding.

And obviously at the end of the Cold War, it started looking around for what else it could do. It found a lot of strength in trying to build the former countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact into a position of greater strength and being able to defend themselves and their friends again. But then it also quickly got turned into or brought into the war against terror that came directly after.

the only time that Article 5 has ever been used, which was at the attacks on September the 11th. Suddenly, the European members of NATO, who never thought that an attack would happen in North America, suddenly they all had to stand up and try to eradicate terrorism globally. And that continued for decades until essentially 2014. Canada was a huge part of what-

NATO and the UN as a UN mandated mission were doing in Afghanistan. But as soon as 2014 hit and the return of history that's often talked about, Russia invaded Ukraine and that just turned everything on its head. Everything we've been fighting for to maintain those ideals of the UN and all of the ideas about making changing borders through force, a thing of the past. All of that came up at that moment. Canada was behind it.

NATO put up the amazing operation of training various Ukrainian soldiers. Canada made that into Operation Unifier, which is NATO adjacent. And we trained something like 40,000 troops from Ukraine since 2014. And that has, I mean, obviously the Ukrainians have done the lion's share, but Canada was just one NATO nation that helped to train Ukrainians to make sure that they were at a position where they could push back the Russians. So...

magnificently in 2022 and for the past two and a half years now. So I mean, it's been an amazing up and down journey. I know we wanted to talk about Kosovo in the future, but there's so many missions that are part of NATO. It's really, it's almost difficult. You almost need a series like The Crown to take you through the whole history of NATO and everything it's done.

The main part is that it has just helped to maintain what we thought was normal. And now, the reason again that I'm fairly, you know, I feel that we've got a good future is because we've got the tool of NATO. We've got this amazing thing. If we just support it enough, that's my main concern and I know a lot of your concern as well. But it does give me hope and it should give Canadians hope and they should feel proud of it.

Yeah, well said. No, I think you've probably educated a lot of Canadians because a lot of them probably don't realize that NATO participated in the Afghanistan war. And you talked about the training mission in Latvia. Some of the things that NATO members have done directly with NATO or adjacent to NATO, that it's not just been the North American, North Atlantic treaty organization based on security and peace in Europe. post-World War II era, it's been a stabilizing feature globally. And it's had successes. You mentioned Kosovo. This is also 25 years since NATO's intervention in the Balkans to help prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and to establish what has become the country of Kosovo, which is a European and a NATO aspirant. But having that limited military mission. to stop ethnic cleansing, to protect people, civilians, and borders, and then helping that country essentially set up their democratic establishment. We have thousands of Canadians involved in Kosovo 25 years ago today. Is that an example of one of NATO's successes where there's been intervention to save lives and preserve the peace and then allow that country to flourish?

100%, yeah, great leading question. It's just magnificent, frankly. If you think, every time you read the news, every time there's something urgent going on overseas, there's always a demand, something must be done. This has to be stopped. Well, pretty much every intervention that's gone on that Canada's been part of has come from that place, that genuine desire to stop something terrible from happening, and sometimes we're not able to do that. Think of Romeo de Lerre, of course.

Sometimes we do it and then there's not enough follow-up. For instance, Libya and so many other events like that. Well, Kosovo is one time where, I mean, it's not the only time, but it's one time where it's just the golden standard of being willing to stand up for what's right in challenging circumstances, in a fog of war essentially, and to stop ethnic cleansing from going on without expanding a conflict, which is always a challenge.

And then to just set in these peacekeepers to actually maintain security, which they've been able to do to help foster a fledgling state that now is more pro-West than almost any other country, I think, in the world. They are always looking for what's next and how to join and how to support. They're very proud right now of being an exporter of security instead of a consumer of security. And these are the kinds of stories, this is the kind of...

building that Canada has been part of all these years and we just we don't talk about it that much because again Peace and security is not that interesting. We expect it We see it as natural as if it wafts out of the Canadian shield and it doesn't need work to maintain it. So It's such a tough thing, but it is something we definitely have to celebrate Not only is the 25th anniversary of Kosovo, but of many NATO memberships as well Poland, Hungary the Czech Republic

They've just had their anniversary of 25 years of NATO membership. So the same kind of thing is at play. They really desired the kind of peace, security, combination, the collaboration that NATO is just so good at. And we need to celebrate it more.

Well, you and you've touched on something that I think is going to pivot into a little bit of our grayer skies on the blue skies podcast is, is the risks and the challenges facing NATO as it hits 75 years. But let's seize on that. You talked about this also being not just 25 years since the successful intervention in Kosovo, but the accession of countries like Poland into the Alliance.


We saw Sweden most recently. So, uh, NATO has been meant to be an Alliance for peace security and the values of the community you, you talked about, but we see even in the United States, this narrative justifying Vladimir Putin's horrific aggression beginning in 2014, as you referenced in Crimea, and then two years ago into Ukraine.

deeper into Ukraine. Some in the US, some voices in Europe are suggesting that it was NATO expansion that led to this aggression. But for the aspiring membership of former Soviet states, including Ukraine, which has been independent since 1991, Putin had to go in there. I see some voices in the Republican…

thought leadership in the United States suggesting this. Clearly the fact that 25 years ago, Poland and another member showed NATO always intended to represent growing peace, security and that values. Speak for that to that for a moment, because I've even seen this chatter in Canada, where the misinformation, the propaganda of Vladimir Putin is perverting people on what the intention was with NATO in the first place.

Yeah, no, 100%. And it keeps coming up, and I think it will keep coming up. It's a challenge, but it's one that can be met fairly easily. There were multiple conversations that were had behind closed doors in many different rooms. The whole point of the rules-based international order is we don't make those kind of agreements behind closed doors. If there was any kind of agreement like that, it would have been a signed treaty or something where we would have stated quite clearly what was going on.

there are no more backroom meetings. That's the whole thing we're trying to get away with the rules-based international order. It's no longer that kind of a conversation. And I would mention the greatest tragedy of perhaps the entire invasion of Ukraine, 2014, and the more recent, is that the United States and Russia both guaranteed the sovereignty and the integrity of the borders of Ukraine in return for giving up nuclear weapons. So...

I mean, no matter what, it's just the most egregious trampling of all of our international rules and the way that we've tried to get away from the point that power decides what is right versus justice and laws. It just annoys the hell out of me when people mention that. And to also imagine that people in Poland, for instance, didn't have their own sovereignty to decide on what they should do.

for their own peace and security. It's just so frustrating. And the fact that NATO has always had an open door policy, the secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, is mentioned again and again, that will not be changing. That's the whole idea, is that people get to decide what happens to themselves, to their own sovereign nation, not to have it dictated by others. It's just, it's tough because it's one of those ways of thinking that's from the 19th century, the early 20th century. And...

For most of the second half of the 20th century and for the first bit of the 21st, we've been trying to push away those ideas. It's just that they keep dragging on and dragging us back in.

I it bothers me immensely too uh, and look The misinformation and the propaganda machine particularly on social media Is warping people's? Present and it's certainly manipulating their thoughts on the past. I liked how we started out this podcast with you reminding Uh canadas and norways and other

countries pushing for this community approach, the values approach, which with a foreign policy lens on, foreign policy is built on your interests and your values. And those have always been associated with NATO. So the intention was to have more countries opt in if they valued peace, security, human rights, the rule of law, the rules based order, as you said. And that's what NATO has provided for 75 years. So

We're celebrating that and for anyone to suggest that it was always intended to be limited or frozen in time 70 years ago is a complete misrepresentation because NATO has struggled. Let's talk a little bit about that. Historically, we had Greece and Turkey at war at various times. There's always been an element of challenge with Turkey's membership in NATO, but generally it has provided security, certainty.

and a great forum for Turkey to be a strong participant and to be aligned with Europe and the values more than it would have been from not being in the alliance. But let's talk about in recent years. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, a few years ago said NATO was brain dead. Donald Trump is famous for besmirching NATO and just a few months ago, he alluded to the fact that

100 percent.

He wouldn't defend a NATO country if invaded because of his personal views on things. Does this mean that some of the most important founding members, United States of America, France are starting to question the alliance? I know Macron has recently particularly been probably the strongest defender of the alliance and role in Ukraine. But talk about these cracks in… the armor, the security armor in the last few years. And is this populism and is this sort of online social media meme war culture we're in, is it eroding one of these fundamental institution that has given us so much?

Yeah, it's a great challenge and I think it is, at the end of it, the greatest danger to NATO is maintaining unity. But it always has been as well. The great art of diplomacy that lies behind NATO is that most of our disagreements stay behind closed doors because we're trying to build consensus, which I don't know, Erin, the last time you went out to dinner with six or seven people and tried to agree on the bill or how things are going to work, where are you going to go. It's tough enough with a few friends, let alone now 32 international members of this alliance. Very difficult. And each of them have those problems, those populisms within their country. Each politician has to weigh, oh, maybe I can push off against NATO, against our obligations to our friends internationally and say, no, we need more for our country, our citizens.

and I can get elected that way. It's a natural thing, 100%. And NATO has always had to deal with that. But the main aspect is that it's built over relationships and by this building of consensus so that if one of our allies happens to view things differently, they might have one or two allies that they're extra close with. They can help to move the conversation onto what's next, what do you need to feel comfortable in making this happen.

think about Greece recognizing North Macedonia as a member of NATO. It took almost a decade for that to happen, but it's just continual relationship building. Most Canadians, you know, will never see what's going on at NATO headquarters, but really that's it. At the end of the day, it's our diplomats having personal relationships and trying to negotiate the goals of our own foreign affairs departments.

in a way that can build towards consensus. It's a remarkable tool, but it is also the main danger. When Donald Trump essentially poisoned the well of relationships at NATO headquarters, people were, you know, stopped trusting one another or stopped trusting the United States. And that, especially when you've got somebody kind of bandying about the idea that we may not be there if we don't deem you doing enough.

That is a hugely dangerous thing to say because that's the foundation of the Alliance. If people think it's not going to work, it's not working. Like that's the whole, it's a deterrence. We're maintaining peace through strength. If we're then not communicating strength above all, that no matter what will be behind you, that's not doing its job. So while we can talk about problems, there's a certain threshold beyond which we really can't go. And I think that's the brain dead.

aspect that Macron was talking about, the trust that's behind the treaty.

Yes, peace through strength. And if, you know, I'm going to have my second Churchill reference here on the show, which is always welcome. In his sinews of peace speech, you know, when he was opposition leader in the United States, Churchill talked about the need for strength against the Soviets, against Russia. Russia only responds to strength and will seize upon weakness. So I think if we're going to counter some of the poisoning of the well and some of the populist backlash against forever wars and what is NATO given us, you know, because they don't understand 75 years of prosperity and growth and incredible peace on the continent of Europe and within the Alliance. But what can we do to safeguard it? You know, we're celebrating 75 years, Robert. How can we secure another half century, another century? What can we do to show that support? I want to speak to a set.

for a second about the 2% of GDP defense spending target, I guess at a bare minimum, we could live up to our expectations in terms of defense spending. Is that step one in your view?

Well, I mean, charting how we can get there certainly. I think every defense expert will tell you we wouldn't be able to spend it if we had the money right now, and that there are a lot of reasons for that. But we have to show how we're going to do that at the very least. Canada is doing a lot, no doubt, and 2% GDP spent on defense is a bit of an arbitrary metric. However, it's been agreed multiple times that that's the way we're going. So if you haven't persuaded people to do something else, we have to obey that.

So yes, 100% we need to get there. But what else we need to do is to grow the idea of what it is we're protecting much more. Canada has had obviously a very complex relationship with ourself for the past few decades. We've got a lot that's wrong with our society, great challenges, truth and reconciliation has taken us through some very, you know.

unflattering and tragic elements of our own society. With that said though, it doesn't mean we can't also celebrate what we've got right, which is a majority of the way we live, the way that we have built our government. Peace, order and good government is one of the most amazing things here. Parliamentary democracy, all of those things that sound kind of boring from a civics textbook, we need to find ways of making them more real.

to jump out at Canadians, to make sure that they are really understanding just how unnatural our way of life is and how hard it was to get us here, so that they can feel like they're participants in that. I always go back to the Avengers, one of the most successful franchises of the past 20 years, billions of dollars made, what is it about? It's an imperfect group of people with power who are able to work together as a team.

They make fun of each other. They're definitely not always on the same page, but they're fighting for those traditional things of peace, justice, all of that great stuff. So I feel that there's still that urge for Canadians and so many people around the world to feel like they're part of something great. Well, we are. So it's just a matter of explaining that in ways that are really gonna touch them. So that's why I really think that the cultural sector, the arts, storytelling, really has to be implemented here. And it's just something that most artists and most creative people are never looking at. And that's one of the things that I'm trying to change. We really need that idea where people are gonna be able to hook on to, even if it was just like a minute, minute long heritage moment that's helping to explicate all of the different things we have and that they can be part of it instead of tearing what we have down.

That's one of the things I'm really afraid of is it's just so tempting for people who don't really have the knowledge about our institutions to just say oh it seems like it's not working let's try something new instead of saying hey let me join that institution and make it better because it's terrible but it's the best thing we've ever had.

He is superhero and join the superheroes of NATO. I like that. That, that would be accessible to my 12 year old who defines himself as a Marvel guy, not a DC guy. No, I, I love that because I, I do think, um, an attack on one is an attack on all. And that should be an attack on the values and the rights and the wellbeing. And so pathway to get our defense spending up and our contribution as a leading.

Ha ha ha!

All right.

founding member of NATO should be step one. But as you're saying, almost engaging and empowering the citizenry to understand how important these rules-based systems, how important they are, and how much they've given us to create. As I said, we're a country with challenges. I agree with you. But we are also, I think, the best country in the world in terms of opportunity, whether you came here generations ago or weeks ago.


you know, you value and you have an opportunity to become a superhero, to become prime minister of the country. And I think there's something to celebrate in that and the arts and culture and creativity and the inventions and, uh, all of these things are provided because of the blanket of security that NATO has provided over the last 75 years. Um, I love your enthusiasm. It shows why the NATO association has the right person at, at the helm, uh, to,

pay tribute to your naval service. Let's end on a more positive note, Robert, because we've been talking doom gloom and brain dead and Donald Trump's lack of affection for NATO. In recent weeks, there's been some great announcements about research and development, innovation, Diana centers in Canada for NATO. Talk a little bit about that and how there's an added economic benefit to our participation in this security alliance.


Oh yeah, well, I mean, Diana is, it's the fruit of a lot of challenges we've had. It's not just been Canada that's had challenges with procurement, for instance, or developing new technology to be able to take advantage of everything that's going on around us through AI, through drones, through all sorts of different technological advances. So the defense innovation accelerator of… the North Atlantic, Diana, is really something that's trying to harness dual use capacity, a development of many different things that we've already got on the shelf, as it were, or in development that can then be utilized for NATO requirements. And these are all sorts of different things, not just, you know, strictly speaking, kinetic warfare, but all sorts of other things like surveillance, making sure that we can keep track of our infrastructure and people and so many other aspects of sometimes what needs to be done to make sure we've got a secure world. And the great thing is that Canadian companies can get right in there. Canada has been a champion of deep learning, so many different aspects of AI and technology. All of that kind of real value added that Canada brings can now be harnessed as part of Diana. The hub is going to be based with a center in Halifax, but there are partners across the country now.

including in the prairies and in our national capital. So I'm really, really pleased with this. It also helps to remind people that it's not just in our values, but also in our interest to be part of these larger endeavours. Because if something gets adopted there, one of our technologies, for instance, it might have a great opportunity to be procured at a NATO-wide situation. And that's one of the great things about NATO, is that it is able to create those economies of scale and to make sure that it...What we develop suddenly becomes a best practice. And that gives Canada so much value for what we put in. Again, it's the non-zero-sum collaboration. We put in a little bit and we get so much more.

economic opportunity within NATO within the Alliance and after all it wasn't Al Gore that created the internet it was defense spending created the internet so there are some great commercial applications and opportunities. This has been a fascinating conversation. Robert, where do you see NATO in 10 years? Let's end with that. We're going through a bit of a rough patch. Are you still very optimistic that with growing membership and an adherence to those values that community that NATO and the security it provides represents?


Where do you see the Alliance in another decade?

Well, I mean, it's interesting because since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's been growing more and more to be an alliance of values. There are some outliers that we disagree with within the alliance when that comes, you know, to be discussed. Changes within every country go back and forth. So I think that the values idea is going to be growing more and more, that we're going to be seeing this as a alliance of values that can be.

maintaining more stability around the world, and that includes the Indo-Pacific. NATO has been very careful not to be too belligerent or too meddling in the Indo-Pacific at the moment, but NATO's some of their strongest non-member partners are Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan, and helping them to maintain stability, make sure that there is security in the Indo-Pacific, but also stability that nothing's going off keel. I think that is a… something that's going to be more and more important. Obviously maintaining what happens with the future of Russia, no matter what, I think it's going to be a bumpy ride. So it's really just maintaining that security, that unity, that it was always founded to do, and to make sure that people appreciate it, so that we can get beyond that 75 years. And the 75 years is important, by the way, because it's human memory, the memory of the people who had that sacrifice in the Second World War. We're getting beyond that point now.

So this is when push comes to shove. Can we maintain those pieces of information, the knowledge, the learning that we got from that suffering beyond the memory of it by individual humans? So this is a great task for NATO, the NATO Association, Canada itself, all of our allies. I am excited, but it's definitely greatness is being thrust upon us for sure.

If you value the freedom and liberty that we've been granted in the 75 years of peace of NATO and the post-war peace, be an advocate for the association, be an advocate for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and participate in some of the great events being held by the NATO Association or Robert. I know with me, I'm looking at that beer festival very, very closely, but I should be more cultured looking at the music as well.

Robert, this has been a great discussion. I want to tell you, I'm looking forward to joining you in Toronto for your upcoming event on this. And I want to thank you for your leadership, for your enthusiasm, and for finally going from a long time listener to a great participant in the Blue Skies podcast. Thank you.

Cheers, Erin. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

And thank you. The blue skies is a bit of conversation. If you have any thoughts or feedback on this episode or want to recommend a new guest or another, let me know and make sure you celebrate all that NATO represents this April, April 4th is 75 years, but the NATO association, check them out online, see what their events are, whether it's having a beer, listening to music or celebrating the peace and security it's achieved. Tell your friends, these institutions are only at risk if we don't step up and serve them. Thank you.