Hon. Leo Cadieux (Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Sharp) who would normally report to the house on the spring NATO ministerial session, and because there has been a great deal of interest regarding this particular session, I have undertaken on his behalf to make the following report to hon. members of this house.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to table copies in English and French of the communique which was issued at the conclusion of the regular spring meeting of ministers which I attended in Washington last Thursday and Friday with the Secretary of State for External Affairs.
Part of the Washington meeting was devoted to commemorating NATO's twentieth anniversary but the ministers showed little inclination to dwell on the past accomplishments of the alliance. Their attention was focused instead on problems of the future, both immediate and long term.
The immediate issue was to decide how to get on with the resolution of east-west problems. Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia had set back hopes for improving east-west relations, but there was agreement in Washington that a continuing dialogue between members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact was the only rational course. NATO's 15 member governments therefore agreed on a policy of gradually renewing contacts with the Warsaw Pact countries and of exploring all possibilities for negotiations that might help resolve their outstanding differences with the east.
The ministers discussed at some length the proposal for a European security conference contained in the communique issued by the Warsaw Pact in Budapest on March 17. The
conclusion was that a European security conference as conceived in the Budapest declaration posed serious difficulties, because the proposed terms of reference called for recognizing the continued division of Germany and existing borders in central Europe. To accept in advance the Communist position on these issues would clearly pre-judge the outcome of the conference. A number of the delegations in Washington, including that of Canada, considered that if the east was now seriously interested in the possibility of holding a European security conference, they might be prepared to accept realistic terms of reference. The NATO ministers agreed steps should be taken to test thoroughly the intentions of the eastern European countries, particularly on issues which might be negotiable. There was general agreement that if a conference were held it should include both the United States and Canada.
At the Washington meeting a significant new dimension was added to the ministers' discussions. It was the question of what the members of the alliance might do collectively to assist in the search for solutions of the social problems facing modern societies and in the attempt to close the gap between the properous developed countries and those of the developing world. It was acknowledged that many aspects of these questions were already being considered in other international bodies but there was a general disposition to see if NATO could help to find new and better ways of sharing views and experiences on them.
The Canadian delegation's principal aim was to ensure that NATO would use to the full its capacity to contribute to the early improvement of east-west relations. The paper on east-west relations which the ministers had before them was based on a Canadian draft and its conclusions were largely reflected in the results of the meeting.
[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)
In the main Canadian statement which was delivered by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, emphasis was placed not only on
April 14, 1969
east-west relations generally, but on the importance we attach to the early initiation of talks between the United States and the Soviet Union on the limitation of offensive and defensive strategic nuclear weapons. The Secretary of Staite for External Affairs also expressed our hope that, once begun, these talks would be pursued, despite any temporary setbacks on other fronts. He joined other spokesmen in welcoming the United States government's willingness to enter into bilateral negotiations with the Soviet Union on a number of world problems, including the limitation of nuclear arms, and the United States pledge to consult its partners as these negotiations progress.
The Secretary of State for External Affairs underlined the importance which Canada attaches to including China in any attempts to settle major world problems. He informed the meeting of the steps taken thus far toward establishing diplomatic relations with the Peking government and that we have now had a response from the Chinese, indicating their willingness to enter into substantive discussions. These will be taking place in Stockholm through the two embassies with our embassy reinforced as necessary by sending officials from Ottawa. The expectation is that these discussions will get underway in about a month's time. There is no indication of how long this will take. We are anxious for them to succeed, but they will be essentially confidential and are not likely to be helped if carried out under the glare of constant publicity.
The Secretary of State for External Affairs and I used the occasion of the meeting to explain to our allies the outcome of our defence policy review as it will affect our approach to NATO in the future. We confirmed Canada's intention to remain in the alliance and informed the members of the decision to embark on a planned and phased reduction of the size of the Canadian forces now stationed in Europe. We explained that in carrying out this decision, the government intended to consult closely with Canada's allies. The purpose of consultation would be to enable us to take account of the views of our allies as plans are made regarding the nature and the timing of the reduction of our forces in Europe and the extent and location of Canada's continuing military contribution to NATO. The Secretary of State for External
Affairs stated that account would also be taken of any international developments which might have a bearing on the balance of security in Europe and elsewhere.
A number of the ministers referred specifically to Canada's recent decision. While they welcomed our intention to remain in the alliance, they expressed the hope that the decision to reduce our forces in Europe would not be carried out in such a way as to jeopardize the security of the alliance or the prospects for east-west negotiations. With these considerations in mind, they welcomed our undertaking to consult them on our plans.
Subtopic: NATIONAL DEFENCE
Sub-subtopic: NATO-REPORT ON SPRING MINISTERIAL SESSION