Ten years in NATO — thanks, Canada


From Friday's Globe and Mail

March 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

This year abounds in notable historical anniversaries. Seventy years ago, Hitler's invasion of Poland triggered the Second World War. When it ended, tens of millions of people lay dead, while half of Europe succumbed to a new totalitarianism. At the onset of the Cold War, just as during previous global conflagrations, Canada stepped in to safeguard peace and defend democracy. It joined the United States and 10 West European countries in signing the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.

Were it not for the four-decade-long determination of NATO to contain Soviet ambitions for dominance, it is doubtful whether the people of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary would have been able to shake off tyranny when they finally did in 1989. And who knows whether the subsequent transformation toward democracy and free markets would have succeeded had these countries not laid anchor in the Atlantic community.

Fortunately, time and again, Canada assumed leadership. It pushed for the admission of Central Europeans into the alliance, becoming the first member to ratify the Protocols of Accession. In 1999, Ottawa's decision inaugurated the first post-Cold War enlargement of NATO. Canada also helped newcomers integrate into the alliance, providing officer training and passing on lessons in civil-military relations.

Now, 20 years after the fall of communism and 10 years into our membership in NATO, we recall these milestones to express gratitude to Canada for its invaluable contribution to the well-being of Europe.

We could argue that our nations never parted from the North Atlantic community. Back in 1948, Lester Pearson, as minister of external affairs, had the foresight to call it a “real commonwealth of nations.” As documents show, Canada stressed during the negotiations in Washington that the parties of the agreement “should be bound together not merely by their common opposition to totalitarian communist aggression, but by a common belief in the values and virtues of … democracy and a positive love of it and their fellow men.”

The inclusion of a “love” for democracy and humankind in an internal government document poignantly conveys the normative intent of the project; Canada, historians agree, sought in NATO not just a military alliance but a blueprint for Western unity. Article 2, which envisages non-military relations between member states, became known as “the Canada clause.”

The people of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, albeit behind the Iron Curtain, never ceased to share these values. The Hungarian uprising, the Prague Spring and the Solidarity revolution exemplified the same love for democracy. A Hungarian intellectual, Gyorgy Konrad, coined the phrase “antipolitics” to denote the strategy for “self-limiting revolutions” that eventually toppled Communist regimes. The Central European opposition movements – especially the Solidarity free-trade union and the Charter 77 human-rights movement – rejected an outright seizure of power. Instead, they endeavoured to strengthen the “power of the powerless” by “living the truth,” as expressed by Vaclav Havel, in contrast to “living within the lie.”

A collective memory is said to engender a feeling of solidarity and a shared responsibility. Indeed, reunited today with Canada and other NATO allies, we shoulder a burden to further security and democratic stability. The deployment of Hungarian, Polish and Czech troops in Afghanistan shows we have worked hard to establish a reputation for being providers of security, as opposed to merely its consumers.

NATO ministers who met in Krakow last month and Brussels this week are tackling a number of issues: the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, energy security, cyber threats, the fallout from global warming, and relations with Russia. However burdening, these challenges will be addressed successfully as long as we maintain the same spirit of resolve and respect for our common values that spurred NATO's birth.

While a defence alliance at its core, NATO has always been more than that. It has served to give the West – only physically separated by the Atlantic Ocean – secure foundations to foster democracy worldwide. Because of our experience, the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians do not take this model for granted. We are confident that Canada will likewise never tire of nourishing transatlantic solidarity living by the values our dear friends put to good use 60 years ago and have abided by ever since.

Piotr Ogrodzinski is Poland's ambassador to Canada, Karel Zebrakovsky the ambassador of the Czech Republic and Pal Vastagh the ambassador of Hungary.





Amazing how the Globe and Mail is limiting comments to stories. One article about a judge had comments closed 20 minutes after appearing on its web site.

Almost every news story that had any sort of controversy attached did not have any comments permitted by the Globe and Mail.

This is a trend by the Globe and Mail to avoid discussion on any item that literally begs public comment. Often the commentary in the Globe contains information and explanations that are not in the article.

When we can't comment in Canada's news papers, its a sign of the trend that we face in the future where anyone with power can abuse that power and everyone else is too gutless or lives in fear of litigation by the those in power.

Welcome to Canada with a corrupt society for which we can thank our judiciary for destroying the rule of law.