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The Importance of the Five Eyes in an Era of Global Insecurity Policy

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ALEX: Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin the proceedings. I'm Alexander Downer; I’m the chairman of Policy Exchange, and I want to welcome you all here to this wonderful occasion to discuss the relationship - particularly, as it's known, as the Five Eyes relationship - between Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and of course, the UK. We have a very distinguished array of speakers and I'd like now to ask Dean Godson, our director, to introduce them. Thank you.

DEAN: Thank you. I've never heard such a hushed silence in an audience before; and in fact, I don’t know what the collective noun for a group of former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers is, but if someone can come up with that later, that would be very gratefully received. It's of particular significance at this time, in this juncture in the global scene, that we've been able to assemble this wonderful panel of distinguished practitioners and people who've superintended the Five Eyes arrangements. 

Politically, all of them will be very-well known unto you; as you know also, the Five Eyes arrangements originated in the wartime signals intelligence cooperation between the UK-USA agreement of 1946; then Canada's accession, and then Australia's and New Zealand's latterly in 1956. It remains of the utmost relevance to contemporary debate; and that's why not merely the quality of our speakers panel but also of the audience here today, and we'll look forward to some very serious discussion and debate in the question and answer session after. Our speakers will each speak for five to six minutes on their own experiences with regard to the Five Eyes, and then as I say we'll throw it open to the floor. So it is my great pleasure to invite one of the great (UNCLEAR) of all time on the great conservative politicians of the post-war era, Stephen Harper. In alphabetical order, welcome for the first time on our platform; we're honoured to have you here and look forward to hearing what you have to say.  

STEPHEN: Well, thank you very much; I'll try to be brief and really leave the most of my time for discussion. So in terms of the Five Eyes, it's interesting; in a way as a leader I found it critically important, and in some ways not as topical as you might think. When I say ‘critically important’, obviously the membership of the Five Eyes represents for Canada some of our most important relationships in the world. Not just with the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand; these are countries that share in my view, all of the critical elements of foreign policy. Alignment on security matters; alignment on matters of prosperity and economics; and alignment on matters of values and democracy. But then with the Five Eyes, there is a fourth element - not critical, but it exists - which is this kind of broader historical cultural overlay, and long history of cultural cooperation and, obviously, action in international affairs and global conflict through a long period of time. 

So obviously these are intimate relationships; and the sharing of security information - which is done, to be frank, principally through line agencies, but ultimately comes all the way up to the Prime Minister or the Chief Executive’s office -this is obviously very critical. On the other hand, what's interesting about the Five Eyes is that, unlike the G7 or any other number of other summits we do -Commonwealth for Canada, Francophonie, NATO the Five Eyes as leaders never actually met at any time during my 10-year Prime Ministership. Obviously I met individually with all of these leaders on multiple occasions; and sometimes with groups of them, and on more than one occasion four of us - minus the US president - met at Commonwealth and other summits; but it doesn't kind of have the same institutional breadth, in spite of the closeness of cooperation, of some of the other relationships. So I say that's just interesting; in spite of all of these very intimate bilateral relationships, all of this intimate sharing of security information -which really is beyond a closeness you have with any other ally - there's actually no institutional manifestation of this at the leader’s level. Today, obviously we're going to talk about this. 

I think I see that the topic is The Importance Of The Five Eyes In An Era Of Global Insecurity, but, you know...talk about the elephant in the room, is obviously the rapid and unorthodox populist political change that we are having all around us; which is most vividly manifested in the obviously in the new American administration. I'm actually writing something - I have something coming out about this in the fall, a book - and I would really put all of my future comments on this in the following context. Whether Donald Trump succeeds or not as president, ultimately, I do think that the realignment or the change of approach that he is bringing, is to some degree in my judgment, bound to outlast his presidency. I think that as we've talked about for years, as we are in a more genuinely multipolar world, with a less powerful United States; I think the trend towards the United States beginning to act less consciously systemically, and more consciously in its own national interest or for lack of a better term, ‘America First’- I think that elements of that are going to outlive the Trump presidency. That's my prediction; and far from- other leaders may do it very differently, may do it in ways that are less unorthodox or unpredictable; but in fact, are likely to be more systemic and more deliberate in this kind of approach to foreign affairs. My belief - and I know John and others, we feel the same way - my belief is that some of us may find that troubling and it may not be ideal from our point of view. But certainly my judgment is, from the perspective of Canada, that the retention of that relationship with the United States - and then by implication, with the other Five Eyes nations - that that is really a paramount importance. And we can decry some of these changes in U.S. approach; but to a significant degree, I think we should be asking ourselves how it is we can properly adapt to it, to make it still valuable for us. Because the truth of the matter is, when it comes to security - and the other things I mentioned; prosperity and value systems - there really is no alternative in the world for us, but a strong partnership with the United States of America. So those will be my introductory remarks. / Thank you. John Howard.  

JOHN: Well, thank you very much, Dean. A wise person - I don't know whether it was a man or woman once said that context is everything, and it's certainly the case with politics. To put my situation into context, I became Prime Minister of Australia in March of 1996 and I was voted out of office in November of 2007; and the gentleman who introduced us right at the beginning, (UNCLEAR) Alexander down, was the Foreign Minister in my government through the whole of that period. Now I mentioned those dates, of course, to remind the audience that that included the period from through the terrorist attack on the United States in 2001, until of course now; and it, I suppose, was the inauguration of the era of Islamic-based terrorism being the principal security challenge the world faced. Of course, inevitably because of the (UNCLEAR) that period, it meant that I had an interface with the intelligence agencies - not only in my own country, but also and particularly the intelligence agencies of Great Britain and the United States; that was specifically of course, further in the context of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now I mention that because it had a big influence on my interaction with the agencies; I totally endorse what Stephen has said about the closeness of the relationship. It's an expression, I suppose, of the commonality of values amongst many loosely called Anglo-sphere countries; it's hard for me to think of five countries in the world that more comfortably relate to each other, when it comes to fundamental democratic values and attitudes to the world. 

Stephen rightly makes the point that you shouldn't personalise the attitude of countries too much; and there is something to be said for the argument that, irrespective of what people may think of the policies of President Trump, the desire of the American people to see a bit more burden-sharing - particularly but not only by European countries is something that I think is real. It's been there for a long time; I'm old enough to remember the speeches that were made by the former Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, justifying Australia's alliance with the United States in Vietnam - which of course, was an extraordinarily controversial issue in our country and around the world and he never forgot to keep making the point; why should the sons and daughters of parents in the Midwest in the United States carry all of the burden? I think he actually just said sons, because at that time women weren't serving in the military; I wouldn't want people to think I'm a slave to political correctness, so I'll adjust my language and just say sons.


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