Connect with us


9/11 as Remembered by NATO Secretary General RT. Hon. Lord George Robertson



9/11 World Trade Center

The Following is part of a collection that was given to Sukh Johal from The Right Honourable Lord George Robertson of Port Ellan, the 10th Secretary General of NATO, Minister of Defence for the United Kingdom, US Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient and Knight of the Thistle, personally chosen by Her Majesty, the Queen.

It has also been published on the review by NATO.

Being NATO Secretary General is always a job fraught with challenges and surprises. But on 11 September, 2001, Lord Robertson had one of the most extraordinary experiences of any NATO Secretary General. Here, he recounts how the day panned out.

At NATO Headquarters in Brussels, it was just an ordinary Tuesday. One which was to turn out to be extraordinary. One which would change the world and NATO out of all recognition.

However there was one less than ordinary detail at the start of the day. In the post was a letter from Belgrade telling me that the charges and my conviction in a Milosovic kangaroo-court for war crimes during the Kosovo conflict had been formally dropped. My 25 year prison sentence was quashed. It was a story which might have made some news on any other day. But not that Tuesday.

Every Tuesday the NATO Ambassadors met with the Secretary General over lunch in a private off-the-record discussion of matters on the agenda for the following day’s NATO Council. It was sacrosanct. No interruptions, no notes, no holds barred.

So, the interruption from one of my bodyguards bearing a message from my personal assistant was unprecedented. A plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York. It was surprising. But the supposition was that it was an accident.

The second interruption was serious. A second plane, and it was a major incident.

Plates were abandoned, talk ended, cars summoned and it was high speed back to HQ. I listened in my armour-plated car to the BBC World Service with growing dismay and alarm.

In my office, surrounded by senior diplomatic and military staff, we watched with the rest of the world the dramatic pictures from New York. I was then conscious that we were not simple horrified spectators – we were in a military headquarters. Not only that, we were right under the flight path of Zaventem, Brussels airport. Planes were thundering overhead as we spoke.

As the pictures of the towers collapsing magnetised the planet, I gave the order to evacuate all but essential staff and to check urgently with (Air Traffic) EuroControl that no departing planes were heading back.

An urgent meeting of the NATO Ambassadors was called. I received constant briefing on the other developments in Washington from US Ambassador Nick Burns. The attack on the Pentagon, which I had visited not long before, was particularly close to home for NATO. The failed attack on the Capitol was also stunning.

The Ambassadors meeting was sombre and grave. At that moment, we had no conclusive knowledge of the motive or nationality of the perpetrators of this atrocity – it was not so long before that the Oklahoma bomber had carried out his own home-made attack. But it certainly looked like foreign terrorism and on a grand scale.

We knew that something fundamental had happened and that for the world a new chapter had opened. For us round that table, at the seat of the world’s most successful defence alliance, the sincere sympathy and solidarity expressed with the people of the US was overlaid with thoughts of what all this meant for our organisation and for wider global security.

In the margins of the meeting, my officials led by Assistant Secretary General Edgar Buckley and Private Office Director Jon Day, were already working on what we must urgently do in the face of this attack. One of the most momentous options considered was whether this assault on the US meant invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – the self-defence clause. An attack on one state to be considered as an attack on all then 19 NATO countries.

The work on that and on NATO’s wider response was to go on overnight. Then, in the early morning, there were conversations with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

I insisted that Article 5 was relevant and was the ultimate act of solidarity with the people of the US. What had the self-defence clause meant if it was not valid at this dramatic moment of aggression? Doubts were raised– especially over if even one of NATO’s 19 nations was to disagree.

Here I was breaking my very private ‘Solana’ rule. My predecessor – Javier Solana – had given me sage advice before I came to Brussels. “George, never go to the Council with a proposition unless you know the answer is already ‘yes’ or at worst ‘maybe,’” he had explained. ‘If you get defeated in Council, then not only does your authority go but so does NATO’s.”

It was good advice; I ignored it.

We had a meeting, the first ever by a NATO Secretary General to the EU Foreign Ministers Council. Nobody asked about Article 5 (this, despite my raising the issue beforehand with the Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel of the EU Presidency). I then tabled the Draft Statement invoking Article 5. It was the first time in NATO’s 50 years it was to be activated.

Five and a half hours of consideration in 19 capitals followed. I had fraught, nerve-racking telephone conversations with Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and in one case, through the Foreign Minister’s mobile phone, with a whole Cabinet meeting.

By 9.20 pm, we had the answer. Unanimous support. I was drained but enormously relieved.

I read out the endorsed statement to a packed press conference, realising only as I read it out the deep significance of the historic words I was using. In both Europe and in the US, the impact was huge. Nor would it have been unnoticed in the caves of the Tora Bora Mountains where the evil criminality of the day before’s atrocity had been dreamed up.

NATO Secretary General RT. Hon. Lord George Robertson

NATO Secretary General RT. Hon. Lord George Robertson

In very different circumstances to that envisaged by the authors of Article 5 in 1949, the mighty Alliance had stood by an ally under attack. The world that day had changed, and NATO’s transformation in the post-9/11 world had begun.

Both Sukh Johal and Lord Robertson spent their childhood/youth in a small resort town in Scotland called Dunoon. Lord Robertson’s father was the Police Chief in Dunoon and Sukh’s family ran local businesses in the town during Cold War era 1961-1991 when US Navy was stationed in the famous Holy Loch, Dunoon, Scotland, UK.

On behalf of the Surrey 604 family we salute all the first responders, firefighters, paramedics, men and women who lost their lives 15 years ago on that day in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. The world will truly never be the same.

With a background in sales, security and real estate development, Sukh is a political strategist excelling in community organizing, fundraising and civic affairs. He enjoys performing and has appeared as a background performer in Hollywood productions. Sukh grew up on the tough streets of Dunoon, Scotland before moving to Canada at age 10 and brings a unique perspective to Surrey604. He speaks his mind, and believes social media can be a force for good. Sukh has been a control agent for President Obama’s Inaugural Celebration team in Washington DC and spoke on interfaith affairs at the White House. A member of the Surrey Board of Trade’s International Trade Team and Vancouver Board of Trade’s Company of Young Professionals, Sukh is also past President and current VP Public Relations of Surrey Civic Speechmeisters Toastmasters Club at City Hall and VP of the Multifaith Action Society of BC, an interfaith organization promoting grassroots diplomacy, cooperation and goodwill.

Continue Reading
Click to comment


How Does Surrey UK and its Namesake Surrey BC Compare?



In the political space, while America to the south is already entrenched in its ritual, brutal campaigns, across the Atlantic, Canada’s former mother country, Great Britain, is grappling with establishing itself in the world of international trade. Having left the European Union, analysts are now looking at Canada as the perfect model for the UK post-Brexit.

Even though there is a history shared between the two nations and a general fondness for one another, the two places aren’t thought of in the same circles, with Canada and Britain seeming like completely different entities. So, we’ve decided to check in on our distant relatives across the pond, starting our comparison between the UK and Canada with Surrey of England and our very own Surrey of British Colombia.

Surrey (UK) vs Surrey (BC)

The Surrey that we know well in British Columbia overlooks the water, with Crescent Beach and White Rock Pier connecting residents to Boundary Bay. In Canada, Surrey is a city, a part of the Vancouver Metro area, but is made up of several town centres, including Guildford, Fleetwood, and Newton. However, only amounting to an area of about 316.4 square kilometres, BC’s Surrey is the smaller of the two.

In the UK, Surrey constitutes a county that hosts many towns, including one by the name of Guildford. Both Fleetwood and Newton are places in the UK as well, but neither are in Surrey UK. Like Surrey BC, England’s Surrey is close to a major city, bordering the Greater London area, but the county is much larger – at 1662.52 square kilometres – and much more wooded than the modern-day Surrey in Canada.

The two Surreys don’t just share a name, though: British Columbia’s Surrey was directly named after the Surrey of England. Being a rather forested area at the time, when H.J. Brewer looked across the Fraser River to the land, he thought it reminiscent of his native county, hence the name. BC’s Surrey has since become very urbanized and modern in its city aesthetic. In contrast, Surrey county has remained a relatively quaint but affluent area of England, with golf courses, woodland, and horse racing tracks dotted around the county.

A similar people in many ways

There’s little point in denying the influence that the United States has had on modern life in both Canada and the UK, but both nations manage to maintain a strong sense of identity to remain separate entities entirely. It could even be suggested that Canada and the UK have many more similarities, particularly in attitudes, than either nation does with the US.

Looking at the cultures of the people and politicians of both countries, attitudes towards equal rights, value priorities, free speech, government responsibility, social welfare, and self-reliance are near-identical.On the entertainment front, both countries have been able to produce great movies and shows while also enjoying the content created in Hollywood. The UK and Canada also share a similarly passionate and pride-driven following of sports.

In Canada, of course, the focus is on hockey, with Surrey having forged several top-class NHL players while devoting a strong following to the Vancouver Canucks and the many Major Junior clubs of British Columbia. In the UK, soccer is the top sport, without question, but the presence of high-class soccer in Surrey UK is very meek – almost non-existent, in fact.

For top-tier sport, it’s all about Surrey County Cricket Club, with the ground, The Oval, often staging international cricket matches in the summer months. However, the seeming lack of sports teams in the area can’t be mistaken for lack of sports enthusiasm, with the people of Surrey following all forms of sport and using the best bookmakers in the country to claim generous free bets to back everything from football to horse racing.

There is a bit of a crossover in sports fandom between the Surreys, with the Guildford Flames hockey team in England cultivating a strong following for the local club and an ever-increasing amount of intrigue in the top domestic tier of the sport, the NHL. Naturally, the quality of the sport and style played on either side of the Atlantic are very different, but there’s still a strong affection for the game in both Surreys.

Over 7,750 km separate the Surrey of England and Surrey in British Columbia, and yet the two locations and the people within have much more in common than just their names.

Continue Reading


Global Expert Says Pandemic Is a Call to Action for Solutions to Tackling the Climate Crisis



In a new interview with C.M. Rubin, Founder of CMRubinWorld, Dr. Roland Kupers, author of A Climate Policy Revolution (Harvard University Press), discusses the ways the pandemic helped the Climate Crisis.

Global economic growth is driven by consumer consumption, but unfortunately, that consumption is also polluting our planet. To tackle the climate crisis we need cleaner energy, but we also need different social norms. During COVID19, the world was able to see the impact a lockdown can have on our environment.

People were forced to give up their cars and coal and entire ways of life, and research shows carbon monoxide levels were reduced by nearly 50% compared to levels in the same period last year. Emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 also fell sharply. Roland Kupers is an advisor on Complexity, Resilience and Energy Transition, and the author of A Climate Policy Revolution – What the Science of Complexity Reveals about Saving Our Planet.

Kupers shared with C.M. Rubin, Founder of CMRubinWorld, 10 ways the pandemic helped to fight the climate crisis. “From psychology we know that it takes 3 – 6 weeks for new tastes to remain. Our new pandemic habits of less travel, video meetings and valuing cleaner air just might stick,” says Kupers. See the full story here

Roland Kupers is the author of A Climate Policy Revolution – What the Science of Complexity Reveals about Saving Our Planet (Harvard University Press). Kupers is an advisor on Complexity, Resilience and Energy Transition, as well as a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Amsterdam.

CMRubinWorld’s award-winning series, The Global Search for Education, brings together distinguished thought leaders in education and innovation from around the world to explore the key learning issues faced by most nations. The series has become a highly visible platform for global discourse on 21st century learning, offering a diverse range of innovative ideas which are presented by the series founder, C. M. Rubin, together with the world’s leading thinkers.

For more information on CMRubinWorld
Follow @CMRubinWorld on Twitter

Continue Reading


5 Similarities Between Surrey, BC and Surrey, England



It should come as no surprise that Surrey, BC is named after the county of Surrey located in England. You may recognize the name as the home of the fictional 4 Privet Drive of Harry Potter fame but the actual county of Surrey is very real and unfortunately, not home to a famous cupboard under the stairs. Surrey, BC was named by HJ Brewer, an Englishman who spotted the land that would become Surrey from across the Fraser River and declared that it reminded him of his hometown in the County of Surrey.

And thus, Surrey, BC was born! Since then, Surrey has continued to grow and prosper. Mayor Linda Hepner knows Surrey isn’t done growing either, “We have the framework in place for sustainable growth, and I look forward to working alongside City Council, staff and residents to continue building upon Surrey’s achievements to date.”

But besides a name, what else do we have in common with our English ancestor?

1) Booming population: Both Surreys know how to attract people and pack them in. Surrey, BC is the second most populous city in British Columbia with over 500,000 residents. Surrey is expected to surpass Vancouver in population in the next 10 years. Surrey is also the third largest city in area in the province. Across the pond, Surrey, England is the most densely populated county in the country with a population of 1.1 million

Surrey Market, Surrey UK (Image Source)

2) Location: Both Surrey, BC and Surrey, England are southeast from a major city – Vancouver and London, respectively. Both places are perfect for living in a quieter suburban area while still being able to work and play in the big city when you want to.

Surrey City Centre, Surrey BC (Image Source)

3) The district of Guildford: Guildford can be found in both Surrey, BC and Surrey, England. In Surrey, England, the Borough of Guildford is the largest settlement in the county and home to Guildford Castle. Guildford Town Centre in Surrey, BC doesn’t have a castle but is known for its very impressive shopping centre.

Surrey UK borough (Image Source)

4) Two major rivers: Both Surreys have two major rivers flowing through the city. In Surrey, BC we have the Nicomekl and Serpentine rivers. In Surrey, England they have the Wey and Mole rivers.

Wey River, Surrey UK (Image Source)

5) Love for Christmas: Surrey is a festive place that loves the Christmas holiday! In Surrey, England you’ll find Christmas Markets, special Christmas shopping displays and the whole county shining with Christmas lights. But Surrey, BC takes the cake when it comes to Christmas lights. Every year, Surrey hosts the Tree Lighting Festival where a 55-foot tree is lit, musical groups perform and festival goers ride the Shooting Star Ferris Wheel. There’s even a special appearance by the big guy in red, himself!

Surrey Tree Lighting, Surrey City Hall, Surrey BC (Image Source)

Continue Reading


Assad’s Pyrrhic Victory: What the Fall of Aleppo Means for Syria



Aleppo, Syria | Image Source

The Fall of Aleppo

The recapture Syria’s second city by Syrian forces now seems all but inevitable. The Syrian army, along with Russian airpower and regional allies have managed to take control of large swathes of the city’s Rebel-held eastern-half. Russian involvement in the operation, which has proven to be decisive, is fueled by Russia’s ambition to keep Bashar al-Assad in power. Russia’s clear strategy stands in stark contrast to the rest of the international community, who have been scrambling for years trying to cope with the Syrian conflict and its various ramifications. Logan Masilamani, a Political Science lecturer at Simon Fraser University, told Surrey604 that Canada needs to clarify its Syria policy. “Truthfully, Canada has no Syrian strategy. Canada’s policy is strongly attached to the US” said Masilamani. He went on to say that “with the change of US leadership immanent, Canada needs to find its own voice and try to build a coalition of countries that would support an end to the war in Syria immediately. It should also take in more refugees immediately and create a channel to undertake such policies”.

Aleppo’s Historic Significance

Analysts have long reasoned that the fall of Aleppo (to either side in the Syrian war) will be a decisive moment that will shift the tide of conflict. The reasons for this conclusion were clear and simple. With a pre-war population of over 2 million people, Aleppo was once the culturally rich commercial hub of Syria. Aleppo featured a splendorous collection of historic architecture neatly woven into the modern urban development of a booming metropolis; appropriate for one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. When asked about Aleppo’s strategic significance, Andrew Tabler, a Middle East analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told NPR last year that “Aleppo is not only the second largest city in Syria but is the main urban center in the northern part of Syria… The economy of Aleppo was one of the largest in the country. And it was also home to a number of tourist sites that people from all over the world would visit…it’s also the place where the United States had its longest representation in terms of diplomacy”. The fact is, however, that every one of the variables that once made Aleppo so strategically important no longer exist.

Aleppo Today

The city of Aleppo stands as a shadow of its former self. The BBC reports that, as of July of this year, the city is home to approximately 300,000 inhabitants (losing 85 percent of its pre-war population). The displaced former residents of Aleppo hardly have any reason to return to their previous homes, as the war has left much of its buildings and infrastructure in absolute ruin. Pictures escaping from Aleppo’s eastern-half show that both modern and historic buildings have been reduced to rubble. The bustling factories and shops that once filled the cities economic districts have been laid to waste. All of this, of course, is the result of half a decade of indiscriminate shelling by the Syrian army (and, more recently, massive aerial bombardment by Russian forces). It stands to reason, then, that Aleppo has lost much of its strategic significance. This makes Assad’s recent victory all the more important.

A Pyrrhic Victory

A pyrrhic victory refers to a battle or war that has been won at so great a cost that it leaves the victor depleted (ultimately precipitating the fall of the victorious party). In capturing Aleppo, Assad’s regime has effectively cut off its nose to spite its face. It has dealt a major blow to the Syrian opposition, but has destroyed its major commercial and cultural centre in the process. It will be difficult (but unfortunately not impossible) for Assad to shake off the countless human rights abuses that have taken place during the recapture of Aleppo, which include the indiscriminate shelling of civilians, the wanton destruction of infrastructure, the rape of girls and women, and the summary executions of men, women and children. The recapture of Aleppo has (hopefully) cost Assad any hope at being readmitted into the international community.

Aleppo’s Legacy

Like Stalingrad, Sarejevo, and Jenin before it, Aleppo will stand in history as a place where people spoke truth to power, and paid a high price (while the world stood and watched). The scale of suffering – rarely seen on such an industrial scale – has been made all the more real as the flood of images and videos continue to pour through our social media feeds. However, it is entirely possible – perhaps even likely – that this defeat will be too heavy a prize for Assad and his allies to enjoy.

Continue Reading


What Does Fidel Castro’s Death Mean for Canada



Fidel Castro, one of the 20th century’s most influential and divisive figures, passed away today. At 90 years old, the passionate left-wing revolutionary stood in defiance of what he viewed as American imperialism. His iron grip on the island nation ensured his government’s survival decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. While his legacy will continue to be a matter of debate for years to come, his death may have very real implications for Canadian-Cuban economic and political relations.

Trudeaus and Castros
Castro’s death occurred less than two weeks after Justin Trudeau concluded a historic visit to Cuba. Justin can be seen as following in the footsteps of his father, Pierre, who bravely visited and maintained relations with the Caribbean nation during the height of the cold war. The two leaders continued to maintain a close political and personal relationship for decades. A relationship that often included Castro seeking Pierre Trudeau’s council on political issues. When the elder Trudeau passed in September of 2000, the aging Castro made a rare international trip to Canada to honour his friend. A young Justin Trudeau is famously photographed at the event, being embraced by the leader of the Cuban revolution.

The Future of Canada – Cuba Relations
Canada has maintained an economic niche in Cuba, taking advantage of the United States’ willing absence from the Cuban market. The re-establishment of American-Cuban relations (resurrected in July 2015 after decades of American embargoes) threatens to undercut Canada’s unique presence in the Cuban market. It remains unclear whether Prime Minister Trudeau will be able to maintain Canadian supremacy on the Caribbean island, especially with a mercantilist American administration set to take office in January.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Designed by Binary Souls.