Published on Wednesday, May 24, 2000 in The National Post
Canadian Military Questions US Motives For Missile Defence
'Rogue' states no threat:
Canadian planners say goal is to solidify American power
by David Pugliese
OTTAWA - Canadian military planners believe the real aim of a U.S.-sponsored proposal for a North American missile defence system is to solidify American military and political power, rather than protect against so-called "rogue" states, according to Department of National Defence briefing papers.
At a closed-door military briefing in Ottawa last Nov. 15, Canadian defence policy officials pointed out the threat posed by nations such as North Korea or Iran is, at best, secondary to the main aim of the ballistic missile defence.
"Arguably [it is] more in order to preserve U.S./NATO freedom of action than because U.S. really fears North Korean or Iranian missile threat," read briefing documents prepared for the meeting, which were obtained under the Access to Information Act.
"[Intelligence] assessment are that those regimes would never lob ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] at the U.S. or allies unless their very survival was at stake."
The United States is working on a variety of defences, including a system to protect North America from attack by ballistic missiles launched by North Korea or Iran.
Canada has not yet decided officially whether it will participate in the plan, but Canadian military planners seemed to think participation in the missile shield would be more for the sake of maintaining good relations with the United States than to protect the country.
The Defence Department report suggests that a refusal to sign on to the missile system would severely damage relations with the United States. Several weeks ago, a senior American officer warned that the United States might not protect Canada from attack if it did not contribute to the shield.
According to the documents, the United States prefers to have its allies on side in defence issues, and adds that the "U.S. won't be denied when it considers its interests are at stake."
The Canadian Forces is also worried about the effect any missile defence might have on the future of the joint Canadian-U.S. Norad alliance.
According to Defence documents, during a visit by Canadian military academics last February, Canadian Lieutenant-General George Macdonald, deputy commander of Norad, said if Canada did not take part in the missile system, then "Norad would atrophy and then probably disappear."
Canadian military officials want to offer the $600-million Joint Space Program, which would involve the purchase of space-based sensors and other equipment, to the United States as Ottawa's contribution to ballistic missile defence.
But the briefing notes observe that the United States will have trouble getting all its allies to support a missile system, as there is concern the shield will violate arms treaties with the Russians.
Lloyd Axworthy, the Foreign Affairs Minister, says the initiative could spark a new arms race as Russia and China build more advanced nuclear weapons to defeat the shield.
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