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Geography gives Canada a strategic position unlike that of any other ally of the United States. Situated between two nuclear titans, the Soviet Union and the United States, it is certain to be automatically and totally involved in any general nuclear war. Furthermore, the vast Canadian land mass, stretching far into the north, has become a prime strategic asset in the protection of the only force capable of deterring a Soviet onslaught upon the West: it affords the strategic air forces of the United States the essential early warning which is vital to the protection of the whole Atlantic world.
The United States has become accustomed to a uniquely close and important defense relationship with Canada. Yet it is also aware that this military tie has produced serious and severe political strains for the Canadian government and people. These are in part the consequence of the mammoth intrusion of the United States into every aspect of Canadian life, in part the result of a rising sense of frustration felt by Canadians as they have found themselves inextricably bound up in security requirements which seem to limit their political initiative in world affairs and, above all, in cold war crises. Since these requirements are not likely to diminish but rather to increase, it is important that both sides understand more clearly what is involved. It is to be hoped that Canadians will realize more fully the essential part their country must play-essential not for Canada alone, nor even for all of North America, but for the safety of the whole free world. It is equally important that Americans appreciate more clearly than before the extent to which their own military and political policies affect Canadian thinking and action.
When the increased long-range bombing capabilities of the Soviet Union began to threaten the security of the U.S. strategic forces located on the periphery of the Soviet bloc, these advanced forces were recalled to the greater security of North America. It was possible to make this move without loss of strategic advantage because of a number of technical improvements-in operations, in airplane design and in jet engines. The most important was the perfection of in-flight refuelling, which by 1956 enabled the B-47 bomber to reach two-thirds of all key targets in the Soviet bloc from bases located in North America; and the B-52 bomber, similarly refuelled, could reach any place on earth.
Since this strategic nuclear force continued to be the West's ultimate military deterrent against a Soviet strike, it became a most urgent matter for the whole NATO community that it should receive proper protection on its home bases. The vast land mass of Canada played an essential role in this regard, for it lay between the polar area over which Soviet attackers would have to pass and the bases in the United States which would be the object of their attack.
One requirement for North American defense is, obviously, to obtain the earliest possible notice of a Soviet attack. Initial estimates of probable warning time ranged from three to six hours. A major problem arose when it was foreseen that some Soviet aircraft might fly in fast and high, while others could also come in fast but at very low altitude. It was therefore necessary to acquire and emplace on Canadian soil a variety of warning and tracking devices of great complexity and cost. As Soviet capabilities continued to increase, the warning time shrank. By 1961, under conditions of possible missile and aircraft attack, the alert had been telescoped to 15 minutes or even less. Every minute became precious in permitting additional strategic aircraft to get airborne and missiles to be released. A Soviet strike will probably never occur if Soviet leaders estimate that the warning time afforded by Canada will be such that enough U.S. forces will remain unscathed to wreak massive retaliation on Soviet military installations and territory.
The second defense requirement has been to develop, as rapidly as possible, interception systems which could blunt a Soviet attack if not destroy it. In the early fifties, air defense was still thought of in World War II terms. An air battle, for example, was to be largely directed by men at the scene. This concept changed drastically as a result of the developing Soviet threat. By the middle fifties, a nearly automatic electronic control of the air battle was foreseen; many weapon systems were to be coördinated by stations responsible for large geographic areas. Immensely complicated interceptors of great speed, armed with nuclear-tipped air-to-air missiles, were introduced, at least into the U.S. forces assigned to continental defense. At the same time, surface-to-air missiles were developed to give air defense added speed of response plus a new nuclear punch. The next need is for additional anti-missile weapons.
These requirements of early warning and interception have called for a mammoth research program. Only a nation with the financial and research resources of the United States could undertake to keep pace with the kaleidoscopic changes in weapons technology, especially those relating to the need to give strategic forces greater protection.
The Canadian contribution to North American security came first in meeting the cost of erecting, maintaining and operating the Mid-Canada (or McGill) radar warning line. This paralleled the more complex U.S. Pine Tree system which was planned to include warning, tracking and interception facilities. By the mid-fifties, the inadequacy of these lines was apparent and construction began on the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW) far into the Canadian north. The DEW Line, a spectacular technical, engineering and construction achievement, was the joint work of Canada and the United States. Though it was financed by the United States, the Canadian contribution was a great one; and its operation is now largely a Canadian responsibility. Many of the stations of the Pine Tree net are also manned by Canadians. Apart from these contributions to early warning, Canada provides communications facilities for elements of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Systems located in Alaska, Greenland and Great Britain. Seaward extensions of early warning lines and antisubmarine watches off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts extend surveillance far to the west and east, linking North America with other warning nets of Western Europe. In addition, Canada contributes R.C.A.F. interceptor squadrons to help blunt a Soviet attack, and they are being supplemented by two surface-to-air missile squadrons. These forces, and their detection, tracking and battle control systems, are integrated into a joint Canadian-U.S. effort through the North American Air Defense Command.
It was not without misgivings that Canada took these measures to help meet the basic requirements for continental defense. And strains and stresses in Canadian-American relations have been produced by the endless changes in defense needs. Many of these shifts have been imperfectly understood in Canada; all of them have been costly; and each has called for some greater sacrifice of sovereignty as the operation of new weapons has meshed Canadian defense efforts closer into those of the United States. Moreover, each change in defense needs has been defined very largely by the United States and its judgment has not always been correct.
An outstanding instance of costly miscalculation was the exaggerated estimate, made by the U.S. Air Force in 1958-59, of Soviet intentions and capabilities for manufacturing intercontinental missiles. Partly as a result of this, no particular plan or weapon now appears to Canadians to be a wholly convincing answer to the Russian threat. They tend to feel that the defensive weapons currently available would have been adequate to meet the past danger; they question whether they offer reasonable protection in the present or, still more, will do so in the immediate future. Efforts on both sides of the border to pinpoint a time when the threat of manned aircraft will be superseded by that of missiles have contributed more confusion to the public discussion. Because the need is for large numbers of weapons designed to cope with many different threats, and because these threats change, it is most unlikely that the weapons requirements will be stabilized. The one thing sure is that the threats to North America will multiply rather than decrease, and will require ever greater defense efforts, not less.
This situation has placed the Canadian government and people under severe strains, both economic and political. Moreover, doubts about the extent and future of Canada's defense role came to the fore at the same time that the United States asked that nuclear weapons be introduced into the Canadian forces assigned to continental defense. A public debate on the necessity for and wisdom of accepting these weapons has swept across Canada and faced Ottawa with a major political problem. As a result of the opposition from a large part of the Canadian press and various influential groups the government hesitates to proceed with its decision, announced in 1959, to acquire nuclear weapons and locate them on Canadian soil.
Because Canada's role in protecting U.S. strategic forces is so vital it becomes particularly necessary to understand why many Canadians have misgivings about their involvement in a very close defense relationship with the United States. Almost all their doubts mirror some aspect of the predominant U.S. "presence" in Canadian national life, be it military, political, economic or cultural. The Canadians have experienced the political tensions of the cold war and been faced with the requirements of collective defense at the very moment when they would have preferred to devote their total energies to building an industrial nation and exploiting vast natural resources. Their great undertakings were giving fresh meaning to the term "Canadianism" just when the demands of the cold war required that they submerge their particular interests to some extent in the greater interests of the free world. There also had been a hope after the last war that in a new, more peaceful world Canada would find a place more in harmony with its national achievements and political objectives, a place somewhere between the traditional pressures of London and Washington, somewhere between the West and the East, somewhere between the industrial nations of Europe and the underdeveloped areas of Africa and Asia. Instead, Canada found itself confronted by Soviet hostility and expansionism and the need to help create the NATO alliance and to accept unprecedented peacetime military commitments overseas. It contributed personnel and military forces to the United Nations or other international undertakings in Kashmir, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Africa.
At the same time that Canada was assuming these unfamiliar roles, British influence and power were diminishing and the United States had become the chief military, political and economic power of the free world. In its new capacity as a leader of a world-wide free alliance, the United States has often adopted policies and taken actions which Canadians regarded as ill- considered and sometimes as unnecessarily belligerent, Like many other peoples, they are apprehensive about the risks of accidental war and also fear that relatively minor military engagements may develop into catastrophic nuclear exchanges. Their geographic position makes them feel particularly liable to automatic involvement in U.S. decisions and actions; and because of this, the whole tenor of Canadian external policy has been to urge moderation, to seek adjustments and compromises in crises of the cold war.
However, Canadians have not been disturbed solely about the ominous Soviet threat on the one hand and possibly ill-considered American actions on the other; they have also been disturbed on a related issue closer home, the role of their own government- be it Liberal or Conservative-in the formulation of defense policy. No Canadian government since the war has given the impression of being so thoroughly knowledgeable about defense issues as to be able to reach firm decisions about military requirements and to inform the Canadian public adequately about them. Public confusion in Canada over the course of defense policy became especially conspicuous with the creation of the North American Air Defense Command.
NORAD came into being as the result of long and intensive discussions, beginning in the mid-fifties, between officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force and of the U.S. Air Force concerning the most effective use of Canadian and U.S. forces in the event of Soviet attack. The increasing menace of Soviet strategic power seemed to require the closest integration of all defense forces under a single command. The discussions as to how to bring this about were held with the approval of the Liberal government then in power, and the conclusions reached by the military were known to it and apparently had its tentative approval.
The recommended command structure was of a radical nature, unlike anything previously existing except for a small integrated Canadian-U.S. Special Force in World War II. The proposal was that all Canadian and U.S. forces assigned to continental air defense be under a NORAD commander-in-chief, who would be a U.S. officer, and his deputy, who would be a Canadian. The integrated NORAD headquarters could issue orders for the instant use of all these forces; this meant that for all practical purposes the U.S. was to be responsible on the highest military level for the use of both Canadian and U.S. contingents. It was this proposed integration of command to which the Liberals are widely assumed to have given their informal agreement.
However, the national elections of 1957 and 1958 swept the Liberals from power, and the Conservatives, for decades in opposition, suddenly found themselves in office. One of the first decisions to be made concerned NORAD. Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker gave it his approval, but in retrospect it seems clear that neither he nor his principal cabinet members understood the full political import of placing integrated Canadian and U.S. forces under a U.S. commander-in-chief. Opposition to the decision appeared in the Canadian press immediately, and the government resorted to various stratagems in Parliament and elsewhere to explain away the agreement or interpret it in a more favorable light. The necessity of NORAD on military grounds was lost sight of in a fog of debate, which ended without any general public understanding of what was at stake. The Liberal opposition took full partisan advantage of the situation. There were many indications that confidence in the government's competence in matters of defense had been shaken.
Then hard on the heels of the NORAD affair came the question of surface-to- air missiles, armed with nuclear warheads, to replace conventional interceptors. It was the judgment of the U.S. Air Force that as Soviet strength grew the requirements of defense were again being altered. The assumption in 1958-59 had been that the threat of the manned bomber was changing. Now, long-range strategic aircraft might stand off and unleash nuclear-armed missiles with a high degree of accuracy at targets perhaps a thousand miles away. This was one of the reasons which prompted the U.S. Air Force to urge the Canadian government to accept the Bomarc anti- aircraft missile and to consider phasing out its interceptor force.
Despite grave uncertainties at that time about the reliability of Bomarc, the Canadian government agreed to accept it and to cancel its contract for the Avro Arrow fighter. Scarcely had it done so-despite public misgivings- than the U.S. Air Force changed enough of its estimate of the nature of the manned bomber threat to cause it to urge Ottawa to acquire U.S. interceptors, along with the two squadrons of missiles. Needless to say, there ensued charges of either bad faith or purblind judgment. Wherever the truth may lie, the essential point is that the Canadian public suffered a further loss of confidence in the judgment of both their own government and that of the United States.
It was into this disturbed atmosphere that the issue of nuclear weapons was injected by the United States. Why it aroused such public discussion and opposition is not entirely clear. In the mid-fifties, Canada had accepted a nuclear strategy for NATO. In the following years Canadian ground and air forces stationed in West Europe were being prepared to use nuclear weapons. Indeed, a very large proportion of Canadian armed forces (except perhaps in the Royal Canadian Navy) have been trained in nuclear weapons. Furthermore, since 1954, the Canadian government had been encouraged by its own people to use every opportunity to increase or at least maintain its sales of uranium ore to the United States. In the past seven years these sales have reached the value of about $1 billion; and no one believed this ore was for other than nuclear weapons. Yet there was an immediate outcry against the government's announcement in 1959 that it intended to acquire nuclear weapons from the United States for use in continental defense. The debate has continued down to the present.
Some Canadians believe that the acceptance of nuclear weapons is morally indefensible. They are also convinced that it would impair Canada's role in the United Nations, especially with reference to the new states. Others believe that what is acceptable under NATO is not acceptable under a continental defense arrangement controlled largely by the United States; they challenge the U.S. requirement that it retain custody of nuclear warheads and that these may be released only upon order of the President (even if the actual use of them might then be determined by the Canadian government). Also, many Canadians believe the threat today is from long- range missiles, and that against these no available weapon is effective; accordingly, Canada should cease buying inordinately expensive weapons, including nuclear weapons, and withdraw from an air defense relationship with the United States which has now become meaningless. Lastly, there are a few who simply seek some means-any means-to escape from the tensions of the cold war and the responsibilities of maintaining freedom; they favor flight into neutrality.
While listening to these conflicting views, the Canadian public has been further confused by the presence in the cabinet of a Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mr. Howard Green, who has zealously and publicly denounced nuclear weapons for Canada, and a Minister of National Defense, Mr. Douglas S. Hark-ness, who has zealously and publicly declared the need for them. For over two years the Prime Minister has hesitated. But although recently he has raised questions of sovereignty and control, there has never been any real doubt about where his intentions pointed. Ottawa and Washington could at any time reach an understanding regarding nuclear weapons acceptable to both, comparable perhaps to that evolved between the United States and Great Britain; and it is widely assumed that Mr. Diefenbaker has simply been waiting for a politically propitious moment to announce again Canada's intention to obtain them.
The Opposition has also made its own contributions to public confusion. Prior to its defeat, the Liberal Party had been responsible for every Canadian defense commitment and agreement relating to NATO and continental defense. But since it has been in opposition, the party leadership has advocated a variety of courses, including a withdrawal from NORAD and a virtual disarmament of Canada in so far as its role in NATO is concerned. At one moment Mr. Lester Pearson has seemed to urge no nuclear weapons whatsoever for Canadian armed forces, and then, more recently, has suggested that if these weapons were necessary, the United States might be permitted to station them on Canadian soil, without any Canadian participation in their deployment or use.
These discussions in the press and in Parliament have almost lost sight of the military requirements which prompted the United States to ask that nuclear weapons be incorporated into Canada's armed forces on duty in North America. Despite the fact that the U.S. request became a matter of public knowledge in 1959, no thorough explanation of the reasons for it had been given officially and publicly in Canada until September 1961 when General Laurence S. Kuter, U.S.A.F., Commander-in-Chief, NORAD, did so in a speech In Toronto. The principal requirements as outlined by him are to inflict the highest possible "kill-ratio" on Soviet aircraft and to help insure the destruction of the nuclear weapons they carry.
As for the first, given the high speed at which bombers approach, it is urgently necessary that anti-aircraft missiles have a nuclear warhead which will have a fatal effect on any aircraft throughout a larger area of space than can be caused by a conventional explosive. A conventional charge in a missile must be exploded in close proximity to the attacking aircraft, necessitating a missile of extreme accuracy, whereas a nuclear warhead does not require the same degree of perfection. When anti-missile delivery systems become available, the nuclear warhead will be doubly necessary, of course, for use against incoming missiles.
The second major requirement is to destroy not only the carrier vehicle but the enemy nuclear cargo, whether it comes in an aircraft or in a missile. A way of "defusing" such weapons may be found through releasing a nuclear warhead in the vicinity of the bomber or missile. The need to destroy both the carrier and the nuclear charge is important because of the possibility that Soviet nuclear missiles, particularly those carried in a bomber, may be so arranged as to explode in any case if the airplane crashes. The fallout coming from the nuclear warhead of an anti-aircraft missile would of course add to the general "rain" of radioactive débris; but this would be insignificant compared to what would be showered on Canada by the release of a high-yield nuclear bomb when a bomber crashed.
The debate over Canada's acceptance of nuclear weapons for its continental forces is largely limited to a consideration of their value against manned aircraft. However, a decision to accept them ought rightly to be regarded as a first step toward the acceptance of nuclear warheads in other weapons not yet under public discussion. Furthermore, once the principle has been accepted, priority must be given to the introduction of nuclear warheads into the Royal Canadian Navy, for of all the Canadian armed forces this is the one which, if it is armed with nuclear weapons, is most likely to have an opportunity to play a role of greatly increased importance. Its mission then would be to enhance the security of strategic forces, bases and communications centers against Soviet submarine missile attack.
In World War II, no navy gained greater experience in antisubmarine operations than the R.C.N. Today, it is a relatively small but expert force which concentrates largely on the World War II problem of defending shipping against submarine raiders. In a general nuclear war this mission would be likely to fade quickly away. Most military analysts do not believe that a general nuclear exchange would last long enough to permit convoy runs or involve the duty of protecting shipping. The problem being raised now is different-how to cope with a force of missile-launching submarines, probably nuclear-powered, which would have the ability to seep through inadequate surveillance screens to reach the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and, with very little warning, wreak catastrophic damage.
No sure defense against such a force exists today. Tactics, detection methods and tracking instruments now in use fall far short of giving even modest assurance that the presence of enemy submarines will be known, much less that they will be accurately located, watched and then destroyed if a hostile act is observed. There is need for greater forces (sea and air), improved and correlated tactics, more effective surveillance of immense ocean areas, more effective instruments to permit continuous and accurate tracking, and, with all this, nuclear weapons to ensure that the enemy submarines will be destroyed. Some of the necessary tools are now available. R.C.N. ships must have them all if they are to play a role of maximum usefulness.
Whether or not the Canadian government decides to introduce nuclear warheads into its present and future weapons systems will depend largely upon whether the public is convinced that Canadian defense policy is essentially valid, especially as it relates to the continuing importance of NORAD. An example of this importance was seen in November 1960 when the U.S. Defense Department assigned to NORAD Headquarters the operational control of a Space Detection and Tracking System, combining the space surveillance net for detecting and tracking satellites and the National Space Surveillance Control Center which receives, analyzes and catalogues data received from many world-wide sensors. The Ballistic Missile Early Warning System is also in NORAD's hands. The responsibilities of NORAD in these key fields will almost certainly increase as we move further Into the missile era.
Whether proposals to secure new weapons will find favor with the Canadian public will depend also on its estimate of what Canada has gotten for its defense dollar over the past decade. Since 1954, Canada has spent approximately one and a half billion dollars for military purposes. She now has one brigade in NATO, along with an air division, and three brigades at home with the NORAD complement of interceptor squadrons. She has some fifty naval ships located on her two coasts. In addition, there are a number of personnel responsible for warning systems and battle communications. Small contingents are active in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Congo. There is a handful of officers in Kashmir. At present there is no airlift adequate for the transport of any significant number of troops and their equipment.
The total number of Canadians under arms is something over 120,000 (though a figure of 135,000 has recently been authorized). In relation to the total male labor force, the Canadian armed forces are small compared with those of most of the NATO allies, ranking below those of France, Turkey, Greece, the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Denmark and the United Kingdom. In defense expenditure in relation to gross national product, Canada ranks below the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Greece. Despite mounting costs of procuring new weapons and maintaining equipment, the government is spending far less today than it was after the Korean War; defense expenditures for 1960-61 were $300,000,000 less than they were in 1954.
To some Canadians there does not seem to have been an "adequate return" for the expenditures of the past decade, in terms of ready, sizeable forces. To others, it seems that Canada may not have been pulling its own weight. It seems probable that before the public will accept the need for new weapons and new commitments, they will have to be convinced that these are a really essential contribution to the defense of the West. If they were given a thorough and authoritative explanation of why Canada's military role is so vital, they would undoubtedly lend their support either to continuing their effort on the present scale or accepting the heavier defense burden which would be more commensurate with their national wealth and Canada's standing in the Atlantic alliance.
The defense of Canada per se is not in question. The only question is: What is the most effective contribution that Canada can make to the general security of the Atlantic world, Canada itself included? Since 1949 Canada has made its contribution in the various forms mentioned above. Of these, far and away the most important is the early warning system which gives notice of an approaching enemy to the only strategic air force which is capable of deterring a Soviet attack. In recent years, many Canadians have lost sight of this key function and of the fact that Canada alone can perform it. The Canadian contribution has been described too often in terms of U.S. security, simply because the strategic force which Canadians are asked to help protect is located very largely within the United States. One must hope that the current defense debate in Canada will lead to a redefinition of Canada's role in correct terms-the collective defense of the free world as a whole.