Canada Renews NORAD: No Questions Asked

By Simon Rosenblum | 1986-04-01 12:00:00

The Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence (SCEAND) released its NORAD report on February 14. There was nothing in it to gladden the heart of a disarmament supporter. Three days before it was tabled, peace groups had held nation-wide press conferences to point out the increasing links between NORAD and Star Wars. The two opposition parties prepared minority reports which were closer to our positions.

NORAD is an organizational framework for whatever nuclear strategy happens to be current in the United States. Its command, communication, and control responsibilities function as the central nervous system for carrying out American nuclear doctrine. As Washington has moved toward nuclear war-fighting options (as opposed to deterrence) NORAD is involved in destabilizing nuclear strategies. SCEAND downplayed any change in U.S. strategic doctrine and only acknowledged that there may be "shadows in the road ahead."

Yet it is not business as usual in the nuclear arms race. The United States, in an effort to restore political utility to its strategic forces, is resorting to provocative nuclear strategies which have much more to do with cold war intimidation than with deterrence. The emerging U.S. nuclear war-fighting capabilities are being developed, not to deter an out-of-the-blue nuclear attack on American cities, but rather to give the U.S. greater freedom to intervene in Third World countries without risking a conventional challenge or an intervention by the Soviet Union. These strategies are premised on scenarios of limited and winnable nuclear war. To threaten use of nuclear weapons is to participate in an escalatory process which might result in nuclear war.

With a strategic defence (Star Wars) system in place, in a deep crisis situation, a first strike becomes a genuine option, for it does not require a 100 percent leak-proof umbrella; a partially effective defence would still be useful. That is, a defence that would collapse under a full scale Russian attack might cope adequately with the depleted Soviet forces that had survived a U.S. first-strike. The strategic defence conceivably could intercept the reduced Soviet retaliatory attack and bring the damage down to "acceptable" levels. A country that can protect itself is a country that can deny its adversary a credible second-strike annihilative capacity. Such a country is necessarily more likely to strike preemptively in a crisis.

NORAD's ballistic missile early warning system would in all likelihood be used for Star Wars tracking. The SCEAND report dismisses the implications of SDI on NORAD by saying that SDI deployments will not occur in the next five years--the period of the NORAD renewal--and furthermore the committee sees no evidence that any ballistic missile systems would have to be located in Canada. As regards the first point, the linkage between NORAD and Star Wars is not an issue of the distant future. The director of the SDI has said that some elements of Star Wars may be deployable by the early 1990s. Even if, as seems likely, this timetable is postponed, it is important that Canada disengage itself from SDI now--not a futile attempt later on when the horse is already out of the barn. SCEAND's recommendation that Canada participate in Phase II of the joint U.S./Canada "Strategic Defence Architecture 2000" study does not bode well for Canada's separating itself from Star Wars. SDA 2000 is described by Canadian defence officials as "contingency planning" in case the United States decides to deploy Star Wars defences. Participation in the study implies acceptance of Star Wars and will reduce Canadian autonomy from U.S. strategy. Even the SCEAND report admits that "Although NORAD is not involved in space defence, as long as it exists, it will be linked to U.S. military space activities."

The committee also seems oblivious to ominous suggestions that Canadian territory will be needed for American ballistic missile defences--for "mid-course interception." The Federation of American Scientists point to at least five such examples. The best known of them is research underway into a Star Wars system codenamed "Braduskill," which according to U.S. officials, could only work if based in Canada.

Canada's Department of National Defence--Operational Research and Analysis Division, has acknowledged that it might be "essential to locate certain sensors, read-out stations, or launchers in Canada." The Canadian government has not yet been asked for this assistance but it is urgent now to block it by requiring a pledge that we will not be involved in ballistic missile defence. The deleted anti-ballistic missile (ABM) clause in the NORAD agreement is noteworthy here. However, that particular clause was weak in that it did not say that Canada would not be involved in ballistic missile defence--only that, by virtue of NORAD membership, we did not have to be so involved.

SCEAND was unwilling to consider that the North Warning System might be a Trojan Horse for Star Wars. A Star Wars system obviously will need to destroy enemy bombers and cruise missiles. A North Warning system is useful for deterrence. The danger is that the system could be extended into comprehensive air defence (i.e. full scale interception) as a backup to the SDI. Indeed, the last round of cruise missile tests may have involved a U.S. satellite in an experiment simulating the detection for purposes of interception of Soviet bombers and cruise missiles flying over the Canadian North. It has been acknowledged that Canadian interceptors accompanied the cruise missiles during the testing.

Finally, there is the question of the ABM Treaty. The committee recommended that Canada and the United States jointly declare support for the treaty. Not a bad idea in itself. But protection--not just lip service--of the ABM Treaty is of utmost importance. According to the chief U.S. negotiator of that treaty, Gerard Smith, S.D.I. already places the U.S. in "anticipatory breach" of the agreement. Testing now planned for 1988-1990 strain the limits of the treaty, despite Washington's claims to respect it. The Reagan administration has redefined the imprecise language of the treaty to allow for the testing of certain pieces of hardware. This, they say, is acceptable under the treaty by labelling tests (which are banned) as "technology demonstrations" and ABM components as "subcomponents." Although Washington stresses that the SDI is only a research program and is therefore permitted by the ABM treaty, its enthusiasm for the deployment of ballistic missile defences conveys a willingness to terminate the treaty. Likewise, Canada's policy in support of the ABM Treaty, while supporting SDI research as "prudent," is clearly on a collision course with the treaty.

SCEAND says it supports a policy of "stable deterrence and arms control." These words would be more reassuring if the committee demonstrated a capacity to differentiate war-deterring from war-fighting nuclear strategies. If the government follows SCEAND's recommendations--as it will--Canada's nuclear policy will be sleepwalking into space.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1986, page 7. Some rights reserved.

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