Canada may be drawn into missile defence pact with U.S.
Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand has promised U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin she’s close to offering a “robust” plan to modernize continental defenses under North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Since that high-level meeting in Washington on May 28, many National Defence-watchers have wondered if her plan includes Canada reversing its longstanding policy of refusing to join the U.S. missile defence system. Previous governments have expressed concerns that continental missile defence contributes to the global nuclear arms race and the potential weaponization of space.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in this major review of continental defence,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said, promising there will be more to say “in the months to come.” Politico May 10, 2022
We may now have our answer. Politico’s Andy Blatchford reported this week that Defence Minister Anand said Canada is examining the possibility of joining the United States’ ballistic missile defence system, an openness that comes nearly two decades after Ottawa first rejected an invitation to participate.
“We are certainly taking a full and comprehensive look at that question as well as what it takes to defend the continent across the board,” Anand said Tuesday, May 10 following her speech in Ottawa to the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin said “no” to missile defence in 2005, a policy never reversed by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. At the time, opponents argued that Russia and China would be pushed to create more advanced missiles and nuclear weapons to compete with U.S. President George W. Bush’s continental missile shield.
Fast-forward nearly twenty years, and that prediction has been proven correct. Russia has developed advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles that can fly five times the speed of sound and travel over great distances, and can maneuver around missile defences.
By joining the U.S. effort, Canada may be drawn into a whole new generation of exotic weapons to counter hypersonic and cruise missiles. Defense News reports that U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, who leads U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, has asked Congress to fund a homeland cruise missile defense demonstration. The general wants the U.S. Missile Defence Agency and weapons corporations to, ‘let their minds run wild.”
Some of the new weapons may use the electromagnetic spectrum or lasers to intercept incoming missiles, rather than the less effective interceptor missiles based in Alaska and California, and aboard U.S. Aegis-class warships. There has been speculation that Canada’s new warships may be tasked with hosting U.S.-built missile interceptors, known as SM-3s.
Canada’s Defence Minister’s comments illustrate how hawkish Canada has become in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Liberals are moving forward with purchasing a fleet of U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighters – a plane Prime Minister Trudeau promised never to buy. Now the Liberals maybe be prepared to overturn another promise by becoming integrated into the U.S. missile defence system.