THE NORAD AGREEMENT
A submission by Science for Peace to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade
The NORAD agreement is meant to provide a joint Canada-US structure for two purposes:1
(i) provision of aerospace surveillance, especially for early warning of missile or air attack on North America, and
(ii) interception and retaliation in the event of such an attack. We argue here that this structure is not now appropriate to the security interests of Canada and the rest of the world, and that it carries unacceptable risk for Canada. We therefore recommend that the NORAD agreement not be renewed.
The two purposes referred to above require somewhat separate consideration:
I. We consider first the second of them, which concerns mobilization of forces to repel an attack and retaliate. According to the ‘Principles’ of the NORAD agreement (sections (a), (b), © and (f) of those principles in the letter of agreement of 11 March, 1981), NORAD operates under a unified command. An implication of the structure is that the Commander-in-Chief (CINCNORAD) has the power to mobilize Canadian forces into combat, without requiring the authorization of the Canadian Parliament or even the Government. (This interpretation was confirmed by the events of the ‘Cuban missile crisis’, when our forces were put in battle-readiness by CINCNORAD regardless of the opposition of the Prime Minister and prior to the approval of the Defence Minister.) We view this as an entirely unacceptable surrender of our sovereignty. There is no more grave national decision than that to go to war, yet the NORAD agreement allows this decision, de facto, to be taken by the US, in their interests and without regard to ours.
Such a surrender of sovereignty should surely not be found acceptable unless in extremis, for example under the perceived threat of sudden major attack. There is no nation in the world from which a manned air attack is in the slightest degree likely. The command structure of NORAD is clearly a relic of the perceptions, right or wrong, of the Cold War. There is no justification for the tacit surrender of our sovereignty at this time, and consequently the command structure under which NORAD operates is unacceptable.
A further concern is the apprehension that during the 1980s, through NORAD, Canada has become associated with SDI and the Air Defence Initiative. The 1981 removal from the NORAD agreement of prohibition of anti-missile defence systems is frequently interpeted along these lines. These developments are widely interpreted as destablizing, as being part of a war-fighting infrastructure rather than enhancing international confidence. It is not in Canada’s interests to be perceived as contributing to such developments.
II. The other chief NORAD role, that of surveillance, is very different in character, for by itself it can be seen as building confidence by enhancing ‘deterrence’. There is a very real question whether the deterrence for which it was designed, that of US-USSR strategic confrontation, retains any relevance today.
What is clear is that if surveillance is to serve the wider purpose of deterrence and confidence-building it should look in more than one direction, and the data that result should be available to all. Otherwise the surveillance facilities will be regarded, with some justice, not as a contribution to Common Security, but as a projection of the military structure of a single power. This perception is strengthened by the possible use of the facilities in connection with the forward ‘defence’ aspects of ADI and SDI.
It is time to make a new evaluation of the contribution to world security of a system of surveillance facilities in Canada’s North. A decision on this matter should only be reached through consultation with the UN and especially with all our neighbours around the Arctic (Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the US and the USSR). We believe that such a system will contribute to world security if, and only if, its data are immediately and equally available to any nation which wishes them, and to an (eventual) UN monitoring agency; the openness of such a system would create trust and confidence and contribute to the common security of the world.
Such a system, if it is deemed desirable, should be operated in one of only two ways:
(a) financed and operated entirely by Canada, or
(b) operated under the control of the UN with our cooperation. What is no longer acceptable is that it should be operated under a bilateral agreement that makes it function as a tool of one superpower. Clearly, such a change would have to be carried out in a way which was not perceived by the US as a short-term threat to its security. If that proves to be in question, we must be willing to welcome foreign observers, including of course those of the US, to monitor our methods of data acquisition and distribution. (It may be that this is not in fact a US concern, since it appears that modern technology probably permits adequate long-distance detection from the US without relying on our cooperation).2 If the system were to continue to be based on land radar stations, then we would presumably seek to recompense the US for the 60% share they have paid for the North Warning System; we would have to examine however the possibilities of using instead satellite-based systems which might be more useful in simultaneous domestic monitoring of our own coasts.
In summary, it is our view that
(i) the organization of the confrontational aspects of NORAD under a unified command structure is cornpletey unacceptable due to the associated surrender of Canadian sovereign control over our involvement in war, and
(ii) surveillance activities in the interests of common security must be brought under international and cooperative control, so they cannot be seen as projections of hegernonic power.
Both considerations lead to the firm conclusion that the NORAD agreement has exhausted its relevance and should not be renewed. We have proposed above some initiatives with regard to confidence-building surveillance alternatives.
We see the discontinuance of NORAD as opening also the possibility of broader cooperation, especially among the Arctic nations. Steps toward demilitarization of the Arctic and its environmental protection have been proposed by the Scandinavian nations and notably by Mikhail Gorbachev in his Murmansk proposals of 1 October 1987. There have also been suggestions that a permanent conference on the Arctic be established, along the lines of the CSCE. Canada has failed to respond adequately to such initiatives, in part because of its involvement in a bilateral defence agreement. Replacing NORAD with an all-Canadian or internatoinal surveillance system would be an important step to this kind of cooperation.
1 These purposes are embodied in (b) and © of the three ‘primary objectives’ of NORAD as described in the letter of agreement of 11 March, 1981. The agreement also lists la) to assist each nation to safeguard the sovereignty of its airspace’, although this seems to have no executive expression in the ‘principles’ which follow. We argue that (a) is in fact to some extent inconsistent with the structures created to address (b) and ©. ^
2 Cf. for example John Hamre, ‘United States-Canada Defence Relations: a US Perspective’, cited in S. Clarkson, ‘Canada and the Reagan Challenge’, p. 234. ^
House of Commons Sub-Committee on NORAD
On October 25, 1990, John Valleau and Alan Weatherley of Science for Peace were witnesses at the proceedings of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on NORAD. Other witnesses were: Ernie Regehr, Research Co-ordinator, Project Ploughshares; Ken Lewis, President, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada; John Killick, Senior Vice-President, Canadian Marconi Company; Joanna Santa Barbara, President-Elect, Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; Bill Erasmus, National Chief, The Dene Nation; Kevin O’Reilly, Executive Assistant to Bill Erasmus; C.R Nixon, Individual.
The evidence given by John Valleau and Alan Weatherley and discussion arising is reproduced below from the official record published under authority of the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The Chairman: I turn now to testimony from Science for Peace and John Valleau. You might like, John, to introduce others who are with you.
Mr. Jean Valleau (Director, Science for Peace): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Alan Weatherley is sitting next to me, and Mrs. Robena Weatherley and Jean Smith (John Valleau’s wife) are also here.
I hope you had a chance to read copies of our short submission. In a moment I will remind you of some points we make, some new suggestions that have not been covered in the testimony so far. Like others, I feel compelled to say something about the context in which are considering the future of NORAD.
Our view is that we are in quite a new world, that the Cold War really is over. We got through it; we lucked out. We could take up that argument again, but we feel it is time to take a new look at Canada’s place in the world because these are times when everything is changing. The Cold War period had a certain simplicity to it. The world was divided into two blocs. The perceived threat was attack by the other bloc, and the US and Canadian defence interests were essentially identical. NORAD’s role made some kind of sense in that context.
The new situation seems to us quite different. There is little threat of an immediate direct attack on North America. I do not say it is zero, but I will come back to that. Realistically there is little threat. I agree with Mr. Nixon that the world elsewhere is now unstable and confusing compared to the situation we have faced before. We will see new and different threats arising. In that context the identity of the United States and Canadian interests is no longer certain.
We have to ask ourselves whether the kind of arrangements we have made will still make any sense. Our familiar ways can have a terrible blind momentum. We all have vested interests in going ahead with them, but this is a time of tremendous opportunity and we have to seize that opportunity. It is in this context that we are concerned with the matters before us today. There are two principles I want to stress in what I say.
One is the preservation, or to some extent the restoration, of Canada’s freedom of action — call it sovereignty, if you wish. The other is the contribution we now have an opportunity to make to the stability of the world in the form of confidence-building measures in the spirit of common security. I believe we have a real opportunity now to move in that direction without in any way threatening our own security.
With these two things in mind, let me come to some specific points. The first point our submission raises concerns the NORAD Agreement itself and, particularly, the provisions for response to an attack on North America, because we see there a most serious threat to Canadian sovereignty. There is no more grave national decision than to go to war. Yet, as we read the document, we find ourselves in danger of our forces being mobilized into a war situation without requiring Canadian government authorization. This appears to us to have been confirmed by the Cuban missile crisis. It really became clear that the United States would not let concern for the sensibilities of an ally stand in the way of carrying out its immediate wishes.
It seems to us there is no present risk to Canada that could justify such a surrender of our sovereignty. This is especially true, of course, in the confused situation that … I have mentioned with the dissolution of the bloc structure and the real possibility that situations may arise where our interests are not so clearly coinciding with those in the United States. One has only to think of relationship with Latin America and so on. The point is that the surrender of sovereignty that appears to be implied is totally unjustified.
The topic we have mostly talked about in connection with NORAD is the surveillance edge, but this is a somewhat two-edged sword, as has already been mentioned, and I want to consider the two edges separately. One of them is that there is an increasing perception here and elsewhere in the world that there is an association of NORAD with the activities connected with the American nuclear war fighting strategy. This has to do with SDI and ADI and our participation in the Strategic Defence Architecture 2000 discussions and so on.
The perception is that we are sliding through NORAD into complicity with a certain class of United States plans that are dangerous, and to the extent that this perception is true, it is no longer true to say that NORAD is purely defensive, as was said earlier. One would like it to be purely defense, but we fear that to the extent there is any truth in these perceptions, it is no longer that. The combination of anti-missile defence, anti-air-breathing weapon defence and modern accurate counter force missiles is seriously destabilizing because it raises fears of first strike options in others.
People ask, why does the USSR still have weapons if peace has come? Of course, the same question could be asked, why does the US still have weapons too? The answer is because everyone is scared, and they are scared because of destabilizing things like this. Developments along those lines seem to be totally destructive to us and are associated with intimidation rather than reassurance. Therefore we believe Canada should have nothing to do with them. We should eschew them, and publicly, as Ernie Regehr suggests.
The other aspect, the good edge of the sword, is that surveillance itself can build confidence because it can support deterrence. It can give people the reassurance that they know what is happening, and it has, indeed, increased our security over the years because we have had these warning systems. It can go on doing that, but if the surveillance facilities are really to be truly confidence-building in the world, they must not be associated with only a particular single function like that. They ought to look both ways. They ought to look every way. They ought to be providing the information widely in every direction. This is the way, if these are confidence-building measures, that you use them to build confidence.
The present North Warning System, which is our principal contribution to NORAD, simply does not function in that way, and it can be seen instead, and is seen instead elsewhere, as a projection of US military power rather than as a stabilizing contribution to the world. This seems important to us. It does not simply mean that we should immediately cut down the radar antennae, but it does mean that we should be, as rapidly as possible, converting it to this kind of confidence-building systems that it could be.
Of course, in the long run one has to admit it is not clear whether a land-based radar system in northern Canada will be the important contribution we might make to world surveillance and security. That has to be examined. But in the meanwhile, with the present system as it evolves and with whatever new contribution along the surveillance lines we make, we uge that these should be under Canadian direction alone — on Canadian soil. Alternatively, they should be very broadly based.
We favour United Nations operation of such a surveillance system, as an alternative to a purely Canadian operation, but very broadly based. Conceivably, of course, there could be something like a CSCE for the Arctic nations. But it must be seen as broadly based. In any case, data must be available to all those who wish it.
Of course, we also must not upset the magistrates while we make that evolution, and therefore we must be willing to accept observers to make sure the techniques do not fall short of their present expectations and so on. We have to consider satellites and so on as alternatives. But in the short run, these should be brought under our own control or a broadly based international control, and should not be seen as part of a threatening system.
All these steps taken together make us think that now is the time to bring the NORAD Agreement to an end as rapidly as possible, not by weakening our security or the United States security, because we will keep on with the suveillance techniques as long as they are pertinent, but by moving to confidence- building measures that cannot be misinterpreted as dangerous to the world.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Valleau.
A discussion of matters raised by the panelists resulted, to which John Valleau contributed the following:
John Valleau in later discussion: I would like to say a couple of words about Mr. Nixon’s comments. One of them concerns the sovereignty issue. I am afraid I cannot grasp what he is getting at.
The question of sovereignty we raised was a specific one, the right of a country to decide whether or not to go to war. I think this is not an aspect of sovereignty we want to play around with. If we are still a nation, this is something terrifically basic that we do not give up easily.
As to being isolationist, there is no suggestion of that. On the contrary, the whole thrust of our document was precisely that we should become more internationalist. We should not be linked up with narrow interests. Instead, we should try to use what capabilities we have for a very broadly based internationalist thrust of co-operation in the world. I really do not think that what you are saying is to the point of what we were saying.
I would like to say a word about the military industry. I am sure we will come back to that. It is true there are spin-offs as people have said. The question is, can we afford those spin-offs? Are they worth it?
I suppose you will have read analyses of this in terms of other countries. Seymour Melman is a famous case. He has spent years making this analysis. His analysis is very discouraging for this thesis. It would say that the net effect on one’s industrial base is negative. In fact, it finally debilitates one’s industries.
The objective evidence, such as we have, is in the same direction;. Japan and Germany, who were forbidden from having major defence industries, are the countries that have most rapidly advanced in technical industry. The USSR, which has been caught up in high-tech weaponry, has crippled itself and destroyed its system by doing that. It is quite possible that the Unitd States is doing the same thing. That is not such a clear case, perhaps.
The other thing I want to raise is that there is a moral dimension here; it does not seem to have been mentioned. We could argue that there is a serious risk to the world in basing part of your industrial well-being on the export of dangerous arms. I think it unconscionable that we should offer such a risk to the world as a prop for our economic system. We simply cannot go on doing that. We see an example in Iraq at the moment, where we are upset about chemical weapons. Essentially, they got the chemical weapons from the west.
So we have to get out of the idea that we can go on propping up our economic system on this, as I see it, immoral kind of activity. I am not saying we should suddenly put everybody out of work. Clearly we have a tremendous amount of competence that must be converted to useful ends. We have competent workers who must be eased into more useful things, and the Canadian government has the responsibility to design an economic conversion program that will allow that to happen.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. Now I am going to ask Members of Parliament to put some questions, and then again you could make some notes of those to which you might like to respond.
John Valleau and Alan Weatherley contributed to the lengthy discussion that followed with these remarks:
Mr. Valleau: There are a number of questions (that have been raised) here. I will address some of them.
The question of the US reaction to cancellation (of NORAD) is of course something we do not really know until we ask, I suppose, but it clearly depends on the US apprehension of their current threat. I do not think it is quite clear that they, like we, have resolved that issue entirely.
I may say there has been a lot of rumbling in the United States, in congressional hearings and so on, about the fact that it is very possible that we are not needed for the surveillance capabilities they require. They have been developing Over-The-Horizon radar very extensively; they are now using it on ranges of 3,000 kilometres. There are some problems because of behaviour of the ionosphere in the high Arctic that they have been trying to remedy. How far they have got I do not know, but it seems very likely that the kind of surveillance we are offering could be provided by the Americans for themselves, without our help, without great difficulty. The use of satellites is increasing and is probably more useful in some ways, and so on.
A few years ago, as I understand it, there was an approach to the United States with regard to the possibility of an essentially maritime version of NORAD, which was nicknamed NOMAD, which the Americans simply turned down. They saw no need for that. We do not know, as I say, but my perception is that the Americans might not be greatly perturbed by it.
On the question of whether NORAD can turn only with surveillance, the answer to that is no. If you look at the document itself, point c, of the objectives is:
c. should deterrence fail, to ensure an appropriate response against attack by providing for effective use of the forces of the two countries available for air defence.
That means that in the event of hostilities of some kind, some kind of attack on North America, Canadian forces can be mobilized against that attack. That was the point we made earlier, that can have the effect of precipitating us into war without due deliberation. So the answer is no, I think very clearly.
The renewal-cancellation thing is rather complicated. The way I read the treaty is different from the interpretation we were just given, but I am not a lawyer.
In any case, the point that I think Mr. Brewin was raising seems like an important one. It was raised elsewhere, that there must be some lead time, and that one must know what one is doing. I would have supposed that what was important from our own standpoint would be to announce that we were reconsidering the NORAD arrangement, that we were considering providing the kind of surveillance security that was wanted in other ways, and therefore we would renew for a year only with that intention. That seems like a reasonable procedure to me. One would hope to see the ABM clause restored to the document for that year as another item of reassurance.
About the UN supervision of surveillance, we have already made our position clear. So I need say nothing, I suppose.
The question of Arctic co-operation is more difficult. Why have we not responded more readily to the various initiatives that have been offered by the Scandinanvian nations and by the Soviet Union with respect to more concerted cooperation on environmental matters, resource development matters, demilitarization matters, and so on? One does not actually know. At least, I do not know the answer to that question, but one suspects that the fact that Canada and the United States are joined by a bilateral defence treaty initially aimed against another member of the Arctic region, and have remained in that bilateral treaty, has been an inhibition perhaps on proceeding with such negotiations. At least, that may not be true, but something has inhibited what ought to be going ahead full steam as far as I can see. There is co-operation on a scientific committee and there are some other items of co-operation, but much, much more could be done.
Mr. Alan Weatherley [(Bulletin) Editor, Science for Peace]: I was grateful for remarks by Mr. Nixon about the admission that defence industries do not necessarily produce very good dividends or things of direct utility to civilian populations in times that are not war times.
I think we can take that a little further. The most significant scientific and technological discoveries and inventions of the last 100 years or so that have, whether we like it or not, transformed all our lives seem to be medical discoveries and trains and dynamite and telephones, cars, cinema, aircraft, radio, nuclear energy, television and computers. All of these have been essentially or mostly peacetime civilian discoveries and developments that have been utilized and/or perverted by military activities.
Of course, Alfred Nobel is the famous example of a peacetime inventor who was so horrified by what uses his invention of dynamite was put to that he instituted a series of prizes of which the Peace Prize is the most significant.
I would like to know really what military industries have invented or produced in the way of things that are comparable in the impacts on society for its own good, including its profits, that could possibly compare with the list I have given there. I have no doubt there are some spin-offs, but I think they are mighty insignificant when you take the whole panoply of things that have been developed over the course of the last century that have changed our society.
In one concluding remark I would like to say this. It is true that there may be rich industrial contracts resulting from defence industry activities. We know that. And it is true that many people may lose their jobs associated with these industries as societies become converted to peacetime activities. This has been mentioned. It is not true, at least I think it is very arguable, that industrial technology, except in specialized ways, progresses more rapidly as a result of defence industrial activities.
I do not think it is true, if people in defence industries receive appropriate retraining and if governments are dedicated to seeing that they find useful and productive roles in peaceful industry, that there need be a net loss either of such people from the ranks of a company’s work force, or of a company’s overall industrial productive capability in peacetime. I think these arguments are somewhat spurious and a little beside the point. They are popular arguments and they have been mentioned again and again, but I do not think they stand up very well to analysis in depth.
I have one last point. People have been asking about the contribution mentioned in the NORAD report of 1986. It is right there in table 2. Canadian fiscal costs for the fiscal year 1984-85 were $664 million, against about 10 times that amount in the US They would be upscaled by now.
The Chairman: I want to thank all our panelists for being so forthcoming and helping us weigh these issues. We will ask our research staff — and we will also share this testimony with the panel — to review all the briefs that come in, and we will be meeting further with them. We may be in touch with you to follow up some of the issues on the table today. Thank you, again.
We are adjourned.