President's Corner

Excerpts from an address to the June Conference at York University: OUTSIDE THE NUCLEAR CLUB

One of Sherlock Holmes’ stories was called “The Mystery of the Dog That Didn’t Bark”. Its a text for my remarks here. Why do we not hear a warning bark from Canadian sources when the USA, leader of an alliance of which we are a part, shows an increasing tendency to take action without consulting its allies? The NATO agreement is quite explicit about the obligation of all its members to consult before decisions affecting other members are taken or announced. Article 4 states:

“The parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them,the territorial integrity political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.”

Some say openly in the USA that unilateralism has come to stay and that we are moving into a post-coalition era of American foreign policy. If that is so, no one would be more adversely affected than Canada, tied as we are to “Fortress America” and its nuclear infra-structure as the main alternative to alliance collective security.

It is legitimate to ask whether Canada has a strategy of defence. In fact, Canada has two strategies: one not entirely compatible with the other. One is to try, through quiet diplomacy in multilateral fora like NATO and the UN, to persuade our allies to be sensible about the nuclear threat. The other is to be as accommodating as possible to the United States. Both are reflected in the Defence White Paper.

The White Paper on Defence issued by the Dept. of National Defence on June 5 raises some questions about the possibility of the Canadian government veering towards continentalism, away from internationalism. The plan is to remove forces committed through NATO to northern Norway in time of crisis and at the same time to emphasize defence of the north through the program to purchase 10-12 nuclear-powered submarines. This suggests to me that Canada seems to be moving towards becoming involved in American forward-oriented maritime strategy which-in the event of crisis — would require sweeping northwards through the Norwegian Sea,threatening Soviet SSBNs and forcing the Soviet navy to the defensive. Bringing the nuclear-powered submarines into the Canadian navy is rationalized as the protection of Canadian sovereignty. But our submarines, if in contact with American submarines, are to “track them” in order to complain. In contact with Soviet submarines, our boats would be expected to shoot in the event of a crisis. Canada risks sending the wrong signal to the Soviets at a time when there is a growing interest in the demilitarization of the Arctic, involving the establishment of a nuclear-free zone by such circumpolar countries as Sweden, Norway, Finland, in order to reduce international tensions in the area.

— George Ignatieff

The papers delivered at this conference, to be edited by Patrick Gray (York U.), will be published in book form.

Available from the Bulletin: a US and a Russian response to Canada’s Defence White Paper.

Whole issue on one page | as PDF

ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)