Canada backs NATO missile defence

The Harper government has pledged its support for a proposed NATO missile defence system for Europe (Juliet O’Neill, “Canada backs European missile defence program,” Postmedia News, 20 October 2010):

The Conservative government says it supports a European ballistic missile defence system proposed for approval by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the other NATO leaders at a summit in Portugal next month.

That means Canadians may have to help pay for a European missile defence system just a few years after Canada rejected participation with the United States in a North American missile defence system when the Liberals were in power under Paul Martin. …

“Canada supports the development of a NATO missile defence system for the protection of Allied European territory and populations,” said Catherine Loubier, spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

The New Democratic Party and the Rideau Institute, an independent defence think-tank, object to Canada supporting the system financially or otherwise, partly on grounds it diverts attention and resources from disarmament efforts.

“We’re concerned this is Canada’s involvement in missile defence through the back door,” said Steve Staples, head of the institute.

But James Fergusson, an authority on Canada’s history on the issue at the University of Manitoba, says Canada could not stop a NATO consensus, even if it wanted to. […a, let us say, unique interpretation of NATO “consensus“.]

NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, recently laid out the rationale for such a system, arguing in the New York Times (“NATO Needs a Missile Defense,” New York Times, 12 October 2010) that:

  • a NATO missile defence system for Europe would be effective [unlike any other missile defence system];
  • it would be affordable [unlike any other missile defence system];
  • the Russians would love it [assuming a 180-degree change in their current view]; and
  • it is needed to respond to the growing missile threat.

That threat, Rasmussen asserted, consists of over 30 countries that “have or are acquiring missiles that could be used to carry not just conventional warheads, but also weapons of mass destruction.”

Sounds pretty scary. But here’s a breakdown of the 32 countries on a typical list of missile operators:

  • 17 U.S. allies, including 7 actual members of NATO;
  • Russia, against which we are constantly assured such missile defence systems are not directed;
  • China, against which we are constantly assured such missile defence systems are not directed;
  • India, a nuclear-armed country, but one considered so friendly that Western countries are now selling it nuclear technology and materials;
  • 10 countries that possess only ridiculously obsolete, short-range Scud missile variants or even shorter-range systems;
  • North Korea, whose long-range missile couldn’t reach Europe even if it worked; and
  • Iran

In short, the “threat” is Iran, which may get a nuclear weapon some day, and North Korea, which may get a missile that could reach Europe some day. In neither case would that make the use of such weapons likely, nor would it make missile defence likely to be an effective response.

Tags: Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Ballistic Missile Defence, Canada, Defence policy, Fogh of war, NATO, Steven Staples