Liberals should say “no” again to American BMD



Both Conservative and Liberal governments have concluded, in 1985 and 2005 respectively, that participation in American ballistic missile defence does not accord with Canadian defence and security priorities. The Trudeau Liberals would be wise to do the same. — Peggy Mason (9 May 2017, Esprit de Corps)

At the beginning of April 2016, the Liberal government decided that it would launch a review of Canada’s defence policy and, as part of that, has reopened the issue of Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).

Since then a chorus of defence lobbyists and their academic and journalistic echoes have urged the government to seek Canadian participation. See, for example, an extraordinarily silly and inaccurate piece in the National Post by John Ivison, arguing that Canada can help make up its alleged NATO budgetary shortfall by contributing to a non-NATO ballistic missile defence system. That article also dismissed international concerns that BMD “would weaponize space” because the interceptor missiles are ground based (which is why the system is known by the acronym “GMD” for ground based missile defence). One has to assume that Ivison is unaware the aim of the American GMD system is to try to shoot down the incoming missile in outer space. As such:

So-called defensive missiles designed to intercept and shoot down incoming missiles in space have an intrinsic offensive anti-satellite weapon capability, which is precisely why the fear of weaponizing space is such a serious one. — Peggy Mason

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Defence heard testimony on the pros and cons of Canada re-opening the BMD participation issue during its hearings in May 2016. Particularly relevant was this admission by Professor James Fergusson, one of the strongest proponents of Canadian participation:

The American research and development program is well advanced across the board in missile defence. The likelihood that there are any opportunities for Canadian firms or Canadian technology is extremely low.

While Canadian firms would likely get little or no benefit, the Canadian taxpayer would be on the hook for as much as $4 billion dollars for Canada’s share of the programme.

And did we mention that this astronomically expensive system does not work?

Shooting down an enemy missile going 15,000 mph out in space is like trying to hit a hole-in-one in golf when the hole is going 15,000 mph. And if an enemy uses decoys and countermeasures, missile defence is like trying to shoot a hole-in-one in golf when the hole is going 15,000 mph and the green is covered with black circles the same size as the hole. — Hon. Philip E. Coyle.

There are many other reasons why Canada should continue to stay as far away as possible from the American missile defence boondoggle, including its destabilizing effects on international security, the lack of any meaningful operational role for Canada in the American command and control structure for GMD, and the likelihood that, despite all the monies expended, there will not even be an American guarantee that Canadian cities would be defended by the system (assuming the system worked, which it does not).

For an elaboration of these arguments see the May 5th testimony and Peggy Mason Speaking Notes by Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason to the Standing Committee on National Defence.


Photo credit: US Government

Tags: ABM Treaty, anti-satellite weapons, arms control, arms control and disarmament, Ballistic Missile Defence, BMD, Defence lobby, Defence policy, defence policy review, Esprit de Corps, GMD, Ground based missile defence, NORAD, NORTHCOM, offensive weapons, Philip E. Coyle, Space Command, Standing Committee on National Defence