The Future of Canadian-U.S. Defense Relations

Article excerpt

Canadian--United States defense relations are strong, but they are likely to weaken if current trends in Canadian defense policy continue. The future of the U.S.--Canadian defense relationship will largely be determined by Canadian decisions. The most useful strategy for the U.S. to adopt to influence Canadian decision-making might be to present specific suggestions.

The strength of the U.S. Canadian defense relationship is based on history, shared values, and shared experience. These factors have produced mutual confidence. They have been reinforcing--creating an ever stronger and broader whole. Today, this relationship is so large that no one in either country really knows its full extent. Yet it is only as strong as the willingness of both countries to sustain it.

Basis of U.S.--Canadian Defense Relations

The starting point for the current phase of our defense relationship was the period 1938-1940. In 1938, recognizing the danger ahead, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King issued reciprocal statements of mutual support: During a visit to Canada in August of that year, President Roosevelt said, "the people of the United States would not stand idly by if domination of Canadian soil is threatened by any other empire." Prime Minister King replied shortly thereafter saying, "we, too have our obligations as a good friendly neighbor, and one of them is that, at our own instance, our country is made as immune from attack or possible invasion as we can reasonably be expected to make it, and that should the occasion ever arise, enemy forces should not be able to pursue their way either by land, sea, or air to the United States across Canadian territory." (1) This became the foundation of the existing defense relationship between the two countries. (2)

Institutionalization and Expansion of the Defense Relationship

Institutionalization of the principles enunciated by the President and Prime Minister followed in August 1940 at a meeting between them in Ogdensburg, New York. In a long discussion the night of the 30th, the President "proposed a Joint Board, to discuss defending the north east approaches to North America. [Prime Minister] King suggested that such a board be permanent and handle other continental defense issues as well." (3) Having reached agreement, the two leaders issued a press release announcing the establishment of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense (the "PJBD"). The Board was to "to consider in the broad sense the defense of the north half of the Western Hemisphere." (4)

The word "Permanent" was chosen advisedly. As Dean Acheson, the Board's second U.S. Chairman and later Secretary of State, told the Canadian Club in Ottawa in 1952,

the name of the Board is both significant and interesting. The expression "Permanent Joint Board" was no accident, but was the careful decision of Prime Minister MacKenzie King and President Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom laid great stress on the word "permanent"....This Permanent Joint Board is not founded on any treaty or any legislative act. It is not set up to devise treaties or agreements. It is an organization made up of equal numbers of Americans and Canadians, who consider defense questions and make joint recommendations to their two governments. (5)

In the words of President Roosevelt, The Board was not designed "to meet alone this particular situation but to help secure the continent for the future." (6)

One of the first recommendations of the PJBD was that a plan for the joint defense of North America be prepared. (7) This advice was accepted and began a planning process that continues to this day, and is currently reflected in the Basic Security Document (essentially policy guidance for the planning process) and the Combined Defense Plan. (8) These plans are revised regularly. This process was strengthened in December 2002 as will be discussed below.

The establishment of the PJBD led to an accepted way of doing business between Canada and the U. …