Sneaking Canada into S.D.I

By Kattenburg, David | The Nation, February 27, 1988 | Go to article overview

Sneaking Canada into S.D.I


Kattenburg, David, The Nation


Sneaking Canada Into S.D.I.

If U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear weapons are withdrawn from Europe, in accordance with the recent I.N.F. agreement, say Pentagon officials and their hired hands in the intellectual community, the superpowers will have no choice but to start threatening each other across new lines of scrimmage elsewhere in the world. One likely area of rising confrontation, they say, will be the Arctic. Pershing 2s, SS-20s and ground-launched cruise missiles scheduled for dismantling are already being compensated for, on Pentagon blackboards, by cruise-armed bombers and submarines operating just north of Canada.

Canadians, in other words, have something else to worry about. Washington and Ottawa are now secretly collaborating on a Star Wars-type defense system under a program called the Air Defense Initiative. A.D.I. is developing technologies to knock down Soviet air- and sea-launched cruise missiles in Canada's northern airspace. Canada's growing involvement in A.D.I.--and ultimately the Strategic Defense Initiative--has received little publicity here, and officials continue their antinuclear posturing.

Last spring, for example, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney received editorial priase for warning a gathering of NATO officials in Quebec City that Star Wars technology should not be used to attrack the Russians. "Extreme care must be taken," said the lantern-jawed statesman, "to ensure that [strategic] defenses are not integrated with existing forces in such a way as to create fears of a first strike." These remarks were particularly hypocritical. Canada operates an air defense network for the United States in the Arctic, complete with a string of transmitters to guide Pentagon bombers toward the Soviet Union. Ottawa allows these bombers--B-52s and F-111s, although Washington wants the new B-1 included in the deal--to simulate nuclear strikes and test cruise missiles up here on a year-round basis. The U.S. Air Force currently wants to train its bomber pilots to fly at low altitudes through five corridors in Canadian airspace, despite protests from environmentalists and local government officials.

Down below, unde the surface of the Arctic Ocean, Ottawa lets the U.S. Navy engage in offensive exercises too. For years American attack submarines have been traversing the Canadian Arctic on their way toward the North Pole and Soviet sanctuarial waters. Rather than oppose this, last June the Canadian Minister of National Defense, Perrin Beatty, announced Canada's intent to procure at elast ten nuclear-powered attack submarines of its own. Some of these would be deployed under the Arctic ice, so that Ottawa can observe the mounting activity up close. Canada's submarines would "deter hostile or potentially hostile intrusions" by the Russians in response to U.S. incursions, says the Defense Minister's June policy white paper.

Now, is not this the sort of offense-defense mixture Mulroney cautions the Western alliance to eschew? Apparently not. The Pentagon, Mulroney and his military colleagues argue, is not preparing to attack the Soviet Union through Canadian airspace, and so the Russians should have nothing to fear. Furthermore, the purpose of allied submarine operations in the Arctic is defensive--to stop Soviet boats from entering the Atlantic and interfering with NATO shipping lanes, not to bottle up and destroy Soviet strategic submarines in their own home ports. In any case, the argument concludes, the Kremlin would always be free to retaliate somehow, since North American air defenses are passive. They are designed to warn the Pentagon of a Soviet sneak attack, rather than to mop up any retaliatory force in the wake of a U.S. first strike.

The Russians may have reason to fear the second of these two scenarios, however, if current discussions between Ottawa and the Pentagon bear fruit. The subject of these virtually secret discussions is the aforementioned Air Defense Initiative.

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