Canada Spurns Bush on Missile Defense

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Defying intense U.S. lobbying and President George W. Bush's personal intervention, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin recently announced that Ottawa would not join U.S. efforts to build long-range ballistic missile defenses. Martin's decision stemmed from a mix of Canadian politics and worries that U.S. anti-missile plans might lead to deploying weapons in space.

Martin said Feb. 24 that, although Canada and the United States would continue cooperation on defense and security matters, "ballistic missile defense is not where we will concentrate our efforts."

Following Martin's announcement, Bush did not return a call from the prime minister for more than a week, which some in Canada interpreted as a sign of the president's displeasure. Yet, in a March 23 meeting between the two leaders, they said the issue was behind them and would not affect cooperation on other matters.

Retiring U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci vented his disappointment more publicly than Bush, charging Ottawa with misleading Washington. "We've been pretty much assured for a long time that Canada wanted to participate," Cellucci told CTV March 6. He described the United States as "perplexed" and added, "[W]e don't understand why a country would give up its sovereignty, which we think Canada has done."

Last August, Ottawa agreed that information gathered by the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) could be relayed to U.S. missile defense systems. NORAD is charged with identifying, tracking, and countering air and missile attacks against U.S. and Canadian soil.

Cellucci contended, "We have this odd situation where the Canadians will participate at NORAD, detecting when the missile is launched, determining where it's heading, and even if they determine it's heading towards Canada, it's at that point they'll have to leave the room because they're not participating."

Still, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today March 10 that Ottawa's decision had no impact on U.S. missile defense plans because "no part of the infrastructure" was ever to be deployed on Canadian territory. Noting that an incoming missile's trajectory toward Seattle or Vancouver would not vary much, he said that any missile headed for North America would be engaged by U.S. missile defenses as early as possible.

Canada's missile defense snub came one day after Ottawa won U.S. praise for its announced $10.8 billion military spending increase over the next five years. Washington has long urged its northern neighbor to spend more on its armed forces. …