Ottawa is considering whether to finally join the United States in active defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles, Defense Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday, while refusing to provide specific plans for the modernization of the old systems. defense of North America.
Made by Ms. Anand was commenting Tuesday morning at a conference organized by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, where he discussed the promised review of Canada’s Defense Policy, while emphasizing the need to recruit and retain more soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Canada withdrew loudly, in 2005, from the American program of ground system of interception of long -range ballistic missiles, following an extremely stormy national debate. The Liberal government yesterday decided not to invest in a network of land and sea radars and interceptor missiles designed to defend against an intercontinental ballistic missile attack targeting North America.
The decision of Paul Martin, the then prime minister, was seen by many observers as an attempt to strengthen his minority Liberal government. New Democrats and many Canadians opposed the ballistic missile defense (BMD) program at the time, primarily because it was associated with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.
But the question of whether Canada should reconsider has repeatedly re-emerged in recent years, and Ms. Anand opened the door wide open when asked if it was time to reconsider this position.
“We are certainly looking at this issue fully and thoroughly, and what it takes to defend the continent at all levels,” he said. We have nothing left to do in this major continental defense analysis. “
The review in question is to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). This early warning system, which Canada shares with the United States, reflects its age, at a time when concerns about an attack on the North American continent were at its highest level since the Cold War.
The Conservatives, along with several parliamentary committees, have previously recommended that Canada join the ballistic missile defense program, especially since North Korea conducted several long-range missile tests in 2017.
The system itself is not designed to stop a massive attack from a country like Russia or China, and its actual effectiveness has been questioned against its costs, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at US $ 176 billion in next decade.
However, proponents of participation in Canada have argued that any defense is better than none.
Conservative defense critic Kerry-Lynne Findlay recalled that a NORAD deputy commander told a parliamentary committee in 2017 that U.S. directives mandated military officials not to defend Canada against her targeted by a ballistic missile attack.
North Korea’s new missile tests in recent months, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing concerns about China, have all “reinforced” the need to ensure Canada is properly protected, Ms Findlay said.
“We need to understand that we will be – or may be – defenseless in the event of a missile attack,” he said. Given the evolution of the threat, we strongly support the modernization of NORAD, and we believe that Canada should actively engage the United States on this topic and should participate in the missile defense program.
Minister Anand confirmed that part of the $ 6 billion new funding for the military in last month’s budget would be allocated to the modernization of NORAD, including the 1980s radar chain in the Canadian Arctic, known as the “North Warning System”.
However, the minister did not provide any timelines or other details; instead, he promised “short notice” announcements, citing his comments following his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington last month.
Military officials have warned for years that NORAD is outdated and in need of replacement. However, both governments were slow to act, even in the face of another Russian aggression.
In an interview after the conference on Tuesday, Anand defended the lack of detail, saying the government was taking appropriate time because of the scope and size of the work and money needed to modernize the system.
“It’s a huge investment,” he said. It will be complete (…) We take the time to do things properly. And that’s what I do, that’s what our government is doing. ”
The government is also working to develop the details of a planned review of Canada’s five -year -old Defense Policy, the minister said. The Liberals promised a budget review last month, saying an update was needed because of recent changes in global security.
“We are answering all these questions on our own now,” Ms Anand said when asked about the schedule for the review and who will take the lead in it. We are fully involved in determining the evaluation parameters, timing and key aspects. ”
The Minister indicated that one of the areas the review will focus on is recruiting and retaining more Canadians into the Armed Forces, which will require thousands more troops at a time when the army is more in demand than ever before.