Project Ploughshares Urges Prime Minister to Reject BMD

Tasneem Jamal

Letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

January 2, 2004

The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin
Prime Minister
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister,

I write with regard to Canada’s approach to Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) in the context of your forthcoming visit with President Bush. One year ago the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade advised the Government not to make any decision on BMD because “the technology has not been proven and details of deployment are not known.” Events since then only reinforce the wisdom of that caution.

During 2003 four U.S. General Accounting Office investigations confirmed that none of 10 essential technologies has been tested in operational conditions and 8 of 10 have not even reached the product development stage. The X-band radar designed to track incoming warheads and distinguish them from decoys, the interceptor rockets, the command and control communications links, and the kinetic kill vehicle, to name just a few of the components essential to a deployed system, all still await proven technologies.

As a result, the deployment details also remain uncertain. While President Bush has announced a deployment schedule, the Department of Defense still equivocates on whether the system is being deployed or simply “fielded.” In either case, it is now clear that whatever is built under the President’s current timetable will in essence be a test facility rather than an operational defence system. As Defense Secretary Rumsfeld puts it, the Pentagon just wants “to get something out there.” Then, when something is “in the ground, at sea, and in a way that we can test it, we can look at it, we can develop it, we can evolve it, and…learn from experimentation with it.”
The proposed system will not provide any protection to Canadians – neither when it is constructed in 2004 and 2005, nor in the foreseeable future. There are important additional reasons why this is not the time for Canada to support BMD.

First, BMD’s strategic impact is not likely to be nearly as benign as many had hoped when Russia and China offered only muted public response to the US abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Both countries are actively preparing counter measures and strategies: for Russia this includes a commitment to keeping its land-based ICBMs on high alert, some with multiple warheads; China for its part is exploring counter-measures to confound radars, and is showing renewed interest in anti-satellite weapons and in multiple re-entry vehicles for its (land-based) ICBMs.

Second, the only real progress against the missile threat over the past 12 months has come, not from hardware and technology, but from multilateral diplomatic initiatives related to rogue state ambitions – in Iran and now Libya, and potentially in North Korea.

Third, it is also now clear that the US will not assign command and control of the (experimental) BMD system to NORAD, confirming that there is no operational role for Canada in the BMD system. In that context, Canada should encourage NORAD’s return to its original function as a mechanism for air defence cooperation, through which each party assures the other that no undetected air threats to the other are emanating from its territory.

While an explicit Canadian disavowal of Ballistic Missile Defence would be welcome, at the very least Canada should decline any invitation to explicitly support or participate in BMD. Project Ploughshares urges you to inform Mr. Bush that, as the Parliamentary Committee also recommended, Canada will continue to monitor developments and to explicitly oppose any effort to weaponize space. To monitor BMD developments, Canada requires a seat at the table when decisions relevant to our security are being made. There are two such tables available to Canada – the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defence and the new Canada-US Binational Planning Group – at which Canada should press for BMD updates and especially for alternative approaches to dealing with the ballistic missile threat.

As you know, Canadian policy has never advocated missile defence as a credible means of dealing with the ballistic missile threat. Instead, Canadian policy has, and should continue, to press a fundamentally different approach, both multilaterally and in direct Canada-US discussions.

Canadian policy should recognize that the ballistic missile threat is a global phenomenon that requires a global approach; that a secure and stable “Fortress North America” is not achievable in an international environment of nuclear weapons and ICBM proliferation; that North American protection from ballistic missile threats requires that their use be prevented and that their spread be limited; that preventing their use and spread means multilateral diplomacy that also addresses the political and security conditions that  currently produce incentives for states to seek nuclear weapons and the means to threaten them over intercontinental distances; and that strategic missile defence is counter-productive in that it contributes to such proliferation pressures.

I have enclosed a copy of a special report on Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence that elaborates on the above points.

Please be assured of our ongoing support for Canada’s extensive and constructive non-proliferation efforts related to weapons of mass destruction as well as ballistic missile technology.

On behalf of Project Ploughshares I extend to you our good wishes for 2004.

Ernie Regehr
Executive Director

The Hon. Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Hon. David Pratt, Minister of National Defence

Spread the Word