Canada, National Defense and Article III of the NATO Treaty: Canada in Default?
2017-02-16 By Danny Lam
Canadians have long enjoyed the security and comfort of belonging to NATO: a robust military alliance that won the cold war. Today, Canada, a founding member of NATO, is in default of our treaty obligations under Article 3 of the NATO treaty.
Article 3 of the NATO treaty states:
“In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”
Failure to meet our obligations under Article 3 calls into question any (or all) obligations NATO members have to Canada under Article 5. This issue is coming to a head with the emergence of North Korea as a belligerent, unstable, and nuclear armed regime.
North Korea’s latest test of a solid fueled cold launched Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile demonstrate how far and fast the regime progressed from testing a nuclear device to fielding a credible nuclear arsenal.
While DPRK have not demonstrated conclusively their ICBM’s capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental USA, this latest development adds a new twist to the problem. Pukguksong-2 is a solid fueled missile mounted on a tracked transporter-erector-launcher (TEL), it is capable of being rapidly launched from anywhere in North Korea. But there is more.
North Korea purchased 12 Foxtrot and Golf (Project 641 & 628) submarines from Russia as “scrap” in the 1990s. It is plausible that parts and subsystems cannibalized from these vessels are being used to build a North Korean ballistic missile submarine. When North Korea acquire a capability to launch ballistic missiles from a submarine, which they have been working on, it greatly complicates allied abilities to detect and counter missile launches.
Experts in the United States believe that North Korea’s ICBMs are either already capable of reaching CONUS with a nuclear warhead or will be able to reliably do so within as little as 5 years. Within this timeframe, a submarine launched ballistic missile with sufficient range to reach CONUS is achievable.
The severity of the threat is demonstrated by Secretary Mattis publically warning North Korea of “effective and overwhelming” (Feb. 3) response to their use of nuclear weapons.
Contrast this with the Liberal regime of Canada who have not taken the North Korean nuclear ballistic missile threat seriously. Anti-missile capability is not specified for the Canadian replacement fighter, the “One Class” surface combatants, nor is the exiting NORAD system tasked for ballistic missile defense.
Frank and candid comments about the North Korean nuclear threat by President Trump and Secretary Mattis to Canadians officials during the Trudeau-Trump visit failed to result in any noticeable change in the Liberal regime’s defense policy. Notably, there has been no effort to update the Statement of Requirements (SOR) for major defense procurements after being clearly and publically warned by the US and allies about the North Korean threat.
Vice President Pence and Secretary Mattis reiterated at the NATO meeting in Brussels that the Trump Administration cannot be indifferent and sit idly by while allies free ride like Canada is doing on the US ballistic missile defense program.
Canada is not a participant in the US Ballistic Missile Defense Program and show no inclination to join. Thus, Canada does not contribute to the present limited defense against NORK ballistic missiles that involved an extensive, layered system of sensors, sea and shore based interceptors from Japan to Alaska to CONUS.
While Canada do have modest anti-submarine resources on the west coast, it is nowhere near sufficient to credibly patrol the large expanse of ocean from which a North Korean submarine can launch nuclear ballistic missiles once they slip past the chokepoints guarded by allies.
The Arctic opening is a major strategic shift confronting Canada with a new set of defense and security challenges for the 21st century. Not meeting them leaves a serious gap for other NATO nations. Credit Image: Bigstock
This raises questions as to what obligations Canadian allies like South Korea, Japan, and the US have to defend Canada, either by intercepting ballistic missiles aimed at Canadian targets early on or by preventing NORK ballistic missile submarines from breaking out.
By not participating in the Ballistic Missile Defense Program in the face of a clear, indisputable, obvious threat from North Korea, Canada is in effect, presuming that allies will defend Canada.
Canadians are naïve as to how little capability there is for ballistic missile defense in South Korea (who is getting their first THAAD battery this year) and Japan. Their capabilities must be reserved for the much more numerous threats from NORK short and medium range missiles and potentially, a Chinese nuclear first strike. Defense of CONUS will not be a priority even if they are willing.
What about the US? There is only a handful (fewer than 30) of land based anti-ballistic missiles in Alaska. That doesn’t go far with a probability of kill of .5 requiring two interceptors per target if the attack used multiple missiles with decoys.
Finally, that leaves sea based ABMs launched from US Aegis destroyers or cruisers since Canada has none. This option is possible only if the vessels are in the right place at the right time and have sufficient missiles available. But with the potential for ballistic missile submarines prowling about, anti-submarine resources (both surface and air) will be stretched thin.
With a new set of threats facing Canada, solutions to defense loom large. And any investments need to build toward enhanced capabilities; not just check a platform box for the defence force..Credit Image: Bigstock
Canada, by not having Aegis capable vessels equipped for missile defense or having significant anti-submarine assets, is in effect counting on the US to stretch their minimal anti-missile resources to include Canada.
What obligates the US to do so when Canada is in violation of our treaty obligation to “maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.” (Article 3)?
Canadians, and the Trudeau regime, need to recognize that Canada is in breach of our NATO treaty obligations, and as such, can expect no aid from allies under Article 5 until such a time as when Canada meets our obligations under Article 3.
Danny Lam is an independent analyst who lives in Calgary, Canada.
This article was first published by our partner Front Line Defence and is reprinted with their permission.
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