Sunday, August 05, 2007


What Would NATO Do?

I think this is a timely question that we, as Canadians, need to ponder. Can we rely on NATO to defend Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic?

Canada has been a NATO partner from the outset - half a century. We've maintained land, sea and air forces at home and abroad as part of that obligation.

Now the question becomes does that really mean anything or are we just another Czechoslovakia waiting for the wolves to show up at our door?

While ostensibly a mutual defence alliance, NATO's real role in the second half of the last century was to ensure the territorial integrity of Western Europe. That's why we put all those tanks and airplanes over there and why we had all those ships and planes prowling the North Atlantic to protect our sea lanes between Europe and North America.

Your Dad's NATO ain't the NATO of today. It's supposed to be, but the reality of that is unclear. From a Canadian perspective, there's no better time than now to test those waters.

NATO has gone to war twice - in Yugoslavia (Kosovo) and in Afghanistan. Neither of these wars has actually involved an existential threat to any NATO member nation. Self-defence really wasn't a factor unless you're willing to believe that the crimes committed by a bunch of religious nutbars on 11 September, 2001 truly threatened the most powerful nation on our planet.

Now, we're in Afghanistan for only one reason. Osama bin Laden. But for bin Laden and al-Qaeda, Afghanistan today would be just another dustbowl, languishing in an interminable civil war and ruled by religious nutbars who cruelly oppressed their country's opium traffickers. In supposed defence of the United States we dutifully stepped in to keep those nutbars at bay and all those opium traffickers have to be enormously grateful for our help.

What's not been tested is whether post-Soviet NATO would actually rally to defend the territorial integrity of one of its member states, particularly if that member state was - oh, say, Canada.

At the moment, Russia is asserting sovereignty over the resource-rich high Arctic, turf that we were brought up believing was our own. Peter MacKay may scoff at Russia's claims but that doesn't give me a lot of comfort coming from a guy who sold out the Progressive Conservatives and, more recently, Atlantic Canada. If he can't stand up to Stephen Harper, how can we trust him to stand up to Russia?

Russia's challenge to Canadian sovereignty is the most immediate but, when it comes to our northern front, we face a number of potential challengers. The NATO partner we went to Afghanistan to help is one of them and there are others.

NATO deterred Soviet aggression against Western Europe by openly declaring the alliance would not tolerate any infringement of its territorial integrity and we placed an enormous amount of ordinance and manpower there to prove it. We, that is the NATO nations, didn't wait for Soviet tanks to roll across the central German plain. At a cost of many, many billions of dollars we invested in the territorial integrity of Western Europe.

Now it's fair to ask just what NATO is prepared to do for us. If NATO doesn't recognize our territorial integrity, what earthly good is it to us? We've given and given and given to NATO, half a century's worth of giving. We've fought for NATO and paid a blood price.

I think the time has come for Ottawa to get in touch with Brussels and seek a little clarification. If NATO is willing to commit to defending Canada's territorial integrity - to draw a line in the sand in the same way we did for Europe - then we should back NATO wholeheartedly, even in that impossible fiasco called Afghanistan. Then we would be defending Canada by defending Kabul.

If, however, NATO is going to throw us to the wolves the way the West threw the Sudetenland to the Nazis, surely we've got better uses for our soldiers and tanks.

1 comment:

Castor Rouge said...

Well, not that the Russians are crazy enough to actually do any shooting, but as Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the U.S. are all NATO members it makes cooperation on this issue somewhat easier to use NATO's auspices. Plus with half the former Eastern bloc in now and the other half clammering to get in NATO can fully achieve it's one of it's original three purposes, to keep the Russians out wherever needed (the other two being th keep the Americans in, and the Germans down, the last of which may no longer be so relevant).