Fall 2008 (Volume VI, Issue III)
Promoting new understanding and improvement of Canadian foreign and defence policy.
In this issue:
- Message from the President – Robert S. Millar
- Message from the Editor in Chief - David Bercuson
- Article: “Getting Ready for a New U.S. Administration” – Derek Burney
- Article: “Are We Really Looking at Another Cold War?” – David Bercuson
- Article: “Wither the Tank – An Object Lesson in the Challenges of Capital Procurement” –
- Article: “On the American Election: Polls vs. Trends” – Colin Robertson
- Article: “The Canada First Defence Strategy – Better Than it Looks” – Eric Lerhe
- Article: “Anti-Americanism Temptations vs. Long-Lasting Indifference: U.S.-Canadian Relations in Electoral Times” – Stéphane Roussel and Mathieu Roussel
- Article: “The Canada First Defence Strategy – What Now?” – George Macdonald
- Article: “Russian Muscle Flexing” – Ray Crabbe
- About Our Organization
Welcome to the Fall 2008 issue of “The Dispatch.” There are three feature articles in this issue that cover the upcoming U.S. election, the possibility of another Cold War, and the challenges capital procurement pose to the Canadian military and policy makers. There are also five other noteworthy articles covering topics pertinent to Canadian foreign and defence policy. I encourage you to read each of them.
You will notice that CDFAI is still in the process of revamping this document but we are expecting to publish the Winter edition in a completely new format.
Enjoy this issue and let us know what you think about the articles.
Article Summaries from the Assistant Editor – Kate McAuley
David Bercuson is the Director of Programs at CDFAI, the Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, and the Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 41 Combat Engineer Regiment.
In politics, the old maxim says, a week is a long time; no matter what a politician may say one day, he or she might say or do something entirely different within a week. In the case of the Canadian navy, it was not a week, but two months.
On June 24th the government released its long awaited Canada First Defence Strategy. In that document the government reviewed the declining state of the Canadian navy and pledged to “reverse this trend” (p. 18). At the same time it outlined a number of capabilities or “core missions” that the Canadian Forces would prepare for. One of these core missions is to “lead and/or conduct a major international operation for an extended period” (p. 10). The allusion was clearly to the navy and its long-standing ability to sustain independent Canadian task groups at sea and, on many occasions, to lead other navies in the performance of tasks for the common good, such as patrolling the Persian Gulf.
Eight weeks later the government abruptly cancelled the long-standing intention to build three Joint Support Ships (JSS) first promised by the Paul Martin Government and reiterated on numerous occasions (including in the Canada First Defence Strategy) by the current government.
These ships were meant first and foremost to replace Canada’s two remaining Auxiliary, Oil and Replenishment vessels (AORs) which were built in the 1960s and are close to the end of their operational lives. The Joint Support Ships had an additional role, however, and that was to convey up to a battalion of Canadian infantry and their equipment and a small contingent of maritime helicopters. The Joint Support Ships were thus meant to provide support to Canadian task groups at sea for several decades to come while also having a capability to transport ground troops. Should Canada lose the first capability, it will have to rely on the warships of other nations to conduct missions far from our shores. Canada has never had the second capability.
What does this cancellation mean? First, the government is simply not prepared to pay the more than $3 billion necessary to produce these ships in Canada. That is clear. One of the remaining options is to give up on the capability of the navy to go to sea with an all-Canadian task group, one based on each coast. The AORs are the heart of these task groups, providing fuel and other support for a command destroyer and two frigates. No AORs, no independent task groups.
Another option is for the government to go shopping abroad, hoping to get a better deal from foreign suppliers. This could produce better value for the money because Canada has virtually lost its ability to build warships since the last frigate was completed in the early 1990s. But this option too won’t be cheap because warships are too complex and too specific to national requirements to be bought off the shelf. Besides, unbeknownst to Canadians, an arms race at sea has been under way for several years now and foreign warship builders are jammed up.
Of course the simple solution for the Conservative government was to allocate the funds needed for the navy and the other branches of the Canadian Forces to rebuild after the Jean Chretien “decade of darkness.” The government signaled as late as the end of 2006 that it would not do that and despite all the rhetoric we have heard since – including the largely rhetorical Canada First Defence Strategy – the reality is that defence is way down the list as a priority for public spending. It is higher than it was under Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, but it is still far too low. Let the guessing begin on which major project will be dropped next. Bet heavily on the Joint Strike Fighter.
Registration is still open for the 2008 Annual Ottawa Conference!
This year the conference, Canada and the United States: What Does it Mean to Be Good Neighbours?, will examine outstanding unsettled issues between Canada and the United States from both sides of the border and suggest ways to resolve those issues.
The conference panels will explore four key areas of cross-border relations: territorial and resource issues; multilateral and unilateral relations and spheres of influence; North American defence issues; and border issues such as cross-border business, immigration, and intellectual property rights. Two high calibre keynote speakers will also be addressing these issues:
The conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ottawa on October 27, 2008. The registration deadline is October 17, 2008 so don’t miss your opportunity!
We look forward to seeing you there!
by Derek Burney
Whether it is Barrack Obama or John McCain who moves into the White House next January, “change” will be the order of the day in Washington and for all who have interests in the United States. There will be as many as 4,000 new faces in the senior ranks of the Administration. Memory banks for many, especially on the subject of Canada, are unlikely to be extensive. The old adage that history begins once a new Administration takes office will be proven once again.
Expectations are likely to be as high for the next President as dissatisfaction is with the outgoing Administration. There is a sour mood in America which must be a matter of concern to Canada, among many others. Customary U.S. resilience and confidence is under severe stress and the appetite for constructive engagement with the world may be constrained by the pessimism prevalent in many parts of America.
The challenges that the new Administration will face – domestic and global – are formidable. They will not easily be met by a change of personalities or style.
No matter what result this election yields, we will be hard-pressed to assert and defend Canadian interests, especially when the demands for attention by others, and other issues, will greatly exceed the available attention span. Despite the political preferences of many Canadians, the prospect of strong Democratic majorities in Congress will not make matters any easier.
Nonetheless, we have a “once in an 8 year opportunity” to recalibrate and to decide what kind of a relationship we want with the new Administration both in terms of tone and commitment.
One choice is “workman-like maintenance” that is essentially transactional, staying away from bold or imaginative new directions. That is the relationship we have now, reflecting underlying wariness in Canada about many things American as well as the understandable constraints of a minority government. This choice is risk-averse and safe politically, but limits the opportunities to advance Canadian interests.
A second approach would be “concerted engagement,” aimed at reinvigorating the bilateral relationship. The essential ingredients would be the political stomach to lead at the top and creative ideas that offer mutual benefit. The risk of this choice is the extent to which it may stir the pot of anti-Americanism in Canada. The benefit would be a stronger, more vibrant relationship which serves Canadian interests (There is, of course, a “Third Option,” but its future would likely be as futile as its past).
The basic rationale for the more assertive option is that the gravest threats to Canada’s well-being are a severe outbreak of protectionism in America or a serious breach of security along our shared border. Our government should be “on guard” against both, and it is a situation in which the best defence is a strong offense.
There is a real opportunity that the new Administration’s desire for constructive action with key allies will be more than rhetorical posturing – at least for about one year. In order to attract attention, we should therefore put together a package of initiatives that offer mutual advantage.
The first priority must be the border and the extent to which concerns about security are impeding efficient flows of people, goods and services – to the detriment of both economies. There is a pressing need to inject more balance into the equation before more damage is done. It is frankly ludicrous that, as Europe expands its scope and simultaneously eliminates border restrictions, Canada and the U.S. are lurching in the opposite direction. If we need to cooperate more forcefully in monitoring or policing our shared border so be it, but the prevailing mindset needs to recognize the need for, and benefits from, efficient traffic flows. We need more creativity on this topic, fewer knee-jerk reflexes, and the initiatives must come from Canada. We should put aside customary Canadian modesty in dealing with border problems. Particularly at a time of U.S. economic weakness, Canada provides a significant growth market for U.S. goods and services.
I also suggest that, as part of our approach to border issues, the government move firmly to address concerns and negative perceptions in the U.S. about Canadian immigration and refugee policy. The Department of Homeland Security is fixated on this issue and has the upper hand on all border issues. It is very much in our national interest that we remedy real gaps and correct misperceptions or myths.
We should also use our Gateway’s initiatives, notably the new Windsor-Detroit bridge, to introduce pilot projects featuring new technologies, new customs procedures and new surveillance methods to ease congestion while enhancing security. The ultimate objective should be to create a border that is more open and less bureaucratic within a North America that is more secure.
We should also underpin measures to ease border thickening by taking a blowtorch to differences on standards and regulations on commerce between us which serve no practical difference other than to highlight the narcissism of small differences.
In Canada, fortified orange juice is classified as a drug; in the U.S., it is classified as food. Why the difference?
In Canada, anti-theft immobilizers are required on all new vehicles; in the U.S., lower cost entry vehicles are exempted. Again, why the difference? The proliferation of minor differences poses a real irritant to efficiency and competitiveness. Unless there is a compelling public policy interest for a Canadian difference, we should move to commonly accepted standards.
If the new Administration seeks to discuss existing trade arrangements, we should respond prudently and pragmatically, never forgetting the current or future power of our energy capacity. Initiatives for better labour or environmental standards in North America should not strike terror in the hearts of any Canadian. Whining or sounding apocalyptic alarms has no place in this debate.
The environment more generally is an area in which we need to define compatible or parallel courses of action. The helter-skelter approach currently being pursued on both sides of the border regarding climate change reflects a lack of both leadership and coherence. The potentially negative implications of these conflicting approaches, notably for the energy sector, should not be ignored. We need to address the environment/energy nexus in a pragmatic manner that serves tangible objectives for both sectors. Those who advocate exclusive – made in Canada – solutions for the environment and energy put pride ahead of purpose and, frankly, defy economic reality.
Our defence relationship should be the linchpin of security, but it cries out for some fresh thinking. We need to look beyond NORAD and signal our readiness to explore new command structures and broader scope, including land and sea, to complement what we have enjoyed for more than 50 years in our shared air space. This would certainly bolster efforts to streamline the border. The Arctic should be part of this dialogue. Despite our differences over specific legal claims, we have common interests that merit cooperation.
On global issues, Canada has earned a position of influence, more than many others, through our commitment of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. We should use it selectively and creatively where it counts most – in Washington – where relevance, expertise and influence coincide most productively on global issues. Our G-8 status and solid fiscal position give us credibility, too, in addressing global economic issues. And, when we do disagree with U.S. policies, we should express our differences candidly with a view to influencing a better result, not in order to grandstand for the home audience.
What we need to understand is that if our relationship with the U.S. is dysfunctional, our interests will suffer as will our ability to play a constructive role in global affairs. After all, who would choose to do serious business with a country that cannot arrange relations effectively with its closest neighbour.
Nonetheless, a necessary corollary to a more robust relationship with the U.S. would be a distinct Canadian approach to a significant global challenge, one in which we have tangible capacity and influence to bring to bear. A more focussed effort from CIDA would be a good starting point, particularly if a majority of CIDA’s human resources were assigned responsibilities outside of Canada (currently 90% reside in Ottawa!). Canada has a proud track record of responding to international emergencies but we need to define a more precise priority together with a contribution that will actually make a difference addressing, for instance, one or more priorities set out in the U.N.’s Millennium agenda. We might also assert a more consistent voice and force for Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiatives and genocide prevention in particular. Equally, if we can establish a more coherent and credible strategy at home on climate change, that would provide a further avenue for global action and influence.
The trilateral approach of the past decade in North America has actually contributed to a degree of drift on urgent bilateral issues with the U.S., both for Canada and for Mexico. We have to recognize that we have different priorities and a different agenda with the U.S. from those of Mexico and that Mexico has its own unique agenda with Washington. Attempts at a common approach tend to dilute or distract attention from the more pressing concerns of either country. Where there is scope for constructive trilateralism, Canada should be open to further dialogue; however, this should not be at the expense of a more urgent, more focussed effort on key bilateral issues.
Fundamentally, of course, our all pervasive relationship with the U.S. obliges a matter of political choice for Canada. That choice depends heavily on the quality of the analysis, the ideas, and the determination that we bring to the table. It is a choice between playing it safe below the radar screen or stepping up to the unique opportunity this election presents. We should never be over-awed by raw power calculations. Similarly, we should not be hobbled by notions of moral superiority. Above all, we should never take for granted the luxury of our proximity. Too often, it gives rise to complacency. There are no guarantees of success but with a relationship this vital to Canadian interests, we would be derelict not to try a more robust approach.
Make no mistake. Concerted engagement with the U.S. requires a full court press beginning with, and consistently prodded by, our Prime Minister. It can be arduous, even frustrating to elicit the right response and will rarely be appreciated on the homefront even if it does, but a commitment of this kind represents the pinnacle of common sense for Canada – ‘whether we like it or not’.
The best place to begin would be by resuscitating annual meetings between the Prime Minister and the President. History demonstrates clearly that these sessions serve as a forcing mechanism galvanizing attention and action at all levels on both sides of the border.
by David Bercuson
No one seriously doubts that the Russian war against Georgia will have far reaching implications, both economic and strategic, particularly for the countries bordering Russia, but also for NATO and Japan. But what, exactly, is there to fear? Specifically, are we on the verge of a new Cold War?
The answer is simple at one level. The Cold War was a unique phenomenon arising out of the Second World War. It was, in effect, a continuation of the struggle between Soviet Communism and “the west” that began after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in October 1917. The Bolshevik (i.e., Communist) ideology was anathema to the leaders of Britain, the United States, France and other countries well before the revolution. But the Bolsheviks were not perceived as a significant threat to the west until they sued for peace with Germany and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in early 1918. From then until June 1941, relationships between the USSR and the west were marked by espionage, suspicion, hostility and western abhorrence for the Soviet police state and for Stalin’s depredations.
When Hitler rose to power in Germany, western-Soviet relations were still in a state of deep crisis and the USSR was never seriously considered as a potential ally against the Nazis. Germany was allowed to grow so powerful that it became virtually impossible to defeat Hitler without the USSR as an active ally. Hitler made that happen on June 22, 1941, when he attacked the USSR, one of the biggest mistakes he made in the Second World War.
Roosevelt and Churchill embraced Stalin as a war ally but there is much debate about the degree to which they were prepared to embrace the USSR as a post-war partner. Nevertheless, there is little doubt today that no matter what measures Britain and the US might have taken to keep Russia as an ally, Stalin’s ambitions for a post-war Europe dominated by the USSR foreclosed any such possibility. The lack of agreement on what Europe - and especially Germany - ought to look like after Hitler’s defeat was the immediate cause of the Cold War.
All that is different today.
First of all, Russia is not the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders from the highest government officials to the lowest ranking Communist Party members were driven partly by Russian nationalism and partly by their messianic belief in the inevitable victory of Communism over Capitalism. Russian leaders today are not interested in overthrowing capitalism but indeed have embraced the most avaricious forms of it and wedded it to government in a system that is uncannily like the corporate pretensions of pure fascism – autocracy harnessing private business in the national interest.
Nor is Russia as militarily dominant as the USSR was. Russia most assuredly has the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world, but nuclear weapons are quite useless in actually winning concessions in international diplomacy because once used, the entire game is over.
The Russian military is certainly better than it was a decade ago, but it is still well behind the United States in both size and effective power. In fact, although parts of Europe basically fell asleep in matters of defence since the end of the Cold War, Europe’s potential to ramp up its military, say as part of a general expansion and rejuvenation of NATO, is still far greater than is Russia’s.
Russia might have to spend a trillion dollars to match the military power of the west and it does not have that amount of money to spend. At bottom, most of Russia’s infrastructure is still rotten, the birth rate is still falling, the mortality rate is still rising, and grinding poverty is still widespread. The boast is often heard that there may be more billionaires in Moscow today than in any other city in the world. That may be true, but the lavish consumption of those billionaires won’t have much impact on general Russian wellbeing without the development of a large middle class and a true civil society, both of which will simply not happen in an autocratic Russia.
This does not mean that Russia is not a threat to western interests. The biggest stick it wields is not military but economic – its huge reserves of oil and gas and European dependency on those supplies. No matter what Russian leaders may declare now, pipelines running through Georgia carrying oil and gas from Central Asia directly to Europe pose a threat to that stick.
Even if Russia does not take full control of Georgia one way or another, the Russian attack has killed the prospect of Georgia as a safe alternate route for Central Asian energy to Europe. The Russian point has been made; Europeans will pay Russia much greater heed in the near future than they have over the past decade and a half. Russia has drawn dramatic attention to its renewed ambitions and Europe now must choose between independence and reliance on a very unreliable energy partner.
A western strategy to cage the bear must therefore be based on two separate but mutually reinforcing courses. First, NATO must re-arm and do significantly more to defend the borders of the alliance than it has done since 1990. For better or worse, NATO has staked its future on the territorial integrity of the Baltic states, Poland, the Czech Republic and the other one-time Warsaw Pact countries it has embraced. Now it must demonstrate that it will not retreat in the face of Russian hostility.
Even if NATO abides by its pledge to Russia to not actually base NATO troops in those countries, the main NATO military members – the US, France, Germany, and the UK – ought to follow the US lead in the agreement Washington has struck with Poland to come to Poland’s aid immediately upon being attacked and without waiting for the cumbersome Article V process to kick in. NATO ought also to immediately increase the arming and training of the armed forces of those countries and offer generous military aid to Ukraine.
The other course is to begin immediately to wean Europe off of Russian energy. Whether that is done by building large fleets of LNG tankers, nuclear power plants, pipelines under the Mediterranean, greater conservation efforts at home, or some combination of such measures, the Russian energy weapon must be largely disarmed. This will accomplish two aims. First, it will decrease Russian diplomatic leverage and second, it will undercut Russia’s massive energy earnings.
At the same time, Russia should be suspended (not expelled) from the G8 and a hard look taken at Russian membership in the WTO. Perhaps a full withdrawal from Georgia ought to be the necessary condition for Russian membership. The west’s greatest leverage, however, is investment funding. Although the current sub-prime mortgage financial crisis gripping western economies will take a while yet to work its way out, a time will come in a year or so when western governments ought to look at either restricting the flow of investment funds into Russia or linking those funds directly to the flow of energy from Russia.
Russian leaders need help to sober up. The hard fact is that it will take trillions of dollars to raise Russian living standards to European levels. The German project to build up former East Germany to a standard equal to the rest of Germany has taken more than 15 years and untold trillions, and the task facing Russia is about ten times the size. The circus that the Russian army has provided the Russian people in invading tiny Georgia may defray the demand for bread outside Moscow’s circle of billionaires, but Russia’s leaders cannot close Russia off from the rest of the world as the old USSR was. Sooner or later a revolution of rising expectations may well engulf Russia from within.
Thus we are not in a new Cold War and Russia is not the USSR risen from the dead. Russia is frightfully vulnerable politically, economically and militarily. What the west needs now is simple: solid and intelligent leadership from the United States to re-set a course not simply for the US but for NATO. The aim of that new course should be to use both economic, financial and diplomatic assets to bring Russia back into line before its delusions of revived grandeur raise international danger levels to the point where war becomes even a remote option.
by Mike Jeffery
LGen (Ret’d) Mike Jeffery served for over 39 years in the Canadian Forces. Today he runs his own consulting company, focusing on defence, security and strategic planning. He is also the Honorary Campaign Chairman for the Royal Canadian Artillery Heritage Campaign.
In October 2003 the Minister of National Defence, John McCallum, and General Rick Hillier, then Chief of the Land Staff, announced the government’s intention to purchase the U.S. Mobile Gun System (MGS) as the Canadian Army’s medium direct fire weapon system, and to retire the 30 year old Leopard C2 Tank. By 2007 plans to buy the MGS had been shelved, the Leopard C2 was in operations in Afghanistan and the government had announced its intention to lease 20 Leopard II Main Battle Tanks in advance of negotiating the purchase of up to 100 Leopard II’s. Some may argue this change in direction is a sign of a government and a military that can’t make up its mind. In reality it demonstrates the difficulty of making rational long term procurement decisions in a rapidly changing security environment.
The tank has been centre stage of land tactical warfare for almost a century. No other single weapon system possesses the same mobility, firepower and protection and can produce the required shock action on the tactical battlefield. Modern tanks may have their strategic limitations but in terms of tactical capability they can be decisive. Critically, given the proliferation of tanks in the world, any army must be able to operate in an environment where they are present.
The history of tanks in Canada has been a contentious one, arguably attracting more attention than any other single piece of military equipment. Since the 1960’s the question has been posed repeatedly: does Canada need a tank? Paradoxically it was the Trudeau government, seeking to make amends within NATO for troop reductions in Europe, that procured the Leopard 1 to replace the aging Centurion. But the debate continued and, with the end of the Cold War and the search for a peace dividend, intensified. The argument put forward was: if the country was uncertain of the need for tanks at the height of the cold war, retaining them now makes no sense.
For the army, the issue has not been an easy one to manage. There is a firm belief that, irrespective of the weapons platform maintained, the mobility, firepower and protection found in the tank remains an essential element of land force capability; however, there are a number of factors which have complicated any decision on future capability.
First is the suitability of the existing generation of tanks to meet the army’s needs. A modern Main Battle Tank (MBT) is a large and complex weapon system, typically weighing in excess of 70 Tons, firing a main gun of 120mm or larger caliber and able to withstand the fire of all but the most capable weapons. Such systems are extremely effective in combat against a similarly equipped enemy. However, tanks have their limitations. Their size and weight result in both strategic and tactical mobility shortcomings. They are difficult to get into an operational theatre and once there, are not easy to maneuver, especially in urban areas. Indeed in operations short of war, their presence can be escalatory and counter productive. The overall result is the maintenance of an expensive weapon system essential for major combat but with limited utility for many of the operations envisaged.
Second is the projected future of the tank. There is little doubt that the existing generation of tanks will remain in service for several decades to come and will likely dominate the battlefield for the foreseeable future. However, there is equally little doubt that these weapons are approaching the limits of physics in trying to optimize mobility, firepower and protection. Firepower and protection enhancements, while feasible, add weight and further exacerbate the mobility issues. The solution to this problem is technology and the common vision is for new lighter Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV’s) with “tank-like” capabilities, albeit using very different technological solutions. These would likely be wheeled or tracked systems with superior strategic and tactical mobility. Protection would come from stealth technologies and advanced “active” protection systems and there would be a variety of new firepower options. This transition is comparable to that experienced by navies at the turn of the last century. In line with this thinking, the U.S. Army is actively developing its “Future Combat System,” forecasted to begin fielding in 2015. It includes the Mounted Combat System (MCS), an AFV under 40 Tons that hopes to meet both the strategic and tactical requirements of the modern battlefield. In the mean time, a number of systems, lighter and more mobile than current tanks, are being developed, albeit with limited capabilities. The MGS is such a system.
Third, the changing nature of land warfare is driven by two dominant trends. We are moving away from massed industrial age warfare to information age warfare. In simple terms this means armies will use the power that information provides to be far more agile and to minimize mass. This envisages an army that does not slog it out nose to nose with an opponent, but rather uses its superior knowledge and its inherent speed to apply force decisively at the time and place of its choosing. In such an environment it may be less the use of specific systems which is decisive than the systematic application of force from a range of complementary systems. We are also seeing the emergence of asymmetric warfare. This sees conventional military forces being opposed by unconventional forces, including non-state actors which act in a manner to rob the conventional military force of its power. In his book “The Utility of Force,” General Rupert Smith has termed this “War Amongst the People,” and has argued that in such a context the utility of force is limited.
These trends imply that while armies must be capable of combat and must have systems which ensure dominant firepower, mobility and protection, the existence of these capabilities in one specific system – a tank – is less critical. They also suggest that weapons systems need to have utility in environments in which force may not be the dominant factor.
Faced with this changing landscape, the army had to decide whether it would invest in a new tank, retain the in-service Leopard, attempt to procure or develop a new type of system or dispose of the tank altogether. In the late 1990’s the army decided to maintain and upgrade the Leopard as a hedge against uncertainty. The army’s Leopard C2, even with its upgrades in fire control and protection, was not in the category of a modern MBT; however, with its lighter weight and 105mm gun it had good mobility and acceptable firepower and protection, making it an effective Direct Fire Support Vehicle (DFSV). This saw the army retaining a weapons system with a basic level of tactical capability, allowing it to maintain individual and collective skills while waiting for technology to mature.
By the turn of the century, the army was facing serious challenges. Resource pressures had increased, capability and capacity were waning and the institution’s credibility was in question. There was a dominant sense that the army was trying to do everything without the resources to sustain it. It needed to take control of its own destiny.
At the time, the government and the military were focused on cost reductions and there was little discussion of the evolving security climate and how Canada would play within it. Efforts within the army to chart a logical and responsible course forward led to the development of “Army Strategy: Advancing with Purpose.” This strategy was to provide a long term vision for the institution to enable sound investments that would result in a coherent land force capability.
Army Strategy envisaged transforming the army into a new kind of military capability for a new and evolving world. Equipping plans would not be just about system for system replacement but would help shape a fundamental shift in land force capabilities and operations. This vision saw the development of a medium weight combat capable force with high utility across the conflict spectrum. It envisaged investing in modern sensors, information systems and upgraded C2 to make the army a knowledge based organization. It also saw enhancing the army’s firepower to improve tactical combat capability while, at the same time, improving strategic deployability and sustainability. This meant replacing the existing medium direct (Tank) and indirect (Artillery) systems with lighter, more sustainable, less personnel-intensive but more capable weapons.
This was a long term vision and there were no illusions that such changes could be achieved quickly. It was also clear that the army would face a major challenge in managing the many risks during transformation. Many of the capabilities essential for the new army were not yet available; indeed, it was clear that some of the technology essential to achieve the objective were yet to be developed. In addition, the army lacked capital and had to ensure the best return on investments and carefully manage its investment risk.
In terms of weapon systems replacement, the greatest risk would come in eliminating or seriously reducing existing capabilities prior to the purchase and introduction of new capabilities. To do so would mean that the army could not fight, except in very specific situations, and would have to accept a high degree of operational risk. It would also mean losing the skills essential for a combat capable army and jeopardizing the introduction of new technology when acquired. The result would be a much-reduced capability and a much-protracted modernization when new technology was eventually introduced. In the worst case, poor risk management of weapons system replacement could result in the army being ineffective.
Against this backdrop, the political complexion of the country was changing and the government was seeking means of increasing capability, albeit without investing large sums. This took an interesting turn as the government looked to internal efficiencies as a means of funding and, in part, new initiatives. Not surprisingly, one of the targets for reductions was the tank and the army was again forced to justify why it was keeping an old technology not seen as useful for the kinds of operations being undertaken.
In advancing its strategy, the army made clear that the retention of a medium direct fire system was essential for maintaining the minimum required combat capability. Its preferred option was to stay the course with the Leopard 1 but it did offer the government an alternate approach. This option was based on a systems approach utilizing three weapons: the Mobile Gun System (MGS); the Multi-Mission Effects Vehicle (MMEV); and the TOW Under Armour anti-tank system (TUA). Each could be used independently in operations short of combat, but all were essential to create the kind of direct firepower necessary to ensure effectiveness in combat. This was envisaged as an interim solution and was ultimately to be replaced by a newer system as technology matured.
With respect to the MGS, this approach would ensure a weapon system that would be more strategically and tactically mobile, providing a level of firepower more useful in the peace support operations most in demand. Implicitly this meant acceptance of greater operational risk. The MGS was not a tank and, in particular, lacked the protection essential for close combat. It also was an unknown commodity as it was still under development. For this reason the Leopard was to be kept in service until the MGS was fielded. This option fit well with the government’s desire to take a new approach in defence and thus was accepted as the course to be charted. From the army’s perspective, while far from the ideal, it at least ensured the retention of an essential level of medium direct fire capability.
Almost as soon as the decision to purchase MGS had been made and announced, factors led to a refinement of thinking. As so often happens, the detailed programme analysis led to some concerns as to the long term viability of the MGS strategy. Costs of the three systems (MGS, MMEV and TUA) that were considered essential to the army as risk mitigation were considered prohibitive and led to reconsideration of MMEV as a project. These concerns were heightened by the challenges being faced by the U.S. Army in meeting the stated specifications for MGS and fears over the probability of cost increases. At the same time, concerns over protection risks with MGS, primarily as a result of the U.S. post-invasion phase experience in Iraq, increased. Finally, there can be little doubt that the arrival of the Conservative government, which had the promise to buy new tanks as part of its election platform, also shaped thinking. It therefore came as little surprise that in early 2006 the army recommended the cancellation of the MGS programme.
The army’s thinking on the medium direct fire capability further evolved through its own operational experience in Afghanistan. The deployment of Canadian troops in large numbers into combat operations and the experience of casualties in significant numbers resulted in a major shift in thinking as to the acceptability of casualties and the importance of protection. While the principle of balance between firepower, mobility and protection remained, the need for high levels of passive protection took on a much greater importance when faced with regular attacks in situations in which the advantages of mobility and firepower were of limited utility. Commanders understandably called for improved protection for their troops. This saw the acceleration of capital projects to enhance passive protection for soldiers and vehicles and was specifically responsible for the requirement of the RG-31 Nyala Patrol Vehicle and Armoured Heavy Support Vehicle System (AHSVS).
This concern over protection came to a head during Op Medusa, when Canadian troops were faced with concerted Taliban resistance and encountered operational shortcomings directly attributable to the limitations of the LAV III, primarily in terms of protection. This led to the deployment of the Leopard C2 to fill the gap. Subsequent experience demonstrated the limitations of the Leopard in this environment, primarily due to heat, which drove the need to replace it. In April 2007 the government announced that it would lease 20 Leopard II Main Battle Tanks from the Netherlands to replace the Leopard C2 in Afghanistan and subsequently would proceed with plans to purchase 100 used Leopard IIs.
The army’s experience in charting a logical course for its medium direct fire capability illustrates the challenges faced by institutional leaders in making sound long term decisions. Was the MGS decision wrong? Based on subsequent events it would seem so; however, such is the difficulty of making long term capability decisions in a changing security and technological environment. The decision to purchase MGS was made by the government with a clear understanding that such a course would mean an acceptance of higher risk in tactical operations and a limit to what the army could do. From the army’s view point it was the lesser of two evils. In that context, was the decision to deploy tanks the wrong one? Unquestionably, given the context, the decision to deploy tanks to Afghanistan made eminent sense. When mission success and soldiers lives are at stake, military commanders must do what is required. Long term plans must wait. However, did it make sense for the government to purchase a large number of tanks? That question is more difficult to answer.
Capability decisions have both short and long term implications and senior military officers must attempt to select the right weapon systems to meet both current and future needs. This is more than just selecting the latest technology; it means ensuring the continued relevancy of the system and the tactics implicit in its use
On a larger scale, leaders must balance the individual requirements of system capabilities and numbers with the overall affordability of the programme. How much for this – how much for that? Some will argue that the affordability argument is moot because the value of human life cannot be measured in dollar amounts and thus compromises should not be made based on costs. This argument is fallacious. The operational risks associated with accepting any weapon system are a vital, indeed dominant, aspect of selection; however, senior military officers must balance many factors and ensure that the defence programme is affordable while producing the capability required to meet the defence needs of the nation. In short, some compromise is inevitable.
There can be little doubt that the army’s assessed long term plan is the right one: the realization of a new weapons platform with tank-like capabilities based on new technologies that see improved firepower and mobility while maintaining the requisite level of protection. Such systems will be employable across a range of operational scenarios from “war amongst the people” to major conventional combat. The problem, as illustrated by this experience, is that those technologies do not yet exist in a sufficiently capable operational system. The reality is that while change is coming, it will not be rapid and we can expect to see most armies operating much as they have for some time to come.
The decision to procure MGS was a risk-based strategy focused on retaining the maximum possible capability while ensuring optimum utility in an environment of limited resources. The result was limited, arguably unacceptable, capability for the nature of operations now faced. The decision to purchase new tanks focuses on the immediate operational problem of providing protection and clearly enhances the Canadian Army’s tactical combat capability. The risk with such a strategy is the potential for this capability to have less utility in future operations. Neither of these decisions achieves the ideal but such is the reality faced by the army leadership. Afghanistan has shown that the status quo is not viable and in the absence of a breakthrough in technologies, Canada’s operational commitments demand such a capability.
The challenge faced by the army is by no means unique. Rather, it is indicative of the kind of dilemma increasingly confronting military leaders and governments. With capital resources in short supply and costs escalating at a high rate, every dollar spent, be it for tanks, ships or aircraft, must be spent wisely. This means forecasting technology growth, the changing nature of conflict and the emerging threats and making decisions that will, at worst, provide capability which will allow militaries to operate effectively. As the experience faced by the army in deciding the future of the tank demonstrates, such decisions are not easy.
by Colin Robertson
Colin Robertson is a foreign service officer currently on loan to Carleton University to direct a Canada-U.S. project. He served in New York, Hong Kong, in Los Angeles as Consul General, and in Washington as first head of the Advocacy Secretariat. He was a member of the team that negotiated the FTA and NAFTA.
Years ago, working at our Consulate General in New York and reporting on the 1980 elections, I visited with the late Everett Ladd, the respected American social scientist. It was late summer and we met at the Roper Centre, the premier archive of polling data, at the University of Connecticut.
In mid-July of that year, the Republicans had selected former California Governor Ronald Reagan at the Joe Louis arena in Detroit. Conventional wisdom held that Reagan was too old and too Hollywood. The Reagan brand of Republicanism was seen as 'confrontationalist.' Republican John Anderson was running a third party challenge. During the primaries, the man who was now his running mate, George H. W. Bush, had labeled Reagan's economic prescription as 'voodoo economics.' The chattering class judged Reagan as too 'radical' for America and concluded that the Democrats would continue as the 'natural governing party.'
In mid-August, at Madison Square Gardens, President Jimmy Carter was confirmed as the Democratic nominee, after being challenged by Senator Ted Kennedy. Notwithstanding inflation, high interest rates, gas lines, the Iranian hostage crisis, and Carter's low personal ratings, the Democrats continued to enjoy a comfortable lead in polls.
So could I draw any conclusions from the polls, I asked Ladd? "No," he said. Comparing the spring and summer polls to pre-season baseball, he observed that they meant very little, except for the party faithful and politically infatuated. The average American, he told me, only tuned into the election after Labor Day: "That's when the campaign begins in earnest." Even then, he cautioned, if the race narrowed (as it did after the second debate at the end of October), there were usually enough voters who didn't make up their minds until the last days and that this could spell the difference between victory and defeat, and between a landslide and a close race.
"Leave the horse race reporting to the media," Ladd advised. He believed that while there are enduring values that drive American civic life, it was always critical to ask the right questions and look at the evidence over a period of time. Ladd also cautioned against counting too much on the presidency to achieve our objectives and, in the wake of the failed East Coast Fisheries Agreement, his advice resonated. He reminded me that it was Congress and its legislative activity that mattered more to Canada and that we should be putting at least as much effort into our relationship with this branch of government.
Ladd was an optimist, but a contrarian: "What you should be doing is looking beyond the headlines, at longer term trends, especially demographic, that affect attitudes…that's where the kinds of changes that matter take place."
When the new Congress meets in the House of Representatives and the Senate on January 3rd, 2009, and the new president takes the oath of office on January 20th, we should have in place a gameplan. The factors feeding into our analysis should include reference the following three.
Demographically, America is starting to bear a greater resemblance to the nineteenth century than to the twentieth. Technology and the digital revolution is shifting the effect of the industrial and manufacturing melting pot that characterized America in the last century. Increasingly, people are able to live where they want to without moving for work. The fastest-growing parts in America are the mountain West and the agrarian South, where, Council on Foreign Relations scholar Charles Kupchan observes, "Jeffersonian and Jacksoninan traditions are alive and well—populism, unilateralism, and neo-isolationism."
Second, immigration and higher birth rates, among minorities, especially Latinos, is increasing American diversity. One in four children under five is Latino, up from one in five in 2000. Concentrated in the Southwest – California, Texas, and Florida – these three states are soon expected to have Latino majorities. In electoral college terms the trio represent over 1/3 of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. By 2050, it is estimated that one third of America will have Latino roots. My bet is that Latinos are going to integrate in a fashion similar to the Irish and Italians – two other groups considered 'foreign' when they arrived in America, but the debate on immigration will continue to be sustained, divisive and emotional. The Pew Foundation has a major project and website devoted to the study of the Latino community. Their work suggests that Latinos view foreign policy differently from the traditional political elite. Not surprisingly, they are much more focused on the Western Hemisphere and the Americas, and much less interested in defence alliances and the traditional foreign policy agenda.
Third, generational change is taking place and with it a change in mindsets. The WWII and post-war generation who have set the framework for American foreign policy were, for the most part, default internationalists because of those experiences. They came of age with television, Walter Cronkite, and the Cold War, Sputnik, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam. This is ancient history for a generation that is growing up with Youtube, Jon Stewart, climate change, AIDs and 9-11. I don't know what their internationalism will be like, but it will be different from the internationalism of Richard Lugar, Lee Hamilton, Jack Warner, and Chuck Hagel – a generation of Americans that is about to depart from political life. The Iraq adventure has reinforced the aversion to foreign commitments that has coloured America's foreign policy since its founding.
In analyzing the Bush doctrine, Owen Harries, that most astute Australian observer of American foreign policy, concluded it was a derivative of American hegemony that made pre-emptive action possible, American exceptionalism that provided the moral conviction for action, and American outrage over 9-11 that created the pressure for action. Even then, by the latter half of the second term, realism had become leitmotif. There is an expectation that the next president will revert to a foreign policy, rooted in realism, with a renewed commitment to internationalism.
Perhaps. But it may not happen as easily as anticipated. A president can proclaim but party, Congress, and the public don't necessarily follow. Nor is bipartisanship in foreign policy, excepting the existential threats, any longer the norm. Change also needs consensus, which requires compromise – difficult to achieve in an era of partisan polarization.
And, as we have witnessed on NAFTA and the failure to achieve congressional agreement on subsequent trade agreements, domestic conditions are at least as important as the international setting in shaping U.S. foreign policy. Mobilizing public support for a renewal of popular commitment for a centrist, multilateralist, institutional engagement will require the kind of skill that Roosevelt displayed in the prelude to Pearl Harbor as well as the kind of determination, in confronting adversaries at home and abroad, that Reagan exhibited when standing firm to win the Cold War.
In this context, there will be much opportunity for a friend and neighbour possessing independent global networks at home and abroad. When shared in a sincere and helpful fashion, the Canadian perspective is appreciated. With trust and confidence we can also, as the late John Holmes observed, "tell them when their breath is bad."
by George Macdonald
Lt-Gen (Ret’d) George Macdonald served 38 years in the CF, culminating in the position of Vice Chief of the Defence Staff from 2001 to 2004, after having served for three years as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of NORAD. He is currently working with CFN Consultants.
The much-awaited Canada First Defence Strategy was announced in May and the written document was released in June. It is a short read of 22 pages and contains no real surprises. The media has made an effort to clarify what they perceive to be conflicts in some of the dollar figures but overall the content of the document was pretty predictable. In many ways, it provides a means to come to closure with many of the promises and stated intentions of the Conservative Government, especially in regard to spending on major capital equipment items over the longer term.
Overall, the government has stated that it will continue to enhance the capacity of the Canadian Forces through balanced investments across the four pillars that form the foundation of military capabilities: personnel, equipment, readiness and infrastructure. Specific projects and personnel targets to build a “balanced, multi-role, combat-capable force” are included and all are declared to be affordable through stable defence funding over the next 20 years.
So the government has reaffirmed its support for the CF; the budget has been established and the major projects listed. What now?
Work needs to evolve within the Department of National Defence (DND) to connect this strategic direction into real decisions for implementation. Ultimately, major capital spending is effected through Treasury Board approvals at the key milestones of each project. These approvals have been difficult to achieve over the past few years because they have lacked a context within which to understand and evaluate their relevance and value to the CF mission. The most significant approvals which have taken place have been for those initiatives specifically championed by the Government – C17 strategic airlift aircraft, C130J tactical transports, etc.
It is now incumbent on DND to develop a Strategic Investment Plan for consideration by Treasury Board in November. This plan will provide the context needed to prioritize and manage the more significant projects. It will phase them appropriately to ensure that they are affordable within the defence budget and that the work needed to progress them can be feasibly done by the staff available. Moreover, the plan will enable the management of the complex balance of resources across the four pillars, sequencing key projects appropriately. Project implementation will be coordinated to ensure that the timing of major investments corresponds to the availability of funds, and that other aspects of the capability, such as people and infrastructure, can be brought together to achieve an operational capability.
The benefits of having an approved investment plan are significant. Approvals for specific projects, once established as viable and affordable elements of the plan, will be very straight-forward if kept within the projected scope and cost. The burden of having to justify each and every project on its own will be able to be replaced by identifying where the project responds to the overall capabilities endorsed by Government and how it will be managed, both from a program coordination and a risk perspective.
The champion of this activity remains the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, with his two key subordinates, the Chief of Force Development and the Chief of Program. Their challenge is to produce a plan that will serve the CF for the longer term, even if it requires annual updates along with occasional ‘tweaking’ to accommodate changes in requirements or the approach taken. Although the dollar amounts with which they have to work are impressive, the amount committed to capital equipment over the 20-year period will only be about 12% of overall defence spending. While one should not argue for a specific proportion of the budget to be dedicated to capital due to difficulties with objective measurement, it is unlikely that this amount will be sufficient to renew military capabilities to the extent that the Government anticipates. This will make the production of a viable investment plan a major challenge, not necessarily in the short term, but certainly in the mid to long-term periods.
On a related note, something that is emphasized in the document is the anticipated level of involvement of Canadian industry. Overall, the CFDS is seen to herald a renewed relationship with defence industries and R&D organizations across the country. In addition to the major players, this will include small and medium businesses as well. Procurement improvement and reform will be a key element of this new relationship, with stated intentions of fostering greater transparency and engaging industry earlier in the process. While this is an important commitment for the Government to make, the reality is that procurement reform has been a priority for some time and changes do not happen over night. Even with the appropriate champions in place and solid political support to effect change, real benefits may still take years to realize.
Despite any reservations, in the end the production of a CFDS can only be a good thing for the defence program. With it, an agreed investment plan can be developed and adopted to provide guidance for all to prosecute the many urgent elements for CF capabilities. Let’s hope that it becomes a permanent part of Defence planning and execution.
by Ray Crabbe
Ray Crabbe served in the Canadian Army for 35 years, serving in many distinguished positions including Deputy Chief of Defence Staff at National Defence Headquarters where he was responsible for CF operations and intelligence world wide. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Southport Aerospace Corp., as well as two private companies in Michigan.
In the current clash between Russian and Georgian troops in the breakaway district of South Ossetia, it is difficult to distinguish reality from rhetoric. It is clear that Georgia struck first on August 7th in an attempt, no doubt, to resolve the 20 year old problem of the South Ossetian's being too cozy with Moscow. Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, was hoping that American support – along with international pressure - would be sufficient to prevent the real Russian power Vladimir Putin from over-reacting and intervening on behalf of the pro-Russia population. Given the extent of Russia’s response, it appears that Putin could care less about the U.S. or European reaction and is using this opportunity to show the world that Russia is back, and will not be reticent to flex its military might.
This is payback time for Putin, and he knows that the U.S. is not in a position militarily to respond and help its close ally, Georgia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin has been looking for the right opportunity to get back at the West, and the USA in particular. Saakashvili may have misjudged the Russian response, and in stirring the hornet’s nest, has afforded Putin the opportunity he has been looking for to show the world, and Russia, that he is still in control and is prepared to push back.
Since the fall of the wall, four former Soviet republics have joined NATO while Ukraine and Georgia are lobbying desperately to become members. Other former Soviet satellites have cozied up to the West, especially Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on Russia’s south flank who have become Western-friendly and rich off the oil in their countries. This is particularly troublesome for Putin. NATO – led by the USA - bombed Serbia into submission in 1999, and assisted Kosovo in gaining independence from Russia’s ally, Serbia.
These realities fly in the face of Putin who has imperialistic tendencies and desires to re-establish and expand Russia’s influence in the Crimean and Caucasus area, and with Georgia being strategically located between the Black and Caspian Seas – and being particularly friendly with the U.S. - it is a prime target. The critical oil and gas line that runs from the Caspian area and Baku to feed the European thirst for oil run through Georgia. If Russian troops were to remain in Georgia, this supply could become extremely vulnerable if Russia wanted to get nasty. Russia is a major supplier of oil to Europe, and eliminating the oil flow from the Caspian area would be strategically attractive to Russia.
It is well known that Georgia and the USA have very close ties, both militarily and economically. The U.S. military has had a presence in Georgia for some time, assisting with the training and building of its military. Georgia provided 2,000 troops to assist the United States in Iraq, and with the recent clash in South Ossetia, provided troop lift to return Georgian soldiers from Iraq to fight against the Russian army.
Adding fuel to the fire is the open and personal dislike between Putin and Saakashvili. This is no doubt furthered by the Georgian president’s American education, warm relations with George Bush, support to the Americans in Iraq and relentless pursuit to join NATO. Coupled with Putin’s ambition on Russia’s southern flank, there is little surprise that he took the action he did. Azerbaijan, located just west of Georgia and bordering on the Caspian Sea, has created a very well armed and equipped military and would probably take whatever action is necessary, should its lucrative oil business be threatened. The Ukraine is fiercely independent and any threat to its sovereignty would not be taken lightly. So the potential for spillover and prolongation of the tense relations in the area is very real.
The Russian military has strengthened considerably under Putin’s regime, and is very capable of defeating the much smaller Georgian forces. The chances of the U.S. military coming to the rescue are slim at best. Georgia may receive some indirect support, but other than the current training cadre and strategic assistance provide by the U.S., Saakashvili should not count on U.S. troops to intervene on Georgia’s behalf. It is unlikely that European nations will become engaged because of their dependence on Russian oil, and the potential of the sons and daughters of the nations dying in South Ossetia – and to what end?
Putin has been handed an opportunity to flex his military might and has done so. No doubt, he views this as a golden opportunity for the resurgence of Russia and its military power. And through his bold assertion of military power, he has shown that he is still in charge and will no longer be hesitant to use military power in Russia’s interest. His long-term response to the Georgian crisis will be a telling tale in this regard.
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