Canadian Policy Dilemmas in Deterrence and Disarmament

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Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 17, Issue 4 (2018)


Canadian defense policy, Deterrence, missile defense, nuclear disarmament


This article suggests that Canadian policy is dissonant in the current strategic dilemma opposing NATO and Russia over the Baltic States and Ukraine. On the one hand, Canada is a reliable, willing and respected partner in NATO, committed to making the Alliance credible to the Baltic States and to NATO adversaries. But while this credibility is buttressed by NATO nations’ conventional forces, Russia cannot meet this deterrent safely without relying on nuclear weapons. Canada has always been a proponent of responsible use of nuclear energy, and has been at the forefront of campaigns at NATO to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons for achieving political objectives. Nevertheless, NATO being a nuclear alliance, Canada cannot opt out of this aspect of the organization and still participate actively in forward deployments. We argue that Canadian participation and promotion of Ballistic Missile Defense will relieve this policy dissonance because BMD requires disarmament to function more fully. This development would enable a defensive transition, make Baltic reassurance safer, reduce Russian nuclear reliance, and provide a more ethical alternative to deterrence.