Canada is already one of the largest military spenders on earth, and ranks very high within NATO's 19-member alliance. While budget figures and actual spending estimate figures will vary, in the current fiscal year of 2002-03 the Department of National Defence (DND) will spend $12.318 billion.The DND's own figures show that Canada is the sixth-highest military spender within NATO and the 16th-highest in the world.
In a remarkable admission on September 4, 2002, U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci revealed that when he was appointed, his only order from the Bush administration was to work on increasing this country's military spending. His comment prefaced further statements openly critical of Canada's military spending and calling for a larger and better- equipped military.
In the post-9/11 context, many pro-defence-spending commentators have been equally critical of Canada's foreign policy and independent initiatives like the Landmines Treaty, the International Criminal Court and other policies undertaken in an effort to assert "human security."
While some defence experts suggest that boosting our military will mean a warmer reception at the White House, the connection between Canada's military spending and relations with the United States is less than clear.
David King, a former colonel in the Canadian Forces now teaching at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, DC, is frank about the issue. In the April issue of Policy Options magazine, he wrote:
"What might it take to make Canadian Forces relevant to the U.S.? The short answer is defence expenditures in the realm of 6 per cent or more of GDP for a sustained period of 10 to 15 years before the U.S. would consider Canada a reliable military partner of some noticeable, marginal utility."
In other words: an impossible defence budget five times what it is today -- or $60 billion a year.
One plausible reason (for the U.S. request) is that increased spending by Canada, a major market for U.S. defence equipment exports, would mean increased profits for U.S. weaponry manufacturers.
A 2002 U.S. Congressional Research Service report showed that the global economic downturn has reduced the size of the market for U.S. arms. U.S. global arms exports dropped from $19.4 billion in 1999 to $13.5 billion in 2000, dropping further to $9.7 billion in 2001, a reduction of 50 per cent in two years (2001 U.S. dollars).
The United States' demands for greater military support and "interoperability" with its allies to fight the war on terrorism translates into "Buy more equipment from us."
While members of the defence lobby argue that additional equipment will bolster Canadian sovereignty, in actual practice the opposite is true. The Department of National Defence is anxious to enhance its ability to fit seamlessly into the U.S. military so that Canadian Forces can join the U.S. in wars around the world.
Purchasing more sophisticated and powerful U.S. weapons will allow our military to be placed under U.S. command easily, as was the case in Afghanistan.
Two recent arms purchases are noteworthy in this regard. DND is arming CF-18s with U.S.-made Paveway II guided bombs. One thousand bomb kits have been ordered from the Raytheon Company at a cost of about $27,000 each (a total of $17 million U.S.).
Defence analyst Martin Shadwick notes, "The air force is keeping its ground-attack capability credible with this purchase, but because of that it might start getting invitations to coalition operations that the government would rather avoid."
Even more significantly, DND will purchase surface-to-air missiles for its ships for $29.6 million ($19 million U.S).
The eventual cost of the program will be several times higher. Curiously, the SM-2 missiles the navy will purchase are not fully functional when used with the radar systems on our patrol frigates. However, they are fully functional when deployed on the Canadian ships participating in a U.S. naval battle group using the advanced Aegis combat system.
This radar and communication system used aboard U.S. destroyers is so sophisticated that when our ships are deployed as part of a U.S. battle group, a U.S. commander can target and fire the Canadian missiles by remote control from his command ship.
The fact that a U.S. commander can aim and pull the trigger of a Canadian cruise missile aboard a Canadian ship is staggering in its implications for our sovereignty and defence policy.
Ultimately, this kind of military spending does not increase Canadian sovereignty. While redirecting resources from social programs to expensive weapons, Canada will only become better suited for integration into U.S. command structures to fight distant wars.