ONE OF the things that brought Prime Minister King home from London ahead of schedule is reported to be the progress of Canadian-American talks on joint defense arrangements. Negotiations have been going at a rate some Canadians found too fast for comfort.
No one objects to a pretty thorough co-ordination of defense on this continent. It looks as if the Americans will have weather stations in our Arctic; that their troops will train there for winter fighting; that ours will train in Florida for tropical fighting. It also looks as if we shall have a much greater standardization of weapons than we have now, though the degree of this change is still under debate.
But some Canadians are wondering if the Americans aren’t taking too much for granted. These fears take two quite different forms:
1. They think some Americans would, perhaps unconsciously, override Canadian sovereignty. Canada has always fought against any encroachment, by the British general staff, on Canadian authority—that was what delayed the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan before the war. Canadian observers say that if you were to substitute “U. K.” for “U. S.” in some of the memoranda now under study, you’d have a document that would make even the most Tory Canadian cry out against “Imperialism.”
2. They’re also distrustful of the “military diplomacy” in Washington. British military men have not always been oversubtle in their approach to international politics, but compared to American military men (say the Canadians) they’re smooth as silk. Canadians are afraid that if the American general staff has a free hand in our Arctic, their manoeuvres will be so palpably antiRussian, so “aggressively defensive,” as one observer put it, that they’ll damage international relations beyond repair.
A third point of difficulty of rather different kind is the matter of standardizing weapons and equipment. The Americans would like to have the Canadian armed forces use American-type gear. To some extent our forces are already doing so. The RCAF particularly, but to some extent the Army, too, were using a good many items of American equipment by V-J Day, and if the war had lasted another six months the process would have gone much farther.
But we are still using mostly Britishtype equipment, and there are strong reasons for continuing to do so. Commonwealth defense co-ordination is as much a part of our plans as hemisphere defense, or nearly so. Moreover, the British are now acutely aware of their vulnerability in atomic warfare, and would like to set up a “dispersed arsenal” for the Commonwealth, with defense plants in Canada producing for all Commonwealth countries. It would be difficult for Canada to produce both British and American war equipment in quantity at the same time.
What Canada would like, and what probably will come eventually, is standardization of weapons and equipment between the British and American forces. But the United States has so great an advantage in
industrial power that this would mean, in effect, conversion of the British forces to American gear. The British are acutely reluctant to do this.
For one thing, they think their own stuff is better. For another, they don’t feel too sure of getting what they want when they want it from the Americans. The subjection of the American executive to Congress makes the British wary. Finally, they’re painfully sensitive about the fact that Britain is no longer—in material strength—a firstclass power, so they dislike anything that savors of deference to the American colossus.
The whole argument leaves Canada, as usual, in the middle. For the moment we shall probably keep on saying to both big partners: “Don’t talk to us, talk to each other.” Canadian staff men don’t care much whose equipment they use. But they can’t see much point in going too far with either side until the British and Americans settle their differents and begin to plan the future on a more or less stable basis of agreement.
V ¥ «i*
FOREIGN OFFICES are reputed to be dens of dark secrecy, and on most matters they still are. But some younger men in the service of democratic governments, including our own, think the public ought to have access to some of the facts that come in through diplomatic channels.
News dispatches from a totalitarian country cannot tell the whole truth or even â major fraction of it. Correspondents who have left a totalitarian country, and who wish to return, cannot write all they know. Unfriendly articles are noted, re-entry visas denied.
That’s why you didn’t read, in stories from
Chungking, how conscripts for the Chinese Army would be marched into town roped together like convicts.
Nor did any news agency carry, from Moscow, the item about the discovery of 80 microphones in various parts of the British Embassy t here, planted to pick up fragments of conversation that might interest NKVD, the secret police.
Even the articles written after leaving Russia don’t, as a rule, describe the extraordinary precautions taken by the Soviet Government to prevent contact between Soviet, citizens and foreigners. They don’t tell how an NKVD agent watches the door of a foreigner’s residence, notes if any Russian goes in, and on the man’s departure takes his name, address, and excuse for being there, if any. But these things are common talk among men who have served in the country, officially or otherwise.
Such men also say the Soviet people themselves are spied upon to an astonishing degree.
There’s a growing belief in the democratic services that these facts ought to be made known.
Question is, how? Some people in Ottawa favor an official publication like the Department of State Bulletin in Washington, which could record in sober language as much of the truth as a government might think it discreet to publish. Another suggestion is that officials, using pseudonyms, write articles for ordinary publication.
* * *
BRITAIN WAS in no great hurry to conclude and sign the wheat contract, finally negotiated last month. They were getting our wheat for $1.55 anyway, 40 cents below the world price, and had nothing to gain by tying themselves down to a contract. What they’d have preferred, and did in fact request, was a very short-term bargain which would be binding only for so long as wheat prices are almost certain to stay up. Then there would be a review and a scaling down (but not necessarily up) to the prevailing world price.
But for Canada, and particularly for Hon. Jimmy Gardiner, Minister of Agriculture, the contract was an urgent necessity. It was the answer to the western farmer.
John Bracken had charged in Parliament that the Liberal wheat policy had already cost the farmers $200 millions. Liberals didn’t deny this charge—they knew it was true. That’s the difference between what the Canadian farmer got and what he could have got at world prices.
Progressive Conservatives and CCF alike have asked, “Why put the whole burden on the farmer?”
The British wheat contract will be Jimmy Gardiner’s answer: We’ve bar-
gained not for a quick killing but for security. Now we have an assured market and a floor price, not for one year but for five. At last we can have planned production of wheat, something approaching the ever-normal granary.
That will be the argument. The next election will show whether the farmers were persuaded it was wise to forego the lush profits of the next few years for a long-term stability which is still a long way from certain.
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