Canada’s role in the nuclear club — or outside of it is once again becoming a major issue of domestic politics. Maclean's Ottawa editor explains why we have a chance to play a unique part in holding the North Atlantic alliance together — if the strong anti-nuclear group in the cabinet and in parliament can be won over to the view of the “two Pauls,” Martin and Hellyer

BLAIR FRASER February 6 1965


Canada’s role in the nuclear club — or outside of it is once again becoming a major issue of domestic politics. Maclean's Ottawa editor explains why we have a chance to play a unique part in holding the North Atlantic alliance together — if the strong anti-nuclear group in the cabinet and in parliament can be won over to the view of the “two Pauls,” Martin and Hellyer

BLAIR FRASER February 6 1965


Canada’s role in the nuclear club — or outside of it is once again becoming a major issue of domestic politics. Maclean's Ottawa editor explains why we have a chance to play a unique part in holding the North Atlantic alliance together — if the strong anti-nuclear group in the cabinet and in parliament can be won over to the view of the “two Pauls,” Martin and Hellyer


AÑADA IS APPROACHING another moment of decision in the field of nuclear policy.

In one way it is the hardest of the three decisions this country had to make in the past eight years. This time the decision is not as radical as that of 1957 when Canada and the other NATO countries accepted an American offer of nuclear weapons for the army and air forces of the alliance in Europe, and thus determined the future of NATO strategy for the foreseeable future. It s not as spectacular as the decision of 1963, which led to the collapse of the Diefenbaker cabinet — the announcement by the prospective Pearson cabinet, while it was still in Opposition, that it would honor the commitments at which the Diefenbaker government was still balking, and accept the nuclear warheads without which our weapons could not be fired.

The way in which the 1965 decision is the hardest of the three is that it is the most deliberate. The implications of the 1957 commitment were not fully realized at the time, certainly not by the Canadian people, perhaps not even by the new and inexperienced Conservative government. The 1963 decision to honor that undertaking was really an inescapable consequence of the previous one. But this time Canada has full freedom of choice. Whatever the Pearson government decides, will be done with eyes wide open.

The question is whether to withdraw as soon as possible from any kind of nuclear involvement (as Prime Minister Pearson intended, but didn't actually promise, when he took office), or whether instead to remain in the nuclear councils of the alliance where the vital decisions of the future will be made.

At least a preliminary answer is required immediately. The cabinet has to make up its mind (which it has not done as these words arc written, but may have done by the time they are printed) whether to accept a British invitation to confer on Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s proposal for an Atlantic Nuclear Force. It can, of course, accept the invitation without any binding commitment to join the nuclear force when or if organized, but it cannot honorably take part in the conference if it has already decided

that Canada will not join the force in any possible circumstances.

Several, perhaps a majority, of the Liberal ministers think Canada should stay home and have nothing to do with the British proposal. This is partly a sincere and rather emotional conviction, an instinctive rejection of anything remotely connected with nuclear war, but it is partly a judgment of political expediency. Why should a minority government, already beset with more problems and challenges than it ever foresaw, provoke another conflict with the minor parties — a conflict that might well unite them and bring the Pearson government down?

Neither party to the argument believes this is a live issue among electors. There is no evidence that the average voter cares much one way or the other — it's a decision he is willing to leave to the experts. But if voters are indifferent, politicians are not. For many an MP. mostly in NDP or Créditiste ranks but some on the Liberals' own back benches, this is a major issue of conscience which any prudent government would rather not raise.

Nevertheless, the two ministers most directly concerned. Paul Martin of external affairs and Paul Hellyer of national defense, both argue that Canada should be inside rather than outside the councils of nuclear strategy. They hold this view for somewhat different reasons, but both can be reduced to the same one — a conviction that Canada has special qualifications for certain tasks within the alliance, and therefore a duty to attempt them.

THIS MEANS PARTICIPATION. The time has passed, if indeed it ever existed, when nations could stand on the sidelines uttering free advice with any hope that other nations might listen to it. In an important policy speech last April, which is still being handed out as a basic document by American spokesmen, this doctrine was clearly stated by Gerard C. Smith, special adviser to the U. S.

secretary of state on NATO's nuclear policy:

“Some people believe that increased consultation between the U. S. and its allies about the use of U. S. strategic power would constitute an adequate response to this problem (of nuclear control) ... If consultation about alliance strategic / continued on page 37

continued on page 37

continued from page 11

Martin asked why Britain neglected France—and Wilson set up a Paris visit

forces remains imperfect, it is not for lack of goodwill or machinery. Rather it is because the consultation is one-sided. So long as consultation means other nations advising the United States about what to do with American strategic power, to which they have made little contribution, I have the feeling that it will, while useful, remain limited in effect. The effectiveness of consultation is apt to be in direct proportion to the degree of participation, by the consulting nations, in the operation they are consulting about.”

One member of the alliance that will be neither a consulting nor a participating nation, in the American scheme Gerard Smith had in mind, is General de Gaulle’s France. And the omission of France from NATO's nuclear planning creates one of the most important tasks that Canada is specially qualified to undertake — helping to bridge the gap between France and the rest of the alliance.

Paul Martin has been appalled, since he took over external affairs, at the willingness of the United States, Britain and even West Germany to take the exclusion and isolation of France for granted. He has set himself to do whatever he can to correct this complacent tendency, and he appears to have had some modest successes.

When Britain's Prime Minister Harold Wilson stopped overnight in Ottawa on his way home from Washington in December, Martin took the opportunity to reproach him, politely but frankly, about the British neglect of France. Wilson denied it; what on earth did Martin mean? Martin documented his charge in half a dozen sentences: not only had Britain neglected to consult or even inform the French on any major policy issue from the Nassau conference of 1962 to the current proposal for an Allied Nuclear Force, but the British had also neglected even the most minor of courtesies. Wilson and three of his ministers had visited Washington since their election in October, and Wilson had announced impending visits to Bonn and even to Rome, but not a single member of the new government had made the onehour flight from London to Paris.

As he boarded his aircraft for London the following morning, Wilson handed Martin a slip of paper. “You may be interested to read this,” he said. It was a copy of a dispatch he had just sent to London, asking that a visit to Paris be arranged for him as quickly as possible. It was formally announced a week later.

At the NATO ministerial meeting in Paris during the w'eek before Christmas, Martin made the same general point at every opportunity. Whether by coincidence or not, it was after the Paris meeting that President Lyndon Johnson circulated a memorandum to his own officials of the state and defense departments, forbidding “pressure tactics” for any American policy and commanding every effort to maintain or restore the unity

of the Western alliance. In particular, the memorandum said, President Johnson will approve no defense plan that is not acceptable to both Britain and West Germany, nor will he agree to any program that has not been discussed in advance with France.

Canada’s voice was not alone, of course, in urging this attitude upon

the U. S. — many other NATO ministers and officials took the same line. But Paul Martin is not the only Canadian who believes his country has some special aptitudes here.

“I'm now convinced, as I have never been before, that there is a job here only Canada can do,” said a Canadian recently seconded to a senior post in

the NATO secretariat. “It's not just that I'm proud to be a Canadian — I've always been that — but I can now realize that our country has certain qualities, not necessarily virtues or any particular credit to us, that equip us to deal with certain situations in the alliance.”

Taken singly, these qualities don't

sound very impressive, but the combination of them is unique:

• A North American country whose people speak the American dialect, yet have strong emotional ties of sympathy with two of the three great powers on the other side of the Atlantic.

• A country of substantial military strength with no military ambitions, past, present or future, nor any former colonics.

• A country eligible for membership in the nuclear club, and able from the very beginning to make its own atomic bombs, which has always heen not only a non-nuclear but even an antinuclear power.

• A country whose representatives, in considerable number, speak French as a mother tongue, and whose ties with France are growing rapidly in number, warmth and strength.

Other members of the NATO alliance have some of these characteristics, hut only Canada has all of them.

Cheaper way to strength

Paul Hellyer, the minister of national defense, would add one more contribution that Canada might make to NATO’s military councils — a new departure in organization, the integration of all armed services into one coherent force, which is designed to bring greater military strength for less money. This too is one of the urgent needs of the whole alliance.

Denis Flealey, Britain’s new minister of defense, put the case bluntly in a speech to the British parliament on December 17: “The main threat to economy in our defense arrangements still lies in the grossly unrealistic demands which are still being made by some of the military for our contribution to the defense of Europe inside NATO . . . Some of the military commanders arc still asking for increases in manpower and resources, which no government will make to fight a war which is never going to happen. The only realistic basis for NATO defense planning is to accept that we cannot expect any of the allied governments to invest a greater proportion of their gross national product in the defense of NATO than they are doing now. Therefore, we must see whether we can secure better value for money, by examining possible changes in the role, deployment, tactics or equipment we have.”

This objective — “better value for money” — is one of the motives behind the British proposal for an Allied Nuclear Force, which Canada is now being asked to discuss. Another is to find a solution to the problem, which is political rather than military, of sharing the control and planning of nuclear strategy among all or most of the allied nations — particularly, sharing it with West Germany.

At the beginning the NATO alliance included two nuclear powers, the United States and Britain, both of whom (with Canada) had been partners in the wartime Manhattan Project that produced the first two atomic bombs. France under General de Gaulle insisted, over the protests of other allies, in developing her own nuclear force de frappe and is now an independent nuclear power in her own right. West Germany is bound by treaty neither to make nor to acquire

nuclear weapons, but the German position has become increasingly uncomfortable, especially for German politicians facing an election (as the present Bonn government will do next September). Both the British under Macmillan and Hume and the French under De Gaulle have made such a point of their “independent nuclear deterrents” that they tend to make second-class citizens of non-nuclear powers. That’s all right for smaller countries such as Canada, which don’t think of themselves as major powers anyway, but for the biggest and strongest nation in western Europe it’s unpalatable.

The first solution proposed for this German problem was the so-called multilateral force, or MLF, which has not yet been officially dropped by the United States although it is generally regarded as stone dead now'. It w'ould have been a force of surface ships armed with Polaris nuclear missiles, manned by mixed crews from all the participating navies, and jointly owned by the various countries taking part.

The Allied Nuclear Force, or ANF, is the British Labor government’s suggested alternative to the MLF. It would not involve any great increase in cost, because it would consist mainly of a regrouping of forces already in being. The British would contribute their present V-bomber force, and the Polaris submarines that they got under the Nassau agreement of 1962. The U. S. would contribute an equal number of Polaris submarines. France would be welcome, though not obliged, to contribute any nuclear force she liked. There would also be some kind of mixed-manned force in which non-nuclear powers such as Germany (or Canada) could take part, though this force would not be naval. It would probably consist, in the beginning at least, of the F-104 light bombers that Germany, Canada and other allies are already flying, and that carry nuclear weapons.

The whole Allied Nuclear Force would be commanded and controlled by a new authority made up of all participating countries, and closely linked (but not identical) with the NATO council. This new authority would meet the Germans’ political requirement, for it would give them a share in the planning of nuclear strategy and — even more important — put them on a footing of equality with Britain. This is w'hat they need most, to face their own electors.

Canada’s hope would be to keep this Allied Nuclear Force, when it comes into being, as close as possible to the NATO council and as close as possible to France. At the NATO meeting in Paris in December, Paul Martin warned repeatedly that the ANF might become a kind of second alliance which would be a rival of NATO.

But the plans for setting up the ANF are proceeding anyway, and the only way Canada can continue to get a hearing for these views is to join in the planning. This means a continued association with nuclear weapons, which Canada would prefer not to have, but the alternative is to be left in a group of unheeded outsiders. It now looks as if the Pearson government will choose, even at the risk of its political life, the more active of the two alternatives. ★