PODIUM

Fortifying the ties that bind

Paul H. Robinson August 23 1982
PODIUM

Fortifying the ties that bind

Paul H. Robinson August 23 1982

Fortifying the ties that bind

PODIUM

Paul H. Robinson

Diplomacy among friends should not only follow usual diplomatic channels but should also include an open discussion of common concerns between a diplomat and the people of the host country. If this open diplomacy is carried out in a straightforward manner it can usefully contribute to public debate. Such an approach is certainly applicable in the United States where the Canadian ambassador and other representatives of the Canadian government have spoken out publicly and have engaged in lobbying on issues important to Canada. It is this same approach that I have sought in Canada on the question of defence.

The relationship between the United States and Canada was well described by John F. Kennedy 20 years ago when he said, “Geography has made us neighbors, economics has made us partners, necessity has made us allies.” There are other important bilateral considerations between our two countries, but, in my view, defence of a nation’s sovereignty, the joint defence of the North American continent, and our mutual commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are of overriding importance.

In my speeches across Canada I have been warning about the Soviets’ massive military buildup. Failure to recognize this fact contributes to a false sense of well-being that will only tempt a trial of strength by our adversaries. In order to prevent this, we must re-establish a credible deterrent. For more than 40 years the Soviet Union has been embarked on a consistent policy of expansionism and subjugation. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940, as well as in Afghanistan and Poland more recently, the Soviet Union has used force or threat of force to bring other nations within the Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviet Union’s use of Cuban and East German surrogates in Africa has given rise to considerable alarm in the free nations of the West.

For more than 20 years the Soviet Union has been engaged in an unparalleled military buildup that bears no relationship to its legitimate defensive needs. This necessitates a re-evaluation of our defence efforts. In describing his plans for the expenditure of $180 billion during the next five years for a program of strategic arms modernization aimed at assuring strategic parity with the Soviet Union, President Reagan said last

fall: “It’s my hope that this program will prevent our adversaries from making the mistakes others have made and deeply regretted in the past—the mistake of underestimating the resolve and the will of the American people to keep their freedom and to protect their homeland and their allies.”

As the representatives of Canada’s best friend, largest trading partner and closest ally, I feel obliged to underscore the vital necessity of maintaining the strength of our common defence in the face of growing danger from the U.S.S.R. It has been agreed that the guideline for defence appropriations by the 16 NATO nations would be a threeper-cent real annual increase in their defence budgets. We welcome the Canadian government’s decision to meet this NATO commitment. However, we and our NATO allies must do more. Soviet defence expenditures range between 12 and 14 per cent of Soviet gross national

product. The Soviet buildup has serious implications for the Western alliance and requires increased attention to our defence capabilities. The United States is spending 5.9 per cent of its GNP in the 1982 defence budget while the comparable non-U.S. NATO average has been 3.6 per cent. Canada’s contribution has been less than two per cent. These are sobering facts for all of us.

Going further, another way to look at the difference in U.S. and Soviet defence spending is to compare military investment. Military investments measure the cumulative growth in strength and include the capital stock of equipment, bases and weapons designs, for example. These basic elements of military strength last for years and cannot be quickly obtained in an emergency. The Soviet Union’s military investments have exceeded those of the United States even more than the U.S.S.R.’s total defence program—by 80 to 90 per cent in the past five years.

It is difficult to make a comprehensive assessment of the worldwide balance between forces. However, the ratios are revealing. In tactical aircraft,

the Soviets outnumber us 2:1—in fleet submarines, 3:1; in field artillery and mortars, 4:1; and in main battle tanks, 5:1. These ratios would remain relatively the same if other NATO and Warsaw Pact forces were added. Furthermore, Soviet forces have 4.8 million men under arms while we have 2.1 million. It is up to Canadians to both judge the nature of the threat posed by this expansionism and arms buildup and decide for themselves what course of action should be taken. The gravity of the world situation today requires our collective and immediate attention to deterrences if we are to avoid an annihilating war. Canada can count on us, and I know that we can count on Canada when the chips are down. If we were challenged by our adversaries, we would have to defend ourselves with what we have on hand. There would be no time to build up our forces.

The overall objectives of my country may be characterized as two-track: greater emphasis on our defence capabilities and arms reductions. President Reagan has announced that it is his goal to enhance deterrence and to achieve stability through significant reductions in the most destabilizing nuclear systems—intercontinental ballistic missiles—while maintaining a nuclear capability sufficient to deter conflict, underwrite our national security, and meet our commitments to our allies and friends. He has proposed that ballistic missile warheads be reduced to equal ceilings at least one-third below current levels. Not more than half of the remaining warheads would be land-based. This is our objective for the first phase of the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) negotiations which began in Geneva on June 29.

Former prime minister Lester B. Pearson once described the essence and uniqueness of Canadian-U.S. relations as two countries that can “judge éach other more critically than we judge anyone else because we usually expect more of each other—and we know that our friendship is strong enough to stand the test of criticism.” I am convinced that it is more important now than ever for us to make our positions known to each other and deal with our joint problems in the same spirit of evenhandedness that has characterized our relationship for more than 150 years.

Paul H. Robinson Jr. is the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

I feel obliged to underscore the vital necessity of maintaining the strength of our common defence