An ‘emergency’ strategy

Marci McDonald,Ian Austen March 25 1985

An ‘emergency’ strategy

Marci McDonald,Ian Austen March 25 1985

An ‘emergency’ strategy


Marci McDonald

Ian Austen

When Defence Minister Erik Nielsen unveiled a $1.5-billion cost-sharing agreement with the United States—part of a $7-billion upgrading of the entire DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line Arctic radar network—he praised it in the Commons last week as a tribute to the two countries’ relationship as “sovereign allies, independent neighbors and close friends.” But for the second time in three months a U.S. defence analyst has revealed secret plans that suggest Ottawa may have less sovereignty and independence over its role in U.S. nuclear strategy than the Canadian public knows. According to a new book by William Arkin, director of the Arms Race and Nuclear Weapons Research Project at Washington’s private Institute for Policy Studies, the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) has issued at least one manual that directs some of its nucleararmed B-52 bombers to disperse to Canadian airfields during a crisis.

Each of those giant bombers—typically equipped with as many as four

nuclear bombs and up to 20 short-range attack missiles (SRAMs)—can carry more than 700 times the destructive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Together with intercontinental ballistic missiles and Trident submarines, the B-52s make up the heart of the U.S. strategic nuclear strike force, aimed at annihilating targets in the Soviet Union. In an interview related to a book entitled Nuclear Battlefields by Arkin and Richard W. Fieldhouse, to be published by Ballinger Books later this spring, Arkin contended that the Canadian government is unaware of the B-52 dispersal plans, which contravene Ottawa’s nonnuclear stance. Moreover, he said that no formal agreement exists for such arrangements. Retired Admiral Robert Falls, chief of the Canadian defence staff between 1977 and 1980, told Maclean ’s last week that during his term “I wasn’t aware of any such plans. If that were the case, again it’s damn presumptuous.” While a Canadian defence department spokesman declined to discuss “any contingency plans,” a Canadian diplomat in Washington told Maclean ’s that nothing in Arkin’s disclosures “is unknown to the Canadian government.”

External Affairs Minister Joe Clark insisted later in the House of Commons that nuclear weapons cannot be stationed on Canadian soil without Ottawa’s agreement and would not be permitted—unless it was “in the Canadian interest.” But Prime Minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged in the House, while not referring to B-52 basing, that some neighborly arrangements infringe on Canadian autonomy. His government, he said, inherited agreements “without the necessary provisions for Canadian sovereignty” —a situation that “we are trying to correct.” Mulroney cited an agreement “wherein Canadian cabinet ministers had to seek American permission to go to the Canadian North.” A defence department spokesman, Capt. Ian Thomson, told Maclean ’s that Mulroney was referring to a long-established requirement for clearance to visit DEW Line sites, which are controlled by the U.S. Air Force. Said Arkin: “Canadians clearly don’t have access to our war plans. The Canadian government clearly doesn’t know what we have up our sleeve. It’s another aspect of the way Canada is a nuclear colony of the United States.”

Arkin, a 28-year-old former U.S.

Army intelligence analyst in Berlin, was the first to disclose that American contingency plans exist to deploy nuclear antisubmarine depth bombs in Canada and other countries during a war scare. In the ensuing controversy, then-defence minister Robert Coates declared that the only treaty on nuclear weapons existing between the two countries provided for the safe passage of SAC bombers through Canadian airspace. But that SCATANA plan (for the Security Control of Air Traffic and Navigational Aids), signed on Jan. 1,1972, does not provide for SAC’S bombers to land on Canadian soil. However, in the course of researching his book on nuclear logistics around the world Arkin acquired an operational alert manual for the SAC’S 93rd Bombardment Wing stationed at Castle Air Force Base in California.

According to that Alert Planning Factors and Procedures manual, provisions exist for the base’s 14 B-52 bombers and 28 KC-135 refuelling tankers to avoid becoming sitting targets by dispersing to six airfields in a time of alert—one of them being the Canadian Forces Base in Cold Lake, Alta. Arkin managed to obtain only one other SAC wing’s alert manual before the U.S. Air Force clamped down, and its dispersal plans did not include a Canadian base. Still, Arkin speculated that among SAC’s 19 bases across the United States, others probably also have dispersal plans involving Canadian airfields. Those could include landing strips at the Canadian Forces Base at Namao, 10 km outside Edmonton, and in Goose Bay, Lab. Said David Cox, director of research at the Canadian Institute for International

Peace and Security: “What it means is that likely Canadian airfields for dispersal would be targeted by the Soviet Union. It confirms that we are a single target area with the United States.”

Arkin pointed out that the U.S. plans disclosed earlier involved the deployment of the air-launched nuclear depth charges only in the event of a war scare, but the B-52 alert procedures provide for dispersal “in the face of increasing enemy threat or heightened international tensions.” Added Arkin: “It appears there is more latitude here.” Indeed, SAC bomber squadrons scattered to U.S. civilian airfields during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Arkin argues that the B-52 plans are potentially more im-

portant than the deployment of nuclear depth charges. “Increasing the survivability of a strategic bomber wing during an attack is a whole different action than the mobilization of naval patrol forces,” he said. “This is a whole other ball game.” But Falls disagreed.

He said that the SAC manuals are merely Pentagon directives, while the contingency plans for depth charges came under presidential authority. “It’s still arrogant to make these plans without consulting us,” Falls said, “but it’s probably not as serious because it seems to be at quite a lower level than presidential authority.” U.S. government officials told Arkin that because a B52’s nuclear payload would remain aboard the bomber —and not be stored on the territory of a foreign nation—that would technically circumvent the need for presidential approval.

In fact, Arkin contends that the B-52 manual he obtained is even more disturbing in its implications. “It means things are going on with regard to Canada that the President doesn’t even know about,” he argued. “It demonstrates how much all this nuclear planning is not sufficiently overseen by anyone.” Arkin’s contention appeared to be borne out last week in confusion over the depth-bomb plans. Although Washington recently assured Canada and other countries designated as depth-bomb bases, including Iceland, that their prior permission would be sought, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt said in Iceland last week that the contin-

gency weapons-basing plans were drawn up “by unauthorized persons” and “were never approved by the U.S. President.” However, the copy of the Nuclear Weapons Deployment Plan obtained by Arkin, dated Oct. 8, 1974, begins with the words “The President has approved” and is signed by Henry Kissinger, then President Gerald Ford’s national security adviser.

In Nuclear Battlefields the authors describe additional roles that Canada is playing in U.S. nuclear strategy which have escaped public attention. According to Arkin—and the U.S. Army public affairs office later confirmed it—the U.S. Army conducted cold-weather tests of an XM-785 155-mm enhanced radia-

tion shell at a northern Canadian Forces base between October, 1982, and October, 1983. As in recent cruise missile tests over Canadian soil the shell was unarmed, but its purpose in wartime would be to launch neutron bombs from artillery guns. Arkin also said that the U.S. Navy has tested unarmed ASROC and SUBROC antisubmarine rockets —rocketpropelled nuclear depth charges —at the joint U.S.-Canadian Nanoose Underwater Tracking Range north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Now, under a five-year Canada-U.S. Test and Evaluation Program signed on Feb. 10, 1983—under which Ottawa consented to Ameri2 can testing of unarmed cruise missiles over Canada—experiments with a wide variety of nuclear8 related weapons systems can be conducted on Canadian soil if they are unarmed and receive Ottawa’s specific approval.

Said Arkin: “People focus on cruise missiles while a billion other things are going on. Each of these examples demonstrates a whole gamut of activities which flies in the face of a nonnuclear policy in Canada.”

According to Arkin, his aim in disclosing the secret agreements “is to expose American policy because it takes our allies for granted. It sees secrecy as more important than democracy. My concern is not with Canada but with the United States. This whole nuclear infrastructure needs to be brought under control.” As he observes, the only way voters can consent to an effective defence policy is if they know about it.