FEW TOOK note late last month when the U.S. installed its first ground-based missile interceptor in a silo at a military base at Fort Greely, Alaska. It will, of course, take a lot more to turn George W. Bush’s multi-billion-dollar dream of a system capable of reliably shooting down missiles fired at North America into reality. Many experts say it’s impossible. But that didn’t stop Bush from pushing ahead last week by approving a further US$10 billion to keep on developing socalled national missile defence. And Ottawa took a big step to avoid being left behind-agreeing to change the Canada-U.S. pact govGRAHAM PLAYED IT DOWN erning the bilateral North American Aerospace Defense Command, to allow NORAD to feed information on possible missile threats to Bush’s interceptor network.
Defence Minister Bill Graham denied critics’ claims that Canada is edging ever closer to signing on to the controversial scheme. “This decision does not affect or in any way determine the ultimate decision as to whether Canada will participate in missile defence,” he told reporters. Exactly when that call might be made he wouldn’t say. But it’s been a long time coming. Back in early 2001, a Canadian officer was placed with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for consultations. In May 2003, formal discussions with Washington on possible Canadian participation were announced. And last January, Canada and the U.S. exchanged letters of intent confirming both countries’ interest in negotiating on the subject.
One possible reason for putting off a decision is the chance that November’s U.S. presidential election might take this issue off the table. Democrat John Kerry is at best lukewarm on missile defencereason enough for Ottawa to be less concerned about the recent installation in Alaska than with whom Americans next
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