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In Canada's Best Interest to Join the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defence Program

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Release Date: February 15, 2005
Canada's participation in the continental Ballistic Missile Defence program (BMD) is a matter of maintaining Canadian national sovereignty, and non-participation means we will have little influence in North American defence, according to Canadian Participation in North American Missile Defence: A Cost-Benefit Analysis, released today by The Fraser Institute.

"The main benefit Canada will derive from joining is the ability to have a voice in how North America will be protected against the missile threat," says Barry Cooper, director of the Institute's Alberta office and co-author of the paper.

In this new paper, the authors present a pragmatic cost/benefit analysis regarding Canadian participation and conclude the following:

• Participation in BMD will ensure that information is shared-both military-to-military information as well as information to guide policymakers in Ottawa in formulating Canadian defence and foreign policy;

• It is in Canada's interest to know what American plans are because the alternative is to remain an uninformed observer able only to react after the fact;

• Participation in BMD means influence on early warning, detection, some deployment decisions, and the overall political-strategic goal of missile defence;

• Participation in BMD does not mean Canada is responsible for the cost or for the outcome;

• The window of opportunity for the Government of Canada to make the correct choice, namely to participate in continental BMD, is closing very quickly; delay or a refusal to participate means sustaining a considerable reduction in Canadian sovereignty as well as Canadian self-respect.

Arguments about the program's effectiveness, costs, its impact on global arms control, and the weaponization of space do not detract from the fact that the United States has deployed a North American missile defence system. "For the next several years, it is the only program there will be and Canada must join it or be left out. We may be able to influence it from the inside, but not at all from the outside," said co-author and Institute senior fellow, Alexander Moens.

The authors of the paper point out that Canada has a choice between a near free ride in missile defence with our input or without our input. Canada's decision to participate will not provoke an arms race or betray our defence or international security policy, or even our highly questionable position on weapons in outer space. It will not have an adverse impact on our friends or trading partners. It will likely afford a small boost to our defence industry. If we do not participate we will receive nothing. Ballistic missile defence will create a modest amount of goodwill in the overall bilateral relationship, and it will protect Canadian cities.

"In short, the costs-an incremental addition to the NORAD budget-are low, and the benefits are high," points out Cooper.