Tuesday, 24 January 2017

NATO or bust

According to this article, the government of Canada may no longer be looking to participate in a UN Peacekeeping mission in Africa.  Contrary to popular belief, Canada is currently engaged in several operations at the time of this posting (24 January 2017). Some are large and some are not. As it stands, Canada has committed to augmenting NATO forces in Eastern Europe in the guise of Operation REASSURANCE.   In addition, Canada is closer to leading a multinational battlegroup in Latvia.  In this blog post, not only do I applaud the government's apparent decision to forego a major UN Peacekeeping mission in Africa, but I also urge the government to strengthen its commitment to NATO on the Latvian Front.

Canada currently spends less than 1% of its GDP on defence.  The NATO standard, which most of the countries fail to achieve, is to spend 2% on defence.  An intelligent increase in spending on defence, not squandered on pay hikes or arbitrary and unnecessary infrastructure projects is not what I mean.  Instead, this could be very well spent on acquiring battle-ready weapons and equipment.  This means trucks, rifles, missiles and most importantly: ships.  I personally would immediately defund the CBC and shift that money over to the Department of National Defence, but that's not the point.

Canada's commitment to Latvia makes sense from a purely political point of view; however, it would not last long at all against a concerted Russian offensive, which would include attacks across all planes; moral and physical.  In order to act as a viable deterrent, any deployed force must be combat capable and lethal.  It may not be of the size of our brigade group of the latter half of the Cold War, nor even of the even more powerful brigade group of the first half.  But a combat battlegroup, ideally a tank regiment battlegroup equipped with powerful and plentiful tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles, would prove to be a thorn in the side of any Russian attack into the Baltics, no matter how improbable that may be.

APFSDS-T can be hazardous to your tank

A battlegroup consisting of a single nation would not rely on several chains of command, languages and logistical requirements.  Although other NATO nations could plug into the battle group on an ad hoc basis, a permanent or semi-permanent presence demands that it be of one nation.
So, the big question: can Canada do it?  The short answer is yes.  After all, we are a G7 nation (G6 if Russia stops participating).  A force of some 2,000 all-ranks would require a hefty commitment from Canada's Army (augmented heavily by its reserve force), but it would not be all that different from our sustained effort in Afghanistan.  The difference would be that we would not be involved in continuous combat, nor would there be as many time zones between Canada and its deployed unit. 

Combat Proven
In conclusion, a Canadian battlegroup, infantry or tank, backed up by a strong logistical chain that goes back to Canada itself, would send a strong signal.  First to Russia, that we are serious about countering any potential Russian aggression in the Baltic states.  Second, to NATO, that we are serious about our commitment to the alliance.  Finally, to Canadians at home, that we are serious about their security, for it is ultimately Canadians we are defending, be it abroad or at home.


  1. TV – Good points. My concern about the sudden reversal on PSOs is that it shows how frail and reactionary our defence policy is. If a PSO mandate supported our larger national goals then every effort should be made to understand the modern context and fund and resource the CAF appropriately to do the job. Conversely, if support to NATO is the chief mission than the forces should be funded, resourced, and trained for WWIII. The reality we’re IHOP’ing (waffling) in between.

    1. Yo. Thanks for the comment.
      I agree that our defence "policy" is more knee-jerk than forward-thinking. Having said that, you're completely right: if a PSO *were* to support our national goals, then yes. And one such PSO was Op SNOWGOOSE, in which we deployed in order to prevent two NATO allies from going to war against each other over that little island.

      PS: I love the IHOP reference.