Implications for Canada

Broadsides solicited comments on the potential impact of the new United States maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower1, upon Canada, and I offer the following as my analysis. The first step is to understand the basis for the strategy and the intent of its sponsors, the U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. A close reading raises concerns about the strategy's potential implications for several crucial Canadian interests.

The new strategy marks the first time that a joint maritime strategy has been agreed to by the three U.S. seagoing military services. It is dependent upon the creation of a worldwide 1,000 ship navy that would involve cooperation amongst the fleets of the United States and friendly nations. As such, one aim is to create a national and international maritime strategy for those countries willing to participate.

However, it is first and foremost the strategy of the United States to pursue and protect its national interests through minimally restricted use of the oceans. The document is clear about its intent,

Today, the United States and its partners find themselves competing for global influence... Our challenge is to apply seapower in a manner that protects U.S. vital interests even as it promotes greater collective security, stability, and trust. While defending our homeland and defeating adversaries in war remain indisputable ends of sea power, it must be applied more broadly if it is to serve the national interest." 2

It continues, "We believe that preventing wars is as important as winning wars." 3 Thus, the new strategy seeks to "build confidence and trust among nations through collective security efforts..." 4 All the while, the "(U.S. sea services) will act across the full range of military operations to secure the United States from direct attack; secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action..." 5

The strategy notes the importance of the sea to the security of the United States, the maintenance and growth of the globalized economy, access to natural resources and the maintenance of a peaceful global system. It defines the vital interests of the U.S. as the protection of its sovereignty and the protection and pursuit of its economic and political interests throughout the world. Despite the additional emphasis on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping, the building of military capacity and governance competence in receptive foreign countries, the fundamental interests and goals of the U.S. appear little changed from the previous Maritime Strategy, dating to the Reagan administration.

For Canada, the opportunity for the Canadian Forces to continue to operate bilaterally and through the NATO alliance with the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard remains unchanged. Undoubtedly, the U.S. would like to see us expand our naval and maritime capabilities to participate further in the 1,000 ship navy and three block wars. Many of our vital national interests appear similar: the protection of Canadian sovereignty, pursuit of our economic opportunities, and a peaceful international order to support global interaction. However, one is entitled to ask if the national interests of each country are truly aligned.

Most countries in the world, including Canada, have signed the Law of the Sea Treaty. However, the United States has not for fear that it will lose its unrestricted freedom of passage for its naval forces and other commercial rights of exploitation of sea column and sea bottom resources. Other countries view U.S. political and economic goals and the related extra territorial application of certain U.S. domestic laws as an infringement of their sovereignty. The unilateral abrogation of certain arms treaties by the U.S. has undermined trust throughout the world. Therefore, considerable cause for concern exists about the true intentions and benevolence of the U.S.

Aside from the continuing softwood lumber issues, recent near-paranoia about Canadian mad cow disease, border security fears, and the covetous eyes cast upon the right to transit the Northwest Passage without Canadian consent or interference, and virtual unrestricted access to Canadian natural resources and water, Canada has an unusually good relationship with the U.S. With tighter and more expensive energy supplies, the impact of global warming on the continental U.S., and shrinking water supplies, the future relationship between the two countries may not be so friendly. The new cooperative maritime strategy must be reviewed with caution. It could used to challenge Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, to end our control of the Northwest Passage and to justify the right to explore and exploit the natural resources in our north.

In conclusion, the Canadian Government cannot accept the U.S cooperative maritime strategy without conducting a rigorous study of its implications for Canadian national interests. In saying this I am not pursuing an anti-American rant. I am calling for an objective study of the new maritime strategy from a whole-of-government perspective to determine if it serves our vital interests.

1 Admiral Thad Allen, General James T. Conway, and Admiral Gary Roughead, Proceedings, Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, November 2007, Vol. 133/11/1257, pp.14-20, incl.
2 Ibid., p. 15
3 Ibid., italics appear in the original.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.