If Canada is in NATO, why is NATO not in Canada?

Canada has been intimately involved in European security and defence since 1914. Almost two million Canadians served in both world wars, with 116,000 Canadians giving their lives and 300,000 permanently injured.

Seen by some as a parsimonious contributor to NATO, Canada’s generosity in the earlier days of the Alliance, and wartime sacrifices for Europe are ignored: our convoys kept Britain fed, fit and fighting; our expeditionary force participated in the assault at Juno Beach on D-Day; we helped liberate The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Those who question Canada’s commitment to the Alliance forget our 1950s and 1960s generosity to our European allies, and our unwavering commitment and expensive contributions to NATO’s operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Yet Canada is not receiving the appropriate benefits for our longstanding support of NATO. We currently pay more than C$145 million annually to the Alliance, about half of what we contributed before unilaterally reducing our contributions in the mid-1990s. In addition, we contribute personnel and, when required, combat forces and combat support.

In stark contrast, NATO’s European members receive unequal benefits from NATO’s infrastructure spending:

· More than US$76 million is planned for Germany’s Ramstein Air Base to support NATO’s Northern European Strategic Air Transport hub;

· The United Kingdom’s share is more than $210 million in air force infrastructure construction and upgrading; and

· NATO has approved and funded 99 infrastructure projects, totalling more than US$395 million for the bed-down of two fight aircraft squadrons at Italy’s Aviano air base.

These are only a few of the many European beneficiaries.

Canada emerged from the Second World War economically and militarily strong. We continued to assist with European defence following WWII, and like the U.S. Marshall Plan, we operated a mutual aid program.

Growing Soviet hegemony was the catalyst for NATO’s creation, and by the end of the Korean War Canada was allocating more than eight percent of its GDP, the fourth largest of NATO. In response to the Soviet threat, Canada operated an army base at Lahr and an air base at Baden-Soellingen for 40 years, costing roughly $1 billion annually in 1993 dollars, the year we closed the two German bases.

We also contributed to the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable Combat Group to the defence of NATO’s northern flank, and regularly participated in the Atlas Express exercises in Norway’s Bardufoss region, and annual REFORGER exercises in Germany.

Already a contributor to UN operations in the Balkans in 1992, we stepped forward again in 1995 when NATO took over its Peace Implementation Force. Canada committed to more than 100 major projects valued at $130 million, and played a leading role in health, policing, de-mining activity, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Canada is one of very few active partners in Afghanistan, and we are managing Kandahar Province, arguably one of the most dangerous regions of the country. We have lost 133 service men and women in that conflict, and four civilians, a diplomat, two aid workers and a civilian contractor. At the same time, there are 17 allied nations in northern Afghanistan, who together have fewer fatalities than Canada alone.

During the 60 years since the Washington Treaty was signed, our Navy has consistently assigned warships to the Standing Naval Force Atlantic and the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, Standing NATO Maritime Group and Standing Naval Mine Counter-Measures.

So if Canada’s is in NATO and contributing troops and resources to its offices and operations, why is NATO not in Canada?

Of the $145 million Canada provides to the Alliance, almost $40 million goes to the NATO Security Investment Program, or NSIP. The projects are decided by consensus among the 28 nations through competitive bids. Canada can compete effectively, but as the projects are based on point of delivery, the transportation costs serve to keep Canada out of the running.

The Chief of Review Services report “Audit of NATO Contributions” (November 2004), notes that there is “a need for improved Canadian participation in NATO programs such as the…[NSIP], the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) has established a small cell, under the Director General Strategic Planning/Director of Defence Analysis (DGSP/DDA), to deal with this issue.”

The report prophetically notes, however, that Canadian participation will not necessarily insure that significant sums of NATO common funding will be spent in Canada. NATO infrastructure reimbursement practices allow only for the funding of host nation infrastructure that is “over and above” the requirements of the host nation.

There may not be an operational justification to establish first-line NATO forces in Canada, but there is more than enough reason to consider other types of infrastructure. We’ve earned it.

Among his many postings over 37 years with the Canadian Forces, Tim Dunne was the Chief of Media Operations at NATO’s southern European headquarters in Naples, Italy from 2000 to 2004.

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