Title: White paper on defence of Canada - Chapter III: combat-capable forces
CHAPTER III: COMBAT-CAPABLE FORCES
Canada cannot dispense with the maritime, land, and air combat capabilities of modern armed forces. It is true that, at present, there is no immediate direct military threat to Canada and that today's conflicts are far from our shores. Even so, we must maintain a prudent level of military force to deal with challenges to our sovereignty in peacetime, and retain the capability to generate forces capable of contributing to the defence of our country should the need arise. Beyond this basic national requirement, were Canada to abandon the capability to participate effectively in the defence of North America, NATO-Europe allies, and victims of aggression elsewhere, we would stand to lose a significant degree of respect and influence abroad.
Canada's commitment to remain an active participant in multilateral efforts to promote collective security is a reflection of our values and interests.
Canadians believe that the rule of law must govern relations between states.
Canadians have deemed their own security indivisible from that of their allies.
Canadians have a strong sense of responsibility to alleviate suffering and respond, where their efforts can make a difference.
These are the abiding foundations of Canada's commitment to collective security. They have proven their worth in the past and remain equally valid in a global environment that is increasingly interdependent.
Collective Security and the Changing Face of Peacekeeping
If we are to make a significant contribution to collective security, we must recognize that the nature of multilateral operations in support of peace and stability has changed considerably. Indeed, `peacekeeping' operations have evolved from mainly interpositional and monitoring operations to undertakings that are far more ambitious - and pose far more challenges and risks to our personnel. Canada's traditional goals - the deterrence and reversal of aggression, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the relief of civilian populations - remain constant. It is the context that has changed. If the Canadian Forces are to play a role in collective security, they must remain a capable fighting force.
With the transformation of the strategic environment, the role of our collective defence relationships with NATO-Europe and the United States will change. It would be a mistake, however, to discount the merits of these arrangements. From a Canadian perspective, collective defence remains fundamental to our security.
First, our allies are countries to which we are bound by political values, interests, and traditions that we have an interest in upholding and fostering.
Second, the practical benefits of collective defence - standardized equipment and procedures, as well as the accumulated experience of joint operations - are of great value to international efforts in support of collective security.
Third, were a serious military threat to Canada or its allies to emerge, Canada would, once again, seek its security in collective defence arrangements. It is, therefore, important that such arrangements be maintained in peacetime as it would be very difficult to revive them in a crisis.
Managing a Full Spectrum of Conflict
Over the past 80 years, more than 100,000 Canadians have died, fighting alongside our allies for common values. For us now to leave combat roles to others would mean abandoning this commitment to help defend commonly accepted principles of state behaviour. In short, by opting for a constabulary force - that is, one not designed to make a genuine contribution in combat - we would be sending a very clear message about the depth of our commitment to our allies and our values, one that would betray our history and diminish our future. Beyond this, because we cannot expect our political influence in global and regional security arrangements to be significantly out of proportion to our military contributions, we must make the required investment in our armed forces if we are to play any kind of role in shaping our common future.
The Government has concluded that the maintenance of multi-purpose, combat-capable forces is in the national interest. It is only through the maintenance of such forces that Canada will be able to retain the necessary degree of flexibility and freedom of action when it comes to the defence of its interests and the projection of its values abroad. Importantly, the maintenance of core combat capabilities forms the basis for the generation of larger forces should they ever be needed. Indeed, it is the Government's view that from the perspective of promoting our values, protecting our interests, insuring against uncertainty, or even providing value for money, an investment in forces capable only of constabulary operations would be very difficult to justify.
The challenge will be to design a defence program that will deliver capable armed forces within the limits of our resources. A country of Canada's size and means cannot, and should not, attempt to cover the entire military spectrum, but the Canadian Forces must be able to make a genuine contribution to a wide variety of domestic and international objectives.
Flexibility, Capabilities, and Choices
While the maintenance of specialized combat skills and capabilities is essential, the decision to retain combat-capable forces should not be taken to mean that Canada must possess every component of military capability. Indeed, although the Canadian Forces have, over the years, had to divest themselves of several specific capabilities - including aircraft carriers, cruisers, medium-lift helicopters, medium-range patrolaircraft, as well as separate fleets of fighter aircraft for air defence and ground attack roles -they have continued to meet Canada's domestic needs and make effective contributions to international peace and security. We believe that this tendency to specialize in those multi-purpose capabilities we have deemed essential has not undermined our ability to protect our interests or diminished our ability to meet obligations to allies.
Canada needs armed forces that are able to operate with the modern forces maintained by our allies and like-minded nations against a capable opponent - that is, able to fight `alongside the best, against the best'. To maintain this general capability, we have had to make some difficult choices. We will continue to assess the relative costs and benefits of various capabilities in order to make trade-offs which, while difficult, will be essential if the Forces are to contribute to a broader range of Canadian objectives. It would be misguided to invest in very specific forces and capabilities, whether at the higher end of the scale (aircraft designed for anti-tank warfare, for example) or at the lower end (forces limited to minimal-risk peacekeeping operations). To opt for either approach would be to forego the capability and flexibility that are inherent in a multi-purpose force. In short, the maintenance of multi-purpose forces represents a pragmatic, sensible approach to defence at a time of fiscal restraint, one that will provide government with a broad range of military options at a price consistent with the Government's other policy and fiscal priorities.
The Government's approach to defence is to maintain the Canadian Forces as a fundamental national resource which makes important contributions to a range of Canadian objectives. The policy and intelligence capabilities of the Department and the Canadian Forces will ensure that the Government has access to independent Canadian advice as the basis for sound decisions. Beyond this, our investment in the Forces' training and equipment will yield a capable fighting force whose skills can be applied not just to a number of specialized tasks, but also to a variety of domestic and international objectives.
The retention of multi-purpose, combat-capable forces represents the only prudent choice for Canada. It is only through the maintenance of the core military capabilities that define such forces that, come what may, Canada will be able to attend to its own security needs - both now and in the future.