Canada's military sees war this decade : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wednesday April 05, 2000

Canada's military sees war this decade Gulf, Korea, China top analysts' list of flashpoints David Pugliese The Ottawa Citizen

There is a good possibility of at least one major war within the next decade between a great power such as the United States and a regional power like North Korea or Iraq, a study on the future of the Canadian Forces warns.

While the analysis determines it is highly unlikely that there would be a war in the future between the so-called great powers, such as Russia and the U.S., it doesn't rule out another conflict similar to the Persian Gulf war. Within the next decade or two "there is a good possibility of at least one high-intensity war between a great power and a major regional power," states the analysis done for Defence department deputy minister Jim Judd last year. It was obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information Act.

Department of National Defence officials said the analysis, which points out how the Canadian Forces should prepare for the future, considers countries such as Iraq and North Korea as major regional powers. But the most common military mission of the future, the study notes, will involve operations ranging from providing humanitarian assistance to taking part in "near-combat" peacekeeping.

Defence planners said they do not see a war between the U.S. and Russia or the U.S. and China in the next 20 years.

But other defence analysts say a Chinese-American confrontation is one of the most likely war scenarios in the future. "In the long run it is clear that a Chinese-American collision is coming," said Brian MacDonald, president of the Atlantic Council of Canada which promotes Canada's role in NATO. "That's the only place I can see real confrontation."

Tension between China and Taiwan, which the Chinese view as a breakaway province, has been escalating for six months. Mr. MacDonald said Chinese forces have positioned conventionally armed missiles that are capable of striking Taiwan. That could fit in with the Chinese belief that they could launch attacks against Taiwan since the U.S. would be reluctant to come to the defence of its ally by attacking targets in China, he added.

The Chinese have also conducted war games that envision the use of small nuclear weapons against U.S ships that might come to the aid of Taiwan. "The question is then how far does this escalation go?" asked Mr. MacDonald. "If the Chinese nuked the U.S. navy, what happens?"

Other flashpoints, he noted, include a war between India and Pakistan as well as the possibility of another war in the Persian Gulf.

Wars in Latin America and Africa will continue, but on a much smaller level and usually involving guerrilla forces, said Mr. MacDonald. There is also a possibility of Russia continuing to fight wars with its former republics to stem the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in those areas.

The Defence Department analysis recommends that to prepare for future conflicts the Canadian navy be outfitted with cruise missiles and, if there is to be a replacement for the CF-18 fighter, that it be a stealth aircraft. The army should follow the lead of the air force and purchase smart bombs, which it could use for its artillery. The so-called smart ammunition would allow the army to organize into smaller but more powerful and more lethal units.

Although the navy would not consider the Tomahawk cruise missile, it could consider a U.S.-made rocket called the Stand-off Land Attack Missile or SLAM, according to Defence officials. That would allow Canadian ships and submarines to fire at ground targets 280 kilometres away.

Military analyst Martin Shadwick, a professor at York University, considers the Defence Department analysis of future conflicts fairly accurate. He said the assumption of a major war between the U.S. and a regional power "wouldn't be an unrealistic scenario."

Mr. Shadwick also said it would make sense for the Canadian Forces to outfit itself with cruise missiles such as SLAM as well as stealth aircraft. He said that a purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles would be out of the question as it could spark protests over the weapons like those that took place in Canada in the early 1980s. The SLAM, he said, while it can technically be classed as a cruise missile, is more along the lines of the rockets already in use in the Canadian navy.

The Canadian Forces has spent $10 million U.S. to gather initial information on a new U.S. aircraft program called Joint Strike Fighter. That program hopes to produce an advanced aircraft with stealth properties but at an affordable price.

Other defence analysts, however, caution about the accuracy of predicting future wars. "What happens in the future is anybody's guess," said David Rudd, director of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. Mr. Rudd points out that while there are obvious flashpoints around the world, there is also the possibility that situations may be defused through political negotiations and that the future might not be as bad as some might predict.

Whatever the scenario, the Defence Department foresees that the Canadian Forces will likely be contributing in the future to missions involving international coalitions likely led by the U.S.

The analysis points out that equipment such as cruise missiles are not only useful for high intensity war but also for peace support operations. It gives the example that sustained Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Bosnian Serb military positions and facilities in September 1995 were instrumental in bring about Serb participation in the peace talks that led to the Dayton Peace Accord. According to the analysis, the navy should consider outfitting both its submarines and warships with the cruise missiles.

The analysis also puts emphasis on getting Canadian troops to war zones faster by improving airlift capability and making them more mobile through the purchase of combat helicopters. Canadian Forces officials have said they would like to purchase some kind of attack helicopter.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 05, 2000

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