96. Telegram From the Embassy in Canada to the Department of State1

981. Subj: Canadian force reductions. Ref: State 110808.2

1. Summary. Embassy favors line of NATO response outlined para 3a of USNATO 3099,3 although we doubt that GOC will buy it or anything very close to it, since basic decision to reduce Canadian forces in Europe is, as Sharp put it in recent joint cabinet meeting in Washington, [Page 394]“not negotiable”.4 (Sharp did say numbers and timing of phased reduction were flexible). SACEUR proposal has advantage of recognizing to some extent need to adjust to Canadian political situation. Nevertheless, I believe SACEUR proposal will not be acceptable to GOC. But burden should be on Canadians to make further counter-proposal.

2. As expressed in Ottawa 830,5 Embassy believes that PriMin Trudeau, with full support of most influential members his Cabinet, has taken firm decision to reduce forces in Europe and de-emphasize Canadian military role in NATO. Considerations supporting this decision include (a) budgetary bind and demands for substantial new federal funds for urgent domestic programs in attempt rectify Canada’s economic and cultural disparities, (b) attendant deep and genuine concern about discontent in Quebec, (c) anti-militarist direction of Cabinet which prefers contribution to world peacemaking in form peacekeeping and foreign aid, (d) collateral stress on de-escalation, disarmament, and détente, (e) domestic political need or promise to challenge “conventional wisdoms” and fulfill campaign posture for innovation, and (f) built-in neglect (long pre-dating Trudeau) of any constructive or farsighted capital equipment plan for military establishment.

3. Any effort by Allies or by Brosio simply to tell GOC what it proposes to do is “unacceptable” will provoke little more than resentment and could freeze earlier GOC proposal as maximum offer. To do so would also run some risk of engendering sufficient resentment to strengthen hand for long term future of those in Cabinet who wish to remove Canadian military presence from Europe entirely.

4. If, however, what is meant by “unacceptable” is that it is militarily unacceptable that Alliance forward line be left with undefended gap, then GOC might regard this as reasonable argument and be at least to some extent responsive to appeals to adjust size and timing of reduction to efforts of Allies to devise means of filling the gap.

5. These considerations make it unlikely Trudeau will accept Lemnitzer proposal, though it is worth trying and should be tried, partly because Canadians expect some such counter-proposal. Lemnitzer proposal runs some risk of making GOC more inflexible, but this is not foregone, and it just might strengthen hands of those in Canadian civil and military bureaucracy who continue have objections to reduction plan. In this connection, we know that the Canadian DND task group is having trouble in formulating “new look” for Canadian military forces which would reconcile reductions with future professionalism in Cana[Page 395]dian military establishment, particularly in heavier weapons which will be eliminated under present Canadian proposal. SACEUR proposal would meet this problem and is therefore likely to appeal to the military planners here.

6. Difficulty with other three lines of response (para 3b, c, and d, USNATO 3099)6 is that they propose status quo or something close to it (d), which Trudeau has clearly and publicly ruled out, and that changes in Canadian forces and roles are made contingent upon the prior coming into being of some substitute forces to be developed by somebody else at some unspecified time in the future (b and c), a proposition which would be equally unacceptable to the GOC.

7. Canadian position is that any shortfall in Canadian forces or contribution is Alliance problem and that European Allies have greater obligation than GOC to improve defense on what after all is their territory. This is a point of view which the Canadian Cabinet has found very persuasive. Arguments about the collectivity of collective security are met by counter-argument that Canada’s participation in North American continental security system is contribution to mutual defense and will be increased (in way as yet unspecified). Privately to themselves, Trudeau and his associates are also saying, with conviction, that unless they hold Canada together they will certainly not be able to make any contribution whatsoever to Western security. This is a deep and major concern which adds greatly to the pressure to divert funds from the military budget to other social and economic programs.

8. Though reasonable counter-proposal, SACEUR’s alternative plan has, as indicated above, certain features which GOC will find unattractive, and probably unacceptable: (a) size of force proposed is 2–3000 more in Europe than envisaged, (b) land force mix assumes follow-on replacement of some present, (c) air force figure has double the strength contemplated by GOC and assumes continuation Canadian nuclear strike role and 104 aircraft for which Canadians have programmed no replacement.

9. Still, SACEUR proposal can be put as reasonable and practical one, with preamble made to Canadians that Allies are distressed at any reduction and regard any such change as mistake which will be detrimental to peace and Western security.

10. To recap points made Ottawa 830, there may be some give in GOC figures of 3500 and somewhat more in role and timing, though stress on compatibility of forces at home and abroad will no doubt mean no purchase of expensive and heavy equipment. Retention of [Page 396]104’s nuclear capability is probably negotiable for limited and specified period of time.

11. On specific item of aircraft carrier Bonaventure, Embassy agrees with Henderson suggestion that Canadians be urged to retain it in active service until substitute force of helicopter-equipped destroyers is available to NATO. Some elements of GOC place more weight on Canadian ASW role—although Trudeau personally is known to have strong reservations about it. There is no firm Canadian plan to get out of ASW completely, the Eastern sea frontier is more “continental” and less “European”, and the “substitute” force is a Canadian one already programmed. Despite these considerations, budgetary pressures and recent public controversy over expensive overhaul of Bonaventure will, in the eyes of the Cabinet, argue against its retention, and we do not wish leave impression we think GOC will easily be persuaded to retain Bonaventure in service.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. I. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Dated July 7. It requested comment on telegrams 3094, 3095, and 3099 from USNATO containing SACEUR’s proposals on Canadian force reductions. (Ibid.)
  3. Dated July 7. It reported on discussions within the NAC on a response to Canada. Paragraph 3a proposed accepting Lemnitzer’s alternate proposals for such a response. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 NATO)
  4. See Document 95.
  5. Dated June 9. It suggested alternative diplomatic approaches that NATO member states might employ in an effort to win modification of Canada’s decision to reduce its NATO commitment. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 NATO)
  6. These paragraphs of the telegram outlined alternative scenarios for a response to Canada.
  7. In telegram 113695 to USNATO (repeated to Ottawa), July 10, the Department of State expressed its desire to engage in discussions with Canada that would focus on specific military issues and agreed that the United States should avoid any confrontation with the Canadians. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. I)