108. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Canadian-US Bilateral in Brussels (U)


  • Canadian Side
  • James A. Richardson, Minister of National Defence
  • Gen Jacques A. Dextraze, Chief of Defence Staff
  • David H.W. Kirkwood, Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy)
  • Robert P. Cameron, Director General, Defence and Arms Control Affairs, Department of External Affairs
  • US Side
  • James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • ADM Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Ambassador Robert C. Hill, Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
  • Harry E. Bergold, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary (ISA)
  • MGen John A. Wickham, Jr., Military Assistant to SecDef
  • BGen H. Lobdell, Jr., Director, European and NATO Affairs, OASD (ISA)

1. (S) Air Defense

SecDef was concerned that Minister Richardson might receive his first word on renewed continental air defense program decisions from news leaks. He reviewed for Richardson the emerging strategic situation and how it impacts on prospective plans. We are increasingly concerned about extended strategic nuclear exchanges with the Soviets. Although such attacks are of very low probability—less than 1%—the possible destruction makes it advantageous for both sides to avoid city attacks. Avoidance would be advantageous to Canada from the point of view of all-out effects. We must think in a wider spectrum of strategic attacks against military as well as economic targets, but not necessarily all-out city busting attacks. There is also a second element in this emerging strategic situation: the Soviets now have a massive missile capability in which their investment is growing. On the other hand, the bomber inventory is shrinking. The impact of these two elements is that we are less interested in bomber defense designed to limit high mortality in cities.

What is the implication of this for defense? If both sides are staring at each other’s massive strategic capability, then both are interested in restraint and are willing to consider sub-SIOP options. In this case, a war of nerves might develop in the international arena. Emphasis will be on the ability to convey a seriousness of intent. The Soviets should not be free to play in the air space of the North American continent. For this reason, the air defense focus for the 70s and 80s should be to attrit Soviet air vehicles penetrating North American air space. For example, if Soviet reconnaissance aircraft are allowed free access over North America, the US and Canadian populations would regard this as an intolerable situation. To the extent possible, we should have as much control as possible so that the Soviets would have to pay a price for exploitation of the air space.

In the strategic competition, therefore, in which less than all-out exchange could occur, this rationale for air defense is superior to the previous one. It implies emphasis on area rather than point defense. We still must maintain point defense in specific locations directed against a manifest threat, such as that from Cuba. We are proceeding with the F–106 and AWACS to provide better surveillance. In addition, we may consider an improved point defense (e.g., SAM–D) in the vicinity of critical targets such as MINUTEMAN fields. NIKE HERCULES to defend cities will be phased out. In summary, it is clear that point defense of U.S. cities in an age when the Soviets have 2,000 missiles is not sound. Thus, our programs will focus on R&D programs, with a spe[Page 392]cific objective of maintaining surveillance and control of air space. Air defense, as a major reducer of casualties in an era of massive missile threat, is not a sound use of resources. This seems to us to provide a rationale for 1970–1980 air defense.

MOD Richardson responded that Canada had established clear priorities for its limited capability: sovereignty of Canadian territory, control of Canadian air space, and thirdly, NATO. Canadians want to cooperate with the US in air defense to the extent they are able. Since he had had difficulty explaining the need for air defense, particularly to critics of the NORAD agreement extension, MOD Richardson welcomed SecDef’s concept as providing a saleable rationale which would help to justify his budget.

ADM Moorer commented that the Soviet bomber threat has diminished. Since the Soviets have not seen fit to develop a tanker force, not even the BACKFIRE is adequate for strategic attack. Therefore, the key to Soviet intent would be a build-up of the tanker force. In addition to surveillance, a capability to destroy targets is required too.

MOD Richardson asked if we are preparing to phase out DEW-line. SecDef said no, he did not want to leave that impression. Our first priority is to warn of attack. The second priority is to impose a price on intrusions, although the Soviets are not inclined to take risks to intrude. If we had no capability to respond, the Soviets might indulge in repetitive intrusion which could be erosive on the morale of our people. Mr. Kirkwood said that the past rationale had required that we impose significant attrition on bombers attacking economic and military targets, and a capability to support this past rationale was adequate to handle any air space intrusion. In the case of Canada and its wide areas of the North, he asked if all intrusions had to be defended against. SecDef responded that we should not be driven by this logic to major new investments. We may need to consider point defenses around high value targets such as missile fields, particularly if the Soviets moved to upgrade their bomber force. This latter prospect is now moot.

2. (S) NORAD Agreement

MOD Richardson said that Canada was looking closely at the agreement. He asked why it should focus only on air defense when our navies are working together. SecDef agreed that the concept should possibly be broadened to a continental defense agreement. MOD Richardson asked if the US visualized any change in Canadian air defense involvement. SecDef answered that we had not specifically looked at the Canadian capability nor refined our own concepts and programs. SecDef said we plan to proceed with AWACS, although first priority will probably be in NATO. The OTH–B northward looking radar also would be developed. We will be announcing shortly a phase-out of [Page 393] NIKE HERCULES units. We will be going down to 196 interceptors together with a phase-out of F–102s and possibly F–101s. Mr. Kirkwood asked if the US was going to announce anything in regard to the manned interceptors, emphasizing that phase-out of the F–101s would have an effect on Canada and Canada’s views of the US program. SecDef emphasized that the US and Canada could begin discussions on this almost immediately.

3. (S) ASW

SecDef said he trusted that Canada will press hard in the ASW area. MOD Richardson said he wanted the benefit of US thinking on the LRPA for ASW surveillance as the Canadian ARGUS has only 4–5 years of service life remaining. The Canadians have, to date, concluded there is no aircraft in the world today to fill these needs. The P–3 and the Boeing 707 are not suitable for different reasons. He asked if there is still a clear requirement for ASW surveillance when nuclear submarine ranges and extended range missile capability can operate outside the range of ASW aircraft operating from Canada. SecDef responded that we wanted to counter subs used against our sea LOCs in conventional war. Canadian aircraft would be a visible and useful deterrent force. The P–3, although propeller driven, is highly cost effective, economical on fuel, flexible in speed, range and time on station, and capable against slower moving targets. MOD Richardson said that Canada had a high level of technology but wanted to find a vehicle to put it in.

4. (S) Conventional Balance

SecDef recognized that the Canadians had made a decision to reduce their forces in NATO some years ago, but he wondered if NATO might not be more vigorous by demonstrating to the Soviets a capability to maintain and reinforce its forces in Europe. Perhaps we might work together to determine what Canada could do in this regard. MOD Richardson responded that Canada’s role, over-concentrated in the Central Region, was carried out by a modern professional air and ground force. He did not know whether Canada can enlarge its contribution; however, if the US has specific suggestions by which Canadian forces could be adjusted, they would listen. He added that he was the only defense minister known to have a firm budget commitment from his Parliament extending over a five-year period. This will permit a doubling of investment funds.

SecDef responded that he was thinking principally of reinforcement of the North Atlantic area. If NATO does not react, the deterrent value of its forces and confidence in its military posture will erode. He thought it useful if the US, Canada and Norway would discuss the issues in reinforcing the Northern Flank.

  1. Summary: Schlesinger and Richardson discussed U.S-Canada air defense, NORAD, ASW, and the conventional forces balance.

    Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 330–76–117, 333 Canada 18 Dec 73. Secret. Prepared by Wickham and OASD/ISA European and NATO Affairs Director Brigadier General H. Lobdell; and approved by Hill on December 18. The meeting took place in the Mission to NATO. In telegram 147164 to Ottawa, July 26, the Department requested the Embassy’s assessment of the likely Canadian reaction to a reduction in continental U.S. air defenses and changes to its warning capabilities. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 671, Country Files, Europe, Canada, Vol. IV (Jan 73–Jul 74)) In telegram 1839 from Ottawa, August 8, the Embassy replied that the proposed reductions would not affect Canadian willingness “to cooperate in bilateral defense relations. However, any change in level of U.S. support for NORAD is likely to be matched by reduction in level of Canadian support.” (Ibid.)