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Calgary Chamber of Commerce
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre, Calgary, Alberta Canada, Friday, February 18, 2000

Thank you, [United States] Consul General [Lisa Bobbie Schreiber Hughes]. That's a very gracious introduction. Someone once said he heard an introduction like that, and he said that the person came up and said he now needed to say two prayers: one for forgiveness of your soul for lying so badly, and one for mine for enjoying it so much. [Laughter.] I guess I'd have to agree with him. Thank you.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed being the recipient of the white [cowboy] hat. Marge [Gudmundson; Calgary Convention and Vistors Bureau], thank you. Of course, I was a Comptroller in the Defense Department and everybody knows Comptrollers only wear black hats. [Laughter.] So now to be recognized as not such a bad guy, I'll wear this very proudly, and I thank you for that.

I am really delighted to be here. I don't know if you all know that we're having an absolutely dreadful snowstorm in Washington right now. We left this morning. We were supposed to leave at eight o’clock, but they called and said the weather is going to be so bad. I think we got two inches. [Laughter.] It's embarrassing every time I tell you how we grind to a halt in Washington over things that wouldn't really make the morning news in Calgary. But we flew in about six o’clock in the morning and Lisa was there to greet us. I thought that was above and beyond. Thank you. It was really quite a warm welcome.

I really am grateful to be here because I've had a 23-year love affair with Canada that was really started by my roommate in graduate school, Don Barry [University of Calgary]. I've known him and Maria [Dewaele] for as long as I've been in Washington. It was through that contact that I've come to know and to love this remarkable country. So I'm very delighted to have a chance to be here to share some thoughts about it.

I must say, I am probably the only Deputy Secretary of Defense who knows who Diefenbaker was. [Laughter.] Or who Lester Pearson was, or who [Sir] John [A.] Macdonald was. Don told me earlier that Macdonald was once attending a speech. Back in that day it was very much the culture for people to have rather pretentious speeches, and at that time the Governor General was delivering some form of a speech which the Prime Minister had to attend. He delivered it in Greek. He went through the whole thing in Greek. And when it was all over, some of the press walked up to Macdonald and said, "What did you think of that?" He said, "His Greek was flawless." [Laughter.] Of course that was reported quite laudatorily in the press. A friend then came up to Macdonald and he said, "You know darn well you don't know a word of Greek." He said, "Yes, but I'm fluent in politics." [Laughter.]

So you've had remarkable statesmen in Canada. And I must say I've enjoyed learning vicariously of your political traditions. Most Americans, I must tell you, don't know much about Canada. That's one of the failings that we have, being so close to such a wonderful ally. And outside of enjoying the beautiful scenery, we don't know too much about Canada. I've tried very much during my tenure to be a knowing friend of this remarkable country that has been so important to us.

I'd like to speak to you today from that perspective. In all honesty, I want to talk to you about a tough subject. That's the subject of national missile defense. This is a debate that we're going to have to have with you over the next several months, maybe years, and it's a very important debate for us to have.

We have had an ongoing debate about national missile defense from the day that Ronald Reagan talked about Star Wars. But that has not been the case throughout the rest of the world, and our thinking has evolved so dramatically that when we ask you now to think about your relationship with us as we come to a very important decision point about our national missile defense, that you're coming to the debate with the perspectives that were ripe and vibrant and clear 14 or 15 years ago. It's going to be very hard to get into the frame of reference to understand these issues because there was an awful lot of politics that stands in the way, that takes us back to those days, which really aren't relevant today. It's from that perspective that I would like to talk with you about this.

I think it's important to put it even in a larger frame of reference, and that is the frame of reference of the United States' relations with Canada as we collectively live side by side and share all kinds of important priorities and goals and policies; sometimes with a great deal of support, mutual respect and support, and sometimes with some friction. You understand that. That's a very logical phenomenon. You'd expect that with sovereign states side by side, that they would have issues that would both unite them and divide them.

During our last 50 years, the issue of national defense has been an issue that has united us. Together, along with our partners in Europe, we stood side by side during the Cold War, and it was a tough time. But it was an easy time in one sense because it was very clear that there were forces of light and forces of darkness. We knew what we had to do. Canada was with us, and we were with Canada. It was a great thing.

That has changed somehow over the last 10 years. Both of our countries have been scaling back on what we wanted to spend on defense. We look to Canada, frankly, with a bit of alarm. We don't see a bottoming out of the sentiment on what needs to be sustained in the defense community.

I tell my friends and colleagues at the embassy in Washington, and every time I have a chance to go to Ottawa -- I'm going next week -- that we're the only country in the world that wants a stronger military power on its border. We want a stronger military power on our border. And we worry that that is not always the perception, frankly, of the Canadians. We would like you very much to look at this remarkable institution. We fought together so proudly, and now I would foresee that it's very hard for our Canadian military friends to be able to put forces in the field. I don't think that's good.

Ultimately the strength and the power of a country isn't the number of diplomats it puts out in embassies, it's the boots it puts on the ground. It makes a difference. And I think that's very important for us to be thinking about together. That has to be the starting point of our thinking about national missile defense.

Canada has always had a very difficult time of being a neighbor right next to this big American entity; not wanting to get crushed by such a friendly embrace. Wanting to have independence in dealing with this country. You have sought that form of independence by being in institutions like NORAD where you sit at the table as an ally and a partner. Canada needs to have that frame of reference as it thinks about its future.

I believe we're at an important pivot point in our relationship with each other. Unfortunately, I think that pivot point is going to revolve around the issue of national missile defense, and this is where we have to start having a very open and constructive dialogue with each other about what it means and why we're doing it. So let's talk about that.

First of all, national missile defense for us is not Star Wars. I remember seeing the simulated cartoons of thousands of missiles coming, lasers zapping them down, all that sort of jazz. That is not the program that we're promoting. Frankly, [Star Wars is] not feasible. As much as some people would still like it to be the case, it's not a feasible solution.

What we are promoting is a fairly limited capability. A capability that you would measure in terms of the ability to stop 5, 10, or 20 attacking warheads. This is very important because there's a great deal of apprehension here in Canada, in the capitals of our other allied countries in Europe, in the United States, and certainly in Moscow, that the National Missile Defense program we're promoting requires a change or a removal of the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty. It will when we finally get to that kind of a program. Everyone has their commitment to the ABM Treaty. We're committed to the ABM Treaty. We think it's a very important foundation for our understanding and relations vis-a-vis the old Soviet Union, now Russia.

But if it's a matter of choosing whether to defend a 27-year old treaty or defending the United States, this President or any other President is going to defend the United States. Now those don't have to be incompatible, and they're not incompatible. That's what we should talk about here.

The very underpinning of our relations with Russia when it comes to nuclear forces is deterrence. We all understand that. It always will be that. We can't put a system in the field that's capable of protecting against hundreds of re-entry vehicles, let alone thousands of RVs. It's practically impossible. So we are proposing to put a system in the field that is designed for very small numbers of attacking re-entry vehicles.

We say to our interlocutors in Russia, "This does not undermine your deterrence. In no sense do we intend to undermine your deterrence. Your deterrent will be, as is our deterrent, the bedrock of our relations with each other and will provide a stability to those relations."

But we both view Russia -- we, the United States; you, Canada – as having an interest in being able to put into the field a system that's able to stop small numbers of attacking warheads.

We look around the world and, frankly, it's a disturbing picture. A country like North Korea is building intercontinental ballistic missiles. Why does that country need to build a missile with a range of 7,000 kilometers in order to intimidate Japan? Or South Korea. It just doesn't make sense. Why is Iran working on a missile with the range of 5,000 nautical miles? It makes no sense.

These are also countries that have weaponized biological weapons and nuclear weapons. I think there's only one plausible explanation. They foresee a time when they need to or want to intimidate the United States when we are involved in an action against them. That could happen. We are yet again confronting a problem with Saddam Hussein. We come ready to mount a force, and we get a message that says, "One step closer and New York gets it."

Now what does that do to your deterrent capability from a conventional posture if all of a sudden you have to worry about an attack on your homeland for the first time? That's why we're deploying a National Missile Defense system. It isn't to block anything that Russia could throw out. That's not feasible. But it is to reestablish that gap that's going to emerge in a continuum of deterrence against those countries that are building these weapons for only one purpose. It isn't for their direct security. It's for political intimidation.

Now, I know that there are voices here in Canada and voices in the United States that are lobbying, strong voices in all of the capitals of our NATO allies, who have great reservations about us pressing ahead, because deploying this system will require a change to the ABM Treaty. Not initially, because we will start the deployment when the President decides. He has not yet decided that we're going to do this, although I think that it's a matter of technical outcome, not of any political decision on his part that he won't protect the country. He's already decided that.

When we do this, at some point we're going to have to bump up into this terrible problem of whether we proceed with the program constrained by the limitations of the ABM Treaty or whether we are going to try to amend the ABM Treaty? If we fail to do either, our only option is going to be to throw away the ABM Treaty. That, to us, is the least attractive alternative. That would be the worst thing that we could do.

So we need to sit down now, and here is where I must tell you that we need the help of Canada for this. Canada, as you know, and I've learned this through many conversations with Dr. Barry over the years, has always played a very unique role linking together big forces on its margin that it really needed to hold together for its own independence and its own security. At one time that was Great Britain and the United States and Canada provided that linkage. That very much was what John Macdonald was doing, wasn't he? He was holding together the United Kingdom and the United States.

Then that shifted, and Canada saw its role very much as being a linkage factor holding the United States and North America with Europe through the North Atlantic Council. And it's furthered that into the United Nations. So Canada has always seen its role as, much of its independence, garnering from the fact it could be a strong agent that helps link together and rationalize policies that are important to the United States and important to the rest of the world. And frankly, we need Canada now to help with this issue.

Canada needs to take the lead, I honestly believe, in helping to communicate with the rest of the world why it is important to amend the ABM Treaty. If we fail to do it, I promise you we're not going to not protect the United States. We are going to go ahead once the President decides the time is right. And we can do this, I hate to say it, by ourselves. We'd rather not do it by ourselves. It is part of a much bigger world. And we do not want to have to throw away the ABM Treaty in the process.

So I honestly and firmly believe it is Canada's unique opportunity, and I would say responsibility, to help us with our allies and to help us with the approach to understand it is in the world's interest to amend this treaty so that we can proceed with a limited defense system that lets us protect everybody against these rogue actors and still rely on the underlying deterrence that is the grounding and underpinning of the larger strategic security posture that we have.

So it's my plea, my plea for your help. This is too important to be left just to us defense leaders. We have to ask for help from the American public, the Canadian public. Kevin [Gregor; President, Calgary Chamber of Commerce], I thank you for this forum to come and speak so directly to Canada, to the Canada that cares about America and its relationship. We have to work on this together. It's a shared responsibility.

As I said, we've had a number of times in our history where we've found ourselves at an important pivot point in our relationship with each other, where it also became the pivot point for how the United States and Canada would relate to the larger world. We are at that point right now, and we do need your help.

Thank you very much for letting me come here today. [Applause.]