The Cold War that divided the whole world into two camps could not leave Canada unaffected. The nation that was dragged into the Cold War politicking by the Gouzenko scandal remained supportive of the US policies throughout the period of the Cold War. Even so, occasional tensions and disagreements with the US did emerge, and Canada was able to preserve some autonomy in decision-making process. The nation belonged to the Western paradigm due to its location and capitalist economic system, and so could not betray the interests of its camp. The paper will seek to explore to what degree Canada was able to pursue its independent policies, while de facto following in the wake of US initiatives. Although teaming up with a convincing ally that had given up its isolationist stand to rule world politics, Canada to a great extent managed to withstand its independent position and to offer models of decision-making alternative to the US pushy and aggressive anti-Soviet stance. Committed to multilateralism, Canada never fully accepted the Truman doctrine and believed in containing the violations of Communist states, not Communism itself.
1. THE GOUZENKO ESPIONAGE SCANDAL
Canada found itself participating in the Cold War mainly due to the accident that decided the nation’s sympathies. Despite the lingering anti-Communism in the pre-war era and the cooperation with the US in WWII, the nation’s response could remain undecided before Canada discovered political espionage in its midst.
In September 1945, in a symbolic appearance, the cipher clerk from the Soviet embassy, Igor Gouzenko “walked into Ottawa newsroom and announced he had proof of a widespread Soviet spy ring operating in Canada.” The young Soviet diplomat shared with the staff of the Ottawa Citizen that Soviet spies at work in Canada developed a large-scale network collecting confidential information about various defense activities in Canada. Thus, they were piling up facts about radar technology, explosives and nuclear and uranium processing.
Gouzenko had a motive to share his findings with the Canadians: fascinated by Western lifestyle, he was unwilling to return to Stalin’s Russia. To win the support of Canadians, he had for weeks been stealing information about the findings of Soviet spies. Gouzenko said:
“During about half a month, I examined the materials to select the best ones that would disclose the operative work, leaving the informational telegrams on one side. The telegrams which I wished to take out I marked by bending over slightly one of the corners.”
The network proved to be extensive, including officials, scientists and even a Member of Parliament, aiming at finding evidence about the Canadian military technological advances and the procedure for making a nuclear bomb. The news could not be ignored by the Canadian government that made a series of arrests, “clamping down on suspected subversives.”
Gouzenko’s testimony released to the public about 36 years after it was submitted to the Canadian government contains approximately 6,000 pages. Although it allowed its author to stay in the West, this did not bring him the desired happy life, as Igor Gouzenko was forced to live in fear with his wife Svetlana for 50 years. During all his TV interviews, including the famous appearance on CBC’s program This Hour Has Seven Days downloadable from the network’s website, he had to wear a hood that would mask his face. The fact that Gouzenko was listened to with great interest 12 years after his famous debut testifies to the fear of Soviet spies generated by his revelation that ever since remained in Canadian minds. Thus, on March 13, 1966, he was invited to share his knowledge about Soviet spying techniques following a new frightening discovery: Gerda Munsinger, a German woman, who was alleged to be a Soviet spy.
The East German-born Munsinger moved to Canada in 1955 after which she was living in Montreal. The rage of the public was provoked by her connections with high-ranked government officials including George Hees and Pierre Sévigny the Associate Minister of National Defence. This was a serious blow to John Diefenbaker’s government as the girl, later deported to Germany in 1961, was believed to work for the KGB. The affairs of the fiery German made an impressive media story as the Minister of Justice Lucien Cardin brought up the subject in Parliament in 1966.
2. CANADA AND THE NATO
When the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in 1949, Canada became an integral component of this alliance as one of the 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Despite the proclaimed devotion to the cause of peace, the key section was Article 5 under which the parties agreed that “that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence”. Thereby, entering the NATO, Canada received a mighty protection from the US and Western European nations. On the other hand, Canada was perhaps one of the least likely targets for Soviet attacks; thus, its participation was more of a symbolic indication of association with Western values and anti-Soviet camp as well as yet another sign of support for US policies. For Canada, this was the first in the national history example for participation in a military alliance in the peaceful times, the role that bound Canada to supply its troops to power NATO military operations.
The US, on the other hand, invited Canada to foster the alliance with its northern neighbor and to secure the “North Atlantic” component in the treaty. The NATO, however, gave rise to tensions between the two North Atlantic powers, forcing some Canadians to lament that the US was usurping its sovereignty. Thus, some have claimed that “aside from nuclear holocaust, the country’s sovereignty is compromised more by `our’ superpower, the United States, than it is by the USSR.” Thus, politicians and scholars focused on the deployment of Russian naval forces and the menace of Soviet SSNs but often overlooked the US SSNs that were deployed in Canadian Arctic waters without securing Canada’s permission. Such actions cast a shadow over Canadian sovereignty. Indeed, some of this freedom had been compromised already in the fact that the nation had joined a severe military alliance that was dominated by the US.
It is not to say that Canadians left the reins of the NATO policies in the hands of their American allies. Canada tried to add its cooperation slant to the treaty by insisting on the inclusion of Article 2 that is “often referred to as the Canadian article.” This article expresses the dedication of the signers to “contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being.” This provision turns the treaty from a simple military alliance into a union that focuses on broader issues of international cooperation aiming to secure peace and stability.
3. CANADA-US MILITARY COOPERATION: UPS AND DOWNS
During the 1950s, Canada participated in the most significant conflict between the Communist and Western worlds – the Korean War. Canada was one of the nations that followed the lead of the United States and sent its troops to the zone of the conflict including 25,000 soldiers. As a result of this effort, 300 Canadians perished in the battles in Korea. At first Canada was reluctant to send its troops to Korea, but finally gave in to the persuasions of its NATO allies that the war presented a threat to the alliance. In consequence of this decision, Canadian Army Special Force and 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group 2nd battalions were dispatched to Korea.
In the 1950s, the two nations began the work on the creation of a joint defense system against a possible Soviet attack. Military programs aimed at stepping up protection against the other camp were a characteristic feature of the Cold War period, and Canada was not left out in this process. To this purpose, the two nations formed NORAD defined as “the bi-national command that provides warning and assessment of aerospace attack against the North American continent, and it assists in safeguarding the sovereignty of its airspace.” NORAD formed a joint air defense system and created the Distant Early Warning Line (Dew Line) in the north of Canada to monitor Soviet planes crossing this line.
The US-Canadian cooperation was not always smooth and without problems. Thus, George Shaw who worked on the highly promising Arrow jet in Canada insists that “American pressure was behind the cancellation.” The reason given Shaw in his highly thought-provoking first-hand narrative is the desire of the Americans to terminate any projects that could establish Canada’s economic independence from the US. As funds in the Cold War era were extensively poured specifically into defense-related projects, this was where Canada had the greatest potential to break free from US economic dominance. According to Shaw, this did not happen due to resistance from Canadian politicians including the then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. The result, Shaw concludes, is that the Canadian economy remained “branch plant oriented and very vulnerable.”
However, on the question of deployment of US nuclear weapons on the Canadian territory, Diefenbaker proved to be less willing to compromise national sovereignty. Thus, in 1958 the government headed by John Diefenbaker agreed to host 56 American Bomarc missiles in two Canadian locations including North Bay, Ontario and La Macaza, Quebec. However, it soon became clear that Bomarc missiles had to be equipped with nuclear warheads to be effective, otherwise, they were useless. The Canadians staged a series of protests against the introduction of US weapons in Canada that made it difficult for the government to accept nuclear warheads.
Canada finally agreed to accept nuclear missiles but under a different government. In 1963, Diefenbaker succumbed to Lester B. Pearson who gave his agreement to the deployment of nuclear weapons. However, they were later removed from the Canadian terrains when Pierre Trudeau replaced Pearson.
Besides, US-Canada cooperation did not proceed smoothly under Pearson’s leadership. The two countries faced a downturn in their relations after the speech delivered by Lester B. Pearson at Temple University in Philadelphia, in which the Canadian Prime Minister called for a halt of bombings in Vietnam. Although pointing to the need to put a stop to North Vietnam’s aggressive action for the establishment of a communist regime, Pearson claimed that “continued bombing action, however, against North Vietnam beyond a certain point may not bring about this result.” It was a severe disagreement in policy between the US and Canada that provoked the anger of the US President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Unlike the situation in the Korean War in which Canada willingly sent its troops to assist Americans, in the Vietnam War it demonstrated its commitment to multilateralism. This multilateralism for Canadians was embodied in the United Nations. Canada tried to mediate the Vietnam conflict instead of participating in military actions. Serving on the US truce commission deprived Canada of the possibility to send its troops to Vietnam, something that served as a relief to many Canadian citizens unwilling to see their sons and brothers leaving to participate in some distant overseas conflicts. At the same time, ordinary Canadians did not hesitate to take part in anti-war manifestation that raged on both sides of the US-Canada border even if the northern neighbor was not directly involved in the warfare. Moreover, Canada provided a refuge for the so-called “draft dodgers,” young Americans who fled their motherland to avoid military service in Vietnam. By offering them refuge, Canada reaffirmed its status as a democratic nation and provided an influx of young, able and often educated people who later contributed to its economy. Most importantly, by establishing its position in the Vietnam War as different from that of the United States, Canada could reinforce its independence and sovereignty in political decision-making.
4. CANADA’S ROLE IN THE SUEZ CRISIS
One of the most impressive instances of Canadian initiatives was its peacekeeping effort at the time of the Suez crisis in 1956. In this year, Egypt that was increasingly cooperating with the Soviet Union seized a vital water artery of the Eastern Hemisphere, the Suez Canal, that had been previously controlled by France and Britain. In October these nations attacked Egypt that enjoyed the support of the Soviet leader “Khrushchev, who threatened to shower the west with nuclear weapons if the British and French didn’t withdraw.” The situation was getting explosive and threatened with the start of the Third World War.
This challenge was handled with mastery by the Canadian diplomat Lester B. Pearson, then Canadian Minister of External Affairs who was later to become Prime Minister. His suggestion revolved around the introduction of an international peacekeeping contingent combined with the withdrawal of British and French troops. His proposal sounded this way: “A United Nations force large enough to keep those borders at peace while a political settlement is being worked out.” Although Britain was opposed to this plan, the vote of 57 nations in the UN enabled Pearson’s initiative to be realized. The date of 1956 is informally considered the birth of the UN “blue helmets” as during the Suez Crisis the first large international peacekeeping force including 6,000 people was formed and dispatched to the area of conflict. The contingent headed by the Canadian General E.L.M. Burns proved useful in maintaining peace and stayed in the region till 1967.
Pearson effectively managed to avert the war. For his outstanding initiative, the diplomat received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. Canada in this crisis demonstrated its potential to bring about positive diplomatic initiatives in resolving dangerous international conflicts. The Canadian diplomat also spearheaded the creation of an important force that became a major player in international conflicts to this day – UN peacekeeping forces.
5. CANADA-CUBA RELATIONSHIP
Another example of Canada’s relative autonomy in establishing independent foreign policies is its relationship with Cuba. For the US, Cuba was the embodiment of the Communist threat, the only state in the Western Hemisphere that succumbed to the influence of pro-Soviet forces and maintained close ties with the Soviet Union. Washington’s blockade of the little island put it in the midst of the Cold War tensions and contributed to the dependence of Cuba on the outside assistance.
In contrast, Canada preserved economic and diplomatic relations with Cuba even after the advent of the current leader Fidel Castro. This fact was invoked by the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien during his visit to Cuba in April 1998. The Prime Minister said in his speech that “ties between Cuba and Canada date back to the last century, while since 1945, there have been uninterrupted diplomatic relations between the two countries”. This contrasts with the US cold attitude toward the island state and demonstrates that Canada is willing to pursue an independent policy in relations with the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Canada has also taken steps to counteract American efforts at blockading Cuba. Thus, in response to the item on General Assembly agenda concerning “Necessity Of Ending The Economic, Commercial And Financial Embargo Imposed By The United States Of America Against Cuba”, Canada reminded of its disagreement with section 1706 (A) of the US “Cuban Democracy Act” that limits business operations of US companies in Canada. The Canadian government has voiced concern over the provision of the same section that “prohibits vessels that enter Cuba from engaging in the trade of goods or the purchase or provision of services from loading freight in the United States for 180 days after their departure from Cuba”. Thus, Canada has sought to promote its bilateral cooperation with Cuba and to forward this purpose is not afraid to counteract American policies as long as it has the means to do so. Supposedly, the framework of the United Nations Organisation offers broader possibilities for doing so than bilateral agreements with the US in which Canada is often forced to play up to the larger and stronger partner. Canada’s protest against anti-Cuban embargo shows the willingness of the nation to get rid of the remnants of the Cold War era.
Other diplomatic disagreements between US and Canada involved Canada’s refusal to join the Organization of American States because it supported authoritarian regimes. The OAS replaced the Pan American Union and came into being after signing the Charter of the Organization of American States on 30 April 1948. The organization that proclaimed its intention “to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of non-intervention” overlooked atrocities committed by dictatorships that appeared in the 1970s-80s in some Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Guatemala. At the same time, it excluded Cuba from membership as a Communist state.
Another example of Canada building relationships with Communist states is the relations with China. Under Pierre Trudeau’s leadership, Canada officially recognized the People’s Republic of China. Seeking friendships in the Communist camp during the Cold War was not an exclusively Canadian strategy, however. By contacting selected East European and other nations (e.g., Yugoslavia), the Western powers sought to bring dissent into the Communist camp. However, Canada went farther than, for instance, US, as in the example with Cuba.
Canada happened to be drawn into the Cold War mainly due to the spy scandal that created in the minds of the Canadians a lingering fear of spies that persisted for years afterward. However, it should not be seen a chance victim since the most critical factors were its free market economy system and democratic values that led to the alliance with the “capitalist” camp. During the Cold War years, Canada was to a great extent forced to follow the influence of the US, one of the two poles of the political world. However, the nation was able to develop its initiatives and formulate policies that were different from the US. Through diplomatic efforts and emphasis on peaceful conflict resolution, Canada was able to create a distinct political profile on the international arena and present itself as a staunch supporter of multilateralism in international relations.
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