Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Carolyn Kaster

NORAD chief warns of risk of new Cold War

Norad chief urges speedy defensive upgrades amid spectre of new Cold War

The shadow of a new Cold War hung heavy Tuesday as the commander of North America’s early-warning system urged Canada and the U.S. to get on with upgrading the continent’s aging defences in the face of growing threats from Russia and others.

Russia figured prominently as Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the U.S. commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or Norad, warned a defence conference that Canada and the U.S. are “at risk in ways we haven’t been in decades.”

The Russian military has been developing new nuclear-armed cruise missiles that are difficult to detect and intercept and hypersonic missiles whose special threat is their extreme speed compared with older weapons.

READ MORE: Russian fighters in Arctic spark debate on Canada’s place

Russia has also been sending bombers to buzz North American airspace in the Arctic, resumed fighter-jet patrols in the area after a 30-year hiatus and deployed cruise missiles on naval vessels in its northern waters, O’Shaughnessy said.

“We haven’t seen this sort of systematic and methodical increase in threats since the height of the Cold War,” he said. “We must acknowledge the reality that our adversaries currently hold our citizens, our way of life and national interests at risk.”

The Canadian and American militaries have been quietly contemplating the future of Norad as new technology threatens to make the missile-warning system, which includes a chain of 1980s-era radars in Canada’s Arctic, obsolete.

Yet any progress has been muted, as officials on both sides of the border repeatedly reference the need for study and evaluation that will feed into future discussions — whose dates still haven’t been set.

O’Shaughnessy acknowledged the need for study to ensure Canada and the U.S., which have worked through Norad to defend against nuclear-missile attacks since the 1950s, build the right system to defend against 21st-century threats.

But he warned against falling into what he described as “the paralysis-by-analysis trap while our competitors are putting us at risk with credible threat.

“We’re clear-eyed at Norad right now,” he added, “and we say that the defence of our nation is both urgent and important and as such we need to get after it and we need to get after it together.”

O’Shaughnessy’s remarks came less than a month after the U.S. Department of Defense released a long-awaited review of the threats posed by Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Iranian missiles — and the ways to counter them.

READ MORE: Trump denies ever working for Russia, blasts investigators

Both U.S. President Donald Trump and the Pentagon report put a heavy emphasis on space-based sensors and defences to detect, track and stop missile attacks against the U.S. and its allies from anywhere in the world.

Trump also warned that allies will have to pay their share for the new capabilities, which some analysts have questioned will ever become a reality given their potentially high cost, widespread concerns about the weaponization of space, and the unproven technology.

The report revealed without offering any details that Norad is “pursuing a three-phase plan to improve the defence against cruise missiles for the United States and Canada.”

One of the questions facing any upgrade to Norad will be whether Canada finally agrees to participate in a missile-defence shield program, which involves intercepting incoming attacks, after famously opting out of one such program in 2005.

O’Shaughnessy did not mention missile defence in his address. The Liberals have left the door open to eventually joining such a program as part of a modernized Norad, while the Conservatives have openly called for Canada to join now.

Government officials have acknowledged that Canada could end up paying billions to upgrade or replace northern radars, money that isn’t now accounted for in the Trudeau government’s multibillion-dollar defence policy.

While O’Shaughnessy is responsible for Norad, he also said that Canada and the U.S. need to better defend shared infrastructure such as power grids while finding ways to make it too dangerous for anyone to contemplate an attack on North America.

“Rather than simply responding to advancements of doctrine and technology,” he said, “we must drive ahead of those strategies and create dilemmas to make it too costly for any nation to contemplate an attack on our nations.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

City of Kimberley no longer using electricity to thaw frozen water lines

With temperatures dropping, the potential for frozen water lines increases. The City… Continue reading

McCormick to deliver ‘State of the City’ address February 5

Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick will present his annual address on the state… Continue reading

Kimberley’s Lloyd Steeves and Donna Briggs named Volunteers of the Year with Alpine Canada

The duo are the driving force behind ski racing in Kimberley.

Kimberley Skating Club hosting East Kootenay Invitational this weekend

The competition is underway at the Kimberley Civic Centre until Sunday afternoon.

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

How to beat Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year

Multiple factors can play a role in seasonal depression, says Fraser Health psychiatrist

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in lingerie store

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Hwy 3 to close for avalanche control on Jan. 19

The road is expected to be closed from noon to 3 p.m.

Most Read