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A look to the future

The Ruxted Group has consistently pressed for a return to an old, traditional foreign policy ambition. We want Canada to be a leader amongst the so-called ‘middle powers.’

By any and all measures Canada is a middle power and it is amongst the most powerful of them. Canada is one of the world’s ‘top ten’ by any sensible measure of political and economic power. There are several competitors for the eighth, ninth and tenth positions on that list including Brazil, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia and South Korea but, even if Canada is occasionally ‘bumped’ it will be, for the duration of any reasonable policy planning period, one of the world’s top 10%. Two or three of the top ten are or might be superpowers, four or five might be major, even ‘great’ powers – the next 50 or 60 countries, on most lists, are middle powers – Canada is one of them. It is not a state we can (or want to) discard.

The question is: Being an important middle power, shall we aspire to be a leader?

Ruxted detects three broad ‘bands’ of opinion in Canada:

1. Little Canada - a greedy, timorous nation which turns its back on the world in order to address its own, domestic social, economic and political problems. This is the view of Canada offered by Pierre Trudeau in the 1970 Foreign Policy White Paper. Many eminent Canadians, including Allan Gotlieb, and Jennifer Welsh suggest that Canada either cannot or should not aspire to be a leader amongst the middle powers.

2. Reluctant Middle Power – a variant of Trudeau’s vision in which Canada does take a more active, even ‘leading’ position in world affairs but does so as a ‘model global citizen,’ attempting to ‘lead’ by example. This is the so-called “Soft Power” option.

3. Leading Middle Power – this is the position established as policy for Canada by then External Affairs Minister Louis St Laurent in 1947. It remained Canada’s policy until 1970, although it began to be diluted in 1968.

Option 1 is, Ruxted estimates, the most popular with many, perhaps even most Canadians.

It is ‘cheap’ – the Canadian defence budget might endure another decade of darkness and still meet the minimal burdens we think many Canadians are willing to bear. It is safe – Canadian troops would not, because they could not, be put in harm’s way. It has a very high ‘feel good’ factor – Canadians would see images of soldiers in baby-blue UN berets and medical service arm bands feeding little black babies.

Option 1 does nothing for Canada and it does nothing for the world. When an important middle power decides to ignore the strategic realities – the ‘global war on Barbarism’ – the whole world suffers. Equally, Canada’s voice in the world’s social, political and economic affairs and the degree to which other countries care about or pay attention to our views diminishes directly as our ability and willingness to carry a fair share of the global security burden is reduced.

Option 2 is something akin to the status quo. It is, probably, ‘sellable’ to most Canadians.

It involves doing less and less over time and doing it less effectively. It allows Canadians to send troops, maybe 2,000±, on difficult even dangerous missions, one mission at a time. It is sustainable in the short and medium term because the current government has taken some drastic but necessary action to correct some key military capability deficiencies.

Option 2 does less harm but no good for Canada and the world. It is the classic compromise, but is essentially a “no growth” option for Canadian diplomacy or business, and runs the long term risks of option one; the erosion of our influence at home and abroad.

Option 3 is Ruxted’s preferred option. It gives Canadian governments the military tools needed to exercise leadership amongst the middle powers.

It involves substantial growth in defence spending and concomitant increases in the size and capabilities of the Canadian Forces. It is affordable.

Option 3 strengthens Canada in the world. It helps us to advance our economic, political and social views in the world.

What does a “leading middle power’s” military look like?

We decided to examine a few of the middle powers Canada aspires to lead. We selected ten countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Thailand, Singapore and Sweden). Some are larger than Canada, others richer, some others are smaller and poorer. We used an old (2002/03) but consistent data base* to measure defence budgets as a percentage of GDP and permanent force military manpower as a percentage of population. According to that database Canada spent 1.12% of its GDP on defence and 0.18% of its population are in the full time military. Amongst the other 10 middle powers the numbers range from 0.53% of GDP (Brazil) to 4.8% of GDP (Singapore) – nearly a full order of magnitude difference, and military manpower range from 0.11% (Mexico) to 0.61% (Sweden). The averages for the 10 are: 2.36% of GDP is spent on defence and 0.46% of the population serves in the military. Canada, in other words, spends less than half than the average middle power on defence and has just over ⅓ of the average full time military manpower.

To what should we aspire?

The Ruxted group contends that we do not need to have as high a percentage of people in uniform as Thailand, nor do we need to spend as large a share of GDP as Singapore. A good manageable target might be: 2.2% of GDP, year after year – declining, perhaps, to 2% of GDP after 15 or 20 years. That would be about $31 Billion (given our 2006 GDP (according to the IMF) of $1.4 Trillion) – that is half again as much as DND says it will receive in 2010. Ruxted contends that Canada’s skilled bureaucrats can find another $10 Billion from within the current spending envelopes, without raising taxes or cutting vital social programmes. That extra $10 Billion, year after year, ought to ‘buy’ us as many as 15,000 more full time military personnel and the equipment they need – brining us up towards the same (percentage) personnel level as Argentina and Australia.

The Ruxted Group estimates that we need about 75,000 full time military personnel and a $30+ Billion defence budget by, say, 2012 – five years from now

There are military capabilities we think a leading middle power needs, including:

• Surveillance and warning systems – terrestrial, airborne and space based – to allow us to ‘see’ (in near real time) all the territory and inland waters we claim as our own, the contiguous coastal waters (out to and beyond 200 miles) and the airspace over both. We must be able to detect and identify every ‘intruder’ – ship, aircraft or land element – and classify them as ‘friend,’ unidentified’ or ‘foe.’

• Territorial/sovereignty patrol/intercept forces – sea, land, air, with which we can intercept the ‘unidentified’ intruders and deal with them appropriately. That may mean arresting them, escorting tem out of our airspace or coastal waters, and so forth.

• Joint homeland defence forces – regular and reserve, to deal with land intruders and also to act as reserves for expeditionary forces. The latter task will be part of a size determinant – if we decide we want to be able to deploy two battle groups and two support elements overseas, at any one time, then we will need six battle groups and enough people for six support elements ‘in reserve.’ The Defence of Canada Forces will require at least one highly mobile (almost certainly parachute) army unit which is specially trained and equipped for operations in the far North. All these forces are available for aid to the civil power and civil assistance (fighting floods and forest fires, etc) tasks.

• Joint expeditionary forces. These are joint naval/air and land/air forces which will be deployed to places like Afghanistan and Darfur, typically to conduct so-called ‘Three Block’ operations wherein relief/development, traditional peacekeeping and war fighting are operations are undertaken simultaneously. All these forces are available for aid to the civil power and civil assistance (fighting floods and forest fires, etc) tasks when they are not deployed overseas.

• Special forces.

• Logistics and training forces to sustain all these forces.

There is one key issue. Whichever defence and foreign policy option Canadians choose, it must be applied by a country with a strong economy. Even though substantial increases in defence spending are necessary they must come from within the current framework – more for defence means we need a growing economy and we need to spend less on other, lower priority programmes. In order to spend more on anything, including national security and defence we need a bigger economic pie. We get a larger part of that pie if our global trade balance improves. We get our ‘way’ in global trade if we are a trusted partner. Spending more on defence to do more in the world is part of the price we pay to ‘grow’ our economy.

Canada is a middle power and it is amongst the most powerful of them. If we want to maintain this fortunate position in the world, then Canadians will have to step up to the plate and assume our responsibilities as a Leading Middle Power. To walk away from these responsibilities, to refuse to shoulder the military, diplomatic and economic costs of leadership is to abandon our place in the world, to become “Little Canada” in fact as well as spirit. Canadians deserve better for ourselves and our children.


The Ruxted Group on : A Triple A+ Military for Canada

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A Triple A+ Military for CanadaTwo recent articles focused The Ruxted Group’s attention on military organization.In the first, some retired generals suggest that the pace of ongoing operations (Afghanistan) has derailed General Hillier’s attempts to ‘tran


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