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The protection of the homeland is the top priority for U.S. national security strategy. Strategic defense, however, has been an overlooked dimension in the vast literature on the U.S. strategic posture, with even less attention given to the necessity and dynamics of security collaboration within North America. Drawing on the expertise of scholars from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the book offers a wide range of perspectives on recent trends in, and future prospects for, the military and political evolution of North American strategic defense.

North American strategic defense is a topic too often taken for granted: as this excellent book shows, that is a mistake. In the 21st century, perhaps even more than the 20th, it will be an issue of cardinal importance to both the United States and Canada.

Eliot A. Cohen

Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

NORAD’s binational command is unique, and this timely and ambitious book examines its continued relevance to North American defense against a host of new global threats. It broadens the focus of what we mean by North American defense, contemplates how we might include Mexico in various regional security arrangements, and considers the dynamics of expanded North American interdependence in the Trump era.
Laura Dawson
Director of the Canada Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

North American Strategic Defense in the 21st Century is an important book. This edited volume brings together a galaxy of stars, both rising and established, with outstanding credentials regarding NORAD and associated matter in the study of security. This original and well-written volume is the first of its kind since the Cold War – long overdue and impressive in contents. The chapters cover both panoramic issues and more specific matters, and the collection is essential reading for academics, policy-makers and the general public.
Patrick James
Dornsife Dean’s Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California



Introduction: We Have the Watch

Over the years, there have only been a handful of books on North American continental security. In this volume U.S., Canadian, and Mexican scholars broach key issues, challenges, and uncertainties that confront the strategic defense of North America in the 21st century and weigh possible trajectories for the future in light of developments that are anticipated to shape the global security environment. The cases, contexts, and analyses in this volume jettison monolithic conceptions of ‘security’ and ‘strategic defense’ in favor of a robust and dynamic engagement with issues facing North American continental security: from defense procurement challenges and Canada’s ongoing involvement with NORAD, to the effect of the perceptions and reality of U.S. policy and international partners. The volume is split into four parts: North American strategic defense from global, U.S., and Canadian perspectives, and an assessment of the nature, structure, and future of North American strategic defense and NORAD’s role.
Christian Leuprecht, Joel J. Sokolsky, Thomas Hughes, Kathryn M. Fisher

The Global Perspective


Putin’s Security Policy and Its Implications for NORAD

Especially since the beginning of his third term as Russia’s president in 2012, Vladimir Putin has pursued an increasingly hostile policy toward America and the West. In addition to overseeing Russian military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria, Putin has overseen an enormous buildup in Russian nuclear and conventional forces. In addition, Putin has supported nationalist politicians and parties in the West that question or even oppose NATO and the EU in order to undermine Western cohesion. Putin’s support for these nationalist forces may be less aimed at seeing them come to (or remain in) power than to disrupt and even discredit Western democracy. Further, Putin is pursuing these aims with a hybrid strategy short of war that relies on disinformation aimed at exploiting existing tensions (including ethnic and racial) within the West. Putin’s hostility pose a serious challenge to America and the West, not least because the disinformation campaign in particular takes advantage of the freedom of expression that Western societies value so highly, and hence are loathe to curtail. This chapter discusses the nature of the challenge that Putin’s Russia poses, and its implications for America and Canada in particular.
Mark N. Katz

Misplaced Prudence: The Role of Restraint in the Nuclear Threat Environment for North American Strategic Defense

International relations theory provides analytic lenses for evaluating the dynamics of today’s dangerous and unstable nuclear threat environment. Both realist and constructivist theories recognize the importance of restraint in these environments. Realists focus on the security dilemma, understanding that the pursuit of security can mistakenly incite fears of aggression on the part of others. Constructivists focus on normative, rather than strategic, restraint. Psychological insights deepen concerns about the wisdom of bellicose policies, given the potential to create spirals of conflict based on emotional and vitriolic reactions and the possibilities of misinterpreting signals. When psychological dynamics are added, restraint becomes more imperative, even as it becomes more difficult to achieve. These insights undermine strategies based on apparent ‘prudence’, requiring practitioners to consider not just interpretations of signals from adversaries but also how their own signals may be misinterpreted. We evaluate the threat posed by Iran and North Korea to North American strategic defense. Restraint remains one of the most difficult decisions for policy makers, one for which practitioners are often heavily criticized, yet key for North American defense. By relying more heavily on the special interlacing institutions providing North American strategic defense—U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC)—policymakers acquire more perspectives to help overcome misperception, reinforce reassurance, and better safeguard North America.
Nina Srinivasan Rathbun, Brian C. Rathbun

Challenges and Contradictions: Mexico and the US in North American Security Cooperation

Mexico approaches the future of the strategic defence of North America with an historical legacy and contemporary concerns markedly different than those of the US and Canada. Throughout much of its history the US–Mexico relationship has moved cyclically between divergence and convergence based on asymmetric interdependence of power and a distinctive notion of threats. Nevertheless, there is a deep, albeit not entirely uniform, perception in Mexico that the US is an external threat to Mexico’s national security. Recent statements and policies emanating from Washington have re-kindled these sentiments. The historical legacy of Mexico’s involvement with the US in particular is essential in understanding how Mexico deals with what it nevertheless acknowledges as the need for increased collaboration on defence and security, bilaterally and trilaterally, with its two regional neighbours. The approach that it takes to this collaboration, in an uncertain global environment, must remain consistent with its national and regional interests, ensuring a clear respect for Mexico’s sovereignty and role in the world. In explaining how Mexico approaches these difficult North American security challenges, this chapter draws upon the conceptual lens of Regional Security Complex Theory. It examines the difficulties that Mexico experiences in contributing to regional security. The chapter analyses the role of US hegemony, the strategic relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the US, and the asymmetric and historical differences in political culture and institutions among these North American neighbors.
Abelardo Rodríguez Sumano

United States Defense Policy


Hoping Primacy Stays Cheap: America’s Grand Strategy

The United States is a deeply divided society on many political topics, but not on its foreign policy. There is a consensus view among the leaders of both main political parties supported by most former and current officials, senior military, and the public that the United States should remain the world’s most powerful nation and its continuing security depends upon the United States being the sole manager of global security. This stance, often labelled Primacy, stems from the lessons America’s leaders drew from the Second World War, was seemingly confirmed in the peaceful end to the Cold War, and has continued essentially unchallenged into the 21st Century because it has been cheap to maintain despite expectations to the contrary.
Harvey M. Sapolsky

NATO and NORAD in the Sino-Russo-American Configuration of Power

Both the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) and the Canada-United States North American Air Defence Command, later Aerospace Defence Command, (NORAD) not only respond to specific threats but are also products of global great power relations. Important changes in these relations are in progress. The resurgence of Russian ‘sphere of interest’ politics in Eastern Europe and China’s comprehensive march to great power status are chief among these. At the same time, we realize limits to power in both North America and NATO Europe. NATO, with Canada’s active participation, is responding to its new threats. However, NORAD is struggling to address the full range of defence needs confronting North America. This chapter argues that Canada’s own security logic of working closely with allies by means of integrated operations, which it has sought in NATO and NORAD since their beginnings, is increasingly at risk. The imbalance between Canada’s pro-active approach in NATO and its self-limitations in NORAD do not serve Canada’s security interests in an international system where the power of the United States is challenged by Chinese power and by Sino-Russian ad hoc cooperation.
Alexander Moens

NORAD in an Age of Trump’s Jacksonianism

The electoral successes of populist politics in America, culminating in the victorious presidential campaign of Donald Trump, have engendered uncertainty regarding US defence policy, and with it the security and stability of liberal internationalism. The Trump administration marks the ascendancy of the venerable Jacksonian tradition in US foreign and defence policy, which values robust military power, eschews international engagement for the sake of higher ideals or maintaining international order, and seeks to avoid the sort of international obligations which would constrain the country’s ability to act unilaterally. While NORAD may benefit from the Trump administration’s Jacksonian emphasis on core US interests and policy prioritization of increasing US military capabilities, the diminished global prospects for multilateralism are not in line with Canadian priorities and may aggravate the main security threats of concern to NORAD.
Bessma Momani, Morgan MacInnes

Canadian Defense Policy


New Wineskin, Old Wine: The Future of Canadian Contributions to North American Security

Putting “old wine in a new bottle” is a well-known expression for any effort to present an existing concept, policy, or idea as though it was new. It derives from a New Testament parable based on a contemporary saying that new wine must be put in new bottles. However, the original biblical saying probably makes little sense to most modern readers, since it is not at all clear why new wine cannot be put in old bottles. The problem lies with the word “bottle,” which is how the New Testament Greek ἀσκός (askos) is often translated. For most modern readers, the word “bottle” connotes a vessel made of glass. However, a more correct translation of askos is a wineskin or leather bottle. Wineskins in which wine had fermented tended to become stretched and brittle, increasing the likelihood that, were the wineskin to be reused and filled with new wine, it would burst, both spilling the wine and destroying the leather bottle itself. That is why the saying had it that new wine had to be put into a new askos, or leather bottle—though in modern parlance the “leather” was eventually dropped in both the new wine saying and the old-wine-new-bottle expression which derived from it. How one translates askos is central to the argument of this chapter. For I argue that Canada’s new defence policy announced by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau in June 2017—entitled Strong, Secure, Engaged—is indeed a case of “old wine” (an established and largely unchanging Canadian defence policy) in a “new bottle” (a new defence policy statement).
Kim Richard Nossal

Canada’s New Defence Policy and the Security of North America

Since the end of the Cold War political and technological developments have presented an increasingly diverse array of old, resurgent, and new security threats to North America. Canada, Mexico, and the US have responded by creating an equally diverse constellation of bilateral and trilateral agreements addressing these threats. This architecture, if it can be called that, is the sum of decades of reactive, incremental additions and renovations to existing security arrangements. However, there is no formal or informal focal point for deliberation, analysis, or management of North American security cooperation. In an era of complex and interrelated security threats, North American security cooperation is curiously headless and lacking a capacity for strategic mindfulness, assessment and guidance.
Allen Sens

Future Uncertainty, Strategic Defense, and North American Defense Cooperation: Rational Institutionalist Arguments Pragmatically Suggest NORAD’s Adaptation Over Replacement

Uncertainty about the future strategic environment is a rational impetus for cooperation. Despite a joint reiteration, by the US and Canada, of cooperation’s importance in managing and responding to future threats, interrogations about NORAD’s potential for future contributions in the North American defense landscape are relevant as it marks six decades of operation in 2018. Is NORAD, in its present configuration, sufficient for managing future threats to North America as well as strategic defense? Should NORAD be adapted to meet expected defense challenges? Or, alternatively, should it be replaced with a different structure; and at what risks? This chapter examines those questions through a discussion the importance of cooperation for uncertainty management, the challenges to cooperation as well as the role and limits of NORAD. It continues with a presentation of the possibilities for adapting the command arrangement relative to replacement employing arguments drawn from rational institutionalism. Finally, an exploration of the centrality of NORAD for North American defense cooperation and strategic defense is provided based on a comparison of the risks of adaptation versus replacement. Should the partners decide to participate in strategic defense, a pragmatic adaptation of the NORAD command arrangement is recommended through a use of the institutional provisions denoting flexibility. The chances for a successful mandate adaptation of the existing command are increased if stakeholders manage information transparently and effectively to minimize the risks of politicization.
Anessa L. Kimball

The Future of North American Strategic Defense


Beyond Modernization

While most attention on NORAD and North American defense cooperation is focused on the modernization of the North Warning System (NWS), significant developments have occurred that suggest modernization will be accompanied by evolutionary changes to the Command. The new threat environment, centered upon Russian behaviour in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria, a new Russian strategic doctrine, and a new generation of advanced Russian long-range cruise missiles dictate not only layered, multi-sensor early warning systems, but also changes in NORAD command arrangements. In addition, the maritime component of the cruise missile threat, alongside continuing concerns of terrorists employing freighters as cruise missile platforms, raise the question whether or not NORAD should evolve into a binational air-maritime defense command. These considerations are central to the ongoing Evolution of North American Defense (EvoNAD) study, emanating from the Canada-United States’ Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD), under the lead of NORAD, in collaboration with the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) (the tri-command structure) to advise national authentics. The final result is difficult to predict. However, it is clear that both modernization and evolution will be driven by the engaged militaries, with some civilian authorities guiding the process, and the public and Canadian government paying less attention.
Andrea Charron, James Fergusson

NORAD’S Future: St-Amand’s Revelation, Gortney’s Complaint, and Vigilant Shield 17’s Component Commander

The Trudeau government’s 2017 defence white paper promised that, “Canada will work closely with the United States to ensure NORAD is fully prepared to confront rapidly evolving threats including exploring new roles for the command, taking into account the full range of threats.” This chapter explores current trends in North American missile defence, maritime defence and air defence that could affect the future of the binational command in 2018, as the two governments observe the 60th anniversary of the NORAD accord, and in the years beyond. It suggests four possible models for the command’s future: first, an enhanced multi-domain NORAD to which responsibility has been given, in addition to its current roles, for maritime defence, or missile defence, or both—a North American Defence Command in other words; second, a NORAD that has been reduced to its original role as an air defence headquarters and moved out of Colorado Springs in the form of a combined joint task force; third, a variant of the second option in which the task force, i.e. NORAD would act as a stand-by entity; and finally, NORAD unchanged from what it is today.
Joseph T. Jockel

NORAD, Tactical Fighter Modernization and the F-35: Operational Considerations, Process and Politics

Over its 60-year history, one of the most pronounced aspects of NORAD and its continental air defence mission has been the cutting edge technologies it has utilized. A key component of this area has been air defence fighters, which have been the most visible component of NORAD’s mission. Over the past two decades, Canada and the U.S. have been undertaking a major modernization of said capabilities, which has revolved around the Joint Strike Fighter program. This effort has become mired in controversy, but for somewhat different reasons. For the U.S. this was largely in regards to the cost and delays of the program as well as questions over its capabilities. While concerns remain, the program has made significant progress over the past decade, and is on its way to replace a whole inventory of DoD aircraft. Despite being an early member of the Joint Strike Fighter program, Canada’s modernization efforts have stalled since 2010. While cost and capability concerns were ostensibly the main focus of criticism, they were contextually different than those in the U.S. It illustrated a fundamental lack of understanding of military issues across a significant proportion of the population, as well as a willingness by political actors to interfere in the procurement process for their party’s gain. The consequences of this perspective may have a dramatic impact on the future of NORAD and Canada-U.S. relations.
Richard Shimooka

The Arctic and the Strategic Defence of North America: Resumption of the “Long Polar Watch”

Not since the early days of the Cold War when, as Melvin Conant wrote in 1962, the US and Canada had assumed the “long polar watch” against Soviet bombers has the arctic been of such importance to North American strategic defence. The relationship between Russia and the two North American allies is deteriorating, and the Russians have strengthened their military. At the same time, the North Korean nuclear threat has caused the United States to enhance their ABM capabilities in Alaska. The Russians perceive the ABM systems to be directed against them, leading to a redoubling of their efforts to build up strategic forces which will be predominantly based in their arctic region. Furthermore, the Chinese have begun to turn their attention to the arctic. Consequently, both Canada and the United States need to refocus their efforts to protect their shared northern flank. The core means will remain within NORAD but it requires modernization and expansion. Both states will need to ensure that the maritime mission is given greater attention. At the same time Canada will need to revisit its decision to opt out of the United States’ ABM system. The 1990s and 2000s had created the false impression that great-power rivalry was a thing of the past. With its re-emergence, the arctic has regained its position as a major factor in the strategic defence of North America. After a thirty-year hiatus, it is time to resume “the long polar watch.”
Rob Huebert



The Strategic Defense of North America in the 21st Century

As we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the uncertainty of the threat environment highlights the continuing importance of security and sovereignty in general, and the future of North American strategic defense in particular. Advances in Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile and nuclear arms technologies by countries such as North Korea and, eventually, Iran; advances in cruise missile, submarine-launched, and hypersonic warhead delivery capabilities by Russia as well as China; and the proliferation of a wide range of non-traditional threats to democracy, social harmony, and prosperity in North America and beyond have fundamentally altered the continental security environment. Thus, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of NORAD, implications for force posture, command structures, binational defense cooperation between Canada and the U.S., and the prospect of greater security collaboration with Mexico are anything but clear, especially under volatile domestic and international political conditions.
Christian Leuprecht, Joel J. Sokolsky, Thomas Hughes
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