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Just say No to missile defence (U.S. intentions to deploy a shield against nuclear weapons signal withdrawal from disarmament negotiation).

The United States is scheduled to make a decision on the deployment of a limited National Missile Defence system by the end of this year. Canada is coming under strong pressure to join the US in operating this system if the US does decide to proceed, and the Canadian government is undecided on how it will respond.

The deployment of a missile defence system may seem like a prudent idea at first glance, but it would actually be a serious backwards step. It is certainly true that the gradual proliferation of ballistic missile technology might eventually lead to an increase in the number of countries capable of launching a small-scale missile attack on the US or Canada. But this potential problem is much better addressed through arms control measures and diplomatic engagement than through the deployment of a missile defence. If a country really were determined to deliver nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction to North America, the most that a missile defence could do -- even if it were to work perfectly -- would be to convince that country to use alternative methods of delivery such as cruise missiles, commercial aircraft, or shipping containers. The US intelligence community itself admits that alternative methods like these would provide "less expensive," "more reliable," and "more accurate" ways to attack the United States than ballistic missiles would, and would in addition offer the possibility of masking the origin of the attack, preventing US retaliation.

Meanwhile, the deployment of missile defences would deal a severe blow to efforts to control the much more serious threat to global security posed by the huge US and Russian nuclear arsenals, undermining or destroying the ABM Treaty and other arms control treaties and drastically harming the US-Russian strategic relationship. Continued nuclear reductions would become very unlikely, and vital safety initiatives such as the de-alerting of nuclear weapons would almost certainly not be implemented. Substantial increases in China's nuclear forces, or other kinds of Chinese reaction, would also almost certainly follow the deployment of missile defences. Even the possibility of a new nuclear arms race cannot be ruled out.

Canada should neither join nor remain silent in the face of the possible deployment of such a system, which will endanger Canadian and global security and undermine Canada's nuclear disarmament objectives.

Taking action

Write letters to Prime Minister Jean Chretien and your own Member of Parliament (House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6; no postage required) urging the Canadian government to:

* reject US pressures to support or join in deployment of a National Missile Defence system; and

* work with other like-minded countries to promote the active pursuit of alternative approaches to managing the ballistic missile problem, including, most notably, measures to mitigate and eliminate the continuing threat posed by the huge US and Russian nuclear arsenals and their continued operation on hair-trigger alert.
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Publication:Ploughshares Monitor
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Previous Article:Development and security (Project Ploughshares organizes discussions on demilitarization).
Next Article:Where is the threat? (questioning the necessity for buying Upholder subs).

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