From Cold War to Present Day


A New Alliance for Deterrence

Four years after the end of the Second World War, Canada became a member of a conventional alliance as defined in Article 51, Chapter VIII, of the U.N. Charter, which provides for regional agreements to maintain international peace and security. The 1949 North Atlantic Treaty stands as a significant event in Canada s modern history, because it made Canada part of a vast military alliance: Canada's defence zone now included both coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and part of the Mediterranean Sea.

This treaty cannot be properly understood without focusing on a few significant facts. The Soviet Union had embarked on an immense territorial expansion in the wake of the Second World War, swallowing up small states like Lithuania and seizing parts of Finland. It had already conquered Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The USSR had grown by hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and scores of millions of individuals had fallen under its yoke. This annexation policy was based on both a dynamic Communist ideology and an army that was not demobilized after 1945. The Soviet army presence was apparent even in central Germany.

On the other hand, American strength in Europe was reduced in 1945-47 from 3.1 million personnel to 154,000. British numbers fell from 1.3 million in 1945 to 500,000 in 1946. Canadian troops were all repatriated by the end of 1946. Canada's contribution to European recovery would take the form of financial credits or shipments of food and supplies of all sorts, including much equipment from demobilized Canadian formations offered to Dutch and Belgian divisions.

At the same time, Western Europe was experiencing a spate of economic reconstruction. Priority was being given to basic needs. Armed forces were poorly equipped or virtually nonexistent. A military force with substantial manpower and powerful weaponry to intimidate potential aggressors, such as the Soviet Union, was a logical step. The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by France, Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, laid the foundations for this military power.

However, the Europeans were aware that only an American military presence in Europe could protect them from the Soviet Union. Even before the Treaty of Brussels had been signed, Britain sent the United States a proposal for an alliance of countries fronting the North Atlantic, including Canada. From March through June 1948, Canada joined Britain and the United States in negotiations that would later include other interested countries.

Although in these negotiations several of its viewpoints were rejected, Canada did have mitigated success. As soon as the talks began, Canadian negotiators insisted that the Treaty not be limited to the military dimension. This view was accepted after long discussions with incredulous delegates from other countries.