April 28, 2022 By The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Defence Minister Anita Anand is headed to the Pentagon to meet with her American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, as the war in Ukraine injects new urgency into cross-border military priorities.
Countering Russian aggression, Canada’s NATO spending and upgrading the continental defence system known as Norad are likely high on the agenda.
Anand and Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, were last face to face just two days ago during high-level military meetings in Germany
Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has galvanized concern about the continent’s ability to defend against long-range missiles being developed by Russia and China.
Critics, including Canadian military commanders, say Norad is badly outdated and ill-equipped to protect North America from modern-day threats.
The effort is sure to carry a heavy price tag, even as the $8 billion over five years in military spending promised in Canada’s latest federal budget falls short of NATO’s funding target.
“We’re delighted to be able to welcome her here into the Pentagon, her and her staff,” spokesman John Kirby told the daily briefing Wednesday.
“As you’d imagine, there’ll be a lot of things to discuss. Obviously, what’s going on in Ukraine, but also our shared Norad responsibilities, the Arctic, the Indo-Pacific — there’s a lot on the agenda.”
Military officials have been warning for years that Norad, the 1980s-era system shared by the U.S. and Canada, is unable to detect the most perilous long-range and hypersonic threats.
The two countries have long promised to do what’s necessary to bring the system into the 21st century.
Last August, Austin and Anand’s predecessor Harjit Sajjan acknowledged the need for action sooner rather than later.
“We reaffirm our commitment to supporting Norad’s ability to detect, deter, and defend against aerospace threats and to detect maritime threats to North America, today and in the future,” they said in a joint statement.
“In particular, Norad must be able to detect and identify those threats earlier and respond to them faster and more decisively, including aerospace threats transiting our northern approaches.”