A Special Military Relationship? Canada’s Role in Constructing US Military Power

Stephen Clarkson, Erin Kelly Fitzgerald


Since World War II, the United States’ military capabilities have surpassed those of any other country. However, its room for manoeuvre is not infinite. Through their interactions with the United States, other countries provide assistance for and place limitations on it. Given its medium-sized economy and its supportive but not uncritical strategic assistance, Canada can be seen to have made a significant contribution to American offensive capacity at certain historical moments. In the realm of continental defence, however, no other country has played a more important role. By virtue of geographic contiguity to its southern neighbour, Canada is uniquely placed to serve either as a buffer against external threats to the United States or as a conduit of insecurity. Its participation (or lack thereof) in US continental defence initiatives lowers or raises the costs of US security. This paper will explicate whether Canada plays a role in assisting the US in its overseas operations and in providing for US security against continental threats – ranging from the Axis Powers to the Soviet Union to terrorist cells – and if so, to what extent.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.