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NORAD Commander: North America in Most Danger Since “Height of Cold War”

By James Careless

North America is now facing a level of military threat comparable to the height of the Cold War, without the comparable strategies and resources to contain that threat.

This was the tough ‘mince no words’ message delivered by NORAD commander General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy at the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence 2019. Speaking to a full house of military officers, defence contractors, academics and other delegates at the Chateau Laurier hotel, the first Canadian-born NORAD commander delivered a call to action reminiscent of Winston Churchill prior to World War II.

“When I look at the security environment of today, I see striking parallels between our past and our present,” said General O’Shaughnessy. “We face a more competitive and dangerous international security environment today then we have in generations. And like yesterday, our security environment is marked by the re-emergence of Great Power competition with an evolving balance of power.”

“Our competitors are analyzing our capabilities, investigating our perceived vulnerabilities, and methodically developing capabilities to erode our competitive military advantage,” he added. The most vulnerable area, physically speaking, is the Canadian Arctic where Russian forces are making their presence known. But the economic infrastructures of Canada and the US are also at risk, thanks to the advent of cyber-attacks from around the world.

To back up his case, the NORAD Commander cited current North American vulnerabilities. They include stepped-up Russian aircraft and surface ship incursions into the Arctic; the development of Russian hypersonic missiles tipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads; and subsurface nuclear torpedos. General O”Shaughnessy also noted that hostile powers can also cripple the North American economy by remotely attacking communications networks, dams, pipelines, power girds, and roads.

“We must ask if our current efforts are enough in today’s changing security environments?” said the NORAD Commander. “I’ll ask that again: We must ask if our current efforts are enough in today’s changing security environments?”

General O’Shaughnessy said that NORAD is currently considering ways to confront the renewed threats to North America, but warned that the incremental improvements of the past are no longer enough.

“Rather than simply responding to advancements in doctrine technology, we must drive ahead of those technologies and create dilemmas to make too costly for anyone to contemplate attack on our nations,” he said.“We are at risk in ways that we haven’t been in decades.”

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