The US-Canada Security Partnership: A Shield against the Realist World?

January 3, 2023

The United States and Canada operate together when it comes to foreign policy and border issues.
The Canadian and American flags fly above the Peace Arch Border crossing between Canada and the United States, near Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia on November 8, 2021. Photo by Anadolu Images.


 new partnership agreement between the U.S. and Canada was recently signed. The bilateral agreement is intended to decrease security challenges faced by both countries, and represents the strengthening of an alliance that was already in place.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in Canada to conclude a new agreement on defense. The meeting took place on October 27-28, 2022 and aimed to develop stronger relations between the United States and Canada.

Background of U.S.-Canada Relations

Considering the strong relations of the two countries, it is reasonable for them to continue their partnership in a good manner. The United States and Canada operate together when it comes to foreign policy and border issues. The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is a free trade agreement signed between the three countries, replacing NAFTA. It was signed in 2018 and 2019 (after being revised) and it is valid for 16 years. Moreover, the U.S. and Canada share “democratic values” such as freedom of speech and freedom of choice, which has helped them further strengthen their ties. Additionally, they share a neoliberal approach on international issues which favors an open capitalist system.

The main concerns of the new partnership agreement can be divided into two categories: first, it focuses on reducing the side effects of developing technologies, and second, the agreement is concerned with the issue of climate change and its impact on international security.

International order crisis?

The war between Ukraine and Russia has ascertained the importance of security in the present international order. Countries act in accordance with their own interests, and when it comes to differences between nations with dissimilar norms and values, different regimes feel threatened by one another. “Whereas countries with democratic roots do not fight reciprocally, but promote peace and have friendly relations with each other, authoritarian states are not seeking alliances and focus on their interests,” claims General Wayne Donald Eyre during a conversation about the new defense alliance.

The ineffectiveness of liberal institutions acknowledged by the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, pushed Canada and the U.S. to collaborate so that a conflict resulting from the absence of an ultimate authority in the international system would be minimized. Stated differently, the agreement endeavors to decrease international disputes.

Operation UNIFIER

The Canadian Armed Forces via Operation UNIFIER intended to provide critical military training to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The operation also aimed to provide aid to the country. It should be noted that the invasion of Ukraine has a special importance for Canada considering that Canada has the third largest Ukrainian population in the world following Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian diaspora in Canada could cause instabilities both politically and economically.

On a different note, Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons endangers not only Ukraine but the entire world.

Climate change as an obstacle

Global warming leads to another security problem. Lack of natural resources resulting from natural disasters increase the level of migration. When a population increases beyond what a state can handle, it can encounter sociocultural, economic, and political challenges.

The ice in Canada’s Arctic region has been melting because of global warming which has brought forth security problems in the region: other countries have shown increased interest in this region given the fact that the melting of the ice could reveal natural resources. Commander of the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) General Glen. D. VanHerck warns about Russia’s long-range cruise missiles and highlights the importance of building better defense strategies in the region against possible threats.

Together with bilateral defense agreements, Canada’s purpose is not only to prevent any tensions in the Arctic but to reach a broader agreement on defense issues. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) spends $38-39 billion on the American-Canadian North Warning System.

Rapid technological advancements

Technological improvements and the ways in which they could provoke tensions in the international arena are also a factor that led to the U.S.-Canada partnership agreement. Technology changes so fast that countries struggle to keep up. Moreover, brand-new technological advances require wealth, infrastructure, and trained staff who can use the most up-to-date machines and software.

What is more, in times of armed conflict, defense expenses increase because of the increase in demand. All factors considered, by virtue of the latest agreement, the U.S. and Canada strengthened their defense industrial base based on decreasing competition and facing common threats.

The defense partnership between the U.S. and Canada is predominantly preoccupied with the security challenges of the modern-day world. Both countries’ defense strategies are subcategorized under climate change and technological affairs.

Kinem is a student of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul University. She is keen on the areas of nationalism, diplomacy and International Law.