Exporting arms

Letter in today’s Globe and Mail in response to the editorial, “Ottawa Comes Clean on Arms Exports” (17 August 2016)

The choices for controlling military exports are not to either “block arms sales to anyone who might actually use them” or “be realistic about weapons sales” (Ottawa Comes Clean On Arms Exports, editorial, Aug. 17). The point of export controls is to block arms sales to anyone with a penchant for using them unlawfully.

As for being “realistic” about weapons sales, should Canada export weapons to any country not specifically defined as an enemy, without any regard for a recipient’s disrespect for the rule of law – for human rights, the laws of war, or the protection of civilians? Is that “maturity”?

The government’s policy changes flout at least two fundamental principles of responsible military export controls: that military commodities are a special category of goods, the international transfers of which are to be restricted in ways not applicable to most civilian commodities; and that weapons suppliers are culpable if they knowingly ship weapons to customers with a demonstrable inclination to use them unlawfully – for example, against civilians.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

 

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Canada and Euro-Atlantic Security

It is little credit to the practice of diplomacy in Europe and North America that their military alliance has been allowed to become the primary institution through which they now seek to understand and engage Russia. NATO defines the Russian threat and prescribes the response – habitually reorganizing, rebranding, and redeploying military forces which, if they ever came to serious blows with their Russian counterparts, would leave in their wake a trail of destruction out of all proportion to the political, economic, territorial, or moral interests and values at stake. Canada, as a part of both NATO and the wider Euro-Atlantic community, has a role to play in righting east-west relations, but is a battle group in Latvia the best option?

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Circumpolar Military Facilities of the Arctic Five

This compilation of current military facilities in the circumpolar region  continues to be offered as an aid to addressing a key question posed by the Canadian Senate more than five years ago: “Is the [Arctic] region again becoming militarized?”  If anything, that question has become more interesting and relevant in the intervening years, with commentators divided on the meaning of the demonstrably accelerated military developments in the Arctic – some arguing that they are primarily a reflection of increasing military responsibilities in aiding civil authorities in surveillance and search and rescue, some noting that Russia’s increasing military presence is consistent with its need to respond to increased risks of things like illegal resource extraction, terrorism, and disasters along its frontier and the northern sea route, and others warning that the Arctic could indeed be headed once again for direct strategic confrontation.  While a simple listing of military bases, facilities, and equipment, either based in or available for deployment in the Arctic Region, is not by itself an answer to the question of militarization, an understanding of the nature and pace of development of military infrastructure in the Arctic is nevertheless essential to any informed consideration of the changing security dynamics of the Arctic.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation

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Should the Canadian Armed Forces purchase armed drones?

by Ernie Regehr (First published in Legion Magazine, July/August 2016)

There is no surprise in a Defence Chief wanting drones and wanting them armed, but to insist, as has General Jonathan Vance, that “there is little point to having a UAV that can see a danger but can’t strike it,” seems at best odd. After all, the list of military systems that are very good at seeing danger without having any capacity to strike at it includes some pretty key items.

Continue reading

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The Defence of North America

With the prolonged absence of military threats to North America, the prime Canadian security objective is to ensure that they remain so. Meeting that objective is more a diplomatic challenge than it is a defence problem, but defence policies and military forces in North American certainly have a role in preserving this region as a cooperative security community – that is, a community of states that continues to enjoy the reliable expectation that its members will not “resort to war or military attacks to prosecute their disputes.”  That happens also to be the formally affirmed expectation of the five states bordering the Arctic Ocean, where the same principle applies – preserving the Arctic as a region free of military threats and counter threats is the primary security objective. Once again, diplomacy is key, but defence policies and the operations of military forces play a major role.  Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Defence in the Absence of Military Threats

Any review of defence policy obviously needs to include a frank assessment of the threats and security challenges faced and likely to be faced – hence the opening section below on “threat assessments.” While all security environments face challenges, for Canada these are significantly mitigated by the good fortune of being part of an unusually stable region – the subject of the next section, “Canada in a cooperative security community.” A basic understanding of the foundations of durable security, at home and beyond our borders, is also key and is explored in the section on “National security as human security.” Some significant levels of consensus regarding the foundations of security and current challenges to them are necessary for setting out clear roles for the Canadian Armed Forces in advancing security and the funding levels required to sustain them (the subject of the final two sections of this report: “defence as aid to civilian authorities – at home and abroad,” and “funding security”).  Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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F-35? ‘No’ is logical, fair

Letter to the Globe and Mail, published 28 February 2016.  

Re Canada To Stay In F-35 Buyers’ Club (Feb. 25): Canada remains, as your report notes, a member of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. But that is a U.S.-led 12-member consortium where Canada had little influence over the aircraft the group finally produced – the F-35. Joining the JSF never meant automatically buying whatever aircraft emerged. Had that had been the case, the CF-18 replacement decision would have been made in 1997.

Canada entered the JSF program in 1997 for two reasons: to get access for the Canadian aerospace industry to a major U.S. military development and production program, and to monitor developments in contemporary fighter technologies. Canada was not joining a buyers’ club; it was joining a producers’ club. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada “will not buy the F-35 fighter jet,” it wasn’t an illogical rejection of the JSF, it was the eminently logical rejection of the F-35, given the Liberals’ conclusion that “stealth” and “first-strike” capabilities do not fit Canadian requirements.

Is it unfair to reject the F-35 before a selection process has even begun? Only if you think it’s unfair to go into a showroom and announce you’re looking only for a four-cylinder sedan. The dealer may want to show you a V-8 SUV, but there is nothing unfair about declaring in advance you’re not interested.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

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The 2015 Arctic Yearbook

The fourth annual Arctic Yearbook is now available, focused on the theme of Arctic governance. Scholarly papers explore governance at local, sub-national, regional levels, followed by a section on Security and Geopolitics. A wide collection of commentaries and briefing notes completes the volume. Scholarly, on-line, and peer reviewed, the yearbook “seeks to be the preeminent repository of critical analysis on “the state of Arctic politics, governance and security.” Among the offerings on traditional national and international security in the Arctic are insightful articles (reviewed below) on the Russian Arctic and the Arctic as a security community. Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Time to review Canada’s arms export policy

John Lamb and Ernie Regehr

Having now at least acknowledged that it has the authority, indeed responsibility, to cancel export permits to ship armored combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia under certain conditions, the Government needs to take the next logical step – to review and revamp the military commodities export policy that has been allowing such sales for some three decades.

Continue reading

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Fighter Aircraft and New Canadian Defence Imperatives

That the Liberal election campaign could make unequivocal promises not to buy the F-35 fighter and to withdraw Canadian CF-18 fighter aircraft from their current mission in Iraq and Syria, without triggering any significant blowback from Canadians or the Canadian defence community, testifies to the declining relevance of fighter aircraft, both to North American security, including the Arctic, and to Canadian military operations and peace support missions beyond our borders. Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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