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.

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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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The “Rogue” Missile Threat: Getting from BMD to NPT

Canadians might soon be asking just where George W. Bush is when we really need him. He used to be a key antidote to Canadian temptations to embrace North American ballistic missile defence (BMD). Canada’s 2005 rejection of BMD was driven largely by anticipated public reaction to Canada signing on to a system championed by a Bush Administration that was, to understate it, little loved in Canada and that had especially offended disarmament advocates with its trashing of the ABM Treaty[i] and its hostility toward arms control generally. Now, however, with the Bush effect waning, the allure of a Canadian BMD role seems to be waxing. So, well into the final quarter of the still appreciated Administration of Barack Obama, and with a new and less polarizing but Washington friendly Government in Ottawa, BMD supporters in Canada see a new opportunity to pursue BMD involvement without generating a major backlash. What hasn’t changed, though, is the basic reality that, even if its technology improves, BMD won’t solve the rogue state missile problem. That’s because the North Korean missile threat is finally a non-proliferation, not a defence, challenge.  Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Where we stand

Published as letter to the Globe and Mail, November 17, 2015

There may be little that can be said with certainty about the Islamic State phenomenon, but one thing is remarkably clear – the war on terror isn’t reducing, and certainly isn’t defeating, terrorism. Yet, we’re advised we have no option but to intensify that failed war (IS Is Waging A Two-Front War – So Must We; Nov. 16).

The Pentagon claims U.S.-led bombing has killed some 20,000 IS fighters, yet U.S. intelligence sources report a surge in recruits, currently some 30,000 fighters from 100 countries. This highly successful IS recruitment is in fact aided by a bombing campaign that is now carried out mainly by Western states, feeding the IS narrative of a crusade against Islam.

As U.K. analyst Paul Rogers puts it, “In blunt terms, [IS] is actually being strengthened by the air war, and it can be assumed it wants more.” In the wake of Paris, the world seems set to oblige.

If we don’t know the solution to the IS menace, and we manifestly don’t, we should at least stop fuelling it. Accepting refugees is the right thing to do; dramatically increasing humanitarian support in the region is critically important, both to support the victims and to dampen IS recruitment.

Bolstering Syrian peace talks and pursuing more inclusive governance in Iraq gets closer to addressing the roots of these multiple crises and thus would be worthy added national objectives.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

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The Arctic Coast Guard Forum: advancing governance and cooperation in the Arctic

The eight states of the Arctic region have agreed to establish a new means of cooperating in support of public safety, search and rescue, and environmental protection in the Arctic, making the Arctic Coast Guard Forum another step toward solidifying the Arctic as cooperative security community. As US Admiral Zukunft said of the new Forum: “we have an opportunity to… make [the Arctic] a region that focuses on humanitarian concerns, on environmental concerns, on the way of life of indigenous tribes, and not as a war-fighting domain.” 

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation

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New terminology to help prevent accidental nuclear war

By Steven Starr, Robin Collins, Robert Green, and Ernie Regehr

Since the advent of US and Russian nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and early warning systems,  the danger has always existed that a false warning of attack—believed to be true—could cause either nation to inadvertently launch a responsive “retaliatory” strike with its own nuclear forces. Fear of a disarming nuclear strike, especially during a crisis, creates immense pressure to use-or-lose nuclear forces if an attack is detected. Because launch-ready ballistic missiles allow either side to launch a counter-strike before nuclear detonations confirm whether or not the perceived “nuclear attack” is real, the launch of a retaliatory strike would in reality be a preemptive nuclear first-strike, should the warning prove to be false—resulting in accidental nuclear war. This pressure applies to any nation that might develop the ability to launch before detonation; as a result, what the United States and Russia decide to do could conceivably act as a role model for others—depending, of course, on the unique circumstances of each country….[E]scalating tensions between the United States and Russia have increased the need for both nations to address the dangers posed by their launch-ready strategic nuclear weapons. Continue reading at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Baltic vulnerability dramatically overstated

Except for Kuwait, all post-Cold War invasions have occurred during conditions of advanced internal division and crisis. That doesn’t describe the Baltic States.

(Reprinted from Embassy Magazine, September 16, 2015 – page 7)

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Russia, NATO, and Baltic vulnerability

The Pentagon is sending state-of-the-art F-22 fighter aircraft to Europe for the first time, further confirmation that NATO and Russia have locked themselves into increasingly provocative military behavior from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. Both sides obviously believe demonstrations of intimidating military capacity enhance security, but it’s an article of faith unsupported by evidence. In fact, vulnerability to military interference in states small or large owes much more to political weakness than to military weakness or the lack formidable friends. In other words, preserving national sovereignty and defending against foreign predators – in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, for example – depend much more on the quality of governance than on military preparedness and defence. Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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