Nuclear Disarmament and the 2018 NATO Summit

No single issue has yet emerged as a central focus for the coming NATO Summit. Priorities listed by the NATO Secretary-General, as well as by some member States, include the need to reinforce alliance deterrence and defence (in the face of Russia’s new assertiveness, is how it’s usually framed), burden sharing (code for increased military spending as well as a greater military role for the European Union), reinforcement of transatlantic solidarity (code for trying to manage President Trump), projecting stability (a nod to continuing out-of-area or counter-terrorism operations), and attention to cybersecurity. Disarmament tends not to make such lists, but at least three nuclear issues warrant scrutiny and action by the NATO leaders: ballistic missile defence, the forward-basing of US non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, and the ongoing nuclear posture of the alliance. Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Cruise Missiles: When defence is not an option

Cruise missiles recently made the front pages when President Vladimir Putin marshaled impressive audiovisuals to hype Russian strides in developing new and sinister military technologies. Cruise missiles were included but concerns regarding them didn’t just arrive with his speech. They have figured prominently, for just one example, in the current Canadian and American intention to replace the Arctic-based North Warning System.1 Cruise missiles pose a two-fold challenge: the unavoidable reality that there is no credible defence against long-range nuclear-armed cruise missiles; and, the related and equally inescapable reality that the only way to manage them in the long term is through internationally negotiated control agreements. The latter challenge is obviously made all the more daunting by a current political climate that is less than conducive to anything quite that rational.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Peacekeeping and Canada’s interests in Mali

Letter to the Globe and Mail

Published 28 March 2018

I confess to being perplexed by arguments that Canada shouldn’t go to Mali because it’s dangerous, or hopeless, or not in Canada’s interests (Trudeau’s Mali Misadventure – editorial, March 22).

Peace support operations are by definition dangerous, they take place where political accord and governance are severely compromised. That doesn’t mean quagmire, it means it takes a long, long time to transition from armed conflict to political stability and the rule of law. And it is certainly in Canada’s interests to support the international community in its responsibility to support such transitions – for the sake of the people affected, to be sure, but also for the sake of building a more stable international order from which we all benefit.

The Mali case is urgent precisely because it is complex and dangerous. It does have the benefit of a peace accord, and the government needs to tell us a lot more about what it will be doing in support of the non-military elements of the UN mandate in Mali.

That mandate includes helping implement the fragile peace pact, supporting reconciliation, implementing institutional reforms, preparing for elections this year, promoting security-sector reform, and demobilizing and disarming combatants and reintegrating them into society. How much of that will be part of the Canadian mission? Success is not guaranteed – but there’s little doubt where Canadian responsibilities and interests lie.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

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Replacing the North Warning System: Strategic competition or Arctic confidence building?

Canada and the United States have begun planning a replacement for the North Warning System, the network of air defence radars across the top of the continent. Jointly funded and operated through NORAD, though located primarily in Canada, the system’s renewal comes in the context of a persistent Cold War revivalism that presages a preoccupation with national defence and geostrategic competition. But another feature of the current context is broad recognition that the changing physical environment and increasing access to and activity in the Arctic drive a priority need for enhanced domain awareness within the region to support public safety, law enforcement, and sovereignty protection, while also serving national defence and strategic stability. Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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BMD: Cooperative Protection or Strategic Instability

It’s hard to believe, but less than a decade ago, academics, policy analysts, and even officials were exploring US-NATO-Russia cooperation on ballistic missile defence – begging the question: why is that no longer considered an appropriate subject for polite company? Missile defence cooperation is still happening, of course, but it’s between Russia and China on one side and among the US and its friends and allies on the other. Unless, however, missile defence is pulled back from its current competitive dynamic to one of east-west accommodation and cooperation, nuclear tensions, and arsenals, will only grow. Canada has joined the competitive fray in Europe through NATO, but, to its credit, continues to resist direct involvement in the strategic North American version of ballistic missile defence. 

Continue Reading at The Simons Foundation.


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Is the government spending enough on re-equipping the military?

David J. Bercuson (author of the “Eye on defence” column in Legion Magazine, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary) and Ernie Regehr (Senior Fellow with The Simons Foundation of Vancouver and co-founder of Project Ploughshares) debate the question in the January/February 2018 issue of Legion Magazine.

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Can a Fisheries Agreement help Forestall Militarization on the central Arctic Ocean?

If the Cold War is truly back, the news has yet to reach the Arctic. In the high north, putative rivals are having a hard time getting over their habit of cooperating. They’ve been at it again, this time agreeing on a set of measures to prevent over-fishing in the soon to be accessible high seas of the Arctic Ocean. The agreement is rightly lauded as another advance in collective Governance in the Arctic. Furthermore, it bolsters hopes that the logic of cooperation in support of public safety, environmental protection, and responsible resource extraction will increasingly spill over into security cooperation in the global commons of the Arctic high seas. Continue Reading at at The Simons Foundation…

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Shielding the Arctic from NATO’s return to Territorial Defence

NATO Defence Ministers have signalled their intention to create a new north Atlantic Command, one with Arctic operations also in mind. Along with current deployments in the Baltic states and Poland, intensified air patrols on its eastern and northern flanks, European ballistic missile defence, and a new logistics command for Europe, this new command reflects NATO’s shift from out-of-area missions and back to the Cold War priority of defending the territories of NATO member states. Whatever that shift means for Eurasian security writ large, alliance-dominated territorial defence preoccupations in the Arctic would bode ill for its evolving cooperative security framework.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Arctic Coast Guard Forum – Cooperative Security Under Construction

The first ever “live exercise” involving all eight countries of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) rightly has some observers hailing this new forum’s potential for reinvigorating pan-Arctic security cooperation. Significant challenges remain – not the least being ongoing wariness of Russian military developments and growing Chinese interest in the region, pushing some states towards the more familiar models of military competition – but the region-wide ACGF clearly affirms security cooperation as essential to survival in the Arctic. To the extent that all states of the region “benefit from a rules-based international order that enhances economic well-being, respects human rights and human dignity, and supports mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of disputes while providing for territorial integrity,” the pursuit of more formalized, and thus more sustainable, forms of mutual security promises to remain a feature of Arctic geopolitics. The slow emergence of cooperative pan-Arctic Coast Guard operations in the Arctic is a case in point.

Read further at The Simons Foundation.

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Canada and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The following letter has been sent to the Prime Minister, urging support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and urging the Government of Canada to redouble its nuclear disarmament efforts. 

November 15, 2017
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, ON

Dear Prime Minister,

Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (CNWC) writes respectfully to urge you to reconsider your present opposition to the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on July 7, 2017. We have taken note of various statements by Governmental representatives and particularly the arguments advanced in the October 5 letter to CNWC from the Foreign Minister, the Hon. Chrystia Freeland.

We recognize this Treaty as a milestone on the long quest for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and thus take strong exception to your characterization of the Treaty as “useless.” We deeply regret your Government’s failure to recognize the validity and importance of the Treaty, agreed to by a majority of the world’s states, which creates a legally binding instrument to prohibit the possession and use of nuclear weapons – paralleling the treaties prohibiting chemical and biological weapons.

The elimination of all nuclear weapons, and an end to the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence, is an objective that Canada has long shared with the international community, knowing that the use of even one of the 15,000 nuclear weapons still in existence would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. The tenacity with which nuclear weapon states seek to retain and even “modernize” weapons whose use would be in direct violation of international humanitarian law, makes a mockery of the solemn commitments they made and legal obligations they assumed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Canada must take extreme care not to aid them in their abdication  of responsibility.

CNWC represents more than 1,000 distinguished Canadians, honoured by appointment to the Order of Canada, who have called for Canadian leadership in nuclear disarmament efforts, specifically encouraging the launch of negotiations toward a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention that will set out both the vision and the practical time-bound actions required for verifiable, irreversible nuclear disarmament – that is, the realization of a world without nuclear weapons. The Treaty is a step towards such a Convention. Indeed, the Treaty’s historic significance has been dramatically reinforced by the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the civil society coalition, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, most clearly associated with promoting the Treaty.

Rather than disparaging the Treaty because states with nuclear weapons refuse to support it, Canada should be faulting the obstructionist tactics of the nuclear weapon states, for it is they who are now doubling down on their refusal to meet their disarmament obligations; they are refusing to implement their own collective “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

We wish, in this letter, to respond to the Government of Canada’s statements on this matter.

*Your Government continues to argue that today’s precarious global security environment
precludes negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Actually, it is precisely the current security environment – notably the US-North Korea conflict and the breakdown in relations between US/NATO and Russia – that makes heightened nuclear disarmament diplomacy an urgent necessity – as it was in the Cuban Missile Crisis. There is no perfect time to seek nuclear disarmament – there is only now. The 186 non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT have never made the fulfillment of their non-proliferation obligations contingent upon an ideal security environment. They make their bold commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons in the interests of public well-being and of making the
world more secure. It is now the responsibility of states with nuclear weapons to also serve public wellbeing and make the world more secure by taking decisive action to further reduce and then eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

*Your Government continues to argue that the Treaty is ineffective because the nuclear
weapons states are not participating. Actually, not only are they refusing to respect the Treaty, but in October 2016 the U.S. went further to instruct its NATO partners to reject the U.N. resolution mandating negotiations for the Treaty. That is not leadership, and it is an instruction that Canada, as a country that has traditionally fostered multilateralism and supported the United Nations, should have rejected. We should have taken our customary place at the negotiating table. To argue now that the Treaty is “divisive” is to suggest that the rest of the world is to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapons-free world, so as not to disturb that minority of states whose arsenals hold the world hostage. The source of
division is not disarmament, but is the refusal of the nuclear weapon states to meet their obligations under Article VI of the NPT. The time has come for real progress in implementing the promise made by the nuclear weapons states in the context of the 2010 NPT Plan of Action – that is, “the nuclear weapon States commit to undertake further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures.”

*Your Government continues to argue that, since the new Treaty counters NATO’s Strategic Concept, which still names nuclear weapons the “supreme guarantee” of security, Canada cannot participate in the Treaty in good faith. Actually, as the Canadian Pugwash Group argues, Canada should sign the Treaty and state that it will, through dialogue and changes to its own policies and practices, persist in its efforts to bring NATO into conformity with the Treaty. It is wrong for Canada to give a higher priority to the outdated political policies of NATO than its legal obligations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, obligations upheld by the International Court of Justice.

*Your Government continues to argue that the Treaty fails to include credible transparency and verification provisions, or measures to deter non-compliance. Actually, the Treaty adopts the tried and tested verification arrangements under the NPT, requiring each state party to maintain its safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or to enter such an agreement if it has not yet done so (Article 3). It also includes a provision for the establishment of an additional competent international authority for the purpose of verifying the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons of
the nuclear weapon states (Article 4). Were Canada a participant in the Treaty, it would then, at further meetings, be able to seek improvements, such as making the International Atomic Energy Agency Additional Protocol a requirement.

*Your government continues to argue that its work toward a treaty to control fissile materials is of far greater importance than the new Treaty. Actually, the twenty years’ discussion of a prospective fissile materials treaty has produced not a single negotiation. Such a treaty would have value and credibility only if it went beyond the current focus on halting new production to also address the huge stocks of fissile materials already possessed by the nuclear states – enough material to make many thousands more nuclear weapons. Your government should urge states to move this process out of the moribund Conference on Disarmament, where a single state can veto progress, into the U.N. General
Assembly, where the majority can take decisions.

In urging your Government to join the new Treaty, we also encourage Canadian action on other steps – notably to encourage, as a matter of great urgency, the nuclear weapons states to de-alert their arsenals, and to support calls for the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from the territories of NATO non-nuclear weapons states in Europe.

We wish you and your colleagues well in carrying out your responsibilities in these extraordinary times. We would welcome an opportunity for representatives of CNWC to meet with you to further explore ways in which Canada can redouble its efforts in support of a world without nuclear weapons.

This letter is signed by a representative group from the more than 1,000 honorees of the Order of Canada who are calling for stronger government action for nuclear disarmament.

Carolyn Acker, OC
Bruce Aikenhead, OC
Gerry Barr, CM
Michel Bastarache, CC
Anthony Belcourt, OC
Monique Bégin, OC
Ed Broadbent, CC
Margaret Hilson, OC
Laurent Isabelle, CM
Bonnie Klein, OC
Joy Kogawa, OC
Barbara Sherwood Lollar, CC
Bruce Kidd, OC
Margaret MacMillan, CC
Marilou McPhedran, CM
T. Jock Murray, OC
Alex Neve, OC
Peter Newbery, CM
James Orbinski, OC
Landon Pearson, OC
John Polanyi, CC
Ernie Regehr, OC
Douglas Roche, OC
David Silcox, CM
Jennifer Allen Simons, CM
Gérard Snow, CM
Veronica Tennant, CC
Murray Thomson, OC
Setsuko Thurlow, CM
Lois Wilson, CC


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