Canada addresses disarmament at the NPT

After omitting any reference to disarmament in the Foreign Affairs Minister’s opening statement to the current NPT Review Conference, Canada’s statement to the Conference’s disarmament committee (Main Committee I) addresses the key themes.

The disarmament statement was presented by Canada’s Ambassador for Disarmament, Marius Grinius, to Main Committee I of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on May 7.[i]

As noted in the May 4 posting here,[ii] Canada’s formal policy commitment to the key and urgent elements of the disarmament agenda was not put in doubt by the Minister’s speech, but it did leave considerable doubt as to the level of enthusiasm with which the current Canadian political leadership is willing to push it. This latter doubt is not erased by the Ambassador’s speech, but the statement certainly offers a mostly-welcome reassurance of continuity in Canada’s formal policy commitments.

The opening sentence identifies Canada with broad articulations in the international community regarding the pursuit of “a world free of nuclear weapons.” The second sentence addresses the central issue of balance which was absent from the Minister’s speech, by affirming the growing interdependence of the “three pillars” of the NPT – peaceful uses, disarmament, nonproliferation.

Welcoming the US/Russia achievement of a “New START” agreement, as well as the US Nuclear Posture Review and the results of the Nuclear Security Summit, the Canadian statement expresses the hope that “these recent achievements [will] breed further success as transparent nuclear disarmament actions by all nuclear weapon states are necessary in order to further commitments made under Article VI of the Treaty.”

The Ambassador indicated that Canada has been active in encouraging hold-out states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and made a strong appeal for action on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Echoing his speech at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), in which he suggested that alternative means will have to be found if the CD remains in its current state of deadlock and inaction,[iii] Amb. Grinius pointed out that “the CD no longer holds a monopoly on disarmament negotiations.” He suggested alternative avenues can be found and suggested that Canada “will help foster…political will” toward those ends.

The statement said that action on key issues on the agenda (CTBT, FMCT, others of the “13 practical disarmament steps” approved in 2000) “are within our grasp,” and commended proposal put forward by Australia and Japan,[iv] and the New Agenda Coalition.[v]

Canada’s disarmament commitments, the statement noted, are “carried out with careful consideration of our membership in NATO.” This is another example of political continuity in Canadian policy and another kind of familiar nuclear balance – a balance which, when it gets down to it, tips in favor of “common [NATO] positions on such issues as Alliance nuclear posture and sub-strategic nuclear weapons in the context of the Strategic Concept Review.” As a result, the Ambassador notes that “Canada will actively engage in those discussions mindful of our collective security requirements and the long-term goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.” The collective security caveat is neither new nor entirely welcome; all the more reason to press for genuine changes in the current NATO review of its Strategic Concept.

eregehr@ploughshares.ca

Notes

[i] Available to the Reaching Critical Website:http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/revcon2010/statements/7May_Canada.pdf.

[ii] http://www.cigionline.org/blogs/2010/5/canada%E2%80%99s-opening-statement-npt-promoting-nonproliferation-while-ignoring-disarmament

[iii] Discussed here: http://www.cigionline.org/blogs/2010/4/canada-proposes-action-cd%E2%80%99s-agenda-%E2%80%93-outside-cd.

[iv] “New package of practical nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measures for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” NPT/Conf.2010/WP.9, 24 March 2010. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=NPT/CONF.2010/WP.9.

[v] “Working paper submitted by Egypt on behalf of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden as members of the New Agenda Coalition,” NPT/CONF.2010/WP.8, 23 March 2010.http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=NPT/CONF.2010/WP.8.

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