Recalling the Trudeau “strategy of suffocation”

Paul Meyer (a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, he currently teaches international security at Simon Fraser University and is a Senior Fellow at The Simons Foundation, Vancouver) has done the arms control/disarmament community an important service by leading us through a detailed recounting of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s “strategy of suffocation” – an insufficiently recognized Canadian effort in Cold-War disarmament diplomacy (see: Paul Meyer, “Pierre Trudeau and the ‘Suffocation’ of the Nuclear Arms Race.” International Journal 71:3, 2016: pp. 393-408). The following, published at H-Diplo, reviews Meyer’s essay and recounts civil society engagements (notably by Canadian church leaders) with Trudeau subsequent to the “suffocation” initiative and leading up to the “peace initiative” he launched at the conclusion of his political service. Continue reading here.

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Canada is among top military spenders in NATO: look at the actual numbers

Yet another news headline declares “Canadian defence spending among lowest in NATO despite small increase last year.” The Canadian Press/CBC story then opens with a reference to the NATO Secretary-General’s annual report for 2016 which is said to show “Canada lagging behind most of its allies.” In reality, Canada’s defence spending is well ahead of most of its allies – check the 2017 edition of The Military Balance (International Institute for Strategic Studies) and you will find Canada listed as the sixth highest military spender in NATO and the 16th highest globally. That is, in actual dollars spent, only five NATO countries spend more on defence than does Canada (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy), and globally only 15 countries have larger defence budgets than does Canada. NATO, however, prefers to ignore actual expenditures and to focus instead on defence spending as a proportion of national wealth or gross domestic product (GDP). The following challenges the relevance of linking defence spending to national wealth (a version of this article appeared last year in OpenCanada). Continue reading

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Could Trump Close the Door on Canada and BMD?

For Canadians keen on joining the American strategic-range ballistic missile defence system, the Administration of Barack Obama seemed to present the perfect opportunity. Under a president much-admired by Canadians, opposition to signing on to a huge, expensive, and highly controversial Pentagon program would arguably have been considerably muted. Added to that, North Korea’s apparently inexorable progress towards mating a credible intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead might have been expected to spark more intense Canadian interest in protection efforts. But there has never been a groundswell of public support for Canadian involvement in ballistic missile defence, so the issue only got as far as the new Liberal Government asking Canadians, in the context of the Defence Policy Review, whether this might be the time for Canada to pursue a direct role in North American missile defence. And Canadians seem to have responded with continuing ambivalence, an ambivalence likely to turn into outright rejection with Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House. And if that is not enough to close the door on Canada and BMD, last year’s report by the American Union of Concerned Scientists on the still unproven strategic missile defence system should do it.

Read further at The Simons Foundation.

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Hawks & Doves: mixed signals on military engagement

All three mainstream political parties see Canada’s security as heavily dependent on a stable and prosperous world order, guided by rules applying equally to all and that respect Canadian sovereignty and territorial integrity. That in turn predisposes Canada to help shape that kind of world. As usual, the devil is in the details — what policies, mechanisms, and partnerships are needed to achieve this?

Read further at Canadian Dimension (Volume 51, Issue 1: Winter 2017).

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A modest NATO line in Eastern Europe? Defending the Baltics

NATO is now establishing what the Globe and Mail called “a modest NATO force to draw a line in Eastern Europe”1 and what NATO itself calls its “biggest reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War.”2 Either way, it hasn’t erased doubts about the willingness, or wisdom, of the alliance’s threat to take direct military action against Russia and thereby raise the spectre of nuclear weapons use. Indeed, these eminently rational doubts could sensibly be elevated to the level of firm policy – not only because any military confrontation in serious danger of descending to nuclear use ought never to be regarded an option, but also because redressing Baltic vulnerability to Russian interference has more to do with strong governance than heightened military firepower.

Read further at The Simons Foundation.

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The Arctic and the Seaborne Nuclear Arms Race

Headlines tell of a burgeoning Russian/American naval nuclear arms race and already tens of billions of dollars are being promised and spent in both countries on “modernizing” seaborne strategic nuclear weapons systems. While tactical nuclear weapons have been kept off their attack and general purpose submarines for at least a generation, there are indications they may be finding their way back. In the meantime, there is not yet any international regime or treaty or political will in place or contemplated for the exercise of seaborne nuclear restraint.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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Circumpolar Military Facilities of the Arctic Five – updated: January 2017

Prepared by Ernie Regehr and Michelle Jackett.

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.

What follows relies on a broad range of media, government, academic, and research centre sources, all of which are indicated in the footnotes. This paper is regarded as a “work in progress” and continues to be updated as new information and changes in military posture and engagement relative to the Arctic become available.

The listing updated to January 2017 is available for download here.

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The 2016 Arctic Yearbook: On the state of Arctic Politics, Governance, and Security

The fifth annual Arctic Yearbook, with a primary focus on the Arctic Council, is now available. This 2016 edition includes a broad range of scholarly articles offering critical analysis of the Council’s 20-year record, and the editors clearly like what they see. In their Introduction, they acknowledge its imperfections, but also declare that “the Arctic Council is in many ways a marvel,” and is “perhaps the first true post-modern regional organization.” A section on Arctic Geopolitics and Security moves beyond the Arctic Council focus, and its four papers are briefly highlighted below.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation

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Operation NANOOK 2016 and DND aid to civil authorities

The Yukon’s late August earthquake, its epicentre near Haines Junction, never made the news, but the emergency response effort was impressive. Municipal and territorial first responders attended the scene, and they were soon joined by volunteers and representatives from affected First Nations communities and additional civilian emergency response teams from as far away as Vancouver. A contingent from the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group arrived, along with several hundred Canadian Armed Forces personnel with equipment that included CH146 Griffon and CH147 Chinook helicopters and CC130 transport aircraft. The Minister of National Defence visited the operation, as did the Commissioner of the Yukon (parallel to a provincial lieutenant governor). At least one other Member of Parliament and one Senator attended, and there were observers from the armed forces of the United States, United Kingdom, and France, as well as a small civilian observer group (including Disarming Arctic Security).

The earthquake was in fact an imagined event and the very real emergency response effort was a practice run, organized by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as Operation NANOOK. The Yukon scenario and response – centred around a serious natural disaster requiring a whole-of-government response – accurately reflected a key operational reality for the Canadian military at home – namely, its prominent function of aiding those civilian authorities and operations that have the primary responsibility for ensuring public safety in Canada.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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When Bears Still Fly: Responding to Russian Bomber Patrols in the Arctic

Russia’s Bear Bombers continue to conduct patrols and training flights in international airspace near North America’s Arctic coastlines. Canadian and American military interceptor aircraft as part of their own training regimen, continue to track and rendezvous with the Russian Bears. Some observers try to muster alarm in the face of Vladimir Putin’s strategic patrols, others are more sanguine, but it is for Governments to devise the appropriate response. NORAD is maddeningly coy about the frequency of such encounters, but as more information emerges, most recently in the 2016 Arctic Yearbook, it becomes increasingly clear that the prudent posture is to be attentive but not alarmed.

Continue reading at The Simons Foundation.

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