Should Science for Peace, an educational organization promoting non-violence and nuclear disarmament:
continue to be silent on Canada’s role in NATO?
advocate a security model based on the United Nations rather than NATO?
advocate that Canada leave NATO?
In 1997 Science for Peace addressed the relationships between Canada, the military alliance NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Russia in a message from Peter Nicholls, the President of Science for Peace, “President’s message on NATO, Canada, and Russia.” (Nicholls 1997)
Those days, by comparison to today, were optimistic. Nicholls observed that: “The Soviet Union and its “threat” to invade Western Europe have both disappeared” although he saw a warning sign of serious issues to come: “Instead of a Soviet invasion of the West, we have a NATO “‘invasion of Eastern Europe.”
The question then, as well as now, is: “What is Canada doing?” (Nicholls 1997)
Recently, former long-time Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich asked a stark question: War or Peace? (Kucinich 2016).
Kucinich concluded, for Americans:
“Our international relations are built upon lies to promote regime changes, the fantasy of a unipolar world ruled by America, and a blank check for the national security state.
As others prepare for war, we must prepare for peace. We must answer the mindless call to arms with a thoughtful, soulful call to resist the coming build-up for war. A new, resolute peace movement must arise, become visible and challenge those who would make war inevitable.” (Kucinich 2016)
We agree. These are precarious times. As Canadians, as Canada, we can make different and better choices than the USA. Canada needs to have an independent voice that promotes peace.
Since 1947 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock (no author 2016a) has strikingly noted global threat: 1947 7 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT 1991 17 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT “With the Cold War officially over.” 1998 9 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT “Russia and the United States continue to serve as poor examples to the rest of the world.” 2016 3 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT “The probability of global catastrophe is very high.” 2017 2.5 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT “In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent.”
Both pre-1991 and post-1991 after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, Canada seems to have taken a “business-as-usual” approach to its involvement with NATO by following the lead of the United States “into the US-led Atlantic security community.” (Regehr 2016)
In 1997 it may have been reasonable to wonder what Canada was doing, and to give Canada and the NATO military alliance the benefit of the doubt about whether it would become something more than a US-led military alliance.
Twenty-five years after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, it is clear how the NATO military alliance has evolved. Today NATO is risking a military confrontation with its threatening actions towards Russia (no author 2016a).
The questions for Science for Peace are:
Can or will Science for Peace continue to observe the evolution of the NATO military alliance, and Canada’s role within it, without clearly stating a position on NATO?
Is there sufficient evidence to suggest that Science for Peace and other peace organizations should be calling for Canada to withdraw from NATO and to expect NATO to act less aggressively toward the rest of the world?
Also, can Canada, as an independent voice, help reduce the tensions between the US-led NATO and Russia?
It is to be hoped that it is not too late to provide some sober second thought.
NATO in 2017
What has changed with the military alliance NATO in the 25+ years after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact?
It is clear that in the early post-1991 years NATO was an organization in search of a purpose, and it still is (Petrolekas 2016). The pre-1991 bipolar world in which NATO was created has been replaced by a uni-polar world with the United States as the only global superpower.
With these changes, NATO was, in fact, robbed of its reason for existence. Yet, stark developments occurred:
“What has changed in the wake of the Cold War and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 is the eruption of American militarism, based on the conviction of the US ruling establishment that, with the demise of the USSR, it could freely employ its military might in a bid to assert world hegemony and reverse the global economic decline of American capitalism.” (Van Auken 2016)
“January 1994, [Bill] Clinton announced that NATO enlargement was ‘no longer a question of whether but when and how.’ Just days before, alliance leaders approved the launch of the Partnership for Peace, a program designed to strengthen ties with Central and Eastern European countries, including many former Soviet republics like Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.” (Masters 2016)
Prior to 1991 by the terms of NATO’s Article 5, (NATO 2016a) NATO presented itself as a defence organization that would only respond militarily in defence of a NATO member, and specifically a NATO member’s territory (Masters 2016). After 1991, the new NATO took military actions beyond the NATO borders into the former Yugoslavia, then Afghanistan, and Libya (Masters 2016), as NATO sought a military rationale for its continued existence.
Further, NATO also needed a strong opponent to justify its military domination of Europe and project power beyond European borders. It was well known by United States military hawks that Russia would be threatened by the NATO expansion, since there has been a very long history of western European and United States — Russian tensions (Giraldi 2016) (Masters 2016). The threatening advances eastward by expanding NATO membership and the lack of empathy for the Russian perspective (Regehr 2016) may now have created a Russian threat — or the political perception of Russian threat — meeting the NATO military alliance’s criteria for an enemy that will justify NATO continued existence.
The NATO military alliance is built on consensus (no author 2016b). In this context, Canada has clearly supported not only the expansion of NATO and the extra-territorial military missions, but also nuclear war, including first use of nuclear weapons in the front-line areas of Europe between NATO and Russian forces.
Clearly, post-1991, the NATO military alliance has created a reason for its existence by projecting its power not only beyond the borders of the original members, but up to the existing borders of Russia (no author 2016b).
More disturbing than these aggressive actions have been the discussions indicating plans and planning for nuclear exchanges (Van Auken 2016), including using tactical nuclear weapons through a reinvigoration of nuclear deterrence strategies. These deterrence strategies include, in the thinking of some generals, the new tactical nuclear weapons potentially as an effective warning rather than an automatic escalation of the fighting-and as a result it is a weapon that is much “more usable.” (Giraldi 2016) A more sober view of the use of tactical nuclear weapons would be a catastrophe since any use would break the taboo, and then what will ensue is unpredictable.
Canada has supported NATO’s nuclear arsenal and policies, and has taken part in its nuclear war planning group, even though for many years the vast majority of Canadians have thought the world would be much safer if there were no nuclear arsenals (Environics 2008). Indeed, the Trudeau government claims (in speeches by Foreign Minister Dion and official correspondence) that nuclear weapons are essential for our security — a claim that, if valid, would logically ensure and justify proliferation in other nations. Yet, the risks of detonation by accident, technological failure (inevitable in complex systems), human fallibility, or terrorists, are greater than ever before, as numerous US former nucle ar war-hawks tell us. Furthermore — as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declared years ago — by the law of probabilities, if nuclear weapons are retained, they will inevitably one day be used again. The vast majority of nations, through three humanitarian conferences (Oslo; Nayarit, Mexico, Austria), have reached the ethical judgement that nuclear weapons are utterly inhumane and immoral. Canada voted against the resulting Humanitarian Pledge at the UN General Assembly (no author 2016e). In the face of the nuclear weapons states’, including Canada’s, refusal to take concrete steps to disarm (repeatedly agreed to at review conferences of the Non-Proliferation Treaty), despite the commitment of most to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Article VI (no author 2016c) by which they promised nuclear disarmament, the international community has finally acted. In October 2016, the UN General Assembly voted to begin negotiations on a nuclear ban treaty to prohibit this last, worst weapon of mass destruction. Mustafa Kibaroglu recently said it well in his article, “To abolish nuclear weapons, strip away their handsome mask” (Kibaroglu 2016) when referring to the United Nations A/C.1/71/L.41 “General and complete disarmament: taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (United Nations 2016a):
“The ban may not end the reign of nuclear weapons on its own, nor do so in the foreseeable future, but it can be expected to create a universal stigma around nuclear weapons-signifying the beginning of the end. It would not be a surprise if, decades from now, the ban treaty is regarded as the foundation of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
In the face of this rising tide, NATO nations boycotted the conferences and the process by which the treaty resolution was developed. The real reason, it seems, is that they realize a ban treaty will make NATO’s nuclear practices open to question and opposition, and will undermine the legitimacy of nuclear weapons. (A US letter, labelled Annex 1 and dated 17 Oct. 2016, which was passed on to NATO nations by NATO at US request and revealed by the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), noted that NATO is committed to deterrence and to nuclear weapons, as long as they exist, for the defence of its allies, and thus NATO nations should not participate in the treaty process (NATO 2016b). [The attached Annex 2 sets out ways in which a ban treaty will undermine NATO’s nuclear policies and advises NATO nations not to participate in the ban treaty negotiations.] The Government of Canada has taken the NATO stance: it voted against the UNGA ban treaty resolution in December 2016. (United Nations 2016b).
The post-1991 behaviour of NATO and Canada’s willingness to support NATO, clearly fit the definition of militarism (Lorincz 2016):
“the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.”
Should Science for Peace, an organization promoting non-violence and nuclear disarmament, remain silent on this vital question of NATO, given its policies?
In a world facing serious environmental issues such as desertification with global warming, severe worldwide economic inequality, a refugee crisis, and random terrorism, Canada needs to reconsider its international role. In particular, the Canadian government needs to examine the relevance of NATO, and assess Canada’s commitment to and support for its actions and for its promotion of nuclear weapons and “First Use” policy (Rathke 2016) (no author 2016d) (Mendelsohn 2016).
Our assessment and conclusion in 2017 is: it is time for Science for Peace, along with other peace organizations, to take the stand that Canada should leave NATO (Lorincz, 2016). Canada should make this radical change for the sake of the global common security and sustainable peace that our world desperately needs. These are principles that Science for Peace has consistently worked for.
Environics. 2008. “The Canada’s World Poll — Final Report, January 2008.” The Environics Institute. January. www.environicsinstitute.org/uploads/institute-projects/the%20canada’s%20world%20poll%20-%20final%20report.pdf .
Giraldi, Philip. 2016. “Is Nuclear War Becoming Thinkable?” The American Conservative. October 5. www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/is-nuclear-war-becoming-thinkable/ .
Kibaroglu, Mustafa. 2016. “To Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Strip Away Their Handsome Mask | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.” December 19. thebulletin.org/can-treaty-banning-nuclear-weapons-speed-their-abolition/abolish-nuclear-weapons-strip-away-their-handsome-mask
Kucinich, Dennis. 2016. “War or Peace?” Counterpunch. October 21. www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/war-or-peace/ .
Lorincz, Tamara. 2016. “From Diplomacy to Sustainable Peace VOW Submission” August. vowpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/From-Diplomacy-to-Sustainable-Peace_VOW-Submission-FINAL.pdf .
Masters, Jonathan. 2016. “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).” Council on Foreign Relations. www.cfr.org/nato/north-atlantic-treaty-organization-nato/p28287 .
Mendelsohn, Jack. 2016. “NATO’s Nuclear Weapons: The Rationale for ‘No First Use’ | Arms Control Association.” Arms Control Today. Accessed August 16. www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_07-08/jmja99 .
NATO. 2016a. “Collective Defence — Article 5.” North Atlantic Treaty Organization. www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_110496.htm .
—-. 2016b. “United States Non-Paper: ‘Defense Impacts of Potential United Nations General Assembly Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.’” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). October 17. www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf .
Nicholls, Peter. 1997. “Science for Peace: President’s Message NATO, Canada, and Russia.” Science for Peace. March 1. scienceforpeace.ca/presidents-message-nato-canada-and-russia .
no author. 2016a. “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. thebulletin.org/ .
—-. 2016b. “NATO — Topic: Consensus Decision-Making at NATO.” March 14. www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_49178.htm
—-. 2016c. “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Treaty_on_the_Non-Proliferation_of_Nuclear_Weapons &oldid=730488239 .
—-. 2016d. “No First Use.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=No_first_use&oldid=731376987 .
—-. 2016e. “Historic UN Vote on Nuclear Ban Treaty | Rideau Institute.” October 28. www.rideauinstitute.ca/2016/10/28/canada-says-no-to-historic-un-vote-on-nuclear-ban-treaty/ .
Petrolekas, George. 2016. “Beyond the Struggle to Find Purpose, NATO Summit Reveals Hidden Perils.” The Globe and Mail. July 11. www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/beyond-the-struggle-to-find-purpose-nato-summit-reveals-hidden-perils/article30848961/ .
Rathke, Jeffrey. 2016. “NATO’s Nuclear Policy as Part of a Revitalized Deterrence Strategy.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 14. www.csis.org/analysis/nato%E2%80%99s-nuclear-policy-part-revitalized-deterrence-strategy .
Regehr, Ernie. 2016. “Canada and Euro-Atlantic Security | The Simons Foundation.” Canada and Euro-Atlantic Security, Defence Policy Review Briefing Paper — Aug 5, 2016. Accessed August 15. thesimonsfoundation.ca/highlights/canada-and-euro-atlantic-security .
United Nations. 2016a. “General and Complete Disarmament: Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations.” Oct. 14. reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com16/resolutions/L41.pdf .
—-. 2016b. “General Assembly Concludes Main Part of Seventy-First Session, Adopting 15 Texts Recommended by Fifth Committee | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” United Nations. December 24. www.un.org/press/en/2016/ga11882.doc.htm .
Van Auken, Bill. 2016. “Pentagon Chief Outlines Preparations for Nuclear War with Russia.” Strategic Culture Foundation. September 29.