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Why Canada Should Withdraw from NATO

12 February 2019

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed (1949) under a Treaty renouncing “the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” The Treaty calls for military action only in response to an attack upon a member. By reserving the liberty of deciding when military action is required, it usurps the authority the UN Charter supposedly confers on the Security Council to make such decisions. But NATO’s assault on world peace goes much farther. Plainly, its many military initiatives (as in former Yugoslavia in 1992 and 1999, and in Libya in 2011) and its military “exercises” threatening Russia on its very borders (up to the present) have violated NATO’s self-declared limitations. One might regard this as sufficient reason for a peace-seeking member nation to withdraw.

Almost from its beginning, NATO has committed a still more serious breach of the spirit and letter of international agreements: it systematically strives to impose its will by the threat of nuclear war. On the one hand, Science for Peace can not condone Canada’s adherence to an alliance which insists on its readiness to be the first to resort to nuclear arms (discussed, e.g., by the Arms Control Association); but on the other hand, even were NATO abruptly to accept the principle of No First Use, the use or threat of nuclear war even in retaliation incurs absolutely unacceptable danger to the survival of humanity and must be repudiated. The rationale of nuclear deterrence, far from shielding Canada or anyone under a “nuclear umbrella”, acts to multiply the ways a nuclear war may be triggered, and magnifies the destruction it threatens.1

Despite the increasingly potent threats to human survival through nuclear war and climate change, the public is largely uninformed by media, the government, and to a great extent within academia. Knowing the historical context is essential. With regard to laws and implementation of regulations that need to truthfully provide human security:

“The malleable, indeterminate, and oft-ignored ‘rules’ of the [U.N.] Charter concerning use of force can plausibly be marshaled to support virtually any U.S. military action deemed in the national interest. Limited or ambiguous U.N. Security Council approval, where available, is easily stretched.”2

In 1996 the International Court of Justice declared that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles of humanitarian law”3 and yet there is silence about these threats coming from President Trump or implicitly from NATO’s first-use policy.

Similarly indeterminate and lacking in meaningful constraints have been the agreements around nuclear weapons. The U.N. Non-Proliferation Treaty has not resulted in sanctions or limit-setting in any of the states already possessing nuclear weapons and has not addressed former president Obama’s $1.1 trillion allocation for nuclear weapons proliferation. The public is uninformed about the significant escalation of danger since 1991: George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti Ballistic Defense Treaty with the consequent development of a missile defense system that effectually increases NATO’s belief that after a first strike a missile defense system could stop a nuclear counter-attack and that a nuclear war is winnable.

Challenging the ambiguity and compromises of the U.N. Security Council in order to address the mounting threats of human extinction, non-NATO nations and civil society members joined together to implement a nuclear ban treaty. Canada, bowing to NATO pressure, did not even participate in the meetings leading up to the treaty. Canada is also bowing to NATO pressure to increase military spending.

Science for Peace calls on the Government of Canada not only to withdraw from NATO and to cease from colluding with NATO’s pretence of pursuing defensive goals, but to join in condemning its violations of international peace and security. We call on the Canadian government to also sign the treaty to ban nuclear weapons and to work towards dismantling NATO altogether and to oppose the global trends towards militarizing the many urgent and devastating humanitarian situations.

Lastly, it is the responsibility of an informed public to engage politically and demand the deep changes required for human survival.


1 Daniel Ellsberg. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury. New York. 2017.

2 pp.99-101. Michael Glennon. National Security and Double Government. Oxford University Press: Oxford 2015.

3 p.213. Mohammed Elbaradei. “Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe” in Richard Falk and David Krieger, At the Nuclear Precipice: catastrophe or transformation? Palgrave. New York. 2008.

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