Arctic Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ)

Arctic Peace and Security Policy Issues

Input re Feb 7, 2018 NGO Roundtable Discussion, Ottawa- ARCTIC POLICY FRAMEWORK

Arctic Peace and Security Policy Issues

 By Adele Buckley, Canadian Pugwash Group
Project Leader – Proposals for a Nuclear Weapon Free Arctic



 6. The Arctic in a global context

 The history of the circumpolar nations has been one of cooperation, of necessity in the harsh polar environment, and for the mutual benefit of all. As the Arctic opens to greatly enlarged economic and governance activity, there is significant risk that competition and confrontation will occur, and that the presently non-militarized Arctic could change dramatically, in a non-beneficial manner. To this end, it is important that the Arctic should be free of nuclear weapons, and that positive actions by the non-nuclear-weapon circumpolar states should commence in the immediate future. Canada, with its vast territories and extensive coastline is in a key position to draft its Arctic Policy to include its aspiration for a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic, and to take an international leadership role.

 In this context, it is very important to recall the 1983 Declaration of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) on a Nuclear Free Arctic. Re-Issue of an updated Declaration by the ICC could have a powerful impact on the international community and influence progress toward a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic. Canadian Pugwash, together with its international contacts, has significant expertise in current political status of nuclear weapons and would gladly offer assistance in producing updated wording of the Declaration.

 When and if the circumpolar non-nuclear-weapon states agree on the nuclear-weapon-free goal, they could approach the United Nations, which would readily offer assistance in forming a Treaty. Russia and the United States, over time, could have reason to withdraw nuclear weapons from this very limited geographic region. Alternatively, true militarization of the Arctic is a possibility, in which case the nuclear weapons of China, Britain and France might also be deployed in the Arctic. Without changing the security strategy presently employed by NW states and their allies, a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic offers a model situation for working out methodology for reduction of NW, verification and eventual nuclear disarmament.

 China, in its new Arctic Policy, has announced its intention to be a key player, to expend major resources to that effect, and, in particular, to facilitate a ‘Polar Silk Road’ . The newly issued policy is aspirational, rather than specific. The policy states ‘Peace and stability in the Arctic provides a significant guarantee for all activities in the region,and serves the fundamental interest of all countries including China’. Every nation involved in the Arctic at present or in the future should and could adopt this stance, but if there is conflict, military activity, including deployment of weapons, could result. China and others would possibly be prompted to send nuclear-weapon equipped submarines; probably forever closing the opportunity for a nuclear-weapon free Arctic. This is the reason why the Government of Canada should act now.



 Several agenda items of the Arctic Policy Framework connect to the themes expressed under the heading of global context, so these connections are briefly addressed here.

 Since China has claimed the status of a ‘near-Arctic-nation’ and will expend huge resources to take advantage of the opportunity; China will influence and contribute to all segments of Arctic issues- transport, environmental, scientific, economic, fishing, tourism

 6.1 Comprehensive Arctic Infrastructure

 Infrastructure, though very costly, must be built; that funded by Chinese interests will be mutually beneficial, but at what cost to Canadian sovereignty? Submarine cables, including fibre-optic cables, serve the interest of all stakeholders. Replacement of failed infrastructure due to permafrost collapse, methane leaks etc. needs to be included in planning.

 6.2 Strong Arctic people and communities

 Arctic people and communities will be strong and safe, only in the absence of military activity, including the absence of subsurface nuclear weapons, and all the geopolitical ramifications thereof.

 6.3 Strong sustainable and diversified Arctic economies

 Arctic economies will thrive and grow properly only if there is a significant increase in population of Canada’s north

6.4 Arctic science and indigenous knowledge

The Canadian government, through increased financial and targeted support, must acquire data on a myriad of facets of the Arctic. China plans extensive scientific research. A cooperative plan for Chinese and Canadian scientists should make acquired data and knowledge mutually available, preferably to all circumpolar sovereign nations. Scientific research will be fruitful in an atmosphere of cooperation and a non-militarized environment.

 6.5 Protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity

 An Arctic Ocean with subsurface nuclear weapon equipped submarines can not avoid mishaps and perhaps major accidents, all of which will permanently damage the environment. If, as has been already considered, NATO has military exercises in the north, unnecessary emissions will occur, and damage to the environment is also a likely result.


CONTACT: Adele Buckley, Ph.D., 6 Tepee Court, Toronto ON M2J3A9 416 491 9307