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Member Publications

NATO: Canada in or out?

Prepared for the Canadian Pugwash Group 2018 Research Roundtable

Canada was an early advocate for NATO and a founding member of the Alliance in 1949. The military organization was perceived as an “all for one, one for all” solidarity pact (NATO’s core collective defence principle in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty), to (in the famous quip) “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down”. Canada pressed for inclusion of democratic and economic goals within NATO although these were secondary to defence and military security priorities. At the end of the Cold War, many saw the Alliance raison d’être as having expired along with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.

Whether seen as legitimate or problematic at its founding, some now believe NATO encourages an arms race, empowers the “Military Industrial Complex” and enables solo US global dominance, while marginalizing the United Nations. NATO nuclear weapon advocacy within its strategic concept is problematic. The USA or USA/UK appear to dominate the alliance. They push for interoperability (therefore also escalation, perpetual weapons modernization, forces integration, higher military spending). Contrary to promises made, NATO expanded into Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. NATO also widened its purview outside the North Atlantic and has directed the controversial (“illegal but legitimate”) Kosovo campaign and unrestrained R2P intervention into Libya. And yet NATO survives, despite the criticism. Canada seems to go along.

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Gandhi and the Right to Peace

Address to the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Council Charity Dinner | Ottawa, October 2, 2018

Today, we enter the 150th anniversary year of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nonviolence, a man who will be remembered for a thousand years, a leader who never commanded an army but was more powerful than any maharajah or Viceroy. Gandhi inspired today’s human rights movement, and wherever peace is found in our troubled world, its roots can be traced to that ascetic man, staff in hand, who challenged the British Empire with conscience his only weapon. After Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, Albert Einstein wrote movingly: “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

I am a Gandhian, though I am personally not worthy to walk in his footsteps. The Mahatma has taught me about the power of nonviolent protest against injustices. All my political career, I have dissented from the anti-humanitarian policies of waging war in the name of peace. On the eve of my 90th birthday, I am not stopping, and I have come here tonight to urge us, in Gandhi’s name, to re-kindle the flame of hope for peace with justice and never let it be extinguished no matter the bizarre conduct of modern-day politics.

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Talks to ban nuclear materials need a fresh start

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

If grades in disarmament diplomacy were given out for perseverance, then Canada would surely merit an “A” for its efforts on behalf of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, or FMCT. Forging this treaty, which would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, has been a supposed goal of the international community for over half a century. In that time, though, negotiations to bring the treaty about never even started, suggesting that the FMCT is one of those worthy goals that are periodically affirmed without any serious effort to realize them. And though Canada has traditionally led efforts to move forward on the treaty, the Canadian-led group most recently charged with supporting future negotiations has submitted a report that deserves a failing grade.

This is unfortunate, because the FMCT, if it ever happens, could have a major impact on reducing nuclear proliferation. The problem is that the 25-member preparatory group asked to facilitate the task of future negotiators has recommended that “the negotiation of a treaty … begin without delay in the Conference on Disarmament.” This is not a realistic solution, as anyone familiar with the Conference on Disarmament knows it does not act “without delay” on anything. It simply does not get things done. To initiate work on the FMCT will require its liberation from this diplomatic dungeon.

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The Koreas are getting along – but denuclearization questions remain

The Globe and Mail | 20 September 2018

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is a man in a hurry; North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is a man on a roll.

Prior to Mr. Kim’s 2018 New Year’s speech, the world watched North Korea relentlessly improve its nuclear weapon and missile capabilities to the point where it could threaten not only the immediate region but also North America, despite tightening UN sanctions, U.S. threats of “fire and fury” and China’s measured disapproval.

Mr. Kim’s initial opening to have North Korea participate in the Winter Olympics and Mr. Moon’s quick positive response to field a combined North-South Olympic team led to a frenzy of summit meetings that has not abated. The first Kim-Moon summit in April in Panmunjom reiterated the main themes of two earlier high-level attempts to ease North-South tensions and perhaps move toward eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The third summit, which concluded Wednesday, has further moved the yardsticks forward in creating Mr. Moon’s vision of peace and co-prosperity for both Koreas. Mr. Kim, however, has yet to demonstrate his commitment to dismantle his nuclear weapons, linchpins for his regime’s survival.

And therein lies the rub. Since the New Year, Mr. Kim has repaired North Korea’s badly frayed relations with China by meeting with President Xi Jinping three times. Perhaps more importantly, the Panmunjom Summit led to Mr. Kim’s unprecedented meeting in Singapore last June with U.S. President Donald Trump. Their joint statement was short on specifics: establishment of new U.S.-North Korea relations, efforts to build a lasting peace regime, a North Korean commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and recovery of U.S. missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War. What remains worrisome is that the two leaders mostly talked in private, with only interpreters present, and no one really knows what else they agreed to except to seemingly be new best friends.

At issue is what denuclearization really means. North Korea complained of US. gangster tactics when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to establish a road map forward that would include complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Even Mr. Trump admitted that there has been no progress on denuclearization. Through South Korean officials, however, Mr. Kim recently proclaimed his “unwavering faith” in Mr. Trump and asked for a second meeting with him, perhaps as a way around any objections by more cautious and skeptical U.S. officials. Preparations for the second Trump-Kim meeting are under way.

Mr. Moon has now upped his courtship of Mr. Kim both in scope and urgency. With this week’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration, Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim agreed to implement a series of military confidence-building measures to prevent accidental military clashes. Mr. Moon promised Mr. Kim visions of prosperity by reopening North-South rail and road connections and eventually establishing special economic zones. The South Korean leader’s delegation of 200 people included heads of South Korea’s key chaebols, the huge industrial enterprises like Samsung and Hyundai. In addition, Mr. Moon promised to strengthen humanitarian co-operation. Mr. Kim should find these promises enticing. They agreed to participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympics and bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

Finally, both leaders agreed “to co-operate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Mr. Kim promised to dismantle a missile engine test site and launch platform, as he had already agreed, but this time under observation by experts “from relevant countries” (presumably including the U.S.) and to dismantle a nuclear facility, as North Korea had in the 1990s only to renege later. Mr. Kim also agreed to visit Seoul at an early date, a first for a North Korean leader.

As the North-South romance continues at a whirlwind pace, many questions remain, especially around denuclearization. North Korea, claiming that it has already taken concrete measures by stopping nuclear weapon and missile tests, has insisted that the U.S. take commensurate measures beyond cancellation of combined military exercises with the South. Promised U.S. security assurances to the North remain undetermined.

The North has not revealed numbers and locations of its nuclear weapons, missile systems or nuclear production facilities. Questions around verification have not been addressed. Indeed, it is not evident that any serious discussions, let alone negotiations, are taking place. Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon seem eager to declare the official end of the Korean War and eventually to sign a peace treaty. Both possibilities raise serious U.S. security concerns.

Previous North-South courtships ended in bitter disappointment and even military clashes. Maybe this time will be different.

Marius Grinius is the former Canadian ambassador to South Korea (2004-07) and concurrently to North Korea (2005-07). He is a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and an associate member of Canadian Pugwash Group.

Hiroshima Day Commemoration

Peace Garden, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto | August 6, 2018

One year ago, on July 7, 2017 at the United Nations in New York, 122 nations took a bold, historic step when the delegates voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty filled a gaping hole in international law, providing a comprehensive prohibition on the last weapons of mass destruction to be declared illegal; the only weapons that could not only end all of us, but deny future generations the very possibility of being born.

When the voting results were displayed I felt stunned and speechless with tears of joy welling in my eyes, and in the din of the thunderous applause I realized the significance of the event. I intuitively shared my euphoria with those massacred indiscriminately in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years before, to whom we made a vow that their deaths would not be in vain, that we would commit our lives to ensure that their experience would not be repeated by any other human beings.

The conference chair gave me an opportunity to offer concluding remarks. With great conviction I declared “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal! This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons! Let us move forward together and change the world!”

The Treaty opened for signatures at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 and the second signing ceremony will be opened this September 26th. We are now up to 59 signatories and 14 ratifications from diverse regions. When the 50th nation ratifies the TPNW it will enter into force. The pace of ratifications may seem slow, but experts tell us that it has been faster than for any other treaty related to weapons of mass destruction, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Treaty Coordinator reports that parliamentary, departmental and legislative processes towards joining the Treaty are well underway in many countries in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia and the Pacific. Recently Switzerland’s first chamber of parliament voted to join the TPNW, and New Zealand’s Cabinet has ratified the Treaty just a few days ago. The European Parliament has repeatedly recommended that all 28 EU member states sign and ratify the Treaty.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, is a coalition of 468 civil society organizations in 101 nations. ICAN has played a leading role, working with 122 nations, in developing the Ban Treaty, and ICAN is now dedicated to seeing the implementation of the Treaty.

Tireless ICAN campaigners around the world have been engaged in a variety of activities to promote the TPNW and press the governments to ratify the Treaty. In Europe there were protests at the governments of Britain and Spain, protest at the NATO summit in Brussels, and protest at the
Helsinki summit between the presidents of the two nuclear super powers, who control 90% of all nuclear weapons between them. There have also been blockades of U.S. nuclear bases in Germany. After months of campaigning the Church of England Synod voted to support the nuclear ban treaty. We recall that the Holy See was one of the first to ratify the Treaty.

Around the Pacific, there has been a press conference in Singapore with ICAN’s clear roadmap to the elimination of nuclear weapons. In Australia protests have broken out against US weapons manufacturers investing in Australian universities. In Japan over 320 municipal and prefectural governments, 20% of all such governments, have given their support for the TPNW and demanded that the national government play a leadership role.

Another aspect of the campaigners’ action involves the divestment of funds from nuclear weapons manufacturing. Since the Treaty’s adoption, the Norwegian Pension Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with assets over US$ 1 trillion, the largest Dutch pension fund ABP, Deutsche Bank, and major Belgian bank KBC have announced that they will exclude from their investments companies that produce nuclear weapons.

Lastly but most importantly, what has our city, Toronto, been doing to ensure that the TPNW will come into force? In April, the Toronto Board of Health and City Council both unanimously agreed to “request the Government of Canada
to sign the United Nations Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”. In addition, City Council has re-affirmed that Toronto is a nuclear weapons-free zone.

In December I was elated and humbled to co-accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN for our “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and our “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. The TPNW combined with the Nobel Peace Prize have become a powerful force to further stigmatize nuclear weapons and their possession.

Thus far Canada has not supported, or even participated in, this U.N. Treaty. In a democracy we believe that citizens have a right to be listened to by the government, and the government has the responsibility to protect its citizens. 79% of Torontonians have expressed a desire for a world without nuclear weapons. Canada must return to its legacy of global peace building and be on the right side of history by ratifying the Treaty.

Two minutes to midnight

Toronto Star | 5 August 2018

Despite an initial de-escalation in the nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the world is still at the greatest risk of a nuclear catastrophe since the Cuban missile crisis. With an erratic American president in control of the U.S. nuclear button, the Doomsday Clock stands at 2 minutes to midnight.
President Donald Trump has wondered why, if the U.S. has nuclear weapons, it would not use them and has warned Iran that the country would face, “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.”

The nuclear weapon states are modernizing their nearly 15,000 nuclear war heads. Eighteen hundred missiles, both Russian and U.S., are on launch-on-warning, threatening North American and Russian cities with weapons many times more devastating than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The disarmament promised by the nuclear weapon states is at a standstill. By accident, miscalculation, or design, nuclear annihilation looms.

One year ago, on July 7, 2017 at the United Nations, 122 countries took a bold, historic step when the delegates voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty filled a gaping hole in international law, providing a comprehensive prohibition on the last weapons of mass destruction to be declared illegal; the only weapons that could not only end all of us, but deny future generations the very possibility of being born.

As a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I felt stunned and speechless with tears of joy welling in my eyes when the voting results were displayed at the UN Conference. In the din of thunderous applause, I understood the significance of the event.

I intuitively shared my euphoria with the spirits of those massacred indiscriminately in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years before, to whom we made a vow that their deaths would not be in vain, that we would commit our lives to ensure that their suffering would not be repeated.

With great conviction I declared, “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal! This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons! Let us move forward together and change the world!”

Last December, I was elated and humbled to co-accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The treaty combined with the Nobel Peace Prize have become a powerful force to further stigmatize nuclear weapons and their possession.

The treaty opened for signatures at the United Nations on Sept. 20, 2017 and the second signing ceremony will be opened this Sept. 26. We are now up to 59 signatories and 14 ratifications from diverse regions. When the 50th nation ratifies the treaty it will enter into force.

Regretfully, Canada has been shamefully absent in the worldwide effort to abolish nuclear weapons. At the behest of the Trump government, which directed its NATO allies to oppose a ban treaty, Canada boycotted the UN negotiations. When questioned in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied that the UN treaty was “useless.”

Canadians have the right to know from their government whether their cities are targeted by nuclear weapons or how they would be affected by radiation fallout from nuclear explosions in the United States. What emergency measures do the federal, provincial and city governments have in place if nuclear weapons are used?

Toronto City Council asked its Board of Health to hold public hearings this April on the dangers of nuclear weapons and radiation fallout. After presentations by myself and dozens of other peace, faith and environmental organizations and individuals, the Board of Health unanimously called on Toronto City Council to request that the Canadian government sign the UN ban treaty.

City Council unanimously passed this motion and sent it to the prime minister, the minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the minister of Health, but none of them has responded. City councils across Canada may well want to hold similar public hearings and convey their concerns to the prime minister.

Canada must return to its legacy of global peace building and be on the right side of history by ratifying the UN Ban Treaty.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, will speak at the Hiroshima Nagasaki Commemoration at the Toronto City Hall Peace Garden on Monday, 6 August.