The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons | Le Réseau canadien pour l’abolition des armes nucléaires

Why Two Percent?

March 25, 2024
by Robin Collins and Sylvie Lemieux
Co-chairpersons of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Canada can engage in diplomatic efforts to end our reliance on nuclear deterrence. This means signaling to all NATO’s members to slow and reverse momentum in supporting a global arms race. Instead, let’s increase overseas development and peacekeeping contributions.

As global spending on weapons and war reaches its highest level ever—more than US$2.2-trillion, about twice what it was in 2001—NATO allies such as Canada have been called upon to pay up, including reaching the arbitrary two per cent of GDP that the alliance collectively “agreed” to. The clamour among columnists for Canada to step up is deafening, and we think this noise is misleading.

In 2006, NATO’s then-26 members committed themselves to the two per cent to ensure “military readiness,” and to enhance the “perception of the Alliance’s credibility.” This would entail a significant increase for Canada—now at ~1.4 per cent—even while this country is already NATO’s seventh largest provider—out of 31 members—in dollar figures, and 14th in a world of 193 states. Some freeloader!

The United States share (39 per cent) and Chinese share (13 per cent) combined are over half of all the world’s military spending. Russia (at 3.9 per cent) is far behind. This raises many questions. What is the money being spent on? Is increased military spending in perpetuity the best way to commit to global security, or is it intended to maintain a particular power dynamic?

We face a multitude of global crises that require global cooperation. Every dollar spent on weapons escalation will inevitably deprive funding of other important services. Addressing the climate crisis is urgent, and requires immediate attention and huge expenditures. The same goes for pandemic preparedness, international attention to artificial intelligence threats, and increased spending on conflict resolution mechanisms.

But the goal of an arms race is to achieve power superiority over a rival. We need to outspend them and—therefore, logically—they us. Particularly in a multi-polar world, this is a pointless, endless, and dangerous endeavor.

Two per cent for NATO also means cutting back on foreign aid. The rarely-mentioned competing alternative is former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson’s proposal—which made it into a UN resolution in 1970—that States pay 0.7 per cent of their gross national income for overseas development. That would have the advantage of raising the material wealth of the world’s poorest countries, and simultaneously reducing the weaponizing mechanisms that lead to violent conflict.

We all have seen how nuclear deterrence both failed to impede Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and raised the risk of nuclear war, while conventional weapon inventory is quickly depleted in the bloodbath that is still in progress. NATO’s strategy, however, is substantially based on costing a reliance on “essential” nuclear deterrence for alliance security. This includes new spending earmarked for modernization of nuclear missile inventories held by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office, for example, predicts modernization of U.S. nuclear arsenals alone will reach US$60-billion per year through 2030. While polls show NATO remains popular among many of their citizens, nuclear weapons certainly are not. A strong majority of Canadians—80 per cent—think the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons, not modernize them.

There is a financial and security relationship between steering away from a global warring framework based on nuclear threats and military superiority, and shifting spending towards cooperative alternatives that help solve our common problems. While conflicts will continue for the foreseeable future, there are better options available to reduce them than the ones we are being badgered to fulfil.

Canada can engage in diplomatic efforts to stifle and end our reliance on nuclear deterrence. This means also signaling to all NATO’s members to slow and reverse momentum in support of a global arms race. Instead, let’s increase overseas development and peacekeeping contributions. NATO members could start by agreeing to cut their military spending to 0.7 per cent and increase foreign aid to two per cent. This is a viable trend all nations and the planet will benefit from.

The Hill Times

Submission to UN Summit of the Future

Submitted by CNANW as a contribution to:  Chapter II. International peace and security

Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Steering Committee (CNANW-SC) welcomes the opportunity for civil society to make an important contribution to the upcoming UN Summit of the Future.

First, we strongly encourage the strengthening of support for the bedrock Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and goals of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and other legal restraints and obligations. But greater attention to the urgent work to eliminate nuclear weapons is required.

Second, CNANW-SC supports the nuclear disarmament proposals from civil society for the Summit of the Future  in the first round of civil society consultations facilitated by the Coalition for the UN we Need, and which are included in the Interim People’s Pact for the Future which includes the following proposals:

We also highlight the following proposals, which will reduce global instability: 

1)  The approval by all Nuclear Weapons States and their alliances of the policy of No-First-Use of nuclear weapons;

2)  The prioritizing of policies based on Common Security as the foundation for global governance. Restore and expand emphasis on war prevention and peaceful conflict resolution, and give priority to building the United Nations as envisaged by its Charter. Press for multilateral over unilateral responses to stave off, or hasten the repair of, breaches of the peace, to limit human suffering and environment degradation, and to thereby minimize costly military interventions.  Common security puts a premium on the machinery and diplomacy of international cooperation and favours the peaceful resolution of disputes, together with the equal right to security of all states;

3) Reliance on the International Court of Justice as a core legal instrument for the prevention of war;

4)  Sustainable earth stewardship will be enhanced by redirection of financial and human resources away from maintenance of dangerous weapons systems, including nuclear weapons modernization, and failed military doctrines, including nuclear deterrence.

We wish the planners of the UN Summit of the Future great success in the elaboration of the Zero Draft Report.

In pursuit of a more stable and sustainable world, free of nuclear weapons.

We remain available should you have any questions.

Most sincerely,

CNANW Co-Chairs Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux,
CNANW Steering Committee,
Canadian Pugwash Group
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW)
Group of 78
Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition (HNDC)
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada (IPPNWC)
Project Ploughshares
Religions for Peace Canada
Religions pour la Paix – Québec
Rideau Institute
Science for Peace

— December 2023 —

Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention Award Lecture by Tariq Rauf

Ending the Perpetual Menace of Nuclear Weapons

“Following the Trinity nuclear test detonation of 16 th July 1945, nuclear scientist Leó Szilárd observed that, “Almost without exception, all the creative physicists had misgivings about the use of the bomb” and further that “Truman did not understand at all what was involved regarding nuclear weapons”. These days, the movie Oppenheimer has been the rage based on a noteworthy biography of Robert Oppenheimer entitled American Prometheus written by historians Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Though the movie spares its viewers the horrors of the atomic bombing of Japan, it does reflect the warnings of the early nuclear weapon scientists about the long-term or permanent dangers of a nuclear arms race and associated risks of further nuclear weapons use. On the other hand, the film overlooks other historical works including A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and its Legacies also by Martin Sherwin, that disputes and negates the US government’s narrative about the necessity of using nuclear weapons twice over civilian targets in Japan and suggests that the decisions were driven mainly by geostrategic and prestige considerations – criteria still in operation today to justify continuing retention of nuclear weapons.”

Read on: Tariq Rauf: Ending Perpetual Menace of NW 

Today’s Wars No Excuse to Abandon Disarmament

Download statement in pdf


Published in The Hill Times, November 1, 2023

For the first time, the four leading organizations in Canada devoted to nuclear disarmament issues — Canadian Pugwash GroupCanadian Network to Abolish Nuclear WeaponsCanadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and Project Ploughshares — co-sponsored a single event on Oct. 19, 2023. This extraordinary Roundtable, “Revitalizing Nuclear Disarmament Afer the Ukraine War,” was convened at a moment of extreme danger to the world. This is the Roundtable’s abridged report to the Government of Canada.

Full Report, Canada’s Role in Nuclear Disarmament in a Multi-Polar World: After Ukraine Special Roundtable

Ernie Regehr: Getting ready for the inevitable negotiations on Ukraine

Ernie Regehr is author of Disarming Conflict: Why peace cannot be won on the battlefield (Between the Lines) and co-founder of Project Ploughshares.

He recently moderated an international panel sponsored by the Canadian Pugwash Group, which included Russian and Ukrainian speakers/participants.

This peace table panel followed on from a November 2022 roundtable organized by CNANW.

To read the full article, Getting Ready for the Inevitable Negotiations on Ukraine: