US first strike advantage heightens risk of nuclear war

Toronto Star article by John Polanyi, 20 March 2017

At the dawn of the nuclear age, its principal architect, Robert Oppenheimer, spoke of a stable standoff between nuclear powers. They would be held back from attacking one another by mutual fear, instead circling endlessly “like a pair of scorpions trapped in a bottle.”

Subsequently, political scientist Albert Wohlstetter pointed out that this stability would be lost if a situation arose in which advantage accrued to the first to attack. Then deterrence would at best be “a delicate balance of terror.”

Unknown to most, the balance is today at its most delicate. President Trump has inherited from previous administrations a balance of power tilted so far in favour of the U.S. that it might be advised at some awful moment of crisis to resort to a “first strike.”

Maintaining peace between the superpowers under these conditions will demand the highest level of skill and restraint from the two leaders. The auguries for this are not promising, since the delicacy of the balance has been hidden from public view.

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2017: The year in which nuclear weapons could be banned?

Published 20 March 2017 at

Tariq Rauf

At the end of 2016, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted by a large majority (Resolution 71/258 of 23 December 2016) to convene in 2017 a UN conference to negotiate a ‘legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. The result of the vote was 113 in favour, 35 against and 13 abstentions. Four of the five nuclear weapon states—France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—voted against, along with the majority of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) states plus Australia, Israel, Japan and South Korea, all of which rely on US nuclear guarantees. Interestingly, North Korea voted in favour. Those abstaining included China (the only nuclear weapon state that did not vote against), India, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Switzerland.

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Canada Must Join New Negotiations to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

[ pdf download ] [ version française ]

Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (CNWC) calls on the Government of Canada to participate actively in the new nuclear disarmament negotiations at the United Nations starting March 27. These negotiations, supported by a majority of states of the world and open to all countries, aim to produce a treaty prohibiting all nuclear weapons.

The urgency of this action was highlighted January 26, 2017, when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight – closer than the clock has been since 1953 when the Cold War heated up following U.S. and Russian detonations of thermonuclear bombs.

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The Arctic and the Seaborne Nuclear Arms Race

By: Ernie Regehr | January 28, 2017 | Originally published on

Headlines tell of a burgeoning Russian/American naval nuclear arms race and already tens of billions of dollars are being promised and spent in both countries on “modernizing” seaborne strategic nuclear weapons systems. While tactical nuclear weapons have been kept off their attack and general purpose submarines for at least a generation, there are indications they may be finding their way back. In the meantime, there is not yet any international regime or treaty or political will in place or contemplated for the exercise of seaborne nuclear restraint.

Read the full paper on the Simons Foundation website (pdf, 8 pages)

Good News Service #48: January 2017

10 Good News Stories published by Murray Thomson, O.C. [Good News Service #48]

  1. UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017
  2.  AVAAZ : Attracts attention for more than 100 actions  on climate change, protecting wild-life, supporting refugees and saving the oceans.
  3. UN Manual seeks to protect Indigenous People from unwanted interventions on their lands and territories
  4. IFAD supports dairy farmers in Rwanda, and rural employment in conflict areas in Peru
  5. UN seeks to strengthen international humanitarian law
  6. Fix it! (…which begins with a confession from co-editor Randy)
  7. A swords into ploughshares story
  8. First Nations on the front lines
  9. Engaging the corporate world
  10. What about in Canada?

Trump’s Nuclear Weapon Policy: A loose cannon in the White House?

Following President-elect Donald Trump’s comments on U.S. nuclear capabilities over the holidays, 2017 begins with worrisome questions about his intentions.

By: Paul Meyer | January 3, 2017 | Originally published on

Recent utterances by President-elect Donald Trump on U.S. nuclear weapon policy have sent shock waves over the past two weeks through the international security community. Calling for the U.S. to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” his comments have prompted new concerns based on both his personality and his eventual policies.

How would this man respond to an international crisis or provocation? Would he seek paths of escalation or de-escalation? Would he rely on professional counsel or make his own decisions based on his mood that day or his selective, idiosyncratic processing of information?

These concerns are not entirely new. “Would you trust this man with the nuclear codes?” Hillary Clinton asked during the election campaign last year. The question resonated as Trump’s temperament, his impulsiveness and quickness to anger seemed ill-matched to the cool sobriety one would want to have in a Commander-in-Chief.

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