Can UN chief help bring peace to Ukraine? Building Arctic security and more


A remarkable letter signed by more than 200 former senior UN officials urges the UN Secretary-General to personally take the lead in trying to mediate a peace in Ukraine:

What we and the broader public want to see … is a political UN presence and public engagement, in addition to the UN’s notable humanitarian response to the Ukraine crisis.

The letter continues:

We want to see a clear strategy to re-establish peace, starting with a provisional ceasefire, and the use of the UN’s capacity for good offices, mediation and conflict-resolution.

Urging António Guterres to “intensify” his personal efforts for the cessation of hostilities and conflict resolution through peaceful means, they highlight the broader implications for the UN:

This is the raison d’être of the United Nations, which is being tested again in this case.

Arguing that “all the achievements in international law and global governance of the past several decades” are at risk of being “diminished or lost”, they conclude:

We and the world need your clarion call, strategic vision and catalytic actions, as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

For the full letter and list of signatories, click here. For more about the letter, see António Guterres urged to take lead in securing peace in Ukraine or risk future of UN (Patrick Wintour,, 19 April 2022).

For more on the overall UN response, see Handling Zelenksy: The UN’s Dilemma (Stephen Schlesinger,, 18 April 2022).

Sec-Gen requests meetings with Russian and Ukrainian Presidents

Whether in response to the Open Letter, or already in the works, on 20 April 2022 the Spokesman for the Secretary-General issued a Note to correspondents on Ukraine outlining written requests from Guterres for meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents in their respective capitals:

The Secretary-General said, at this time of great peril and consequence, he would like to discuss urgent steps to bring about peace in Ukraine and the future of multilateralism based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

He noted that both Ukraine and the Russian Federation are founding members of the United Nations and have always been strong supporters of this Organization.

Whither Canada?

Is there any point at all in calling upon the Government of Canada to support greater diplomatic peacemaking efforts by the UN Secretary-General?

Consider this question from the drop head of a recent CBC article:

Is the goal to ensure the survival of a Ukrainian state? Or is it to defeat Russia?

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

A deafening silence from the USA and most other NATO members (France and Germany excluded) when it comes to peace efforts would seem to provide us with the appalling answer.

For more on the geopolitical war against Russia being waged at Ukraine’s expense, see Proxy War in Ukraine (Aaron Mate, the, 24 March 2022), available in both podcast and transcript form.

Let your Member of Parliament know helping Ukraine defend itself against the Russian onslaught is no substitute for also doing everything we can in support of a peace deal to end this brutal war.


For the legal case against the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute President Putin for the crime of aggression, see Creating a Special Tribunal for Aggression Against Ukraine Is A Bad Idea (Kevin Jon Heller,, 7 March 2022).

In addition to a range of technical roadblocks relating to jurisdiction and immunity, Professor Heller highlights a more fundamental judicial concern, writing:

I want to see Russian political and military leaders prosecuted for that crime, and I don’t believe the failure to prosecute George Bush and Tony Blair is a justification for not prosecuting Putin.

But how Russian officials are prosecuted, and by whom, matters.

A Special Tribunal created and run by the same states that invaded Iraq would not be legitimate. The hands of those states — particularly the UK and US, but also other states involved in the invasion itself such as Australia and Spain — are simply too unclean.

For the full article, click here.


The drop head in a compelling article by Gabriella Gricius on how the war in Ukraine has altered the Arctic’s regional dynamics reads:

Western countries are stuck between the need to condemn Russia while at the same time needing Moscow’s cooperation.

Gricius begins with the work pause announced by seven members of the Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the US — in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, writing:

While this pause may be understandable given the Arctic 7’s need to react to the war in Ukraine and Russia’s current chairmanship of the Council, it presents real concerns for the future of Arctic collaboration and security.

Crucial ongoing tasks requiring cooperation include monitoring increasing microplastics and litter in the Arctic, reporting on climate change, and coordinating response exercises for emergency situations and increased Arctic shipping.

Gricius argues that the Arctic Council is “critical” to Arctic cooperation, and Russia, which makes up 50 percent of all Arctic landmass, is also an essential participant:

Russia has the strongest military capabilities in the Arctic and is both developing the Northern Sea Route as a commercial shipping passage as well as investing heavily in oil and gas extraction activities. In short, the Arctic Council wouldn’t work without including Russia.

On the military dimension, which is outside the remit of the Arctic Council, Gricius writes:

increasing Arctic tensions require more military-to-military communication and cooperation.

To “avert miscalculation”, she suggests a “remodeling” of the existing Arctic Security Forces Roundtable to reinclude Russia or even the creation of a “temporary crisis-based communication structure”.

Overall, Gricius urges Arctic Council member states to use the work pause to “rethink and reframe Arctic cooperation” through measures such as adequate funding to address climate issues:

Questions of climate security — both considering the impact on Arctic residents as well as the safety of navigating the region — need funding for their solutions.

In the view of

It is welcome indeed to read a pragmatic discussion on measures to improve vital Arctic cooperation, despite the challenges posed by Russian aggression in Ukraine, with a view to strengthening the region’s overall resiliency.

For a fuller articulation of Gabriella Gricius’ views, including the need for the Arctic to avoid “the fate of militarization, a costly arms race and the terrible specter of war”, see Why freezing the Arctic Council is bad news for global security (, 20 April 2022).


Expert calls for transparent, fully costed defence acquisition funding plan

Alan Williams is a former assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defence, and has written extensively on Canada’s military procurement challenges. In a recent Globe and Mail commentary, he rises above the general bleat for yet more money and asks the hard questions.

Arguing that “any level of funding can be an appropriate level” if it supports the government’s “clear articulation of the role and mission it prescribes for Canada’s military”, he welcomes the defence-policy review promised by the federal government in their 2022 budget statement:

such a review promises to articulate any threats Canada faces and outline how it expects the country to address them. It will identify opportunities to explore, and weaknesses to eliminate.

He continues:

Costing such a plan, however, will demand honesty from the DND to ensure there is no gap between Canada’s policy and the resources necessary to attain them. To date, we have seen little evidence of this.

He provides two salient examples of the massive gap between spending estimates – which unduly focus on acquisition costs – and actual lifetime costs:

The cost to acquire, operate and sustain 88 F-35A jets over 30 years will likely be at least double the $19-billion estimate; similarly, the cost to acquire, operate and support 15 Canadian Surface Combatants over 30 years will likely exceed a quarter-trillion dollars.

The implications for Canada’s defence budget are dire:

Without a costed capital plan that displays the long-term costs for current and planned acquisitions, and that ensures funds are available for each, we cannot be sure that Canada can actually afford these two acquisitions.

Williams argues persuasively for a “publicly accessible, fully costed, long-term capital plan” for “these billions of expenditures” that would, in turn, enable Canadians to better understand how their money is being spent as well as facilitating rigorous parliamentary oversight.

For the full commentary, see Can Canada really afford the ships and jets that the military has bought? (Alan Williams,, 18 April 2022).

Whither Canada?

We call upon the government of Canada to include, as a key output of its Defence Policy Review, a fully costed long-term capital plan for defence acquisitions.


Recent elections in South Korea have brought conservative Yoon Suk-yeol to power. He has harshly criticized the engagement strategy with North Korea pursued by his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, advocating instead for “harsh sanctions and even pre-emptive strikes against the nuclear-armed North.”

James Trottier, a former Canadian diplomat who has led delegations to North Korea, told Globe and Mail Asia Correspondent James Griffiths that the situation reminded him of 2008, when incoming conservative leader Lee Myung-bak abandoned the “Sunshine Policy” of previous administrations and took a harder line on North Korea, one that was then maintained by his successor, Park Geun-hye.

Trottier elaborates:

What followed was essentially 10 lost years, during which North Korea reached unprecedented levels of nuclear and missile capability, and we saw rising tensions and confrontation between North Korea on one side and the U.S. and South Korea on the other.

Right now, we are entering another such provocation cycle.

Trottier laments the Biden’s administration’s failure to give any priority to North Korea:

The Biden administration basically rebuffed President Moon’s attempts to encourage engagement between the U.S. and North Korea. Without any further initiatives from South Korea, what we’re likely to see is the continuation of this kind of strategic drift from the U.S., interspersed with knee-jerk reactions to North Korean provocations.

The likely result, in Trottier’s view, will be a further build up by Pyongyang of its missile and nuclear arsenals.

For the full Globe and Mail article (available to subscribers only), see A new cycle of escalation begins on the Korea Peninsula (James Griffiths,, 9 April 2022).

For more on this issue from James Trottier, click on the arrow below where he is interviewed by CBC News Network host John Northcott.

For more alarming implications of President-elect Yoon’s hardline approach, see What to Expect from Yoon Suk-yeol’s  Policy on North Korea (Mitch Shin, The Diplomat, 13 April 2022).

Shin writes:

[The Yoon] administration will likely seek room to deploy [U.S.] tactical [nuclear] weapons … [given] the … interest in taking steps for extended deterrence against the North’s missile threats

See also: South Korea’s president-elect wants U.S. nuclear bombers, submarines to return (Hyonhee Shin, 6 April 2022.


22 April is International Mother Earth Day. In the Secretary-General’s message, he identifies a “triple planetary crisis” that Earth is facing:

Climate disruption, Nature and biodiversity loss, Pollution and waste.

While important progress has been made on all these fronts, the latest dismal UN climate report highlights the urgent need for much more far-reaching actions. In the words of Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in environmental policy:

Earth Day is this useful reminder that we’re not on track. We need to be doing so much better.

The UN Secretary-General has a similar message:

We have proven that together, we can tackle monumental challenges. And the right to a healthy environment is gaining traction. But we need to do much more. And much faster. Especially to avert climate catastrophe.

For more on the UN sustainable development goals and their role in managing forests, combatting desertification and halting biodiversity loss, click here.


Webinar, May 3 – What Ukraine tells us about nuclear deterrence and common security

May 3 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Click HERE to register online and full event information

Event Summary: 

In the shadow of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, moderator Peggy Mason will explore with panelists Robin Collins and Cesar Jaramillo what the crisis may mean for nuclear disarmament goals, European security, NATO’s reliance on nuclear deterrence, and challenges to the UN and UN Charter framework itself.

 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace.

Tags: Alan Williams, Arctic Council, Canadian Defence Budget 2022, crime of aggression, Earth Day 2022, fully costed long term capital acquisition plan, Gabriella Gricius, James Trottier, Korean n peninsula, provocation cycle, Ukraine war, UN Secretary-General António Guterres