Canada and mediation, China and avoiding war, hypocrisy as policy and more


We start with a bit of good news about Canadian mediation efforts in Cameroon.

The prestigious International Crisis Group issued a statement on 9 February entitled Canada Initiative Offers Opportunity for Cameroon Peace Process.

They summarize Canadian efforts as follows:

Pre-talks between Cameroon’s government and Anglophone separatists, facilitated by Canada, have opened the door to a long-overdue peace process, but Yaoundé has baulked.

The government should embrace these talks, while domestic and external actors should put their full weight behind the initiative.

The statement provides a concise history of the conflict and Canadian mediation efforts as well as further steps the conflicting parties, Canada, and other relevant players, including the UN, can take to build on the Canadian-facilitated initiative.

They conclude:

The Canada-facilitated process represents a crucial chance to begin this long-overdue work. All those with an interest in the peaceful resolution of Cameroon’s festering Anglophone conflict should do what they can to ensure this opportunity is not squandered.

Whither Canada?

We commend Foreign Minister Joly and Global Affairs Canada for their important mediation role in Cameroon and urge them to take full account of the Crisis Group recommendations in considering their next steps.


Avoiding war — a policy of constructive coexistence

Anyone paying any attention to the news over the last week would have heard or read about the wayward Chinese balloon wafting over North American airspace and ultimately being shot down by the US.

Despite the “rhetorical tempest” that surrounded the Chinese balloon incident and predictions that it had sunk hopes for de-escalating US–China tensions, President Biden’s State of the Union speech offered glimpses of a less hostile and confrontational approach.

Jake Werner and William D. Hartung, in an article entitled War with China is Preventable, not Inevitable (the, 9 February 2023), write:

Biden did speak of “modernizing our military” to deter China, but he also said that he seeks “competition, not conflict” and that the US was “committed to work with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world.”

But the President needs to convert such sentiments into concrete action. In the authors’ view:

He should follow up his words by quickly rescheduling Secretary of State Blinken’s trip to China, as a first step toward crafting a policy of constructive coexistence.

A fundamental priority should be to make “the overriding goal of US policy” to prevent a war between the US and China from ever happening.

To this end, according to Werner and Hartung, the US needs a policy that

balances reasonable measures of deterrence with concerted efforts at reassurance, ultimately aiming to return the US-China relationship to a sound foundation.

They urge the United States to take a “smarter approach to deterrence,” including:

  • clarifying and reviving its commitment to the “One China” policy that has kept the peace among China, Taiwan, and the US for five decades; and
  • adopting a defensive military strategy rather than a dramatic expansion of the US military presence near Chinese shores.

But such steps in turn

must be matched with a strategy to rebuild confidence on both sides that the United States and China can survive and prosper together.

To replace “the zero-sum thinking that predominates on both sides” and rebuild trust requires the US

to devote at least as much effort to working with China on issues of mutual concern as is currently being devoted to confrontation.

And here is surely the most important point of all:

These issues—including climate change, nuclear proliferation, and stabilizing the global economy—would not only reduce the risk of a disastrous war; they would also help resolve some of the most threatening problems facing the world today, increasing the security of both the American and Chinese peoples.

What about human rights?

The authors’ response to the question of Chinese human rights abuses is one that every Canadian Parliamentarian should take to heart:

None of the above should preclude the United States from speaking out against negative Chinese behavior…. But war or threats of war do not improve human rights—they strengthen nationalists and militarists, on all sides, who are the greatest enemies of human rights.

International law and high-altitude balloons

For a straightforward rundown of the applicable international law when it comes to “stray” balloons, see the analysis by Kuan-Wei Chen, a researcher in Air and Space Law at Montreal’s McGill University, entitled China violated international laws and standards with its surveillance balloon  (, 9 February 2023).

Kuan-Wei Chen writes:

The 1944 Chicago Convention [of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)] provides that “every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.” Any aircraft, regardless of whether it is a commercial airliner, balloon or airship, cannot fly over the territory of another country without permission.

Despite the clarity of the law in this matter, the article also notes the use by many countries of these balloons for spying purposes:

Due to their agility and ability to stay stationary above targets for long periods of time, many countries, including the U.S., Australia and Germany are again using balloons to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The article also includes a recommendation for ICAO:

To safeguard the safety and security of international civil aviation, the ICAO should further clarify the rights and obligations of nations on the use of civilian balloons and/or airships, and provide guidelines on how to respond when they enter into foreign sovereign airspace.


United States and the Nord Stream pipelines sabotage

American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh had another scoop this week: How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline (, 8 February 2023).

In the words of a 9 February Reuters story about the scoop:

Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. reporter Seymour Hersh said this week that U.S. Navy divers, in a CIA operation ordered by President Joe Biden, planted explosives that destroyed three Russian gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last September.

Reuters was unable to corroborate Hersh’s self-published article, which said Biden authorized the operation to blunt Moscow’s ability to use gas sales to Europe to fund its invasion of Ukraine.

Reuters also stated:

The White House dismissed Hersh’s report, which relied on a single source to support its claim about the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines, as “utterly false and complete fiction.”

In a separate article, Reuters reports on the official Russian reaction, quoting Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who stated:

The world must find out the truth about who carried out this act of sabotage…. This is a very dangerous precedent: if someone did it once, they can do it again anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, Reuters also reports that, while Russia has repeatedly said the West was behind the blasts, Peskov “struck a note of caution about treating a blog as a primary source” and called for

an open international investigation of this unprecedented attack on international critical infrastructure. comments:

While many observers may be inclined to celebrate the immense economic loss that the sabotage of the pipelines has meant for Russia, Peskov is right to warn about the terrible precedent that has been set.

What of the official Western narrative that Russia was the saboteur?

Despite a lack of evidence or even a credible motivation for such a consequential action, Western commentary, including legal analysis, has generally proceeded from the viewpoint that Russia was responsible for sabotaging its own pipelines. See, for example, Nord Stream Explosions as a Breach of the Peace (, 31 October 2022).

We took issue with this absurd groupthink in our 7 October 2022 blog post, concluding this was a particularly jarring example of blinkered Western reporting about the Ukraine conflict.

Canadian economic sanctions against Russia hurting the innocent

Past blog posts have also drawn attention to considerable overreach in Canada’s imposition of economic sanctions and other measures against Russian entities affiliated with the Putin regime and the potential for putting innocent folks at risk.

Now that problem has taken on a highly visible form, with the CBC reporting recently that

Canada’s economic measures against Russia — which are meant to target the assets of wealthy oligarchs and government officials — are hitting the personal finances of people with no ties to the Putin regime.

For the full article, including steps that Canada can take to remedy this injustice, see Canada’s Russian sanctions are hitting people with no connection to Putin’s war (Janyce McGregor,, 6 February 2023).

Whither Canada?

We call on the Government of Canada to immediately heed expert advice on how to overhaul its sanctions against Russia to make them fairer and more effective.

Weapons exports to Ukraine: assessing the risks

We are indebted to Project Ploughshares and their timely article entitled Five urgent questions about arms transfers to Ukraine (, 9 February 2023).

In their introduction, authors Cesar Jaramillo and Kelsey Gallagher write:

The increasing pace and value of military transfers to Ukraine raise questions about the effective application of domestic and international export controls—and about the broader impact of those weapons on the direction of the conflict.

Their questions include:

  • How rigorously are Ukrainian applications for military aid being assessed, particularly by states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty?
  • What about the risk of diversion to non-state armed groups and criminal organizations?
  • Is there post-delivery monitoring?
  • What precedents are being set for military aid to other conflicts?
  • What is the impact of this level of military aid on prospects for a negotiated settlement to the conflict? comments:

The long-term security of Ukraine, Europe, and beyond will be severely undermined by vast quantities of sophisticated western military hardware in the hands of malign actors.

Whither Canada?

We commend Project Ploughshares for raising these important questions and call upon Canadian Members of Parliament to follow up on them and the Government of Canada to demonstrate forthwith the steps it is taking to address these multiple risks.

For a recent analysis of relevant polling in Western countries, see Polls Show Western Public Favors General Support for Ukraine, But Is Increasingly Skeptical About Supplying Arms (, 9 February 2023).

For an important webinar discussion of Ukrainian Public Opinion and the War, hosted by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, click HERE for more information and registration details.

The UN Secretary-General and Ukraine

We end this Ukraine update with some words from UN Secretary-General António Guterres during his 6 February 2023 address to the UN General Assembly:

I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war [in Ukraine].  It is doing so with its eyes wide open. The world needs peace.  Peace in line with the United Nations Charter and international law.

We must work harder for peace everywhere.


For readers interested in the origins of Canada’s deeply troubling arms export policy, see a well-researched and eminently readable dissertation by Paul Timothy Esau, entitled A Departmental Dilemma: The Genesis of Canadian Military Export Policy, 1945-1960 (Wilfrid Laurier University, 2023).

To quote from his abstract:

The military export policies adopted during these years were flexible, pragmatic, and reactive; they incentivized risk-aversion and commercial competitiveness, but not internal consistency.

Policymakers emphasized a rotating series of idealistic restrictions in official reviews and public statements, yet the defining internal principle was discretionary flexibility.

Esau’s damning conclusion deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

Policymakers often found themselves trapped between the idealistic multilateralism which ostensibly guided Canadian foreign policy, and the pragmatic considerations incentivizing Canadian arms sales. Obscuring this contradiction required the government to resort to a sort of categorical ambiguity in which the key binaries such as military/civilian, offensive/defensive, enemy/ally, and peace/conflict were redefined as convenient.

The resulting policy/praxis gap can be construed as hypocrisy and remains a foundational component of Canadian military export policy today.

In short, Paul Esau demonstrates that hypocrisy is not merely a some-time by-product of Canadian arms export policy but its very modus operandi.

Epilogue: Selling to the Saudis

As readers of our posts will recall, nowhere has the gap between principle and practice been greater than in relation to Canada’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Esau brings this message home in his final chapter, entitled “Epilogue: Selling to the Saudis”.

He begins this chapter:

The first deal to export Canadian-made LAVs to Saudi Arabia was approved by the Canadian government in 1991, more than thirty years after the events covered in the preceding chapters [of the dissertation].

He concludes it:

Obviously, the government took its military export restrictions no more seriously in 1991 than it had during the immediate post-war period. They remained aspirational- useful before public and international audiences, but quickly subordinated to pragmatic calculations behind closed doors.

For the complete analysis, click HERE.


In our 20 January 2023 blog post we included an initiative by Paul Meyer and the Canadian-based Outer Space Institute to encourage a UN expert group working on reducing space threats to consider, in addition to kinetic threats to anti-satellite weapons, the dangers posed by non-kinetic ASATs.

This week we discuss a commentary by Paul Meyer on the outcome of the third meeting of that UN Open-Ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours.

As satellite use grows, geopolitical conflicts could spill into outer space

Published in the Globe and Mail on 8 February 2023 — and also available in PDF format HERE with the kind permission of the author — it begins with a discussion of the gap between our dependence on satellites in orbit and the services they provide and our ability to safeguard them from the consequences of terrestrial geopolitical tensions.

Meyer observes:

The state of global governance for outer space has lagged behind this burst of activity, especially regarding the security of this vital if vulnerable operating environment.

In addition to the serious problem of long-lived space debris, Meyer highlights other dangers, including the development of a variety of so-called “counterspace capabilities,” which include kinetic ASAT missiles and systems that use cyber attacks and lasers.

He continues:

The hostile rhetoric of leading space powers is even more disturbing — they have been accusing each other of “weaponizing” outer space.

Against this tense backdrop, many constructive proposals put forward by delegations were stymied by the “sharp criticisms traded between Russia, China and the United States”, as well as obstructionist tactics from Russia and unhelpful Chinese arguments.

Ukraine conflict and commercial satellites

The Ukraine conflict has also complicated these discussions, with Russia alleging that a long list of commercial space companies — including Canada’s MDA — were aiding the Ukrainian armed forces and risked being considered military targets.

On this issue, see an article published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies entitled Russia Threatens to Target Commercial Satellites (10 November 2022), which states:

With the increasing contribution of commercial space to battlefield outcomes, it is unsurprising that Moscow would seek to interfere with or deny use of this capability….

From tracking Russian military movements to connecting Ukrainian troops across the battlefield… some observers have portrayed this as the first ‘commercial space war.’

On this alarming issue, see also War in Ukraine highlights importance of private satellite companies (, 16 August 2022).

Political norms versus a legally-binding treaty

As for China, they are sticking to their long-held position that, instead of focusing on norms and principles that will only lead to “one-sided and discriminatory outcomes,” in their view,

The only solution to space security threats is to negotiate and conclude a legally binding instrument on outer space arms control as soon as possible.

Meyer notes that, while a number of states would prefer legally binding measures, a majority believe “the most practical way forward” is to reach agreement on non-binding political measures.

Many solid proposals put forward despite the tensions

Meyer draws particular attention to the number of proposals put forward that were aimed at promoting cooperation and the reduction of mistrust, including:

  • A prohibition on direct-ascent missile ASAT testing,
  • Non-interference with other states’ satellites by non-kinetic means,
  • Avoidance of “close approaches” to the satellites of others without prior notification and consent, and
  • Enhanced transparency in all space operations, given the “dual use” — civilian and military — of many space systems.

For their part, the International Committee of the Red Cross has called for a ban on any operations that would

disrupt, damage, destroy or disable space systems necessary for the provision of essential civilian services.

Noting that agreement on any of the measures listed above would represent “solid progress,” Meyer concludes:

However, any outcome requires consensus approval, and with the continued sharp disagreements among the leading space powers, this appears unlikely, regardless of the benefits that co-operation would bring to all countries.

We end this discussion with another proposal by the International Committee of the Red Cross, one that is particularly timely in light of the catastrophic earthquake and aftershocks in Turkiye and Syria:

Recommendation 5: States should cooperate to increase the resilience of satellite services for humanitarian relief and emergency response in times of armed conflict and other emergencies.

For more on this initiative, see Tackling the new frontiers of humanitarian action ( and the section entitled “Leveraging New Technologies,” which begins:

New technologies such as virtual reality, AI and satellite imagery have a vast and largely untapped potential for humanitarian action.

Photo credit: Campaign Against the Arms Trade (Sanaa, Yemen) is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace. We depend on your donations as we accept no funding from government or industry to protect our independence. Thank you for your support….  

Tags: Arms exports, Canada, China, Nordstream, Ukraine