Civil society and the imperative of nuclear disarmament

Last week saw two important civil society events on nuclear disarmament. The first, on Thursday, 19 April, was a public forum presented by the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (CNANW). The second was the 2018 Global Affairs Canada – Civil Society Dialogue on Non-proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament.

Former Senator Doug Roche opened the CNANW civil society roundtable with a speech entitled “The Vision of a Nuclear Weapons-Free World: Five Starting Points”.

“With a federal election looming next year, the time is ripe for a great new effort by civil society activists to demand that all the political parties commit themselves to signing the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” Roche said.

He urged the peace community to press the Canadian government to respond to the growing concern of Canadians about looming nuclear catastrophe:

At this perilous moment in world history, we must step up our work and recover the vision to lead to a culture of peace.

For the full text of his speech, click here.

From this visionary, impassioned speech, we turn to Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason’s somber comments during the government–civil society consultation, on the Trump Nuclear Posture Review.

The only possible role for nuclear weapons is to deter their use by anyone until we can get rid of them altogether. That is my fervent belief. Nonetheless, if we are to understand the dangers we now face, it is necessary to analyze the insanity that is the new Trump nuclear doctrine. – Peggy Mason

Click here for the full text of her remarks, and the links to many experts on which she drew.

Mason first examines the vast nuclear weapons modernization program begun under President Obama — the price exacted by the U.S. Senate for its ratification of the New START arms control agreement with Russia. She concludes:

While New START… sets strict limits on the number of warheads and launch vehicles, nothing in it forbids upgrading or replacing old weaponry and delivery vehicles. The result is an exponential increase in the killing power of the warheads and delivery vehicles that are far more accurate, have much longer ranges as well as many other dangerous new features.

These new features include new “tactical” nuclear weapons with “lower” yield and greater precision, thereby creating the “illusion of usability” in war fighting.

Against this [modernization] backdrop, the 2018 Trump NPR uses the deterioration in the security environment since 2010 to justify boosting modernization efforts even more, expanding the role of nuclear weapons and sidelining arms control. …[Thus] it includes a wider range of circumstances in which the USA would consider the first use of nuclear weapons including in response to a cyber attack.

Russian President Putin has criticized the Trump NPR for “lowering the threshold of nuclear weapons use,” vowing that he will not hesitate to respond accordingly but, at the same time, urging the USA to re-engage in arms control efforts.

At the end of her remarks, Mason highlights the discrepancy between current NATO nuclear doctrine seeking to downplay the role of tactical nuclear weapons and the new American doctrinal proposals going in the opposite direction. She warns:

It will be imperative, therefore, for Canada and other NATO members who do not possess nuclear weapons to “hold the line” at the upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018.

This is surely the least that we can expect from our government. After all, at the Liberal Party Convention in Halifax this past weekend, a resolution was passed calling for Canada to sign the landmark Nuclear Ban Treaty.

Click here for the full text of Mason’s comments, with its links to expert analysis of this alarming doctrine.


Photo credit: NATO image (Meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers).


Tags: 2018 American Nuclear Posture Review, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW), Global Affairs Canada, low yield nuclear weapons, NATO, NATO Strategic Concept, NATO tactical nuclear weapons, Nuclear Deterrence, Nuclear disarmament, Peggy Mason, Senator Doug Roche, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons