FM Freeland’s disarmament no-show and latest on Iran–USA confrontation

On 11 June Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström hosted a high-level meeting in Stockholm to heighten political attention to nuclear risks and inject new life into the nuclear disarmament commitments made by States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The situation in the world is critical, and the risk of nuclear arms use is greater than it has been for many years. We are taking this initiative because we must make vigorous efforts for disarmament. – FM Wallström

While all 16 participants represent non-nuclear countries who are party to the NPT, 7 of them (Canada, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea and Spain) are also in an alliance relationship with a nuclear-armed state or states. In the view of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), this composition has the potential for:

making this a very credible and potentially effective group which could bridge the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear States and build agreement at the 2020 NPT Review conference on a practical and substantive forward path to nuclear disarmament.

The participants released a joint declaration in which they highlighted their shared goal of ‘a world free of nuclear weapons’, gave support to the ‘United Nations Secretary General’s call to bring disarmament and non-proliferation back to the top of the international political agenda,’ and highlighted concrete disarmament measures that could be advanced with the nuclear-armed States.

These disarmament measures are elaborated in more detail in a working paper entitled Unlocking disarmament diplomacy through a “stepping stone” approach, which the Swedish government submitted to the NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in New York in May 2019.

The Stepping Stone paper calls on nuclear-armed and allied States at the 2020 NPT Review conference to agree to a number of measures including to:

  1. Strengthen the norm against nuclear weapons use through an unequivocal expression against the notion of any nuclear use, for example through affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”;
  2. Prevent the outbreak of nuclear war by adopting sole-purpose and/or no-first use policies;
  3. Ratify all outstanding protocols to the regional nuclear-weapon-free-zones (NWFZs), and by doing so affirm that they would not threaten or use nuclear weapons against the states parties to NWFZs;
  4. Create a clear distinction between conventional and nuclear delivery systems, so as to avoid nuclear war by misunderstanding or mission creep;
  5. Increase the decision-making time for launching nuclear weapons to avoid launches by mistake, and consider de-alerting all weapons and rescinding ‘launch on warning’ policies.

Canadian Foreign Minister a no-show

 While most countries were represented by their respective Foreign Ministers, astonishingly Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, did not attend. Instead, she dispatched Parliamentary Secretary for Consular Affairs Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.

The importance of the Swedish effort was underscored recently by Paul Meyer, a distinguished former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament:

Via this initiative, the Swedish Foreign Minister has demonstrated her concern that next year’s crucial Review Conference of the NPT could be a debacle unless concerted action is taken by non-nuclear weapon states to ensure real progress on nuclear disarmament.

He then went on to say:

Reciprocity is a key principle in diplomacy and Margot Wallström would have expected that her Canadian counterpart would have made the effort to participate in her major [disarmament] initiative in the same way she has shown up for Minister Freeland’s showcase gathering of female Foreign Ministers.

For further background see: Report: Stepping Stones to Disarmament – Making Progress in a Polarised International Climate (Paul Ingram,, 30 April 2019).

We call on Minister Freeland to change course and throw her full diplomatic weight behind this most welcome and urgently needed Swedish initiative.

Update on Iran-USA Confrontation

With the U.S. blaming Iran and Iran denying responsibility for attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, there are growing fears of an imminent confrontation between the two countries.

It’s very likely that the United States is going to make some strike on Iran, and that strike is going to open further the gates of hell for the region.  – Vijay Prashad, Democracy Now!

Germany and Japan have both said there is not yet enough evidence to apportion blame. The European Union and China have called for restraint on all sides. Russia has condemned America’s “Iranophobic” stance and joined the UN Secretary-General’s call for an “independent entity” to establish the facts surrounding the attacks.

RI President Peggy Mason asks:

Have we learned nothing from the illegal American invasion of Iraq in 2003? It was not just the reliance on faulty intelligence of alleged Iraqi culpability. Much more important was the utter failure to appreciate the havoc that such a war would — and did — wreak on the region and beyond.

When will Prime Minister Trudeau add his voice to the growing chorus of international leaders calling for restraint and de-escalation by both sides?


Photo credit: Government of Sweden (Participants of the Stockholm Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and the Non-Proliferation Treaty on 11 June 2019)


Tags: "stepping stone" approach, 2020 NPT Review Conference, BASIC, de-escalation, FM Chrystia Freeland, Germany, Iran, Japan, non-nuclear weapons state, NPT, nuclear allied state, Nuclear Deterrence, Nuclear disarmament, Nuclear Non Proliferation, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, Parliamentary Secretary Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Strait of Hormuz, Swedish FM Margot Wallström, UN Secretary-General, USA