Welcoming the TPNW and supporting a progressive American foreign policy

New global treaty enters into force today!

Ever since the 50th ratification was obtained on UN Day (24 October), we have been counting down the days  until 22nd January — when the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), popularly called the Ban Treaty, enters into force.

There is so much great commentary on the impact of this treaty that it is hard to know where to begin. So we decided to build on this week’s closed Senate briefing, by sharing the texts of the virtual presentations from the four civil society experts who engaged with the senators on the significance of the new treaty both globally and for Canada in particular.

Former Disarmament Ambassador and former senator Doug Roche led off:

World opinion is split between those who believe nuclear deterrence is necessary to preserve peace and those who hold that nuclear weapons, with their immense destructive power, are the major threat to peace. The majority of countries have shown that they want to build a global security architecture without nuclear weapons. Canada should join this new march towards a nuclear weapons-free world.

For the full text of his statement, click here.

See also the commentary by Doug Roche which appears in today’s Globe and Mail entitled: Canada should join the push to create a nuclear weapons-free world, which can also be accessed without subscription by clicking here.

RI President Peggy Mason, Canada’s Disarmament Ambassador to the UN following Doug Roche’s term in office, outlined key provisions of the Treaty. She then considered their impact on NATO’s controversial practice of allowing the stationing of American nuclear weapons on the territory of five so-called “basing states” — Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey — despite their status as non-nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT):

The wording of Articles I and II of the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) clearly prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapons states who are party to the treaty. But NATO has maintained since the entry-into-force of the NPT that its arrangements pre-dated the NPT and were implicitly permitted under its terms.

She went on to say:

Thus, the new treaty, in disallowing these actions categorically, can be seen as a fulfillment of Articles I and II of the NPT as well, as a step towards fulfillment of Article VI of the NPT, since it sets out a clear method by which nuclear weapons states can achieve nuclear disarmament.

For the full text of the Mason presentation click here.

The third former Disarmament Ambassador to address the senators, Paul Meyer, now a professor and head of the Canadian Pugwash Group, entitled his remarks: “How should Canadian diplomacy approach the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?”

Referencing the position of Canadian Pugwash Group (and other civil society organisations, including the Rideau Institute and Project Ploughshares), Meyer told the senators:

We recommend that Canada should express its support for the treaty and its core goal of nuclear disarmament while working nationally to enable Canada to accede to the treaty as soon as possible. Canada should persist in efforts to persuade NATO to bring its nuclear policies into conformity with the treaty.

He concludes:

It is time for Canadian diplomacy to embrace the TPNW as [a] positive contribution to the nuclear disarmament endeavour and a truer reflection of its values and interests than the dangerous doctrine of nuclear deterrence.

For the full text of Paul Meyer’s presentation, click here.

Last but most certainly not least, senators heard from Ray Acheson, the dynamic Director of the indispensable publication Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the oldest women’s peace organisation in the world.

After providing a timely reminder of the initial objections of many NATO members, including Canada, to the Alliance becoming nuclearised, Acheson told the senators:

Overall, the core problem with NATO’s position on the TPNW is that it rejects the only treaty categorically outlawing the most destructive weapon on the planet, which positions NATO as a supporter of nuclear weapon possession and possible use, not of nuclear disarmament.

She continued:

This is at odds with Canada’s stated pursuit of peace, equality, and human security. In the Canadian government’s stated intentions and understandings, international relations should be based on diplomacy, cooperation, and coordination, not on threats of mass destruction and zero-sum game theory.

The full text of Ray Acheson’s presentation can be accessed by clicking here.

Canadian MPs speak out in support of the new Ban Treaty

As the Toronto Star reported on 21 January 2021, members from across party lines (minus the Conservatives) joined forces in support of Canada acceding to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The virtual press conference was ably chaired by NDP MP Heather McPherson and also featured former MP (and senator and ambassador) Doug Roche and current senator Marilou McPhedran.

Notwithstanding the disinclination of the Government of Canada to do more than join with NATO in attacking the new treaty,  Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine- Smith was forthright in his support for a new approach by Canada:

The world is unquestionably safer without nuclear weapons and Canada should sign on to the treaty….

We know we aren’t going to see the end of the possession of nuclear weapons in the short term, but it is incredibly important that the world stigmatizes and delegitimizes the use of these weapons and the possession of these weapons going forward.

Green Party MP (and former leader) Elizabeth May laid out this role for Canada:

We are a country that represents a bridge between divides; a country that can play an important role between those countries that do have nuclear weapons and the rest of the world that lives in fear of them….

Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe urged Canada to “start a conversation” with the new Biden administration on making progress toward nuclear disarmament.

Senator Marilou McPhedran (part of the Independent Senators Group ISG) stated in part:

We have an opportunity as a country and our Prime Minister has an opportunity to pick up where his father left off …. leading internationally, personally and making it clear that … the [new treaty] … is what we need, it fills a legal gap and now it’s time for Canada to fill the leadership gap it has abandoned that made a very significant difference in previous times.

The full press conference can be accessed by clicking on the arrow below:

Canada has a huge role to play in supporting the most progressive version of the Biden agenda

Reducing nuclear risks, addressing the coronavirus crisis and climate catastrophe, promoting sustainable economic renewal — the agenda before President Biden is a daunting one and, in every area outlined, there are more — or less — progressive approaches that can be adopted.

Nowhere is the opposition greater to new approaches than in the area of foreign policy, where there is an astonishingly hardline bipartisan consensus. The result is that progressive Democrats despair of real change. See for example, Toni Haastrup and Paul Kirby writing in Foreign Policy on Biden’s inauguration day:

Though some in Biden’s cabinet have disavowed their earlier positions—for example, on supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen—the return of so-called liberal foreign policy also promises a reversion to the violence that has long accompanied it, from drone strikes to support for Israeli settlements, and from military interventionism to authoritarian partnerships.

Canada must be ready, willing and able to provide vital support to the progressive wing of the Biden administration in their efforts to rein in nuclear dangers, rebuild NATO–Russia security dialogue, engage with China on climate change, health dangers, the peaceful uses of outer space and a range of other emerging international security challenges in cyberspace and disruptive technologies.

But for Canada to be able to play this role, a major diplomatic overhaul is needed.

Since Justin Trudeau’s election as Prime Minister in 2015, we have been calling for a dedicated effort to rebuild Canadian diplomatic capacity. For example, we wrote in our 1 November 2019 blog:

In short, the new Minister has to develop a plan for recruitment and for internal training of professional foreign service officers.

Dan Livermore, a seasoned former diplomat, has gone a step further and written a frank and compelling memo to our new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau on exactly what he needs to do revitalize the “broken”, “top-heavy, expensive, slow-moving, barely manageable beast” that is the current Global Affairs Canada.

He writes:

Among the gravest problem[s] in GAC is a bloated senior management complement, which has become a barrier to achievement, not an enabler.

Livermore sets out a series of concrete steps that the new Minister can take to diagnose the extent of the problem, including:

Ask your team to get the facts.  How many desk positions are filled by short-term hires and casuals?  How many senior officers have little or no experience in international policy….

Then develop your plan based on the diplomacy we need today and tomorrow.

Whither Canada?

We call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to immediately begin the long overdue work of retooling and rebuilding Canadian diplomatic capacity for the 21st century.

Registration now open for February 2021 Arctic Security Webinar Series

As we promised in our 8 January blog, here is the link to register for the February 2021 Arctic Security webinar series, co-sponsored by the Canadian Pugwash Group, the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN) and the Rideau Institute.

Photo credit: The White House (Biden and Harris)



Tags: American foreign policy, Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, Canadian Pugwash Group (CPG), Dan Livermore, February 2021 Arctic Security Webinar Series, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, Former Disarmament Ambassador Douglas Roche, Former Disarmament Ambassador Paul Meyer, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine- Smith, NATO nuclear basing policy, NATO nuclear policy, NDP MP Heather McPherson, North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN), Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Ray Acheson Director of Reaching Critical Will, rebuilding Canadian diplomatic capacity, RI President Peggy Mason, Senator Marilou McPhedran (ISG), The Senate of Canada, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)