• Blog
  • July 16th, 2018

The real problem is excessive military spending by the USA


The usually hawkish Globe and Mail has a commentary by columnist Lawrence Martin that gets it right this time — rather than NATO members being guilty of spending too little on defence, the real problem is the obscene level of overspending by the USA.

Martin notes first that, even without taking into account the American contribution, NATO members collectively currently spend almost four times that of Russia.  When you add in the outsized American contribution, that figure jumps to twelve times as much.

Says Martin:

No NATO country has been attacked by the Russians under Mr. Putin. Given the [NATO] alliance’s military superiority and the commitment of members to defend one another, it would be senseless for him to do so. He’s a lot of things. He isn’t senseless.

And let us not forget that Canada, in June 2017, announced a whopping 70% increase in defence spending over the next ten years, an increase denounced as excessive in previous Ceasefire.ca blogs here and here.

And let us further recall that, even before this latest gargantuan increase, the Department of National Defence had been unable to spend its annual allocation, averaging 1 billion in lapsed funds for the past ten years. And the figure has more than doubled for 2017, with $2.3 billion in funds unspent.

Under the new Liberal accounting rules, however, the monies don’t go back to general revenues but stay with DND, so we can expect the 2018 figure for unspent funds to be even higher.  In the view of RI President Peggy Mason:

As we have repeatedly stated, why should DND even be considered for budgetary increases, when they are manifestly incapable of spending the sums already allocated?

But back to Trump’s absurd demand that NATO commit to a new target of 4% of GDP.  In an online CBC article, Peter Armstrong notes that, for Canada, this would amount to $60 billion. And to reach that level would, in turn, require huge cuts in social services or an equally huge tax hike. He concludes:

Consider what an additional $60 billion would buy us: 46,000 affordable housing units or 6,500 new water-treatment plants in First Nations communities or 180 Super Hornet fighter jets. It’s all about priorities.

For the full Globe and Mail article click: No, Trump, your allies aren’t deliquent on defence spending (Lawrence Martin, 12 July 2018).

For the full CBC article click: Sure, we could spend 4% of GDP on the military — with huge cuts or tax hikes  (Peter Armstrong, CBC.ca, 13 July 2018).

For further information on global military spending including the significant decline in Russia levels, see: Global military spending remains high at $17 trillion (SIPRI, 2 May 2018).

Photo credit: Department of Finance, Canada via CBC.ca

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  • Blog
  • July 9th, 2018

NATO leaders should champion nuclear restraint and dialogue


Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev at 1987 Washington Summit

Our previous blog called on Prime Minister Trudeau to resist Trump’s bullying over yet more defence spending and to ensure that the Final Communiqué from NATO leaders contains no support for American proposals to lower the threshold for first use of nuclear weapons. See: Trudeau must hold the line again at upcoming NATO Summit (Rideau Institute, 9 July 2018).

Yet this is the absolute minimum Canadians should expect, says Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason:

The NATO Summit in Brussels is taking place just days before the first ever formal meeting between President Trump and President Putin. It is hard to overstate the positive role that Canada and other NATO leaders can play in ensuring the Trump–Putin Summit is a successful one for arms control and global stability.

In particular NATO states should call on President Trump and President Putin to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons from Europe rather than installing expensive and dangerously destabilizing upgraded versions, as is currently planned.

The 11–12 July 2018 NATO summit offers a unique opportunity for the European Allies to take the initiative again and demand from the US a negotiation that would lead to the withdrawal of both American and Russian tactical weapons from European soil…Marc Finaud, IDN.

Beyond this important measure, Canada and other NATO members must champion a new era of nuclear restraint, détente, and disarmament.  This is in keeping with the location chosen for the Summit — Helsinki, Finland — the birthplace of the Helsinki Final Act and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

As noted by Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, the Helsinki accords, signed in 1975, affirmed the obligation to resolve conflicts peacefully, non-intervention in internal affairs of other States, respect for human rights, and the obligation to achieve arms control and disarmament. And these agreements also strengthened the European mechanisms for conflict resolution and common security, culminating in the creation of the OSCE:

As such, holding the summit in Helsinki signals a step-back from the conflicts and mutual threats between Russia and the West, and the possibility of a stronger focus on dialogue, détente and disarmament

Canada must join with European leaders to move the global community away from the nuclear brink and toward a new vision of common security for a sustainable and nuclear-free world.

Photo credit: Wikimedia (1987 Reagan–Gorbachev Summit in Washington).

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  • Blog
  • July 9th, 2018

Trudeau must hold the line again at upcoming NATO Summit.

thumbs__0087_nato_headquarters_alternateIn a 25 June statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he would travel to Brussels, Belgium, to attend the NATO Summit on July 11 and 12, 2018:

NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, and an important alliance as we look for more stability in a world going through rapid change. I look forward to meeting with leaders from NATO member states in Belgium to deepen our already strong relationships, and to discuss what more we can and must do to advance peace and security for our citizens and people around the world.

The NATO Secretariat has issued a NATO Summit Guide which summarizes the Summit goals as follows:

NATO remains committed to fulfilling its three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. At the Brussels Summit, the Alliance will make important decisions to further boost security in and around Europe, including through strengthened deterrence and defence, projecting stability and fighting terrorism, enhancing its partnership with the European Union, modernising the Alliance and achieving fairer burden-sharing.

But the Prime Minister, with the undeserved G7 debacle still fresh in his mind, will no doubt wish he could avoid yet another multilateral meeting where President Donald J. Trump promises to cause trouble.

In the summit lead-up Trump is already  haranguing NATO members about their allegedly low levels of defence spending. Not even Canada’s gargantuan increase of 70% over 10 years is enough for him.  In a June 19 letter, he writes:

The United States is increasingly unwilling to ignore this Alliance’s failure to meet shared security challenges….

So far the Defence Minister is giving no hint of capitulation, instead taking up an argument first raised by Rideau Institute Board member Michael Byers that Canada ought to be smarter about how it calculates its defence dollars.

Alas, one wonders why facts would influence Trump any more in future than they have to date!

But we expect our government to do more than hold the line on further defence budget increases. Canada must also resist any Summit declaration consensus that appears to endorse the extraordinarily reckless American Nuclear Posture Review proposals released in February 2018.  In the words of the Washington Post:

The Pentagon released a new nuclear arms policy Friday that calls for the introduction of two new types of weapons, effectively ending Obama-era efforts to reduce the size and scope of the U.S. arsenal and minimize the role of nuclear weapons in defense planning.

Prime Minister Trudeau stood firm in the face of Trump’s bullying at the G7 Summit in June.  Now the focus is not trade, but international security, and our Prime Minister must work with his German, French, Dutch and other likeminded European counterparts to avoid being complicit in further destabilizing moves by an increasingly unhinged American President.

For the full Prime Ministerial statement see: Prime Minister Trudeau to attend NATO Summit  (Statement on 25 June 2018).

See also: Armed with facts, Canada braces for another Trump tirade at NATO summit (Murray Brewster, cbc.ca, 27 June 2018).

For an analysis of the new USA Nuclear Posture Review, see: Trump seeks expanded nuclear capabilities (Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association, March 2018).

Photo credit: SOM architect images (New NATO Headquarters).

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  • Blog
  • June 18th, 2018

Singapore Summit: boom or bust? Four views

Trump-Kim_meeting_in_Capella_Hotel_(3)The dust has finally settled a little on the Singapore Summit of 12 June 2018.  Arms control experts are not divided on the “thin gruel” that constitutes the only document emerging from the historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un. But they certainly don’t all see eye to eye on the bigger picture — did this meeting make the world more or less safe from nuclear annihilation?

We offer four different commentaries on the outcome from four seasoned experts, two American, one Canadian and one Briton.

Joe Cirincione writes:

This is not a promising start. The Singapore summit is a diplomatic breakthrough but a strategic half-step. To turn television props into sound policy, the administration will need all the help it can get. We have to hope that they will be willing to accept it.

For the full article see: The Surreal Summit in Singapore ( The National Interest.org, 13 June 2018).

Retired Canadian diplomat James Trottier identifies perhaps the biggest gap of all between what Trump promised beforehand and what he actually delivered:

The final yardstick is the Iran agreement, recently rejected by Mr. Trump. This 150-page agreement has detailed verification and implementation procedures and timelines. There is simply no comparison between the rigorous detail of the Iran agreement and the [one-page] joint statement in Singapore.

For his full critique see: Trump-Kim Summit: Powerful on symbolism, weak on substance. ( Globe and Mail.com, 12 June 2018).

The third expert, Michael Krepon, is by far the most upbeat of the four about the Summit outcome:

Rip up your scorecard. Instead, I suggest focusing on the big picture: Is another war on the Korean peninsula more or less likely? Have nuclear dangers grown or receded — at least for now? After the Singapore summit, it’s fair to surmise that the likelihood of a second Korean War has been greatly reduced, a war that could well result in the first mushroom clouds on a battlefield since 1945.

See: Un-scorecard for the Trump Kim Encounter (ArmsControlWonk.com, 13 June 2018) for his full analysis.

One thing is for sure.  At least for now we are all better off than in the dark days of August 2017 when President Trump was threatening to unleash “fire and fury” against North Korea while trading schoolboy insults with its leader.

But what might be in store for us, down the road, is best summed up by our fourth contributor, Professor Paul Rogers:

At some stage, perhaps in the next few days but more likely in the coming weeks or months, Donald Trump will wake up to the fact that he has been outplayed by little rocket man. With his remarkable ego and self-belief this may take time to sink in. Only when it does will it be possible to assess the outcome of the Singapore summit, and then in all likelihood it will be a matter of waiting for the fireworks.

For his full article, see: Kim vs Don: the Singapore Sting (Opendemocracy.net, 14 June 2018).

Photo credit: Trump-Kim meeting in Capella Hotel, Singapore (Wikimedia images)
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  • Blog
  • June 11th, 2018

Pulling together for Sustainable Common Security

2000px-Oneworld_logo.svgPeter Langille, one of the Rideau Institute’s Senior Advisors, spoke recently at a conference with the intriguing title How to Save the World in a Hurry (30-31 May 2018, Toronto).  He brilliantly articulated the urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to addressing the world’s most pressing challenges and the case for “sustainable common security” as the means to pull together.  Here is his introduction with a link to the full text here and below.

“Why are we here? Well, we share concerns over a number of issues and, yes, we recognize the need to share a more comprehensive approach.

But so far, it appears we also share a problem — we lack an organizing principle to pull people, civil society causes and progressive parties together.

We hear that there’s an interest in intersectional campaigns — in building bridges between those who care about disarmament, the environment, development, inequality and militarism. We see the links between our struggles and theirs and know or should know we can’t do much alone. We all need help and we’d have a better chance if we pulled together.

My talk today is about sustainable common security as a means to pull together. And, I’ll start with three leading questions:

First, might the umbrella concept of sustainable common security help as a unifying step toward a one world perspective, a global culture of peace and a movement of movements?  Possibly.

Second, does this umbrella cover most of our efforts to deal with critical global challenges and, would it encourage the key shifts necessary?  Probably.

Third, might this concept also help to challenge the national security narrative underpinning nuclear deterrence, constant preparation for war and our expensive war system?  Yes.

A concept is only a start. Obviously, there is no one conceptual cure-all. But just ask yourself, might this ideal appeal widely and build a wider bridge to cooperation and solidarity among progressive social movements; one that expands our base and potential to help with what’s ahead?

Sustainable common security might simply help us pull together on what matters.”

For the full text in pdf format click here: Pull Together for Sustainable Common Security (Peter Langille, May 2018).

For a link to the website for the conference where Peter Langille’s paper was presented, click here: How to Save the World in a Hurry (30-31 May 2018, Toronto).

For an updated version of this concept, applied to Canadian defence and security priorities, click here: 2018 Update: A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security (Rideau Institute and Group of 78 (editors)).

Photo credit: Wikimedia images.

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