Canada’s policy on nuclear on-proliferation and disarmament after the Сold War (Overview)
The book is devoted to the study of Canada’s position on a wide range of issues related to nuclear and conventional weapons.
Canada’s policy on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament after the Cold War didn’t begin with a blank sheet. Already during the Cold War Canada actively worked on such issues as non- proliferation of nuclear weapons; missile defence; non-weaponization of space. After the Cold War the most important issues for Canada in this sphere were those associated with nuclear weapons.
The first chapter, “Canada and the nuclear non-proliferation regime”, is devoted to Canada’s participation in the non-proliferation regime after the cold war. It traces formation of a new Canadian nuclear agenda in the early 1990s. Great attention is paid to the preparation and participation of Canada in the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) of 1995, the priorities of the country at subsequent similar conferences. A significant place is given to Canada’s participation in negotiations on other agreements related to the nuclear non-proliferation regime: the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Canada’s initiatives on nuclear disarmament in the second half of the 1990s and its role in the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the 2000s are examined in detail.
Traditionally Canada had its nuclear specifics — support of international efforts on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the other hand an active role in à market of civil nuclear energy. The end of the Cold War resulted in a disappearance of the most important basis of Canadian nuclear policy, when nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament were main priorities in comparison with any other aspects. The cessation of existential conflict between the East and the West saved Canada from its worst nightmare — a nuclear war between the USSR and the USA. In the absence of fear for the fate of the country it was inevitable that Canada would reconsider the scope and the nature of its efforts on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
This tendency didn’t immediately manifest itself. In 1990s Canada still paid a considerable attention to the efforts in nuclear sphere. But even in that time it was evident that Canada was interested in nuclear non-proliferation not as a distinct issue but as an opportunity to support the USA. Canada helped the United States to reach indefinite extension of the NPT and was ready to burn Russian and American weapons-grade plutonium in its nuclear power plants. Only when L. Axworthy was minister of foreign affairs, Canada tried to play a more independent and active role in nuclear issues without paying attention to Washington.
But after Axworthy’s departure from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Canada’s independent approach to nuclear issues disappeared. In fact Canada lost its own nuclear agenda and only supported different American initiatives — The Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; The Proliferation Security Initiative; The Global Nuclear Energy Par- tnership; the summits on nuclear security. Canada’s participation in these initiatives showed not the importance for Canada the regime of nuclear non-proliferation but Canadian indifference to nuclear issues, allowing Canada to join any such initiative put forward by the United States. This nuclear hibernation of Canada lasted from 2000 to 2015.
In spite of its general passivity in 2000ties Canadian nuclear policy changed its main focus from nuclear disarmament to nuclear non- proliferation.
Such situation when the character of Canadian participation in the regime of nuclear non-proliferation was determined by the United States has put Canada in a difficult position. The United States, the country with nuclear weapons, for its interests could pursue the policy that could contradict traditional Canada’s policy as a country without nuclear weapons. But in a new reality after the Cold War, when Canada is no more afraid of a nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union, it’s easier for the USA to guide Canada’s nuclear policy.
The first signal of Canada’s new nuclear policy was at the UN Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2015. Canada with the USA and Great Britain blocked the final document of the conference, opposing themselves to the entire regime of nuclear non-proliferation. However the situation changed drastically after creation at the UN the Open-ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament (OEWG) in 2016. More active Canadian nuclear policy under J. Trudeau’s government was determined not by this government’s interest to nuclear issues but by the need to report American position on nuclear disarmament at the OEWG. Canada’s efforts to prove legitimacy of nuclear weapons — in fact the sole task of its work in the OEWG — don’t allow Canada to pretend to be a real intermediary between countries with and without nuclear weapons. In sum the circle is closed: an active participant of the nuclear non- proliferation regime in 1990s; a passive observer in 2000s; Canada from the mid 2010s again started to play an active role on nuclear issues, but at this time already with a negative impact on the nuclear non-proliferation regime itself.
Chapter 2, “Regional aspects of Canada’s policy on nuclear non- proliferation”, contains a detailed analysis of Canada’s nuclear policy in four regions: South Asia, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and the former Soviet territory. A lot of attention is devoted to the fact how different can be Canada’s nuclear policy even within the framework of one region and how Canada “forgets” its global nuclear non-proliferation duties with separate countries.
After the Cold War a gap between Canada’s commitment to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and its actions on the regional level and with several countries increased even more. There is a differentiation of Canada’s nuclear policy within the framework of separate regions. In South Asia Canada develops a very close cooperation with India in nuclear sphere in spite of India’s refusal to join the NPT. Simultaneously Canada refuses to develop a similar cooperation with India’s neighbor — Pakistan. Considering that India and Pakistan simultaneously conducted their nuclear explosions (in May 1998) and that Canada was at the origin of both Indian and Pakistan nuclear programs, such differentiation in Canada’s nuclear policy is especially striking. A similar situation is on the Korean Peninsula: there are two neighbor states but one state (South Korea) gets nuclear reactors from Canada and the other state (North Korea) is only considered by Canada as a threat to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Canada’s nuclear policy is also very differential in the Middle East. Canada has categorically opposed against Iran’s nuclear program, demanding from it such concessions which are beyond the NPT. Simultaneously Canada in fact has shut its eyes to Israel’s nuclear weapons. This Canadian nuclear differentiation within one region affects even Arab countries: Canada refuses to develop nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia but at the same time it develops nuclear cooperation with other Arab countries.
The situation is that ingredients of Canadian nuclear policy to each concrete country are selected individually. The decisive factors are: whether a country is considered as an ally of Canada; whether a country has an important economic role for Canada; which position of the USA is on one or another nuclear issue. As in case of India Canadian nuclear policy is even able to be influenced by a foreign diaspora in Canada. It means that there will be always a gap between common Canada’s commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and its concrete nuclear policy on regional and local levels.
Chapter 3, “Canada and problems of control over conventional weapons”, analyzes Canada’s role in relation to the most important international initiatives to control or ban certain categories of conventional weapons in the 1990s and 2000s — banning of antipersonnel mines; non-proliferation of small arms and light weapons; the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).
Unlike the issues attached weapons of mass destruction Canada’s policy on conventional weapons doesn’t have a long history. This policy began with traditional Canadian focus on disarmament. The culmination of these efforts was a leading role of Canada in the international campaign for banning of anti-personnel mines at the end of 1990s. At the other hand this disarmament focus (with regard to conventional weapons) immediately stopped as soon as the other factors, more important for Canadian leadership, were affected. For example Axworthy’s initiative against small arms wasn’t so radical so as not to affect Canadian owners of small arms, who were potential voters. Under Stephen Harper’s government this domestic political factor finally pushed back disarmament aspect in the background. Moreover, strengthening of importance of economic factor as a result of signing of long-term contracts means that even with a change of government there will be no significant change in Canada’s policy as applied to international control over the circulation of conventional weapons.
Chapter 4, “Canada and missile defense” deals with the problem of missile defense for Canada. There is a historic part in the chapter but the main focus is on Canada’s position with regard to G. Bush-Jr.’s missile defense project and the attitude to missile defense by Canadian government of Stephen Harper.
The end of the cold war created a more difficult situation for Canada regarding to its role in American projects of missile defense. Current US missile defense systems are directed not against a missile attack from a superpower but against a limited missile attack from rogue states. More important for Canada is that the withdrawal of the USA from the Missile Defense Treaty (including prohibition for the USA and the USSR to deploy missile defense elements beyond their borders) has greatly decreased Canada’s ability to resist to the most unpleasant for Canada American projects of missile defense. Canadian leaders were able to keep a balance, defining its attitude to American president G. Bush-Jr.’s missile defense project — a public refusal to join this project was compensated Canada’s low-profile consent to transmit NORAD data for American missile defense. However after seeing how sharp a domestic political crisis may be in Canada on the issue of missile defense, both Harper’s government and J. Trudeau’s government have considered more preferable “asymmetric participation” in missile defense — supporting instead of the US missile defense other American military projects or more acceptable for Canadian public missile defense projects.
Chapter 5, “Struggle for peaceful space”, is an attempt to clarify the real content of the concept of peaceful space from the point of view of Canada. This problem is studied not only in the context of Canada’s own attempts to create a new international regime regarding the use of weapons in outer space but also in the context of the development of Canadian military space program.
Canada’s struggle for prohibition of weaponization of space and development of Canadian military space program has created a conflict of interests. The situation was facilitated by the fact that these opposite tasks were handled by two different departments — the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence. The situation was also facilitated by a chronological mismatch: Canadian military space program began to revive from the end of 1980s, and active efforts for prohibition of weaponization of space began only from the end of 1990s. Moreover these efforts weren’t uninterrupted and unchanged. After Canadian foreign ministry L. Axworthy in 1998-1999 at the Conference on Disarmament tried to begin negotiations on a convention for the non-weaponization of space, then for next several years Canada lost interest in this theme. A new surge of attention from Canadian leadership to this issue only took place in 2003-2005 and already in connection with debates in Canada on missile defense. The references to space security by the governments of J. Chretien and P. Martin allowed the Canadian leadership depending on the circumstances to support or distance themselves from participation in missile defense.
Under Harper’s government Canada’s activity with regard to prohibition of weaponization of space decreased and returned to the traditional framework — the Conference on Disarmament. It’s more important that under the conservative government there was a drastic change in Canada’s official position with reference to prohibition of weaponization of space: the limits of this prohibition were sharply narrowed — with a ban only for the weapons that cause a real physical damage to spacecraft. In fact Canada withdrew the ban for any types of electronic warfare in space. As a result now it’s difficult to consider Canada as a real supporter of disarmament in relation to outer space.
As for Canadian military space program it was formally developing separately from Canada’s efforts diplomatically and politically to ban weapons in outer space. However the stake made at the end of 1990s (in fact even during the cold war) for close cooperation with the United States in sphere of military space can’t but influence on Canada’s position on non-weaponization of space and space security in a broader sense. An extreme dependence of Canadian Armed Forces from American space systems requires that Canada takes into account the US position on issues related with military use of outer space. This is reflected in the initial limited efforts of Canada for non- weaponization of space so as not to affect the US interests in anti- satellite weapons or missile defense, and the other hand in an attempt to block unpleasant for the United States space initiatives. An example is the situation on Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). Canada rejects this treaty referencing to the document’s flaws. Three prohibitions which Canada formulated in 2009 with regard to any such treaty leave Canada and its armed forces a wide field for manoeuvre in the framework of already set course for integration of its efforts in the US space program.
In the conclusion the author sums up the main results and findings of the study. The author notes that Canada’s attention to the problems of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and disarmament fell sharply after the Cold War and especially in the 2000s. The author emphasizes the strengthening of the influence of the USA on Canada’s position on the issues connected with nuclear and conventional weapons after the cold war.