New arms trade treaty will change the way Canada does business


The new international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) requires Canada to amend its export regulations and report all sales, including to unsavoury regimes. No longer can Canada turn a blind eye to our exports to the United States under the 1956 Defence Production Sharing Agreement (DPSA), and we must report on the end use of equipment (easier to do so in the computerized age).

The light armoured vehicle (LAV) deal involving General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London and Saudi Arabia looms large because it was the largest arms sale in Canadian history, negotiated under the Harper government, and the Trudeau government seems unable to break the contract or suspend arms sales, while the furor over the death and dismemberment of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues.

It’s a conundrum. That contract seems to be nearly fulfilled but then again after 2028 when all the LAVs have been shipped to the Saudis for use in ways we cannot imagine, there will be maintenance obligations. So senators in Ottawa are asking themselves whether Canada’s minister of global affairs will be able to judge properly whether to issue (or reissue) export permits involving difficult cases, particularly as Canada is now the second largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.

In the EU and the UK, state parties are ensuring considerable oversight so the British include more ministries than foreign affairs in their overviews, and they do not take decisions to cancel export arms permits lightly.

As a member of more international organizations than any other country in the world, Canada abides by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention.

It’s imperative that we don’t sneak around and hide our arms exports to the U.S. under the Defence Production Sharing Agreement. Canada’s Defence Department needs to abide by the strictest measures in the narrowest – and not the broadest – interpretation of the new Arms Trade Treaty rules and regulations.

Other countries will watch us and quickly realize if we intend to shirk our international obligations, and perhaps follow suit, leading to the weakening of the new treaty.

The senators in the Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee have before them now a heavy responsibility to ensure the wording of Bill C-47 (an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code) abides by the Arms Trade Treaty and that Canadian arms dealers in the parts (components, like Pratt & Whitney engines) and the whole (like General Dynamics’ LAVs) report and abide by any future minister of foreign affairs’ edict to stop arms sales.

Such decisions will never be taken lightly because of their economic impact on the workers affected, and it may be too late now to renege on the $13 billion to $15 billion sale to Saudi Arabia – unless Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) continues to grow into his role as a capricious military dictator bent on wars against Yemen and perhaps Iran – surely then the international opprobrium being experienced now by the U.S. president as he insists on trading with Saudi Arabia will have run its course.

The senators in Ottawa are doing a great job so far asking all the right questions. They seem more independent, less partisan. When I was summoned before them on Nov. 22, I felt like I was back in a PhD-level grad class at the University of Toronto where the questioning revealed quickly whether you knew the material or not.

I was wearing a long dress appropriate for the occasion on what was the coldest day in Ottawa’s history on that date. I had to walk a long way because taxis can’t approach the Parliament, so my hands were very cold. I could see the look of shock on the senators’ faces when I shook their hands. But I was most shocked by the intensity of their purpose and cleverness in placing on the record various concerns about the minutiae of the legislation.

“I am not a lawyer,” I responded at one point to a senator’s probing question, and his quick riposte was “Neither am I.” We need to make the legislation as clear, transparent and meaningful as possible so that everybody knows that, henceforth Canada will abide by the new treaty as it has done for so long before by other similarly weighty international treaties and obligations.


Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade w/ Erika Simpson;%20Win64;%20×64)%20AppleWebKit/537.36%20(KHTML,%20like%20Gecko)%20Chrome/70.0.3538.102%20Safari/537.36

Nuclear jungle closes in


U.S. President Donald Trump announced last month he will withdraw the United States from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — prompting Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the U.S.S.R., to write that we are entering a new Cold War.

It’s not a one-off for Trump, who has also ripped up the nuclear control agreement with Iran.

The U.S. and Russia share 15,500 nuclear weapons between them, 95 per cent of the world’s arsenal. The U.S. intends to spend US$430 billion on modernizing its nuclear weapons over the next few years. Russia is doing the same, although it is not open about its spending.

Other countries have arsenals of nuclear weapons — such as India and Pakistan with approximately 100 each, Israel with a secret stockpile estimated at 100 and North Korea, which may have between 13 and 60 nuclear weapons, according to U.S. estimates.

We are entering a nuclear jungle with fewer institutional agreements.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan to cover Russian SS-20 nuclear missiles and the United States’ Pershing missiles, to be deployed in Europe, along with ground-launched cruise missiles.

Now the Americans say the Russians are violating the treaty by developing a newer cruise missile that possibly could be deployed under water. Republicans also note the agreement, as a bilateral treaty, does not cover China’s development of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

The world still has the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by 160 countries. The United Nations holds a review conference of the NPT every five years, but diplomats walked away with no agreement in 2015. Now worries are that in 2020, there will be yet more disagreement and possibly the collapse of the nuclear arms control regime.

The UN suggested a high-level summit on nuclear disarmament for April 2018, but it was cancelled at the last minute.

The UN promised in 2010 to hold a conference on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, but it never happened.

Taken together with the failed Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the weakened Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, new arms races could begin.

At any rate, everybody agrees we are entering a very dangerous situation because of global nuclear proliferation.

There is a risk that countries will look at the success of North Korea in retaining its nuclear arsenal and decide to acquire or build their own. Japan and South Korea could follow suit. Saudi Arabia and Syria may develop their own in response to Israel’s arsenal.

We also have to worry about the possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear materials, like plutonium or uranium, on the world market and making dirty bombs that could be blown up in large cities, causing thousands of people in other cities to flee to the countryside for fear their city would be next.

There is not much that can be done until the U.S. and Russia agree to come to the bargaining table.

In the interim, the states without nuclear weapons have held three global conferences that resulted in the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It’s the first new disarmament treaty in 20 years.

But all the nuclear-armed states and all NATO allies have refused to sign it. The NATO allies want to abide by NATO’s Strategic Concept, which promises that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”

The risk is that as more countries acquire nuclear weapons, the world becomes more dangerous than during the Cold War. Back then, it was a bilateral world order; now it is a multipolar world, with many more nuclear powers that don’t have the safeguards, command and control, and hot lines we had during previous crises, like the Cuban missile crisis.

A global movement pressing for disarmament, as there was during the 1980s, is unlikely, although people continue to participate in vigils, marches and letter writing campaigns organized by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. It may take a limited nuclear exchange to see another global movement.

And the risk of accidental or limited nuclear war is getting higher. Even if 100 nuclear weapons were exchanged, a tiny percentage of the world’s arsenal, the planet would enter a nuclear winter with plummeting temperatures, the collapse of the global economy, and a worldwide food crisis due to failed agricultural crops.

The U.S. and Russia are modernizing their nuclear weapons, using the argument that nuclear warheads need to be safer, more credible and usable. The new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review increases that country’s reliance on usable nuclear weapons.

The prospect of renewed arms control talks is very unlikely — although with Trump’s penchant for putting his stamp on deals, perhaps he would try. But he has made no mention of the possibility when he announced his intention to pull out of the INF Treaty.

The jungle is closing in on us.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of international relations at Western University and the author of NATO and the Bomb.

Available beginning Saturday Nov 17, 2018 at Postmedia newspapers, like this:

London Free Press

Dissent, daring – and death

When my partner and I decided to marry, on short notice on Dec. 23, he went into London’s city hall to get the licence, and we married Dec. 27 at a cost of $100. (Our painful separation cost much more.) I cannot imagine how journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee must be feeling, because while she waited for him to obtain papers for their marriage, he was killed and his body dismembered and hidden.

Officials linked to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) are implicated, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants 18 suspects to face trial in Turkish courts.

I hastened to read what Khashoggi wrote in opinion pieces for the Washington Post that incurred such wrath that somebody authorized a hit team to stake out the writer’s whereabouts and make him disappear.

A cursory exploration of Khashoggi’s opinion pieces for the American newspaper reveal we are similarly critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses.

A trifle concerned about the possibility of my torture and dismemberment in some far-off locale on a hoped-for world trip someday, I took a closer look at whether Khashoggi insulted the crown prince. (I haven’t.) MBS is only 33 years old. Surely he’ll grow up and learn hissy fits, like the abrupt decision to order all Saudi students out of Canada, have low payoffs.


I wrote columns critical of Saudi Arabia when the deal for Canadian-made light armoured vehicles was signed in 2014 under prime minister Stephen Harper. I doubled-down when the sale was expedited in 2016 under Canada’s lax arms export-control rules.

This year I wrote op-eds about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s dilemma – should he engage in tit-for-tat with Saudi Arabia? – and on Canada’s trade in conventional weapons (with yet another mention of arms sales to Saudi Arabia).

As a woman and a mother writing in Canada, might I experience a greater measure of leniency from the Saudis? Yet the male-hereditary kingdom overreacts with anger, as evidenced by over-the-top steps after a mild reprimand on Twitter from our foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, for unjustly imprisoning two Saudi women who criticized the regime.

I am reluctant, like Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, to countenance the loss of jobs if Trudeau were to suspend or cancel the deal. (Figures on its worth range from $13 billion to $15 billion, with between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs at General Dynamics in London, Ont.) Trudeau says it could cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion to cancel or suspend the sale.

One powerful argument against ending the Saudi deal and sanctioning the country is cogently made by U.S. President Donald Trump. Like generations of arms dealers before him, Trump says if America’s US$110-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, worth hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, is cancelled, the Saudis would buy elsewhere.

“Think of that, $110 billion. All they’re going to do is give it to other countries, and I think that would be very foolish,” he told reporters at the White House.

Trump believes Washington should not block military sales to Riyadh even if the allegations over Khashoggi are proven: “I actually think we’d be punishing ourselves if we did that,” he said.

We can believe that other countries, with weaker safeguards, will hawk their wares – and so arms races and proliferation continue. We are caught in a structural dilemma, with no way out except to “trust but verify” – as president Ronald Reagan reasoned when signing the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which Trump is about to cancel.

Caught in such dilemmas, proven strategies for citizens are to speak out, make our views known, be more transparent and “speak truth to power.”

But what dissident Saudis and Londoners say and do hardly matters. It may be more far-sighted and smarter to avoid such discussions, so our community gains financially on the backs of the oppressed.

Each year, the university students I teach have had a few Saudi nationals among them. I will never forget one go-getter who explained to us the travesty of the crown prince’s rise to power, and his subsequent clampdown on dozens of members of the Saudi elite, retained in a sumptuous hotel.

If bands of people, like that student, take courageous stands, the prospect of more countries cancelling arms deals, further scandal and worldwide abhorrence could lead to changes at the top of the ruling Al Saud family.

The German anti-Nazi group White Rose published leaflets opposing Hitler, a pitiful gesture in the face of totalitarianism, yet those young students will never be forgotten. Moderate tensions within Saudi Arabia are already escalating into a strategic game with war in Yemen, growing conflict with Iran, and power politics with the United States as well as Turkey.

Khashoggi’s bereaved son will no doubt be forever proud of his dissident father’s bravery. He will never be forgotten.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of political science at Western University and the author of NATO and the Bomb and other scholarly publications.

NATO: New headquarters, new threats

An academic hears about new threats alongside old from officials at NATO new headquarters

NATO has opened new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The NATO headquarters in Brussels are in an impressive new structure with sky-high windows, long imposing wings, gleaming marble floors and ancient Grecian sculptures. It features an array of 29 allied flags, flanked by an imposing piece of the Berlin Wall and a wroughtiron sculpture soldered from remnants of the Twin Towers.

But the atmosphere is a lot less friendly than the former NATO headquarters, which I visited six times since 1989.

I was there as part of my university-funded research on NATO’s nuclear weapons and UN disarmament, conducting interviews with diplomats just prior to the meetings of NATO’s defence ministers this week.

It is difficult for Canadians to appreciate how threatened some NATO allies feel about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s underlying intentions. Poland has just announced a new bilateral arrangement with the United States to co-station a permanent brigade, approximately 10,000 armed soldiers, on Polish territory.

Canada is contributing 250 soldiers to protect Latvia, which is more like a trip-wire than a deterrent.

When will Canada get out of Europe, some American air force members asked me during a reception. “Probably never,” I answered, “in part because we don’t want to be entrapped in NORAD, and become a junior partner to a behemoth.”

My quick retort made them laugh, so I added: “Not many know we proposed the original NATO agreement in 1949, nearly 70 years ago. It’s seen as better to stay in NATO, with a seat at the table during high-level negotiations, like those with defence ministers from all over Europe that begin this week.”

One reason I was at NATO was to interview, for the third time, one of its highest-ranking diplomats, Jamie Shea. He would officially retire one hour after he spoke to me because he planned to use his doctorate from Oxford University as a professor at Exeter University in the U.K.

Shea was his usual ebullient and loquacious self, full of pithy eloquence about NATO’s Strategic Concept — what he calls the “sacred” document — that outlines why the alliance’s nuclear weapons remain essential, despite the UN’s new Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which scores of nonNATO allies and non-nuclear weapon states have signed.

In other meetings, I discussed whether the ban treaty would undermine or undergird the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with Guy B. Roberts, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, William Alberque, director of NATO’s Arms Control, Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction Centre, and its deputy director Eirini Lemos-Maniati.

Prior to joining the Trump administration, Roberts was NATO’s deputy assistant secretary general for weapons of mass destruction policy and director for nuclear deterrence policy. Armed with long experience in the U.S. Marines, a law degree and master’s degrees in international and strategic studies, he leads the enterprise responsible for ensuring the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure and effective.

Now that he is also in charge of overseeing medical defences against biological weapons, I can appreciate his responsibilities are even more worrisome.

I have seen my fair share of proposals to develop vaccines against biological threats, such as new variations of smallpox, and I can appreciate we are vastly underequipped against new types of microbes. Hundreds of thousands of North Americans could die horrible deaths in a biological attack.

I am not being melodramatic – the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission surmised in 2006 that terrorist use of biological weapons is more dangerous and likely than nuclear use, in part because pharmaceutical instruments and ingredients are readily available compared to plutonium and uranium sold on the black market.

Some people worry about the so-called dark web and cyberattacks that could take down satellites and cellphones, but I worry about worldwide biological threats, nuclear winter and radiological plumes, all of which NATO’s nuclear and conventional weapons can do little about.

Once preoccupied with “outof-area” conflicts like Afghanistan and Kosovo, experienced diplomats at NATO headquarters are now talking about biohazard suits, nuclear deterrence, tactical nuclear weapons, as well as nuclear weapons modernization, as dictated by the U.S. nuclear posture review recently issued under Roberts’ experienced guidance.

Soon I’ll be back in Canada, which seems like a safe island across the Atlantic, far away from European preoccupation with the possible antics of the Russian bear.

During our talk, Roberts explained reassuringly we were seated in the most secure and possibly safest place in Europe, which was why he was unaccompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards.

I looked around the Starbucks cafeteria in NATO’s huge new glass structure, gleaming in the late fall sunshine, and wondered why I felt so gloomy – and somehow not safe at all.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of international relations at Western University, author of NATO and the Bomb, and reviewer in the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health College of Peer Reviewers. Her Faculty Research Development Fund is awarded by the dean and the associate dean of research in social science and funded by the Office of the Vice President Research, the President’s Office, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council endowment fund.

Available through Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain. For URLs of Ontario newspapers, see below:

London Free Press (Saturday edition):

Kingston-Whig Standard (today’s edition):

Owen Sound-Times (today):

Standard Free-Holder (Cornwall on Saturday):

The Prime Minister’s dilemma

prime minister's dilemmaThe strategies for the game Prisoner’s Dilemma contain useful lessons for those playing the diplomatic game, including our prime minister


August 24, 2018

What happens if we play Prisoner’s Dilemma over and over again? In other words, what happens if two players — like Canada and Saudi Arabia — know that they will interact repeatedly?

In game theory, this is referred to as an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma.

To answer this question, political scientist Robert Axelrod invited experts to submit programs for a computer Prisoner’s Dilemma tournament. He wrote about the results in a 1981 article and a 1984 book with the same title, The Evolution of Co-operation. Decades later, the article is still one of the most cited articles ever published in the journal Science. Scores of game theoreticians continue to test his findings under various computer, human and laboratory conditions.

Axelrod set up the tournament so that each computer program would interact with other programs, and each program would be matched against itself, as well as against a program that randomly co-operated and defected (betrayed) with equal probability.

The strategy that won the tournament with the highest average score was the simplest of all the submitted programs. It was formulated by Prof. Anatol Rapoport at the University of Toronto. His strategy, called Tit for Tat (TFT), began with a co-operative choice and then did whatever the other player did on the previous move. It succeeded because:

  • It was nice by starting off with co-operation
  • It was retaliatory immediately in the case of defection (betrayal), but it was forgiving if the adversary co-operated again
  • It was not too clever, but it was very clear; consequently, it was easy for other programs to figure out its strategy.

Then Axelrod ran another tournament. This time all the participants knew TFT had won the first round so many tried to design entries to beat it. Strategies such as Stab in the Back defected on the last move, while others such as Tester defected immediately and Tranquillizer lulled the other player into co-operation and then tried to get away with defection.

Only one person submitted TFT again — Anatol Rapoport. To everyone’s surprise, TFT won the tournament again.

The success of TFT leads to some simple but powerful advice:

  • Be nice
  • Practice reciprocity: co-operate if the other player co-operates; retaliate if they defect
  • Forgive
  • Be as clear as possible.

How might TFT be applied to international relations?

First, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be around for a long time, so it would be worthwhile to improve their long-term relationship. In game theoretical language, “the shadow of the future” looms larger in an iterated game.

Adopting a TFT strategy could be fruitful in the wake of the crown prince’s extreme response to a tweet by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. The Canadian government has often said it would take every opportunity to raise human rights concerns with Saudi Arabia. It promised to do so throughout the debate surrounding the $15-billion deal to supply Saudi Arabia with light armoured vehicles.

Freeland’s tweet was a routine expression of concern by Global Affairs Canada about more human rights violations. Her tweet was not “nice,” but Saudi Arabia’s heavy-handed “defection” was disproportionate. To withdraw the Saudi ambassador would have sent a strong enough message in diplomatic parlance; to withdraw all Saudi students stabs them in the back.

TFT could also be useful when dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump and the NAFTA negotiations. We saw from Trump’s one-on-one summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin that he prefers two-party negotiations; therefore, we should ally more, not less, with Mexico in negotiations.

Rapoport used alliances and different parties in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game to neatly demonstrate how humans and nations can get into threatening situations — and how the structure of a situation can force everyone to continue to endure insecurity. We can be caught in a dilemma not because of evil or stupid leaders or because of stupid or irrational calculations, but because of structural imperatives and thinking patterns that dictate choices where, in order to avoid the worst-case scenario, we end up in a less-than-optimal situation. Each player is unwilling to risk the costs of co-operating if the other player also does not co-operate.

The winning strategy of TFT, however, indicates it is in our shared, long-term and enlightened self-interest to reciprocate with forgiveness and co-operation.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor in the department of political science at Western University and the author of Game Theory and Peace Research: Professor Anatol Rapoport’s Contributions”in the latest issue of In Factis Pax: Journal of Peace Education and Social Justice.


Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. Prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Prosecutors give each prisoner the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying the other committed the more serious crime or to co-operate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves two years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will serve one year on the lesser charge.

Gloom and doom in Europe

I have just returned from a post-NATO Summit conference governed by “Chatham House rules” (secrecy, no attribution or quotation) in a not-to-be-disclosed location on Lake Como in Italy. Let’s just say it was not a hardship to stay at an Italian villa for so long.

Some diplomats arrived late from the summit in Brussels and were visibly irate or amused about U.S. President Donald Trump’s admonitions to other NATO members to spend more on defence.

I was the only Canadian at the post-summit conference, and while I did not represent the Canadian government, it was difficult not to speak up, stoutly, for Canada in the days of discussion – in part because the European allies give no thought to defending Canada’s territory. All talk centred around spending more to defend Europe’s eastern flank (mainly the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine), and southern flank (mainly Turkey and Italy).

I was scheduled to speak at a session with a top NATO military official, a longtime U.S. marine with the broadest shoulders I’d ever seen. The Americans are tired of carrying the European allies on their shoulders, and expect the Europeans to pay up on defence, and soon.

Canada is somewhat in the good graces of the U.S., mainly for our 13-year commitment of highly trained professional forces to Afghanistan, and our sacrifice of 158 soldiers killed and 1,800 visibly injured.

I emphasized all our NATO commitments, although others more often lauded the French for taking on dangerous commitments in Afghanistan and Mali, as well as offering their nuclear deterrent to NATO, albeit under their own command.

Without the alliance’s surfeit of 100 smaller nuclear weapons – their use controlled by the U.S president – many believe Russia would have overrun Europe already. Their fear of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions is palpable.

My main impression was of some deeply shaken senior officials who tried to belie their anxiety by talking about how they will invest in military personnel, spend more on conventional equipment, eventually but assuredly replace the dual-capable carriers for the U.S. B-61 nuclear bombs in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Turkey, and investigate how to hire younger people to defend the allies against cyberwarfare.

The possibility of cyberwarfare was disturbing enough. When I talked about Trump’s desire for a “Space Force” and its implications for the militarization of space, I got the distinct impression the prospect of fighting Russia in yet another domain was overwhelming to contemplate.

Europeans will spend a lot more on offensive and defensive capabilities in the coming decade, but going above the target of two per cent of GDP will be very difficult for their populations of aging taxpayers. Such spending could become more of a burden given the prospect of Britain exiting the EU and a plummet in EU prosperity as more countries express disaffection with the European Commission’s overarching control over their pocketbooks.

The Italians are particularly overburdened with economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and they know the human wave of refugees from Syria will continue to hit their shores, tearing holes in their social fabric and upending their political landscape.

I delivered my speech reviewing Canada’s strong support of NATO, as illustrated by its new commitment to military training in Iraq under Canada’s command, its soldiers in Latvia and its training commitment to Ukraine’s soldiers. Canada’s list of commitments is long, highlighted by its exemplary record in Afghanistan and before that in Germany at Baden-Soellingen and Lahr.

Canada is nuclear-weapon-free, but the lesson of that strategy fell on deaf ears. Like the Canadian delegation at NATO headquarters in Brussels, those attending the post-summit conference were disinterested in supporting a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons. The concept of an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone that is percolating in other forums also met with no interest. How Canada defends its shores is of no interest to frightened Europeans who sense Trump has taken a sledge hammer to European unity and transatlantic values.

While the wily real enemy, in their view, is Putin. Trump’s positions and tactics have undermined the confidence of many. For savvy Europeans, the only option is to smile politely at the Americans and hope Trump’s Republicans lose their congressional majority in the mid-term election, or Trump has a heart attack.

I suppose it wouldn’t be divulging secrets if I write that a couple of times I was asked for my thoughts about Mike Pence as president and about who could win the Democratic nomination for president next election.

One high-ranking U.S. diplomat under President Barack Obama gave us the lowdown on the Democrats’ fruitless search for someone able to beat Trump, but this led to only deeper melancholy that was countered by more Italian wine and grappa and German beer than should be imbibed over just a few days.

As I sat in the Milan airport – surrounded by happy Italians in festive dresses and dashing hats – my main feeling was Europe is marching into war again. A huge arms buildup will begin anew, augmented by newer types of weapons including armed drones, lasers and robots.

And far away across the ocean, Canada will need to think more seriously about more peaceful means to defend itself – given that one NATO ally disparages longtime friends and the others have little interest in this corner of the alliance.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor in the department of political science at Western University and the author of NATO and the Bomb and other scholarly publications.