Vox Pop: Bad for U.S., worse for Afghanistan

U.S. President Donald Trump’s impulsive foreign policy was restrained last week by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives when 43 senators from Trump’s Republican party helped pass a measure 68-23 opposing the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Syria.

The text warns that “the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces” from either country “could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”

Trump’s withdrawal strategy from Syria was announced in December without consulting NATO allies and regional partners. A day later, he ordered the start of a reduction of American forces in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 7,000 — a reversal of his deployment of 3,000 more troops in September 2017.

In response to Trump’s capricious decision-making, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lambasted his boss’s impulsiveness and inexperience in military and security affairs in a widely circulated resignation letter.

Then Trump chose deputy defence secretary Patrick Shanahan to replace Mattis on an acting basis — and chaos at the Pentagon intensified. The acting defence secretary as well as Trump’s acting chief of staff have no military experience.

Now it is up to the Senate and the House, to the extent they are able, to check the president’s actions.

The Senate vote came on the heels of the House passing legislation last month that would ban Trump from using federal funds to withdraw from NATO.

Meanwhile the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban, led by veteran U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, could result in a tentative peace agreement for Afghanistan after 18 years of protracted war. The Trump administration backtracked last July on its longstanding policy of an Afghan-owned peace process and appointed Khalilzad to negotiate directly with the Taliban on behalf of the U.S.

The Taliban sent a delegation from the movement’s political headquarters in Qatar, including two representatives of Mullah Yaqub, the elder son of the late mullah Mohammad Omar, a Taliban founder, and three commanders from the notorious Haqqani network. Regional participants in the talks include representatives of Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The Taliban’s consistent list of demands include the withdrawal of all foreign troops, full implementation of Islamic law and customs, and a revamping of Afghanistan’s political system in ways that do not conflict with an Islamic code. Because their goals are religious, not political, according to Wahid Mojdah, a military affairs analyst and former diplomatic aide under the Taliban regime from 1999 to 2001, the Taliban will not be in a hurry in these talks.

While the talks drag on and Congress legislates around Trump, the Afghan government remains embroiled in violent conflict with the expanding Taliban insurgency and faced with territorial expansion of ISIS into the eastern provinces. Nobody is negotiating with ISIS, leaving the possibility that it may take over Taliban-won territory.

In a quarterly report prepared for the U.S. Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported the Afghan government controls or influences 55.5 per cent of the country’s districts, marking the lowest level recorded since SIGAR began to keep records in 2015. At one time, the Afghan government controlled 72 per cent of districts. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are unable to hold onto the country’s territory in the face of ISIS — the wealthiest terrorist organization in human history — and a resilient and sophisticated Taliban insurgency.

On our trip to NATO Headquarters last fall, we met with many diplomats to discuss options to end the war.

NATO diplomats tend to maintain the Canadian Forces are capable of taking a greater military role in NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

If the U.S. were to more withdraw from Afghanistan, that country’s security capabilities would need to be strengthened to turn the tide against territorial losses and counter low morale prevalent among its troops. The Resolute Support Mission needs augmentation with military expertise and technical assistance from more NATO allies.

However, it is unclear which NATO allies can be counted on to contribute more. Along with its NATO allies, the Canadian government could commit to further developing the ANSF through an unwavering capacity-building beyond allocating mere financial aid.

Discussions with diplomats from Kabul, Afghanistan, however, indicate another path toward an elusive peace would be to focus on transitioning the Taliban from an armed movement into a political party. If that were the case, however, there must be no compromises on the gains made over the past 18 years in enshrining people’s constitutional rights and liberties, especially women’s rights, into the overall democratic system.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of global politics at Western University and the author of How Canada can Support UN Peacekeeping in a recent issue of Policy Option, Peacekeeping Reimagined. Sakhi Naimpoor is a PhD candidate at Western University and registered business executive member with Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC).

Vox Pop: Bad for U.S., worse for Afghanistan

Staking out higher ground

Giving asylum to a Saudi woman on the run burnishes Trudeau’s humanitarian and feminist credentials

Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Jan. 12. Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS/

The 18-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia who barricaded herself with a mattress against the door in a hotel room in Thailand in January is now the most recognized refugee on the planet. Her only means of defence in her allegation that she was abused by her family were a cellphone, a Twitter account and hope for international attention.

Since being granted asylum in Canada, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is pledging to use her freedom to campaign for others. “I think that the number of women fleeing from the Saudi administration and abuse will increase . . . I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free,” she said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had asked Australia to take in Alqunun. With growing concerns over her security and no clear timeline for how long Australia would take, the UNHCR then referred her case to Canada where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forthrightly took a stand for the teenager and the rights of women.

He’s proving himself a leading statesperson of moral character and grit as Canada proceeds toward the Oct. 19 federal election.

In accepting Alqunun as a refugee, Trudeau delivered a diplomatic right chop deftly and cleanly across the jaw of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is still reeling from the international repercussions of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Trudeau’s sparring with Saudi Arabia has a ringside audience of millions of people.

Can we anticipate more drama and tit-for-tat blows, including perhaps the kingdom’s cancellation of the contract for light armoured vehicles supplied by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London?

The nearly fulfilled contract and monies owed General Dynamics — slow in coming late last year — may face legal action or more shenanigans. As part of its original contract, GD is obligated to maintain the light armoured vehicles for years to come, even if the Saudis refrain from buying more LAVs from Canada.

Trudeau is likely to emerge the big winner. He needs to take a strong stand on gender issues ahead of the federal election in October and the international Women Deliver conference in June that will bring more than 6,000 leaders, activists, academics, advocates and journalists from more than 150 countries to Vancouver to discuss gender issues.

It promises to be the largest gathering in history to discuss equality issues, and it is strongly supported by Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Status of Women Maryam Monsel and the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. It will be a flagship moment for Canada on the international stage.

“Prioritizing the health, rights and well-being of girls and women is not optional, but in fact foundational to drive change and progress for all, and this is reflected in our new feminist foreign policy,” Trudeau has said.

More women voters may side with Trudeau for his stand for women’s rights.

Although the Liberals may not win London-Fanshawe, the riding where GDLS is based, it may be a lost riding anyway as Lindsay Mathyssen, daughter of popular NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, has clinched the NDP nomination.

Meanwhile a young Saudi woman has jumped the queue to get into Canada — and what a long queue it is. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees puts the number who have been forcibly displaced from their homes at 68.5 million worldwide —the highest number since the UNHCR was created in 1950. Of those 25.4 million are recognized as refugees and 3.1 million are asylum seekers, that is, those requesting refugee status. The number of asylum seekers is also an all-time high for the UNHCR.

In Canada, federal data reported in December indicate about 64,000 refugee applicants are waiting decisions from the Immigration and Refugee Board, which adjudicates the claims. The Liberals have set aside $74 million to shrink the backlog.

Canada’s immigration numbers far exceed these refugee claims. Canada expects to welcome approximately 330,000 permanent residents this year and is aiming next year for the highest target in Canadian history, 340,000.

Canada will take only a fraction of the millions of people displaced by conflict and violence for permanent settlement — about 27,000 refugees in 2017 — but with the Trudeau government committed to increasing that number to 30,000 by 2020, we might very well lead the world. The United States, usually the world leader in the number of refugee claims accepted, took in only 33,000 in 2017. While the U.S. level can swing widely from year to year, this was a particularly massive drop from 96,000 in 2016.

According to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center released last September, three out of four Canadians support taking in refugees fleeing violence and war.

Many Canadian citizens from coast to coast to coast will welcome refugees, like Rahaf Mohammed, and support the prime minister, both of whom could still face an angry reaction from Saudi Arabia’s princes.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of international politics at Western University and her brother Michael Simpson is executive director of the British Columbia Council for International Co-operation.

Simpsons: Staking out higher ground

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.

Simpson: New arms trade treaty will change way Canada does business

Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade w/ Erika Simpson


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.

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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.

Simpson: Dissent, daring – and death

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.

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NATO: New headquarters, new threats