Gloom and doom in Europe

https://lfpress.com/opinion/columnists/simpson-gloom-and-doom-in-europe0721-oped-forum-art-e1532050127462

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.

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Up in arms about the global arms trade

Simpson: Up in arms about the global arms trade

In May, Dr. Tarek Loubani of London was shot in the leg by a sniper on the Gaza border with Israel. According to reports, he was shot by a professional sniper deployed by the Israeli defence force while he was wearing an outfit that identified him as an emergency surgeon helping injured Palestinians during their protest at the border.

The media and pundits were quick to blame Israel’s Netananyu government for deploying snipers and Gaza’s Hamas rulers for fomenting protests along the border. But if we examine the broader international picture, the global arms trade in weapons should be mainly to blame.

Murray Thomson, the 96-year-old co-founder of Waterloo-based Project Ploughshares, a non-governmental organization that opposes the arms trade, laments that the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries held a trade show in Ottawa this week for companies that manufacture and promote the export and sale of weapons designed to maim or kill.

“Weapons are the most versatile form of currency,” says Samantha Nutt, another medical doctor and founder of the international humanitarian organization War Child. She recently travelled to Somalia where she saw abject poverty, rampant lawlessness and irascible young men with automatic rifles who sabotage progress at every turn.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than three million Congolese have been forced to leave their homes by armed militia, and thousands of women have been gang-raped. Guns fuel the violence in that resource-rich country and other conflicts in Africa.

Michael Simpson, executive director of the British Columbia International Co-operation Council (and my brother), has witnessed child soldiers under the age of 12 in Sierra Leone equipped with illegal guns. Combined with drugs to fuel their anger, it’s led to atrocities that nobody, including the children, could later recall or believe.

In Syria, millions of people are trapped by armed militias. At least four distinct fighting groups in Syria are armed with small arms and light weapons.

In Honduras, thousands denounced the fraudulent elections last November but were repressed by security forces using lethal weapons. Dozens were killed and many more injured.

Many people (especially in the United States) argue guns do not kill people, people that kill each other, and if people can’t obtain guns easily, they will slaughter each other with swords, machetes and knives. It’s true that swords, machetes and knives can wreak havoc, but guns are far more dangerous when placed in the wrong hands.

In Pakistan, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was determined to go to school despite warnings that girls should not attend. Her bus was halted by two Taliban gunmen who deliberately shot her in the head. She miraculously recovered and went onto champion education for children and young people. But in 2014, when it was announced Yousafzai was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, she identified guns as part of the problem. “My goal,” she said, “was not to get the Nobel Peace Prize but to end the gun violence and ensure that all children have the opportunity of learning.”

Like the slave trade, the arms trade is immoral – yet Canada has soared in global rankings to become the second biggest arms dealer to the Middle East on the strength of its massive sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia. General Dynamics’ $15-billion contract for light armoured vehicles manufactured in London is the largest arms sale in Canadian history.

The federal government is continuing to endorse the export of the LAVs, despite the oppressive Saudi regime’s support for wars in the Middle East, including a brutal war in Yemen.

Officials at the Department of Global Affairs have tried to deflect ongoing criticisms of the Saudi deal by retorting that Canada will soon agree to the international Arms Trade Treaty.

But the treaty obligations will not apply to arms exports to the United States, including in cases where those weapons may be further transferred to other governments and armed groups.

Indeed, the value of Canada’s arms exports to the U.S. exceeds the worth of all other Canadian arms exports. The exclusion of the Saudi arms sale, as well as Canada’s arms exports to the U.S., are major gaps in Canada’s proposed treaty implementation.

The treaty is the first international legal instrument to establish robust global rules to stop the flow of weapons, munitions and related items. It would be used to stop people from committing or facilitating genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or serious human rights violations.

The Canadian government needs to act more transparently and meaningfully to achieve the full intent of athe treaty. All Canadians must take stronger action to prevent grave human rights abuses from taking place abroad using guns and tanks.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor in the department of political science at Western University.

The security of Ontario’s nuclear plants should be an election priority, not the salaries of top Hydro One execs

Hydro One owns and manages Ontario’s electricity-transmission facilities and it is the largest provider of local electricity.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford would like voters to believe firing its chief executive would lead to lower electricity bills.

But CEO Mayo Schmidt’s annual salary of $6 million is justifiably competitive, says Katherine Wynne.

And, according to Hydro One: “The board believes the compensation paid to Mr. Schmidt and other senior executives is appropriate for their roles in overseeing an enterprise with $25 billion of assets, annual revenue of almost $6 billion and a strategy to expand our capabilities.”

What might happen to those costs if a serious nuclear accident, similar to what took place in Fukushima, Japan, were to happen at Hydro One’s Pickering Nuclear Generating Station?

A new report released by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance in March and written by Dr. Ian Fairlie, a radiation expert from the U.K., calculates the immense costs for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which is 100 per cent owned by the province of Ontario and was established as part of Hydro One’s restructuring in 1999 as a commercial company.

Pickering is surrounded by more people than any other nuclear station in North America; 2.2 million people live within 30 kilometres of the plant. According to the OCAA report, more than 650,000 people and 154,000 homes would have to be evacuated for 30 to 100 years in the Greater Toronto Area.

All of Pickering and parts of Aurora, Markham, Newmarket, Scarborough and Richmond Hill would need evacuation.

Low-level fallout would reach from west of London to the southwestern corner of Algonquin Park. Contaminated areas, including “no-go zones” would encompass major highways, including highways 401, 407 and 404, and major rail lines, like the CN, CP and Go Transit rails.

A Fukushima-type disaster at Pickering could lead to 26,000 cancer diagnoses, half of which would be fatal.

In 2014, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ordered that potassium iodide (KI) pills be distributed to all Canadians living or working within 10 km of a nuclear facility. The mass mailing of KI tablets by the Durham Regional Health Department and Ontario Power Generation in 2015 resulted in more than 200,000 homes and businesses near the plants receiving kits containing the pills and brochures explaining how and when to use them. People living within 50 kilometres of the facilities still may order the tablets from http://www.preparetobesafe.ca.

However, these pills would only protect against one type of cancer, thyroid tumours, and radiation is known to cause many types of cancers.

In the event of a major leak or accident, residents living in the path of the expected plume of radioactive gases would be asked to swallow the tablets and evacuate the relevant areas as quickly as possible. If this isn’t possible, the provincial emergency authority recommends people stay indoors and await instructions via TV and radio.

The OCAA report on the risks of a radioactive release at Pickering also suggests $125 billion in lost home values. Home insurance policies would not protect homeowners in the case of a nuclear accident, and private insurers do not offer coverage for nuclear accidents. However, OPG’s liability is capped at $1 billion, leaving most property losses unrecoverable.

At 47 years, Pickering is a very old facility. The aging plant’s licence expires Aug. 31, unless extended by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for another 10 years, and CNSC has never rejected an application for renewal. From 2018 until 2023 the plant would operate as usual, then be closed for good, and from 2024 to 2028, decommissioned.

The ancient facility runs on 1960s and ’70s technology but OPG claims it has invested more than $200 million on maintenance and repairs since 2010. In 2016, it took the plant out of service to conduct maintenance at a cost of $75 million.

Could an accident happen before 2028? There is some seismic activity in the Toronto area.

The plant remains vulnerable to a severe accident, freak weather event, plane crash, or cyberattack.

For example, Russia conducted a cyberattack on Estonia’s parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters in 2007. The United States and Israel also developed the Stuxnet computer virus in 2007 in order to thwart the Iranian nuclear enterprise. And although neither country has admitted its involvement, the virus unexpectedly and aggressively spread around the world, in the course of which it attacked American computer networks and infrastructure.

Moreover, the biggest North Korean cyberattack to date, a ransomware attack in May 2017, brought down hundreds of thousands of computers across dozens of countries.

While an earthquake and tsunami in Lake Ontario are thought unlikely, human-caused accidents, cyberwarfare, computer failures and ransomware are burgeoning possibilities.

The province would have little room to respond to an accident, disaster or shock. This March, two credit-rating agencies, Moody’s and DBRS, stopped short of downgrading Ontario’s debt.

Ontario was the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower in 2015, with twice the debt of California, the biggest U.S. state.

Pickering provides about 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity but experts at OCAA point out Pickering’s electricity could easily be replaced with hydro electricity supplied from Quebec. There would be enormous cost savings because approximately two-thirds of Hydro Quebec’s electricity exports are sold at an average price of only three cents a kilowatt-hour.

In October 2016, Ontario concluded an agreement with Hydro Quebec to purchase two billion kWh of water power a year at a price of five cents a kWh for seven years; Hydro Quebec is now generating wind power at an average cost of 6.3 cents a kWh. If Ontario voters want to save money on their electricity bills, it would be cost effective to co-operate with Quebec.

No matter what, nuclear waste from the decommissioned Pickering and Darlington plants will need to be disposed of somewhere, at great cost. Perhaps the low-level and intermediate-level waste will be buried under the Bruce station, the largest-operating nuclear station in the world.

OPG is proposing the construction of a deep geologic repository in limestone caverns 1.2 km from the shores of Lake Huron.

Estimates are it will cost between $1.5 billion and $13 billion to construct a site to bury all Ontario’s decommissioned waste from its 20 nuclear reactors, adding to the rising cost of Ontario’s nuclear electricity.

Taken altogether, the costs, safety and security of the province’s nuclear plants should be a top election issue for any party or government.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of international relations at Western University and the vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research Association.

Reckless and Ruthless

Given their personalities, don’t expect much rational from the Donald Trump-Kim Jong-un summit

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in face-to-face negotiations. Is it possible for both these leaders to engage under duress in rational decision-making?

Kim will come to the bargaining table as the commander of a million-strong conventional army. He controls operational and test-fired missiles that can credibly range thousands of kilometres through space. Trump is promising to develop a new branch of the U.S. military he calls Space Force specifically for war efforts in space.

Kim knows Trump could make up information, as he did in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump says he insisted the U.S. runs a deficit with its neighbour to the north without knowing whether that was true. If Trump lied to his country’s closest military ally, and boasted about it later, he may tell Kim more untruths.

Trump is a seasoned negotiator, but Kim may be more ruthless. After all, he has to negotiate his own regime’s survival.

Kim was born to one of three mistresses of his father and predecessor as leader, Kim Jong-Il, sometime between 1982 and 1984. Donald Trump, born in 1946, is twice his age.

Kim is the cut-throat leader of a dynasty that has ruled North Korea for decades. He presided over a meeting of the politburo during which his uncle was publicly stripped of his posts and the nephew had him executed.

Kim also ordered the execution of his former girlfriend, along with 11 other state entertainers, for allegedly making sex tapes and possessing Bibles. His girlfriend’s family, along with singers and dancers in her orchestra, were forced to watch as she was killed by machine gun before a firing squad. Strangely, a year later, his ex-lover turned up alive and well on state TV.

Kim’s older brother, Kim Jong Nam, died last year in a Malaysian airport, the result of what authorities determined was an assassination conducted by North Korean agents using nerve gas.

Will Kim be open to negotiation and compromise? When he became the supreme commander of the People’s Army, with the military rank equivalent to a general, experts hoped his Swiss schooling and nonmilitary training in computer science would soften him. But refugees have reported thousands of spectators were forced to watch the hangings of more than 80 people in stadiums.

We have learned a lot more about Trump’s negotiating style. Trump likes to appear tough — this week he is calling for the death penalty for drug dealers — but in North Korea, estimates are that from one million to 3.5 million people have been deliberately murdered out of a total population of approximately 22 million, and another possibly 3.5 million have died from starvation or hunger-related illness.

From Trump’s perspective, the greatest threat from the brash young leader stems from his outspoken threats against the United States. Kim has repeatedly threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and the regime has proved its nuclear weapons capability with many underground nuclear detonations, including a possible hydrogen bomb.

The Americans could threaten their own pre-emptive strike, but the actual size and location of the North Korean arsenal is unknown. The intelligence community puts North Korea’s stockpile somewhere between six and 20 nuclear bombs, possibly spread around the country in hardened underground silos.

North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017, the second of which had sufficient range to reach the continental United States. Last fall, the country announced its further perfection of a hydrogen bomb.

Once Trump hinted about withdrawing the 28,500 American soldiers stationed in South Korea. Adm. Harry Harris, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the U.S. Senate armed services committee last week that he believed Kim would do a “victory dance” if Trump followed through.

Such a move would also abrogate the United States’ defence agreement with South Korea. The U.S. soldiers are armed with land mines that serve as a credible deterrent to an invasion by North Korea and are also one of the principal reasons why the U.S. continues not to sign and ratify the international land mines treaty.

It is evident China — not so much the United States — could exert the upper hand in any peaceful negotiations so as to ensure a soft landing for North Korea. Ensuring stability in the Korean peninsula is important for China since a North Korean regime collapse would result in an unmanageable influx of emaciated refugees into China.

Instead of hoping leaders remain rational under all circumstances, diplomats need to take rapid steps to denuclearize the peninsula. The first-ever UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament takes place May 14-16 at UN headquarters in New York. The conference will draw attention to the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, already signed by 122 nations (but not the U.S. or North Korea), and it will exert positive influence for dialling down the Korean situation. Erika Simpson teaches international politics in the department of political science at Western University and is the author of NATO and the Bomb. These comments are based on her contribution to a panel on May 15 during the UN disarmament conference.

On the defensive

Simpson, E. (2018b, Jan. 7) On the defensive. Syndicated Opinion Piece (Op.Ed) in the Postmedia Network, Canada’s largest chain of online and hard copy newspapers [hereafter Postmedia Network Op Ed.].

Just before Christmas, the U.S. Congress rushed through the Pentagon’s request for US$4 billion to detect, defeat and defend against ballistic missiles.

“We are ordering $4 billion worth of missile defence equipment and missiles themselves. Very important,” President Donald Trump said at the White House. “Top of the line. Best in the world. We make the best military product in the world, and nobody is even close.”

There are few details about what the money will be spent on, but $2.1 billion is earmarked for 20 missiles that will attempt to intercept incoming ballistic missiles above Earth’s atmosphere, along with a network of radars and ground-based interceptors.

Now that Trump has made nuclear modernization his highest national defence priority, concerns have arisen that the U.S. administration will again ask Canada to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence (BMD) project.

Despite widespread fears about militarizing outer space, the U.S. has long sought the co-operation of its NATO allies in BMD. But concerns are widespread that America plans to dominate space militarily, including possibly place deadly lasers and nuclear weapons in orbit.

The last time a U.S. president requested Canada’s co-operation in BMD, George W. Bush made a high-profile public plea on Canadian soil. Prime Minister Paul Martin decided no. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised that, if elected, he would reverse the Liberal decision and put the question before Parliament for a free vote. But as prime minister from 2006 to 2015, he didn’t and the issue lay dormant.

The development of a safe and successful BMD system remains far off, Most U.S. tests have failed.

The U.S. BMD system would need the capability of conducting a first strike from space. If U.S. nuclear weapons were deployed in space, they would be hundreds of times more powerful than the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Joining in BMD could make Canada more insecure, especially if nuclear debris from errant or colliding ballistic missiles rained over Canada.

In the 1950s, top-secret U.S. plans were for nuclear-armed American Bomarc missiles based in Canada to intercept Soviet bombers carrying nuclear payloads over Canadian air space, thus raining nuclear fallout over southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. But Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and his minister of external affairs Howard Green ultimately decided not to equip the Bomarcs with nuclear warheads.

Now Kim Jong-Un, among the world’s youngest and most inexperienced leaders, is supreme commander of a formidable (albeit malnourished and pitifully underequipped) million-member conventional army. In his new year’s address, he said, “The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table” and “The entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range. . . . The United States can never start a war against me and our country.”

The next day, Trump tweeted in reply, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works.”

Will Trump’s newly-confirmed security advisers refrain from reigning him in because his threats serve a wider purpose of full nuclear capabilities? Are they trying to frighten North Americans into pinning their hopes on a space-based missile defence system?

It’s a system not yet feasible. It is unlikely any nation will be able to 100 per cent reliably shoot down an adversary’s nuclear rockets in space. And just one miss means nuclear devastation below.

Canadians in “Fortress America” should ask themselves what is the use of walls without a roof? Will America, Russia and China engage in an arms race in outer space? Could the Canadian government be stuck with a mounting tab as costs of developing a BMD rapidly escalate? And how might Canadian firms benefit from research and development on space-based weapons of war?

In the 2000s, U.S. deputy defence secretary John Hamre told Canadians our involvement in missile defence would be pivotal but not integral to a missile defence success, while the deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, Vice Admiral Herbert Browne, made headlines when he warned the U.S. would have no obligation to defend Ottawa from attack if Canada is not part of a missile defence system.

During the last round of debate, polls showed more than 60 per cent of Canadians opposed participation. That figure was even higher in Quebec, a province where every party needs support to win an election.

The U.S. and Canada will co-host a major international meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the North Korean crisis on Jan. 16 in Vancouver.

American moves to build a more robust nuclear enterprise will also undergo diplomatic scrutiny when the UN holds the first High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament from May 14-16. Many delegates will feel more comfortable with a push for disarmament than with joining the Trump administration in setting up systems to destabilize arms control. Wary of Trump’s aggressive tweets and unilateral threats to destroy North Korea, as well as tear up the arms control agreement with Iran, diplomats will share an interest in keeping Earth’s orbit a demilitarized zone.

Associate Prof. Erika Simpson is the author of NATO and the Bomb and other scholarly publications. This is an excerpt from her Feb. 8 address to the Women’s Canadian Club in London, Ont.

With nuclear war raising its ugly head again, Canada must act for disarmament

The stormy relationship between Russia and the West raises questions about whether we are heading into a renewed Cold War.

Russia deployed nuclear-capable missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea last month, and NATO officials are seeking commitments to send 4,000 new troops to the Baltic states and eastern Poland in early 2017.

Angry about Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO plans to station four battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Recently Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. committed to lead, and NATO is asking for more support from its 28 allies along with assistance to defend against cyber attacks in Ukraine.

At the same time, worries are that NATO’s nuclear weapons deployed in Turkey’s Black Sea region are threatened by the terrorist organization ISIL as well as Russia’s military presence. Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are expected to shore up air and naval patrols while the newer NATO allies, like Poland, are demanding NATO allies honour their Article 5 commitment, outlined in the 1949 Washington Treaty, promising that an attack against one NATO member is an attack against all.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently suspended the Global Partnership Program, which was designed to ensure the safety of Russia’s weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Canada and the United States were paying billions to inspect Russian facilities and pay Russian scientists stipends so they would not sell their knowledge on the black market to terrorists.

ISIL is now the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization, and about US$10 million of its stolen cache might purchase a grapefruit-sized amount of nuclear materials ladened with conventional explosives. An explosive like that could be set off in New York City or Washington, causing millions of Americans, fearing more so-called dirty bombs, to panic and flee the inner cities into the countryside.

Meanwhile the U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its air, land and sea triad of nuclear weapons, including 160 to 200 short-range B-61 warheads deployed in Europe.

And Putin vows to develop new arms systems to neutralize the U.S.’s ballistic missile defence project, which the Russians and the Chinese see as a breach of the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

In the face of nuclear threats and renewed spending on nuclear arms, 50 nations from Austria to Brazil to Ireland — not including Canada — proposed a UN resolution calling for a global conference in 2017 to establish a legally binding process to ban the manufacture, possession, stockpiling and use of these weapons. The draft resolution, known as L41, was put forward on Oct. 28 and won an overwhelming majority of 123 votes in the 193-member General Assembly, paving the way for historic negotiations to begin.

But nuclear-armed states exerted intense diplomatic pressure on their allies to vote against it. The U.S. voted no and is refusing to participate in negotiations. Among its NATO allies, the Netherlands was the only one to abstain, while Canada voted no.

Among the eight other nuclear-armed states, North Korea voted in favour and India and Pakistan abstained.

Canada’s vote against L41 puts us on the wrong side of history. Peggy Mason, former Canadian ambassador for disarmament to the UN, says, “Canada was one of only a handful of countries to vote no. In so doing, we joined with most other NATO member states, in blatant contradiction of our legal obligation under the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) Article VI to enter into good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament.”

The diplomatic negotiations during the NPT’s review conferences in 2010 and 2015 ended last spring in debacle and deadlock. Parallel negotiations in the UN’s Conference on Disarmament are stalled. In fact, they have not been able to agree on even an agenda for discussion over the last 20 years, so diplomats from all over the world wine and dine themselves at the public’s expense in Geneva, New York and Vienna, while negotiations go nowhere.

But the plucky disarmament movement drew public attention to the humanitarian impact of use of nuclear weapons. Scientific predictions say even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan using about 100 Hiroshima-sized weapons would lead to a drop in the world’s temperature of 1.25 Celsius degrees; a war fought with U.S. and Russian high-alert nuclear weapons would lead to a drop of four Celsius degrees and the detonation of 4,400 strategic nuclear weapons out of the world’s remaining stockpile of 15,500 would lead to a drop of eight Celsius degrees. Such a nuclear winter would endure for decades, effectively decimating the globe’s economic production and killing billions of people.

Growing worries about whose finger could be on the nuclear trigger after Tuesday’s U.S. election also incited renewed calls for the nuclear-armed states to step down from their first-use nuclear postures.

Canada must somehow join the UN negotiations beginning in 2017 in order to prevent a disaster of unimaginable and unprecedented proportions.

Nestling under the United States’ nuclear umbrella should still allow the Trudeau government to spearhead a review of NATO’s reliance on nuclear deterrence during the runup to NATO’s 70th anniversary celebrations in 2019.

Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian minister of foreign affairs, wisely called for questioning the untested assumptions of nuclear deterrence by threatening first-use. Similarly the new Liberal government should question American policy that advocates first-use of nuclear weapons against conventional, biological or chemical threats.

Despite opposing the UN resolution, Canada could still participate in the talks. There is no UN dictum preventing abstainers and nay-sayers from participating in negotiations that will assuredly go ahead.

Erika Simpson is an associate professor of international relations at Western University and was a speaker at the Building Momentum for Nuclear Disarmament conference in Ottawa on Oct. 24

Totally fluent in what it meant to be a professor

Simpson, E. (2017, Nov. 22. Totally fluent in what it meant to be a professor. The Hill Times.

Professor Robert Young exemplified what it means to be a professor and one of Canada’s most prominent public intellectuals. The Western University political science professor passed away on Aug. 15 from complications of lymphoma and his memorial celebration, last Friday, drew dozens of professors from across Canada and even New York City to honour his lasting and innovative legacy.

Many of us had the privilege of counting ourselves as one of his closest friends, and at the Nov. 10 memorial gathering, we learned “Bob,” as he was widely known, had dozens of close friends who benefited from his wisdom, never-failing attention, and big and caring personality.

Bob exemplified what it meant to be a professor in Canada, during an age when so many people wonder what professors accomplish and what they do all day, and over the summer holiday. Bob worked hard six days per week, 12 months per year, in his campus office and even after official retirement, he kept working on his scholarship and dropped by almost every day to see his colleagues in the Social Science Building at Western University.

Bob eschewed modern technology—he wasn’t one to take a quick look at Google on an iPhone for answers. Prof. Young carried file cards and if he wanted to remember something important, he took them out of his worn blazer pocket and wrote concepts down. He tended to keep all his correspondence short and, sometimes, cryptic because he never wasted words. When others wrote pages upon pages, he wrote a paragraph, or replied with one sentence, not a screen full.

Bob completed his doctorate at Oxford University, which means that after a master’s at McGill University and the Institut d’Études Politiques (Paris), he married Louise Gadbois and they moved to England. And like other doctoral students from Canada at Oxford before and after him, he was brilliant. He wrote so many papers and books that his official curriculum vitae was more than a 100 pages long. Accordingly between 2003 and 2017, he was awarded with a Canada Research Chair in Multilevel Governance, and he also served as President of the Canadian Political Science Association between 2003 and 2004.

He tackled important topics that required considerable background reading so he was renowned for his books and papers on federalism and secession, such as The Secession of Quebec and the Future of Canada. He was knowledgeable about separatism (recently the British government asked for his advice on Scottish separatism) and he edited and contributed to so many books on federal-municipal relations when that topic was newly emerging that his longtime publisher, McGill-Queen’s University Press could fill an entire bookshelf with his co-edited tomes, most recently Image-Building in Canadian MunicipalitiesSites of Governance: Multilevel Governance and Policy Making in Canada’s Big Cities; and Immigrant Settlement Policy in Canadian Municipalities.

He also turned his fine intellect to public policy topics, using esoteric game theory or dwelling upon the practical implications of positivist research methods. Writing about La Gouvernance Multiniveau et les Politiques Publiques au Sein des Municipalités du Canada or the Foundations of Governance: Municipal Governments in Canada’s Provinces, co-edited with Andrew Sancton, another professor at Western and former Rhodes Scholar, he remained fascinated by the implications of multilevel governance for public policy.

Due to his time in England, he adopted a professorial garb, which meant bare feet and sandals in summer, mismatched ties with blazers and often patches on his elbows in winter, and he carried hard copies of The Globe and Mail or The New Yorker in his suit jacket pockets, along with dog-eared file cards.

Prof. Young was also totally fluent in what it meant to be a professor and all which it involves. For that reason he was admired as a mentor among many young faculty and middle-aged scholars because he knew how to reason, how to write and how to be succinct as well as credible. Having been an oft-recipient of scholarships and fellowships himself, he knew about the intricacies and frustrations of writing research proposals for grants, like from Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and most recently, he was part of an expert review panel in the United Kingdom that determined the recipients of large research grants on Scottish independence offered by the British equivalent of SSHRC.

Often asked to critique important written work, Bob was very generous with his time and attention. He often returned work with his handwritten comments, usually in red, and every word he wrote was well advised and well taken. He knew how to write well and how to construct research proposals and get ahead in academe without losing integrity, becoming bitter, cynical or jaded.

He was self-effacing about his own accomplishments, like the Ontario Distinguished Researcher Award. Economists thought he was good at economics (he won the Douglas Purvis Memorial Prize in 1995-96 for the Best Work in Canadian Economic Policy) while historians thought he knew a great deal about history (he received the Canadian Historical Review Prize in 1988 for best article). In our department of political science, he was known for his large-scale comparative research, his breadth of knowledge about the changing Canada-Quebec environment, his strong background in public policy about Canadian municipalities, his understanding of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the political economy of New Brunswick, as well as his knowledge about the university’s governance, gleaned in part from having served as the chair of our department.

His students, as well as professionals and public servants deeply admired him and although his PowerPoint skills were by no means cutting edge, he mainly relied on his spoken words to persuade, illuminate and explain. Often he would lecture for about six hours straight, yet another long day standing before professionals in municipal government, who took notes from his spoken words and based upon chalkboard diagrams he drew during packed classes.

Bob received Western University’s highest award for achievement in research scholarship, the 2015 Hellmuth Prize. His lecture at the awards ceremony, which was also attended by many luminaries and leading lights, highlighted the importance of social science research at universities, at a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research is vaunted. But as was typical of Bob, his Hellmuth Prize lecture on “Nurturing Research” did not cajole but appealed to our higher sense of reason, as to what our society values and holds important.

For Bob, money, movie stars and climbing the corporate ladder held no meaning. His purpose was intellectual and academic but he did not see his position in the lofty tower of academe as removed from public service, but rather as part of a life of meaningful service to the ideals of the university. Life at the university was not a 9-to-5 job for him but the best way to live a full and meaningful life. We will miss him greatly.

Associate professor Erika Simpson, in the political science department at Western University, was a colleague and friend of Robert Young since 1996.

The Hill Times