September 26 is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a goal of paramount importance in the extremely dangerous times that we are passing through. Indeed, the military confrontation that is looming between the United States and China – two nuclear powers – is certainly not to be taken lightly. It must be avoided at all costs, as it could wipe out a significant part of humanity, or even threaten its very survival. As the United States pressure its allies to adopt a more aggressive posture vis-à-vis China, including militarily, Canada must refuse and take the responsible act of ratifying the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons (TIAN).
The risk of nuclear weapons
It has long been known that a nuclear war, depending on its magnitude, would cause tens or hundreds of millions of immediate casualties. The most recent climate models also confirm what was apprehended as early as the 1980s, namely that a nuclear war would cause lasting climate change that could plunge a large part of humanity into famine.
These risks are neither theoretical nor improbable.
On the one hand, we have already passed very close to the disaster on several occasions, notably during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and during the Able Archer military exercise in 1983. Most recently, last October and January. , China would have believed in an imminent attack on the part of the United States and the American Chief of Staff Mark Milley – who also feared that Trump would launch a nuclear attack! – would have secretly telephoned his Chinese counterpart to reassure him in this regard.
On the other hand, several treaties marking out nuclear weapons or allowing mutual verification overflights are now obsolete, and a new arms race is in full swing.
A new cold war … which is heating up dangerously
In 2010, under Obama, the United States decided to “modernize” its entire nuclear arsenal: new nuclear weapons, new missiles, new submarines and strategic bombers. In 2018, under Trump, this program was confirmed and expanded, at an estimated cost of $ 1.2 trillion over 30 years. President Biden continues in the same vein. For their part, Russia and China have followed suit and have also launched plans to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals.
In recent years, we have witnessed the implementation of a new cold war on the part of the United States, which manifests itself in a discourse increasingly antagonizing China and Russia on a number of issues: 5G technology, treatment Uighurs, Hong Kong and Taiwan, for the first; Crimea, eastern Ukraine, interference in US elections and treatment of opponents, for the second.
What is even more worrying is that this confrontational rhetoric is accompanied by the most important NATO military exercises since the end of the Cold War, at the very gates of China and Russia and of a new United States National Defense Strategy (SDN) which replaced the “war on terror” with a new priority: strategic competition with China and Russia. In November 2020, the recommendations of the NATO Think Tank went in the same direction. Then, in March 2021, the UK adopted the same guidelines, also announcing a 45% increase in the cap on its nuclear warheads. A few days ago, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia revealed their new strategic partnership “to counter China”, including the supply of US nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, which canceled at the same time his contract with France worth 84 billion Canadian dollars.
Increasingly, the idea of a coming war between the United States and China is taking hold in public discourse, a prospect of utter irresponsibility and recklessness, in view of the possible consequences. Pentagon officials even go so far as to say that the question is not WHEN such a war will take place, but WHEN!
What should Canada do?
For Canada to play a positive role in the face of this threatening spiral, it should dissociate itself from this war propaganda and intervene strongly to calm things down, arguing that no economic or strategic issue is worth risking the life of. a large portion of humanity, even its very survival. In a more circumscribed and immediate way, Canada should abandon NATO’s nuclear policy and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TIAN), as 74% of Canadians want.
Canada bears great responsibility for the genesis and persistence of the nuclear peril. Involved in the development of the first atomic bombs, he then sold enough uranium to the United States and the United Kingdom to make 15,000 nuclear bombs. Since then, Canada has continued to defend NATO’s thesis that nuclear weapons are essential to the security and defense of its member countries.
For decades, Canada has spoken out in support of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, while opposing concrete action to achieve this goal. So in 2016, he voted against the UN resolution establishing the process that led to TIAN and, like 28 of the 29 NATO member countries, he then boycotted that process and refused to ratify. the Treaty. If it wants to help curb the current madness, Canada must change course and support the TIAN.
Unfortunately, as with the climate crisis, there is little chance that a Canadian government will adopt the measures that the situation requires without major and sustained citizen mobilizations forcing it to do so.