Book Reviews

Strategy and the Arctic, 1986, ed. R.B. Byers and M. Slack, Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, Polaris Papers. 116 pp. $14.

The editors write that this volume draws attention to “the current military-strategic environment and relates this to the future strategic importance of the Arctic from both the Canadian and international perspective.”

J.R. Gibson notes that the Soviet Arctic is twice as big as the Canadian Arctic, has only about 550 xxxx and fisheries, at least 1,000 times more cultivated land and a population, at 7 million, 100 times larger than in the Canadian Arctic. There are great mineral and oil reserves in both Arctics, but it is the USSR that has the population and historical experience to exploit them. These simple economic facts render the Soviet Arctic of greater importance to the USSR than is the Canadian Arctic to this country.

Ron Purver points out that, for the Soviet Union, the Arctic, far from being a frozen wasteland, contains at least 9 cities of more than 100,000, and exploits huge resources of gold, nickel, tin and diamonds, in addition to oil. The Northern Sea Route also handles 1.5 to 3 million tons of cargo annually for the USSR. Purver gives a useful listing of, Arctic military activities, including Soviet deployment of missile-carrying submarines under ice, and the corresponding US counter-deployment of nuclear-powered attack submarines. He concludes, however, that Arctic arms deployment by the USSR is as yet quite limited compared to deployments elsewhere.

George Lindsey writes of the history of the DEW line and NORAD, emphasizing the Arctic’s importance as a strategic buffer zone, viewing the significance of the Arctic in possible future conflicts as a region where sea lanes must be defended and sophisticated early-warning systems will be increasingly deployed. However, as yet “the strategic significance of the Canadian Arctic is not enormous and is unlikely to change much unless there are significant economic developments.”

To John Gellner, the Canadian Arctic is a “strategic forefield” over which control must be established, preferably by Canada. However, Gellner claims that Canadian Northern sovereignty has been questioned by the US and he notes, rather ominously, that Great Powers take whatever steps they deem necessary to maintain their security.

Ron Purver, writing on arms control prospects, provides a valuable 30-year sketch of proposals, including the creation of nuclear weapons-free zones (NFZs). Many technical and political obstacles have bedevilled the various proposals, though many have great attractiveness, e.g. Hanna Newcombe’s idea to phase out nuclear weapon systems and to give Arctic early-warning systems to international agencies which would freely distribute information to all states of the region. Purver warns that it is unrealistic to suppose that the USSR will agree to a NFZ because its interests in the Arctic — including its submarine ballistic missile fleet bases — are critical. However, he notes that the Soviets have initiated many calls for rules to restrict strategic missile-carrying submarines from too close an approach to an adversary’s shore “without eliciting any response from Washington.”

In considering development and political change in the north, Nancy Weeks refers to appalling mismanagement of native affairs that earlier led to long-term separation of children from their societies and families in the name of education. Despite government determination as late as 1979 that the indigenous peoples be assimilated “into the Canadian mainstream”, land claims movements are now gathering strength. Weeks believes that the main problem to come will be how to arrive at equity not between natives and Europeans but between indigenous peoples themselves. Eric Solem warns that the low population and sparse military installations make the Canadian Arctic vulnerable to hostile penetration. Even if such penetration were essentially diversionary, it implies need for a better security and surveillance system. Solem notes, in reviewing the Canadian Arctic oil search, that an oil discovery `breakthrough does not appear imminent” and that “the economic perspective on … Beaufort Sea activity is not promising.” He considers that, especially because of low population and possible future disputes over Canadian Arctic sovereignty rights, this country should move immediately to augment its security forces and manifest its right to the region by enhanced and sustained activity.

Elizabeth Young, in stressing the enormous importance to the USSR of the Soviet Arctic’s economy and further development, details many of the problems (including legal ones) that threaten the prospects of international management for the Arctic as a whole. She refers to the advantages and needs relating to scientific cooperation in the Arctic and also, with approval, to a “current arms proposal” in which the Arctic would provide sanctuaries for different countries’ strategic missile-launching submarines, i.e., guarantee their immunity against the anti-submarine warfare of others. This point is also noted by other contributors.

This short but very worthwhile volume deserves careful reading by all those interested in Canadian far-northern development, security, and sovereignty. To assess risk to Canada through its vulnerable Arctic we need to know about the Arctic’s past, present, and future in human and material resources and problems. To obtain advantage from the north we must take stock of the kind of place it is, and here the comparisons with the Soviet Arctic are illuminating. It is clear that to secure the north and provide for its people we must spend vastly more time, money, effort, and thought on northern affairs than is now being done.

Alan H. Weatherley February 1988

Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking is a stimulating collection of articles written by Soviet and American scientists and edited jointly by Anatoly Gromyko, Director of African Studies in Moscow University and Martin Hallman, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. It is published in English by Walker and Co., 720 Fifth Avenue, N.Y. 10019, and in Russian by Progress Publishing Co., Moscow.

The “new thinking” that is inspired by this publication will not be unfamiliar to members of Science for Peace. Our brochure carries a quotation from Einstein from the fifties: “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive”. What is new is that at a time when the change of leadership in the Soviet Union has released a stream of new ideas and new proposals for the prevention of nuclear war, we find a response in kind from American scientists working together with their Soviet counterparts to trace “an evolutionary path” (as the joint preface states) to ending all war.

The key to such new thinking owes much to the pioneering done by the late Olof Palme in defining the need for policies of common security to replace policies of national security. The book is divided into three sections: the nuclear imperative, global thinking that must replace war thinking, and the process of change. What we find in these essays is more of a “breakthrough” in communication between the diverse societies of the USA and USSR than a panacea for peace. But that, coupled with some progress in arms control negotiations is itself important.

George Ignatieff

Our Common Future, 1987, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, (Oxford University Press); and Our Common Future — a Reader’s Guide (Earthscan Books Ltd., 1987).

Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway and Chairman of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) observes, “We live in an era in the history of nations when there is greater need than ever for co-ordinated political action and responsibility.” The report of the WCED, known colloquially as The Brundtland Report, was published under the title “Our Common Future” in April 1987 and presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations in the fall of that year. It was the result of nearly three years of study, debate, and world-wide hearings. The Commission’s main task was to come up with a global agenda for change. Its mandate spelled out three objectives: to re-examine the critical environment and development issues and to formulate realistic proposals for dealing with them; to propose new forms of international cooperation on these issues that will influence policies and events in the directions of needed changes; and to raise the levels of understanding and commitment to action of individuals, voluntary organizations, businesses, institutes and governments.

The full report is a formidable 400 pages long and demands some digesting, while the Reader’s Guide is shorter, more concentrated, and is arrestingly illustrated with vivid and telling photographs. The main broad headings are: Towards one world; sustainable development; a more equitable international economic system; population issues; food security; the urban challenge; energy problems; industry producing more with less; species and ecosystems; the oceans; Antarctica and space; conflict and environmental degradation; the threat of nuclear war.

Sustainable development is a core aspect of the report and is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. On this and on the need to evolve a new, more equitable international structure nothing less than a renaissance in economic decision making will be required. The commission opts for a low-energy future, firmly grounded in efficiency and conservation. Security must be broadened to include security from environmental degradation and pre-emption of developmental options.

The Commissioners came from 21 very different nations but were nevertheless able to agree about the directions of the necessary institutional changes. They concluded with a call for action, asking the United Nations to transform their report into a UN program for action on sustainable development, and saying, “We are unanimous in our conviction that the security, well-being, and very survival of the planet depend on such changes, now.”

John R. Ashton February 1988

(The above is a precis of a much longer review by John Ashton, a copy of which may be obtained from the Science for Peace office on request.)