The Soviet Union and its “threat” to invade Western Europe have both disappeared. Yet NATO retains a policy of battlefield nuclear weapons use and first strike preparedness, in contravention both of common morality and the ICJ judgements. In 1982 Leonid Brezhnev declared that the USSR would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Gorbachev made this a centrepiece of his policy of rapprochement. We never reciprocated — which led indirectly to Gorbachev’s fall, the final disintegration of the Soviet state and the subsequent cruelties of the futile war in Chechnya. That blood is on our hands too.
Instead of a Soviet invasion of the West, we have a NATO “invasion” of Eastern Europe. So Russia, its conventional forces humiliated by the Chechen guerrillas, is now prepared to strike first (Globe and Mail, Feb. 12/97). Ivan Rybkin, secretary of the Russian Security Council, stated on Tuesday (Feb. 11/97): “If an aggressor starts a war with conventional weapons, we may respond with nuclear ones” — a new policy from the Russian Ministry of Defence. And Russia’s missile forces have also suffered financial and maintenance problems — increasing the chances of a bad mistake in a crisis.
What is Canada doing? Lloyd Axworthy’s web page asks us to consider Canada’s response to the ICJ judgement against nuclear weapons. This web page is already regarded as dangerous in some NATO quarters (read the US and UK) and I’m fleetingly pleased to be living in such a radical country — and with a foreign minister talking with (Fidel pace Holly Ackerman, Peace Magazine, Jan/Feb. 1997) … but Canada did not demur from the December NATO announcement that nuclear weapons policies would be preserved unchanged. And in the UN we have voted against a ‘time-bound’ agreement for nuclear disarmament. What can Science for Peace do?
Lloyd Axworthy has asked the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Bill Graham, to examine the problems. Science For Peace has asked to appear before it. The committee issued a bland statement, delaying the start of deliberations and narrowing the focus. Will we get an opportunity to testify before the federal election? I doubt it. Will frustration in the Russian armed forces continue to build up? I presume so. Will Chretien and Axworthy abandon the Mackenzie King style (cf. the Scott quote) in their second term? Don’t hold your breath. But try to think of new ways to influence them.
“He skilfully avoided what was wrong without saying what was right, and never let his on the one hand know what his on the other hand was doing” W.L.M.K. (F.R. Scott)