Billions for defence, new dimensions of Ukraine conflict and more
DEFENCE BUDGET PILES NEW INCREASES ON TOP OF ONGOING INCREASES
Prior to the latest announcement, the projected total DND budget spending for 2022-23 (as set out in the Departmental Spending Plan) was $25.950 billion.
The budget document released on 7 April 2022 at pages 131-146 commits the Government of Canada to
a total of more than $8 billion in new funding over five years.
This number appears to comprise the following elements:
- $6.1 billion “to meet our defence priorities, including our continental defences, commitments to our allies, and for investments in equipment and technology to immediately increase the capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces” ($100 million in 2022-23);
- $242 million to support culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces ($37 million in 2022-23);
- $329 million to expand Operation UNIFIER ($111 million in 2022-23);
- $500 million in additional military aid to Ukraine (all in 2022-23); and
- $893 million to enhance cyber security, expand offensive cyber capabilities, and support intelligence and cyber security-related research ($89 million in 2022-23), for a total of $8.064 billion ($837 million in 2022-23).
While not nearly commensurate with the pre-budget hype suggesting far greater increases, the new commitments result in a defence budget going forward well in excess of the amounts promised in the 2017 Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE), which itself represents a 70% increase in Canada’s military spending over ten years. (For dollar figures, see infra.)
DND unable to spend its current allocations, let alone these latest increases
And then there is the inability of National Defence to expend all of the monies already allocated annually. Steven Chase in a pre-budget article states:
A recent report from the PBO found that, from 2017-18 to 2020-21, there was a cumulative shortfall of nearly $10-billion between the Defence Department’s planned capital spending and what was actually spent.
No doubt there are considerable improvements that can be made to the procurement process. But the timelines for acquiring highly complicated, hugely expensive capital equipment can only be compressed so far.
In short, the gap between monies allocated and monies expended is likely to continue.
What is the purpose of the latest increase?
By far the largest tranche of new money — $6.1 billion dollars — focuses in particular on “continental defences”, i.e., NORAD modernization. This was one area of the 2017 defence policy where funding was not included. So this does not represent a new commitment, but a funding allocation for an existing one.
This is a significant increase over the new defence monies allocated in the 2021 Budget of:
$252.2 million over five years to sustain existing continental and Arctic defence capabilities, and to lay the groundwork for NORAD’s future.
As for how these new monies will be spent, the budget document indicates that the government is currently considering options to fulfill its NORAD modernization commitment through significant investments in the following areas:
- Advanced all-domain surveillance and intelligence;
- Modernized command, control, and communications;
- Improved capabilities to deter and defeat threats; and,
- Increased research, development, and innovation.
Veteran Canadian peace and security analyst Ernie Regehr comments:
The point of the North Warning System (NWS) is and will remain domain awareness—awareness of events within and in the approaches to Canadian territory….
It is a sovereign responsibility of states to know what is entering or present within their jurisdictions.
The main contribution of an upgraded NWS will be to improve essential domain awareness in support of sovereignty, defence against conventional and asymmetric security threats, and to support public safety measures such as search and rescue.
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
This would be the sensible, prudent approach. It does not involve wasting untold billions seeking futilely to “deter and defeat” cruise and ballistic missile attacks for which there is no defence but nuclear deterrence — which in turn means prevention of any military engagement between nuclear-armed adversaries.
We call again upon the Government of Canada to focus our NORAD modernization efforts on appropriate upgrades to the North Warning System.
We feel compelled to make a further point here. Had Canada not chosen to waste countless billions on F-35 fighter jets, instead of a far less costly and appropriate option, there would have been significant funding already available for upgrades to the North Warning System.
Critics say Canada failing to meet NATO 2% GDP goal for defence spending
As we have frequently pointed out, Canada is mid-way through a massive increase in defence spending over ten years and has just increased that amount by a further $8 billion dollars over 5 years.
In dollar terms, the 2016–2017 defence budget of $18.9 billion will now rise to $41.3 billion by 2026-27, for a total dollar spending over 10 years of $266 billion dollars.
Let us repeat:
In dollar terms, the 2016–2017 defence budget of $18.9 billion will now rise to $41.3 billion by 2026-27, for a total dollar spending over 10 years of $266 billion dollars.
At that stage Canada will still fall short of the NATO 2% of GDP target, based on current projections of our GDP into the future.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
It is absurd to peg military spending to a percentage of economic activity, extrapolated into the future. We need to base our funding on our assessment of the threats to security that Canada faces and our determination of the best means, including non-military means, to address them.
For a discussion of the role of diplomacy and arms control in building security, click on the “play segment” below.
There could possibly be no stronger evidence of the importance of arms control and nuclear risk reduction measures than the fact that, even as the war in Ukraine rages, Russia and the US continue to engage with respect to their obligations under the New START Treaty, which limits nuclear warheads and launchers.
Hans Kristensen, writing for the Federation of American Scientists, observes:
At a time when direct contacts are being curtailed, antagonism runs high, and trust completely lost, it is nothing short of amazing that Russia and the United States continue to abide by the New START treaty and exchange classified information as if nothing had happened.
The reason is clear. Despite their differences, they both have a keen interest in keeping the other country’s long-range nuclear forces in check.
For the full article, see: Amidst Nuclear Saber Rattling: New START Treaty Demonstrates Importance (6 April 2022).
Why Ukraine war does not mean more countries should seek nuclear weapons
Some are contending that the Russia–Ukraine conflict is a reason for states to acquire nuclear weapons.
For compelling arguments in support of the decision of the vast majority of the world’s nations to reject nuclear weapons, see: Why the Ukraine war does not mean more countries should seek nuclear weapons (Jeffrey W. Knopf, thebulletin.org, 12 April 2002).
Does more and more defence spending actually make us safer?
Even as the horrific Ukraine war rages, we need to think about a better way forward.
Authors Carlo Rovelli and Matteo Smerlak, writing in Scientific American, explain the “self-defeating feedback loop” that drives ever-increasing military expenditures:
If my adversary increases its military expenditure, then I must also increase mine … which forces my adversary to increase its expenditure even more.
In the end, costs increase for all parties without any of them gaining the slightest competitive advantage; at the same time, humanity as a whole suffers from underinvestment in the areas that are truly essential to its survival.
Rovelli and Smerlak are part of an appeal from over 50 Nobel Prize winners and presidents of major scientific institutions around the world, including former US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, calling upon all countries to reduce their military spending by 2 percent per year.
with a global 2 percent per year reduction in military spending, humanity would save $1 trillion in just five years, compared to the spending that would result from current trends.
The appeal would leave half of these savings at the disposal of national governments, and the other half
should be allocated to a global fund dedicated to the fight against planetary emergencies such as pandemics, global warming and extreme poverty.
They remind us such structures already exist—e.g., the Global Environment Facility, the Climate Investment Funds or the Green Climate Fund—but their endowments are not enough, based on the challenges we face.
They further remind us that limiting wasteful military spending is a legal obligation of states under Article 26 of the UN Charter, which reads:
In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world ’s human and economic resources, the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the Members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments.” [emphasis added]
A global system of arms regulation would currently seem wholly unattainable.
But what might be within reach is an international agreement by countries to mutually reduce their military spending by 2 per cent a year, in order to address the huge, urgent global challenges clearly languishing for lack of funding.
You too can support this initiative by signing the petition: “Stop the arms race to the bottom”, available here.
For the full article, see A Small Cut in World Military Spending Could Help Fund Climate, Health and Poverty Solutions (scientificamerican.com, 17 March 2022).
For a frightening real-time example of the arms racing negative feedback loop, see Russia warns of nuclear weapons in Baltic if Sweden and Finland join NATO (guardian.com, 14 April 2022):
Moscow has said it will be forced to strengthen its defences in the Baltic if Finland and Sweden join Nato, including by deploying nuclear weapons….
The Agenda on TVO debates Canada’s defence spending
On Steve Paikin’s The Agenda (TVO, 11 April 2022) RI President Peggy Mason engaged in a lively, fact-based debate with veteran journalist David Pugliese and CGAI President David Perry over defence spending. The fourth panelist, retired general Andrew Leslie, focused squarely on fearmongering.
Check out the full discussion by clicking on the video link below.
For the latest views of the Canadian public on defence spending, see New poll suggests most Canadian think the government is spending enough on defence (Sarah Ritchie, CP, nationalnewswatch.com, 14 April 2022).
The Rideau Institute comments:
Canadian good sense prevails in spite of a near-constant media barrage that we are not spending enough, and virtually no mention that we are only half-way through a gargantuan 70% increase over 10 years, to which the new $8 billion has just been added.
Reviewing Canada’s defence policy
The 2022 budget statement also includes the following:
Budget 2022 announces a defence policy review to allow Canada to update its existing defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, in support of its broader international priorities and the changed global environment.
The review will focus on, amongst other things, the size and capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces; its roles and responsibilities; and making sure it has the resources required to both keep Canadians safe and contribute to operations around the world.
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
We commend the Government of Canada for not making hasty judgments about the implications of the Ukraine conflict on Canadian defence and security needs and priorities.
We urge them, in the framework for the Defence Policy Review, to include profound reflection on one of the early lessons from that conflict — the absolute imperative to prevent a direct military engagement between nuclear-armed adversaries.
What about a foreign policy review?
Defence policy is supposed to be determined within the broader context of Canada’s overall foreign policy goals, not as a stand-alone exercise.
Since 2015 we have called for the rebuilding of Canadian diplomatic capacity. This is an essential precondition for the undertaking of a meaningful foreign policy review.
We note that the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is currently conducting a Study on the Canadian foreign service and elements of the foreign policy machinery within Global Affairs Canada which might possibly lay the groundwork for the government to undertake an effective capacity-building exercise.
We look forward to the Senate committee report.
We also reiterate our October 2021 recommendation, which has become even more urgent in light of the Ukraine conflict:
To guide the diplomatic rebuilding process, in conjunction with a fundamental reassessment of Canada’s place in the world and how we safeguard and promote and improve it, an Independent Expert Commission is needed. It should include experts from inside and outside government and internationally, have the power to commission expert studies, and engage in broad public consultations.
Part of its remit should be the types of diplomatic expertise needed to advance the Commission’s recommendations and a detailed plan for developing that expertise.
Federal budget highlights economic risks of prolonged Ukraine conflict
In addition to the new pledge of $500 million in 2022-23 for further military aid to Ukraine, on top of more than $90 million in military aid previously committed in 2022, the budget also identified the potential economic risks of a prolonged Ukraine conflict.
A section of the federal budget document entitled Heightened Impact Scenario begins:
This scenario considers the economic repercussions of a drawn-out conflict in Ukraine with surging commodity prices, prolonged supply-chain disruptions, and more rapid monetary policy tightening.
The result is weaker economic activity and temporarily stronger inflation.
These negative implications for the Canadian economy must be set against the backdrop of dire global impacts, including WTO predictions that the war in Ukraine could halve 2022 global trade growth.
See also the latest International Monetary Fund global economic growth forecast, which is equally dismal.
Canada’s FM welcomes Turkish mediation efforts on Ukraine while Deputy PM Freeland demands total victory over Russia
Following a meeting between the Canadian and Turkish foreign ministers on 6 April 2022, Press Secretary Adrien Blanchard issued a statement which read in part:
Minister Joly expressed Canada’s appreciation for Turkey’s efforts to bring Russia and Ukraine together for peace talks, and both ministers agreed on the importance of peace and stability in the entire region.
So far as we can ascertain, this is the first, and to date only, reference by Canada to the ongoing Ukraine–Russia peace negotiations.
Nonetheless, it is an important start, especially in light of disturbing reports that the USA is “doing nothing” to help the negotiations, discussed later in the blog post.
The Joly statement was followed, however, by the following comment from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland in her Budget 2022 address to the House of Commons:
Putin and his henchmen are war criminals. The world’s democracies—including our own—can be safe only once the Russian tyrant and his armies are entirely vanquished.
Some have interpreted this statement as a call for regime change, a policy aim that President Biden has specifically denied, and which should not be confused with demands for legal accountability before the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
But it seems to us more like a bald assertion, from a country that is not actually doing any of the fighting, that nothing short of total victory over Russia will suffice.
In the view of the Rideau Institute:
It is hard to imagine a more irresponsible comment, coming from a member of an Alliance that will not, because it cannot, engage militarily with Russia in the conflict, leaving Ukraine to fight and to negotiate on its own.
It seems irresponsibility is catching among Western leaders
Article 6, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:
For the purpose of this Statute, “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
Prime Minister Trudeau, at a press conference in Laval, Quebec, was more cautious, stopping short of using the word himself:
There are official processes around determinations of genocide, but I think it’s absolutely right that more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done….
Later in Biden’s own comments, the President acknowledges that it is up to the “lawyers” to decide whether the evidence “qualifies” as constituting genocide, but seems undeterred by the blatant contradiction between that statement and his own categorical, and highly emotive, assertion that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine.
William Schabas, a professor of International Law at Middlesex University in London, describes the significant challenge in proving a case of genocide:
Things have happened in Ukraine … that would be elements in evidence if you were trying to convict Russia of genocide, but I haven’t seen anything that comes close to what you would need to show, because you would need to be able to show that Russia had the intent to exterminate the group….
For a further good discussion of the crime of genocide, as compared to war crimes and crimes against humanity, see Biden accuses Putin of committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine (npr.org, 12 April 2022).
What about war crimes accountability?
On the vital issue of war crimes accountability, see the latest, sobering, article by Paul Rogers: Can Russia be brought to justice for war crimes in Ukraine? (opendemocracy.net, 9 April 2022).
In this article Professor Rogers provides some broader context for what increasingly appears to be evidence of widespread and systematic Russian violations of the laws of war.
He writes of President Zelensky’s address to the UN Security Council following the revelations of apparent war crimes in Bucha:
Arguably Zelenskyi’s most compelling point was that the Russians’ actions in Ukraine are unparalleled in the post-Second World War era – and the rest of the world should act accordingly. Except, this is not actually true.
The wider reality of the terrible suffering in Ukraine is not that it is an unprecedently brutal war but that it is all too typical of the wars fought in recent decades. All the atrocities seen in Ukraine – wilful killing of civilians, hostage-taking, human shields, mass slaughter and more – have been carried out in other wars, often with intense loss of life, extending to the deaths of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.
Professor Rogers concludes with the hope, more than the expectation, that “existing international legal instruments” will be used for, and able to, dispense justice:
This is a great deal to ask for, given what is available – primarily limited to the International Criminal Court.
It is slow and exacting work… made a lot more difficult because Russia has not ratified the Rome Statute and is thus not a member state [of the Court]. Nor for that matter is the United States.
As we have previously discussed, Ukraine, while not a party to the Rome Statute either, has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, enabling the ICC to open an investigation into events in Ukraine, encompassing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but not the crime of aggression, which requires both the alleged perpetrator and the victim to be parties to the Statute.
US denies ICC has jurisdiction over American citizens
The NPR article, referenced earlier in the discussion of genocide, makes this observation about the hypocrisy in the American approach to the International Criminal Court:
The U.S. has broadly been hostile toward the ICC over its investigations of allies, including Israel, and refutes the notion that the court has jurisdiction over American citizens.
The ICC has previously sought to investigate allegations of war crimes by the U.S. military and CIA in Afghanistan, a controversial probe which has ebbed and flowed under immense political pressure.
This type of double standard is a central reason why many in the Global South do not buy the western spin that the Ukraine conflict is a battle over the rules-based international order. We discuss this aspect later in the blog post.
Is the US hindering much-needed diplomatic efforts?
Having inhibited diplomatic solutions prior to the war, the United States has been absent from negotiations since the invasion last month. The empty U.S. seat at the table is striking.
He quotes Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent:
now the U.S. is clearly not interested in peace negotiations — it is waiting for a Russian defeat, however many Ukrainian lives are lost in the process.
Ambassador Chas Freeman, a former career US diplomat, goes further:
it is the opposite of statecraft and diplomacy that the U.S. is not involved in any negotiations.
At best the U.S. has been absent and, at worst, implicitly opposed.
The article outlines the various elements of the peace deal that our blog posts have consistently highlighted:
- a neutrality treaty, made more “palatable” by an open door to EU membership,
- negotiations over the status of Crimea and the Donbas,
- the incremental lifting of sanctions in return for a cessation of violence, Russian withdrawal and further diplomatic concessions, and
- security guarantees involving the mandatory reimposition of sanctions, should Russia invade again.
has said nothing and remains “ambivalent” about the neutrality-EU trade off.
Neither has Washington seemingly offered any support for negotiations over the status of Crimea and the Donbas, nor any inkling of how and when sanctions are to be eased.
Rideau Institute comments:
Writing into the peace deal Russia’s formal agreement to Ukraine’s EU aspirations means that any steps by Russia subsequently to undermine the application process could constitute a breach of the deal, potentially triggering new sanctions.
For the full article, including depressing details on the earlier lack of American support for the Minsk Agreements (despite paying constant lip service to them) see Is the US hindering much-needed diplomatic efforts (Ted Snider, responsiblestatecraft.org, 9 April 2022).
What about Putin’s statement that peace talks are at ‘dead end’?
Both Reuters and the Financial Times carried headlines on 12 April reporting that
Putin says peace talks with Ukraine are at a dead end
However, the Financial Times report puts the statement in context, outlining what Russia sees as Ukrainian “deviation” from agreements reached in Istanbul as the basis for Putin’s conclusion:
So we are back to the dead-end situation.
Rideau Institute comments:
This statement, while certainly signalling a fundamental disagreement over key aspects of the deal, is nonetheless different from a categorical declaration that diplomatic talks are at an end.
Note that the Guardian.com reported in its “live coverage” at 1 pm EST on 14 April that, according to the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu:
Turkey is still working on organising a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Speaking to the Turkish news channel NTV, Cavusoglu said Turkey continues to approach talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents with “cautious optimism”, adding:
We know critical topics will be decided at leader level, so we will try to bring leaders together.
He acknowledged that recent events of alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Irpin have “created a negative atmosphere on the Ukrainian side”.
The update concludes:
Despite all those challenges, President Zelensky said talks may continue… But it takes two leaders to say yes. Especially President Putin.
In contrast to the lack of support for the peace talks, click here for the latest on NATO military assistance to Ukraine.
More on what non-western countries think of Russia’s war
We end our update with a superb article by Quincy Institute head Trita Parsi entitled Why non-Western countries tend to see Russia’s war very, very differently (quincyinst.org, 11 April 2022).
The sub-head reads:
The West appears blind to its own hypocrisy and narrow interests in calling for a rules-based order.
As Parsi explains, it is not that the Global South doesn’t sympathize with the plight of the Ukrainian people or fail to view Russia as the aggressor. The difference lies in the theme favoured by Western leaders that:
This war is ultimately not about Ukraine but about the “international rules based order,”
But from a non-western perspective:
That order hasn’t been rules based; instead it has allowed the U.S. to violate international law with impunity….
From their vantage point, no other country or bloc has undermined international law, norms or the rules-based order more than the U.S. and the West.
[M]any of these countries perceive themselves as having been on the receiving end of American unilateralism and recklessness. NATO, for instance, isn’t held in high regard in large parts of Africa because of its military intervention in Libya, which left a path of death and destruction in the Sahel.
In such circumstances it is not surprising that countries in the Global South are resisting making
massive and costly sacrifices – with little regard for their vulnerabilities and security needs – in order to save an order the U.S. itself has been at the forefront of eroding.
Trita Parsi concludes that, for these countries:
To return to an order in which the U.S. can continue to act outside international law is equivalent to asking the Global South to make unbearable sacrifices to uphold American exceptionalism.
We highly recommend reading the full article available here.
TENSIONS RISE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
As a reminder of all the other global issues receiving insufficient attention during the Ukraine horror, we end with this Al Jazeera article on the escalating situation in the occupied territories as Gaza residents worry about another war.
In the words of political analyst Mazen Jaabari:
We are moving gradually towards an escalation – the conditions are ripe for an explosion.
For the full article, see ‘Ripe for explosion’: Israel-Palestine tensions rise in Ramadan (Aljazeera.com, 14 April 2022).
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Fine art; Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter/Released)