Failed NPT conference leaves despair and hope; democratic deficit over Ukraine grows
REVIEW OF KEY NUCLEAR TREATY ENDS IN FAILURE
Following four weeks of intense discussions at UN Headquarters in New York, the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ended late on Friday without an agreed outcome document.
A statement from the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General read, inter alia:
The Secretary-General expresses his disappointment at the inability of the tenth Review Conference … to reach consensus on a substantive outcome and to capitalize on this opportunity to strengthen the NPT and advance its goals…
A world free of nuclear weapons remains the United Nations’ highest disarmament priority and a goal to which the Secretary-General remains firmly committed.
Former Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei was much blunter:
The ugly truth no matter how we wrap it is that all nine nuclear weapon states have no intention to disarm; quite to the contrary the trajectory is towards more sophisticated “usable” weapons and delivery systems! The emperor has no clothes … pic.twitter.com/vgHGyT8xeP
— Mohamed ElBaradei (@ElBaradei) August 27, 2022
The specific reason for the failure to agree on a consensus final document was Russia’s disagreement with the language on the nuclear safety crisis surrounding Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
Gabriela Rosa Hernández and Daryl G. Kimball provide some initial assessments of key participants, including those of conference president Gustavo Zlauvinen, who said that, despite the failure to reach consensus,
this should not detract from the fact that the states have engaged in sustained, in-depth negotiations … that brought us extremely close to an outcome document that contained agreed actions [and] steps.
This shows the commitment by all delegations to the treaty and provides a basis for momentum going forward.
Other participants noted that many nuclear-weapons states, not just Russia, resisted making clear commitments to fulfill the NPT’s disarmament goal.
Particularly telling were the closing comments of Alexander Kmentt, head of the Austrian delegation to the conference, where he first underscored
the dramatic trust and confidence deficit among some nuclear-weapon states.
In his view, they could agree on very little except
no forward movement on nuclear disarmament.
For more on the specific areas of disagreement among the nuclear weapons states and between them and the vast majority of non-nuclear weapons states, see Russia Blocks NPT Conference Consensus Over Ukraine (armscontrol.org, September 2022).
For a deeper analysis of the conference failure and its implications, by Project Ploughshares Executive Director Cesar Jaramillo, who was an NGO member of Canada’s official delegation, see Death by a Thousand Red Lines: The Colossal Failure of the 10th NPT Review Conference (ploughshares.ca, 1 September 2022).
Cesar Jaramillo concludes:
The fundamental point of division at the conference was never the Ukraine conflict. Rather, the essential divide was that [non-nuclear weapons states] NNWS wanted to chart a credible path to nuclear disarmament with concrete commitments and good-faith implementation, while [nuclear weapons states] NWS wanted to maintain the status quo. And the NWS won. For now.
Arms Control Association sees positive openings for renewed diplomacy
Notwithstanding the failure to reach consensus and the dismal assessment above, Hernández and Kimball nonetheless end their article on a positive note:
Although the review conference failed to formally reach consensus, several states expressed hope that Washington and Moscow would fulfill their pledges to resume negotiations to further reduce the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.
This issue is then pursued in a separate article by Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball entitled An Opening for Renewed Disarmament Diplomacy (armscontrol.org, September 2022).
Kimball first recalls a statement issued by President Joe Biden on August 1, at the start of the 10th review conference, in which he declared:
Even at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were able to work together to uphold our shared responsibility to ensure strategic stability. Today, my administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026. But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith.
As Kimball points out:
This call for further nuclear arms control negotiations was welcomed by dozens of states at the NPT review conference, where frustration over the deficit in disarmament diplomacy ran high.
And the two nuclear weapons states did agree in the draft NPT document
to pursue negotiations in good faith on a successor framework to New START before its expiration in 2026, in order to achieve deeper, irreversible, and verifiable reductions in their nuclear arsenals.
In Kimball’s view, with which we strongly agree:
Despite Russia’s decision to block consensus on the draft NPT document over other issues, both sides should follow through on the New START follow-on talks.
He explains why such action is so vital:
Without new arrangements to supersede New START, there will be no limits on the size or composition of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. Moreover, efforts to engage China and the other nuclear-armed states in the disarmament enterprise will fall flat, and the dangers of unconstrained global nuclear arms racing will only grow.
The article goes on to outline the potential scope of the new agreement and possible roadblocks ahead, especially in the American Congress, where an extremist group is calling for the USA to withdraw from New START in order to allow a further buildup of deployed strategic nuclear warheads.
Such radical notions would repudiate 50 years of U.S. policy, violate U.S. legal obligations under the NPT to pursue disarmament, and open the door to a dangerous new era of nuclear arms racing and nuclear proliferation.
In his conclusion, Kimball cites the 1979 statement by then Senator Biden to an Arms Control Association meeting that
[p]ursuing arms control is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an international responsibility and a national necessity.
That was true during the Cold War, and it remains true today.
We call upon the Government of Canada, as a member of the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament, to engage with fellow members, particularly those who are also NATO members, on tangible ways to support the initiation as soon as possible of follow-on negotiations between the USA and Russia to the New START nuclear treaty.
DEMOCRACIES AND THE POWER OF PROPAGANDA
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who has served as adviser to three UN Secretaries-General and currently serves as an advocate of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Secretary-General António Guterres, has written a powerful condemnation of American foreign policy in an article entitled The West’s False Narrative About Russia and China (othernews.info, 22 August 2022).
The relentless Western narrative that the West is noble while Russia and China are evil is simple-minded and extraordinarily dangerous.
It is an attempt to manipulate public opinion, not to deal with very real and pressing diplomacy.
Before proceeding with the details of his argument, it is worthwhile to focus in on his accusation of American manipulation of public opinion, in light of astonishing new revelations about a five-year American “influence” campaign reported by both Al Jazeera and the Washington Post.
The Al Jazeera article, Meta, Twitter bust ‘deceptive’ pro-US influence campaign: report (Aljazeera.com, 25 August 2022), includes the sub-head
Fake accounts promoted pro-Western narratives while trying to discredit China, Russia and Iran, researchers say.
Dozens of fake accounts promoted pro-Western narratives while trying to discredit countries including China, Russia and Iran over a nearly five-year period.
According to Al Jazeera, Graphika and SIO did not attribute the operations to a specific group or organisation, but Facebook parent company Meta and Twitter said the “presumptive” or known countries of origin for the activity were the US and the United Kingdom.
Al Jazeera notes:
The tactics outlined in the report resemble many of the same strategies that US officials have accused Russia and China of using to sow divisions and discord in their country.
Accounts promoting U.S. government messages violated the platforms’ rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.
Nix also noted:
This crackdown [by Facebook and Twitter] is the rare instance in which a U.S.-sponsored campaign targeting foreign audiences was found to violate the companies’ rules.
This lax approach stands in sharp contrast to actions taken against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, with social media apps Facebook, Instagram and YouTube having banned Russian state media accounts, restricted advertising and bolstered their fact-checking operations during the war.
Back to Jeffrey Sachs and the false western security narrative
But the point being made by Jeffrey Sachs is that the false western security narrative goes far beyond specific influence campaigns on social media and, indeed, is embedded in US national security strategy. He writes:
The core US idea is that China and Russia are implacable foes that are “attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”
These countries are, according to the US, “determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”
The irony is that since 1980 the US has been in at least 15 overseas wars of choice (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Panama, Serbia, Syria, and Yemen just to name a few), while China has been in none, and Russia only in one (Syria) beyond the former Soviet Union.
The US has military bases in 85 countries, China in 3, and Russia in 1 (Syria), beyond the former Soviet Union.
Sachs notes that Biden too has promoted this narrative:
declaring that the greatest challenge of our time is the competition with the autocracies, which “seek to advance their own power, export and expand their influence around the world, and justify their repressive policies and practices as a more efficient way to address today’s challenges.”
Recall our past critiques of Biden’s Summit of Democracies as a highly problematic means of countering repressive practices because it focuses only on those autocracies not deemed to be friends, allies and/or business partners of the West.
In a tacit acknowledgement of the sheer power of the military–industrial–congressional complex (MICC), Sachs observes that Biden is not bringing much that is new to the national security table:
US security strategy is not the work of any single US president but of the US security establishment, which is largely autonomous, and operates behind a wall of secrecy.
Sachs describes the essential democratic deficit at play:
The overwrought fear of China and Russia is sold to a Western public through manipulation of the facts.
He reminds us that the same methods were used back when America’s “greatest threat” was said to be Islamic fundamentalism:
George W. Bush, Jr. sold the public on the idea that America’s greatest threat was Islamic fundamentalism, without mentioning that it was the CIA, with Saudi Arabia and other countries, that had created, funded, and deployed the jihadists in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere to fight America’s wars.
Or consider the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, which was painted in the Western media as an act of unprovoked perfidy. Years later, we learned that the Soviet invasion was actually preceded by a CIA operation designed to provoke the Soviet invasion!
A recent, telling example is the early August 2022 visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, widely criticized even by American foreign policy establishment heavyweights like Thomas Friedman, who described Pelosi’s adventure as
utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.
But Sachs’ point is that
no G7 foreign minister criticized Pelosi’s provocation, yet the G7 ministers together harshly criticized China’s “overreaction” to Pelosi’s trip.
False Western narrative about Ukraine war
We have canvassed this issue in many past blog posts, but Sachs’ summary is worth the repetition:
The Western narrative about the Ukraine war is that it is an unprovoked attack by Putin in the quest to recreate the Russian empire.
Yet the real history starts with the Western promise to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not enlarge to the East, followed by four waves of NATO aggrandizement….
He also recalls the routine silence of Western media regarding:
- The U.S. failure to press Ukraine to carry out its commitments under the Minsk II agreement;
- the vast US armaments sent to Ukraine during the Trump and Biden Administrations in the lead-up to war; and
- the refusal of the US to negotiate with Putin over NATO enlargement to Ukraine.
A failing US hegemony
In Sachs’ view, the heart of the problem is the “dangerous, delusional, and outmoded idea” that the US can remain the world’s hegemonic power by augmenting military alliances around the world to contain or defeat China and Russia.
He reminds us:
The US has a mere 4.2% of the world population, and now a mere 16% of world GDP (measured at international prices). In fact, the combined GDP of the G7 is now less than that of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), while the G7 population is just 6 percent of the world compared with 41 percent in the BRICS.
The true sources of security
Like so many of our COVID-19-inspired posts on “rethinking security”, Sachs writes:
It’s past time that the US recognized the true sources of security: internal social cohesion and responsible cooperation with the rest of the world, rather than the illusion of hegemony.
With such a revised foreign policy, the US and its allies would avoid war with China and Russia, and enable the world to face its myriad environment, energy, food and social crises.
Time for Europe to wake up
Sachs’ final plea is for European leaders to pursue
the true source of European security: not US hegemony, but European security arrangements that respect the legitimate security interests of all European nations, certainly including Ukraine, but also including Russia…
He advises and we agree:
Europe should reflect on the fact that the non-enlargement of NATO and the implementation of the Minsk II agreements would have averted this awful war in Ukraine. At this stage, it is diplomacy, not military escalation, [that] is the true path to European and global security.
For the full article by Jeffrey Sachs, click here.
Gorbachev’s failed vision for post-Cold War Europe
The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, died on 30 August 2022. In a must-read article, Thomas Palley succinctly explains Gorbachev’s vision for post-Cold War Europe, why it failed and what that failure has meant for Europe.
Among the several reasons was US hostility. Palley explains:
Gorbachev’s vision of a Europeanized Russia represented a fundamental threat to US hegemony (military and economic) as it promised to join Western Europe and Russia in common cause.
That rendered Gorbachev’s vision strategically subversive.
Hopefully that quote will inspire all to read the full article: How the West betrayed Mikhail Gorbachev and seeded the Ukraine conflict (thomaspalley.com, 1 September 2022).
The Canadian media and the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Azov Battalion
We have lamented often in past posts the disturbing tendency of the mainstream media to substitute Ukraine cheerleading for any notion of objective reporting.
A further chilling example can be found in an article entitled Media Once Called Azov Neo-Nazis. Now They Hide That Fact (Davide Mastracci and Alex Cosh, readpassage.com, 24 August 2022).
The article traces the way the Canadian media’s approach to reporting on the Azov Regiment (formerly the Azov Battalion) has changed since the onset of the Ukraine conflict.
We found that these news outlets (and the wire services much of their coverage relied upon) went from directly acknowledging Azov’s neo-Nazi ideology to suggesting that the group is merely “controversial” or has a “checkered past.”
Some reports included no qualifiers at all, and simply presented the group as just another Ukrainian military unit fighting against Russia.
One Canadian journalist who has consistently reported on the “far-right Azov regiment” and its Nazi connections is Defence Watch journalist David Pugliese, who has also long catalogued the inexplicable laxness of the Canadian Forces and government officials when it comes to training and other interactions with this unit, a problem it seems not restricted to Canada.
In a 13 April 2022 article, he wrote:
NATO recently used Twitter to highlight women in Ukraine’s military but had to pull the tweet after social media users pointed out women pictured were wearing Nazi-affiliated insignia.
For the full Pugliese article, see: Canada failed when it trained Ukrainian troops linked to the far right, says Nazi hunter (ottawacitizen.com).
Canada, democratic accountability and the Ukraine conflict
In an important (paywalled) article in the Hill Times, staff writer Neil Moss examines the almost complete lack of parliamentary debate around Canada’s role in the Ukraine conflict.
Noting the apparent “limited willingness for increased parliamentary consultations” on the part of the Government of Canada, he writes:
Largely absent has been a loud call from the opposition benches to hold debates or votes on the missions. In the past, the opposition has called on the government to consult the House of Commons even in cases of non-combat deployments.
Moss cites Washburn University law professor, and Rideau Institute Senior Fellow, Craig Martin, a specialist in war powers and constitutional law, on the need to rethink the royal prerogative for military deployments:
He said other Westminster systems have granted more oversight in war powers, especially those like the United Kingdom that engaged in the Iraq war.
On the specific issue of the deployment of Canadian special operations forces in Ukraine, about which we have blogged in the past, Martin opposes it being done in secret:
If you have good reasons [for their deployment], you should be able to explain those to the public and if you cannot convince the public, you have to ask yourself, ‘Then why are we doing this?’
RI President Peggy Mason is also cited in the article:
Mason said the “real problem” is that Parliamentarians want to show their “absolute support” for Ukraine and, thus, have concluded there doesn’t need [to be] parliamentary scrutiny and transparency.
Believing that it is right to support Ukraine doesn’t translate into [saying] that every single action that a government takes purportedly in support of Ukraine is the right action or a good action or an appropriate action…
In my view, it is an abdication of responsibility by Parliamentarians to apparently have made this decision.
Carleton University professor David Carment adds:
Unfortunately, there is very little room for dissent … or debate…. Canadians need to be apprised of the actions the government is taking, and more specifically, the cost involved in doing these kinds of things….
The article also outlines efforts by NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen, her party’s defence critic, “for greater accountability” and “greater transparency”. Green Party MP Elizabeth May too has spoken out on this issue, saying:
I think it would be appropriate to have votes on specific military engagements of Canada in defending Ukraine.
For the full article see Some MPs hope for more transparency on Canada’s military response to invasion of Ukraine (Neil Moss, hilltimes.com, 31 August 2022).
We call upon the Government of Canada to consult Parliament on all Canada’s actions with respect to Ukraine, including the special forces Ukraine training mission.
We further call upon the NDP to designate one of their Opposition Days early in the Fall Session of Parliament to a debate on Canada’s role in the Ukraine conflict, as an important means of holding the government to account and providing Canadians with much needed information.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Gorbachev and Reagan signing the INF Treaty)