Global steps forward in 2022 but not on Ukraine, Biden’s failed nuclear posture review and more
LET’S START WITH SOME GOOD NEWS FROM 2022
This year may have felt like a permacrisis you couldn’t stop doomscrolling through, but take heart: there is strong evidence the world is getting better all the time, say analysts at Future Crunch
Scientists at Oxford University released results of trials of a new malaria vaccine with “world-changing” potential, giving up to 80 per cent protection from the bite of the anopheles mosquito, the world’s deadliest animal.
While the vaccine trial results were released in 2021, 2022 saw key steps in the manufacture of the new vaccine.
The significance of this development cannot be overstated:
the charity Malaria No More said it might mean children dying from malaria could end in our lifetimes.
Animals, conservation and climate
2022 gains in these crucial areas include:
- The reversal of a century-long trend of wild tiger decline
- Populations of bison, lynx, wolves, beavers, and bears rebounding in Europe
- More ivory bans in effect with positive impacts on elephant populations
- Important gains against global deforestation in Nepal and India and an EU commitment to adopt the world’s first-ever legislation banning the trade of agricultural commodities driving global forest loss
On the climate front, there is some really surprising news, with the Times article stating:
Vladimir Putin arguably did more for the climate than any individual in human history, by turning clean energy into a national security issue, but no, coal power didn’t bounce back.
Instead, renewables and hydro took up the slack.
People and society
2022 saw considerable progress in this broad category, including:
- Increased abolition of the death penalty to more than 70% of the world’s countries
- Increased reproductive rights throughout many parts of the world, the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade notwithstanding
- Important legal gains for same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of homosexuality
- Progress in demining in Angola and Cambodia, two of the most mine-affected countries and
- Continued progress on decreasing child mortality despite the pandemic.
For the full details of these and other important global steps forward in improving the well-being of our planet and its people, see the full article HERE.
UKRAINE UPDATE: A MORAL CALL FOR PEACE
For an extraordinary appeal, comprehensive in its focus, see the 31 December 2022 appeal in The Nation entitled The Rev. William Barber II Delivers a Moral Call for Peace.
We need a cease-fire in Ukraine and beyond
For secular folks, there is much in this article beyond the scriptural references. On the question of why we need a cease-fire in Ukraine, Rev. Barber writes:
First because the human cost, especially for Ukrainian civilians, is too high….
But Ukrainians are not the only people being hurt by this war. The economic impact is dire, especially on the poorest people in the Global South, who are facing more hunger and more cold as a result of this war.
Barber also reminds us of all the other wars currently being fought around the world:
We need a cease-fire in every war being fought around the world. The fragile cease-fire in Yemen is barely holding. We need cease-fires in Sudan and South Sudan, in Somalia and Mali, in Myanmar and Iraq and beyond.
The Rideau Institute comments:
The difference with all those other wars, however, as the International Crisis Group regularly informs us, is that there are systematic, ongoing diplomatic peacemaking efforts to achieve cease-fires and then more permanent peace agreements.
Reverend Barber continues:
Militarism is central to all of the interconnected injustices that we fight against. Military spending diverts funds away from desperately needed social programs from health care to child care, from jobs to sustainable energy, from elder care to education, and more.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
This appeal is meant to remind us that, no matter how difficult the challenges, no matter how terrible the provocations, we need to start putting at least as much energy into diplomatically ending the war in Ukraine as we are in continuing it militarily.
We end this segment with the words of Professor Emeritus Rajan Manon from a welcome, but all-too-rare mainstream media article back in November 2022 entitled We can’t keep treating negotiations to end the Ukraine war as off limits (Guardian.com).
The notion that offering proposals for ending the war betrays Kyiv and aids Moscow is absurd. We need constructive discussions about diplomatic solutions. One day, they will be needed.
Additionally, preparations now may also facilitate the earlier arrival of that day.
UPDATE ON NUCLEAR RISKS: THE BIDEN NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW
The public release of the Biden administration’s long-awaited Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) took place on 27 October 2022 and was not commented on in our blog posts around that date. We remedy that oversight now.
the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) makes relatively few changes from the 2018 [Trump administration] NPR, continuing decades-long policies and strategies…. [including] the … warfighting strategy that drives high numbers of nuclear weapons….
It maintains focus on both nuclear modernization and arms control/risk reduction as essential elements of deterrence but falls short on actions to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, which was a priority goal for Biden.
With respect to that stated Biden priority, Tomero references Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, March 2021, which includes this commitment:
We will take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, while ensuring our strategic deterrent remains safe, secure and effective and that our extended deterrence commitments to our allies remain strong and credible.
See also National Security Strategy, November 2022, stating:
We remain equally committed to reducing the risks of nuclear war. This includes taking further steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our strategy.
But, as Tomero outlines, the NPR may even expand the role of nuclear weapons, by linking the nuclear deterrent to broader US defence strategy and national defence priorities, and by underscoring the linkage between conventional and nuclear elements of collective deterrence and defence.
This language echoes testimony we examined in an earlier blog segment on the Nuclear Posture Review wherein the former head of US Strategic (nuclear) Command stated:
Strategic [nuclear] deterrence is the foundation of our national defense policy and enables every U.S. military operation around the world. (emphasis added)
A failure to review America’s nuclear posture
In a searing article by a veteran nuclear policy analyst entitled A failure to review America’s nuclear posture (thebulletin.org, 28 October 2022), Joe Cirincione explains the reasons behind the lack of any significant change to the Pentagon’s budgets and deployments, writing:
Primarily this is because US nuclear posture is not a rational response to an external threat environment.
It is driven by those who see nuclear superiority as a tool of global power, those who use nuclear security as a wedge issue in partisan politics, and by those powerful arms corporations that realize vast profits from manufacturing, marketing, and maintaining these deadly arsenals.
The question is complicated by a process that gives those most interested in continuing nuclear programs the authority to write the policy governing these weapons.
The Pentagon controls the pen.
[Biden]… has let the Pentagon dictate his strategy rather than challenge a bureaucracy resisting any alteration of current programs and doctrine.
Policy should flow from the White House to executing departments, not the reverse. Let this be the end of a flawed, inadequate, and dangerous nuclear posture review process.
For more on what could — and should — have been done, see Joe Cirincione’s Quincy Brief No. 19: Achieving a Safer U.S. Nuclear Posture (quincyinst.org, 7 February 2022).
Some good news on the arms control front in the NPR
In the recent analysis by Leonor Tomero, with which we began this segment, there is some good news. She writes:
the renewed focus on arms control and risk reduction in the 2022 NPR is clear, stating “[t]he United States is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026.”
Having said that, however, she predicts that the
likely continuing challenges in the Senate to reach the 67 votes (2/3 majority) needed to approve a new arms control treaty portend the end of traditional arms control; thus creative, new ideas for achieving arms control objectives of predictability and strategic stability will become more important.
Now there is a clear agenda for Canada in promoting dialogue within NATO on how to help reduce nuclear risks and achieve the arms control objectives of predictability and strategic stability.
We reaffirm our call on the Government of Canada to exercise a leadership role within NATO in promoting dialogue on reducing nuclear risks and helping achieve the arms control objectives of predictability and strategic stability.
Multilateral disarmament in 2022
For a good overview of the general state of play on nuclear disarmament in 2022, featuring commentaries from two Canadian experts, see The Decline & Fall of Nuclear Disarmament in 2022 (indepthnews.net, 4 January 2023).
Despite the litany of generally bad news, one extremely positive element emerges — fewer long-term investments in 2022 in companies behind the nuclear weapons industry. A report from Don’t Bank on the Bomb surmises:
This could signal that a growing number of long-term investors do not see nuclear weapon production as a sustainable growth market and regard companies involved in it as a risk to be avoided.
The Rideau Institute comments:
Can it be that investors have understood what the Ukraine war is clearly telling us — nuclear weapons simply have no credible role in warfighting, with the risks inherent in their use far outweighing any conceivable military gain?
“Modest progress” on review of Biological Weapons Convention
Despite the current backdrop of geopolitical tensions, the three-week review of the Biological Weapons Convention is being hailed as a “modest success,” with an agreement to keep talking, establish a working group to tackle a long list of verification issues, and increase by one the UN unit that oversees treaty implementation.
In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the outcome of the Review Conference was
a glimmer of hope in an overall bleak international security environment.
For more analysis of the conference outcome and the general state of global arms control, see The treaties that make the world safer are struggling (vox.com, Jen Kirby, 5 January 2023).
UPDATE: THE FREELAND DOCTRINE AND CANADA’S INDO-PACIFIC POLICY
We canvassed the disastrous Freeland Doctrine — and how it might be fixed — in our 6 November 2022 blog post.
Zachary Paikin, an Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD) Research Fellow, brilliantly extends the conversation by examining the significant weaknesses within, and contradictions between, the Freeland doctrine and Canada’s new Indo-Pacific strategy. He writes:
The very notion [as Freeland contends] that today’s world is framed by a competition between democracies and autocracies is belied by numerous easily observable facts.
In the case of Ukraine, democratic Western countries are turning to authoritarian Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Azerbaijan to help address the war’s energy fallout.
Meanwhile, some of the world’s largest democracies such as India and Brazil have largely shied away from condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Turning from the Ukraine war to the Indo-Pacific, he notes:
In the Indo-Pacific, Vietnam’s Leninist political system has not prevented it from partnering with the West regarding its security concerns related to China.
He concludes, in what can only be described as a masterful understatement:
These facts suggest that Canada should not adopt the “democracy vs. autocracy” paradigm as a lodestar for strengthening its international engagement, given that it fails to capture the dynamics of the biggest geopolitical challenges of today (Ukraine) and tomorrow (the Indo-Pacific).
For the full analysis, which we highly recommend, see The “Freeland Doctrine” and Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy: Between isolation and confusion (ras-nsa.ca, 2 January 2023).
OPEN LETTER FROM OUTER SPACE INSTITUTE
The Canadian-based Outer Space Institute is now seeking further signatures to its Open Letter on reducing risks from uncontrolled reentries of rocket bodies and other space objects. The letter begins:
The uncontrolled reentry of space objects presents a significant, cumulative, fast-growing risk to human beings around the world.
Accordingly, the letter calls for:
- the initiation of multilateral negotiations on a controlled reentry agreement; and
- leadership by individual states through an immediate and unilateral commitment to a national, controlled reentry regime.
The Open Letter has already been signed by a distinguished group including former foreign ministers, heads of national space agencies, astronauts, and ambassadors, as well as a Nobel Prize winner, a retired Chief Scientist of NASA, and more than 100 leading academics from dozens of countries.
The full text of the Open Letter and the full list of signatories to date can be obtained HERE. For a discussion of these recommendations by the Outer Space Institute Co-Director Michael Byers, click HERE.
You can add your signature to the Open letter by clicking HERE and following the instructions.
We call upon the Government of Canada to demonstrate leadership in the peaceful uses of outer space by supporting multilateral negotiations on a controlled reentry agreement of space objects; and, to this end, committing to an immediate and unilateral national, controlled reentry regime.
NOTABLE NOTES: CANADA’S MIDDLE EAST ENGAGEMENT
For a refreshing reconceptualization of Canada’s Middle East policy, drawing in part on our historical engagement with that region, in stark contrast to our current approach, see Charting a New Path for Canadian Engagement with the Middle East by Jeremy Wildeman (peacediplomacy.org, 5 January 2023).
In the author’s view, Canada can upgrade its regional understanding and its ability to pursue its interests in the Middle East in part from
reviewing and learning from Canada’s past practices and approaching the region as a fair-minded actor with an aim of contributing to its peace, security and prosperity.
Photo credit: Wikimedia