April 6, 2019 - No. 12

Muted NATO Summit on
70th Anniversary of NATO's Founding

Meetings -- 70 Years of NATO

70 Years Later, the German Question Remains
and Divisions Increase

United Actions in Washington, DC Stand Against War

Differences Within the U.S.-Led NATO Alliance

For Your Information

U.S. House of Representatives Bill Supporting NATO

Collusion and Contention Over the Arctic

Trudeau Government Moves to Militarize the Arctic

- Peter Ewart -

Northwest Passage Dispute

The Inuit and the Struggle for an Arctic Zone of Peace

For Your Information

The Arctic -- An Overview

Arctic Council and the Military Issue

Origins of NATO

Events Related to Establishment of NATO

Muted NATO Summit on 70th Anniversary of NATO's Founding

70 Years Later, the German Question Remains
and Divisions Increase

Washington, DC protest March 30, 2019, begins week of actions.

On April 3-4, foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met in Washington, DC to mark the 70th anniversary of NATO's founding, April 4, 1949. The summit was hosted by the U.S. State Department and attended by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Trump did not attend, though he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on April 2. The summit is being described as "uneventful," in part because the serious divisions that exist continue to deepen and were not resolved despite NATO being presented as the most successful alliance in history. Despite the divisions, a show of unity was in part directed at Russia and China, as a means to show that NATO is still in a position to act. "No military alliance in the world can remotely do what we do. No alliance can remotely match the power of the nations represented here today," Pompeo said.

Pompeo's remarks were also specifically intended to reassure NATO members of the U.S. commitment to collective defence.  He needed to do that in view of the fact that Trump has said more than once that the U.S. might not uphold Article 5, which requires NATO countries to defend any one member if attacked. Pompeo said that NATO has been "made strong through our collective defence commitment as enshrined in Article 5, to which we all recommit today." The U.S. Ambassador to NATO repeated this as well, saying: "The United States has consistently affirmed its support for NATO, including the principle of collective defence enshrined in Article 5... the President, Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, and other senior U.S. officials have all underscored this."

While this is what was said, Trump and Pompeo still made a point of targeting Germany especially to increase its war funding. In this manner, it can be seen that the "German Question," as it was referred to in 1949, remains.

The "German Question" Remains

When NATO was founded in 1949, it was a period of upsurge among the peoples, who had defeated fascism. They were demanding the denazification of Germany, the dismantling of its war industry and restoration of democratic liberties as well as fighting for and forming people's democracies. NATO was formed in part to block this democratic surge and to restore Nazis to positions of power, with the U.S. playing the main role. While the peoples were striving to consolidate their victories over fascism and eliminate any remnants of the Nazis and Nazi power from their midst, the U.S. was acting to do the opposite. This included the division and occupation of Germany and formation of NATO. Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, NATO's first Secretary General spoke to this, saying the goal for NATO was to "Keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down."

Today the U.S. has 32,000 troops and dozens of bases in Germany. It is pushing for Germany to greatly increase funding for war, including weapons and forces. The Pentagon, for example, is demanding NATO members meet what it refers to as "4-30" -- 30 battalions, 30 aircraft squadrons, 30 ships ready to move in 30 days.

In his speech Pompeo referenced Germany without naming it, saying, "Now is not the time to repeat tired excuses that our citizens don't support increased defence spending or security spending. Each nation has a duty to make the case to our people. We, as leaders, have a duty to make the case to our citizens about why this work, why these resources are important to keep not only our own countries but our alliance strong."

President Trump was more direct in comments April 2: "Germany, honestly, is not paying their fair share... They're paying close to 1 per cent, and they're supposed to be paying 2 per cent. And the United States, over the years, got to a point where it's paying 4.3 per cent, which is very unfair...because it's 4.3 of a much larger GDP. So we're paying for a big proportion of NATO, which basically is protecting Europe."

Vice President Pence repeated the demand April 3 saying, "Germany must do more." Referring to the Nord Stream offshore natural gas pipeline from Vyborg in the Russian Federation to Greifswald in Germany Pence said: "And we cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on Russia." "It is simply unacceptable for Europe's largest economy to continue to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defence and our common defence," Pence added.

Clearly the U.S. wants to block Germany from allying with Russia, while also having it do more to act militarily to protect Europe. Meanwhile, Trump has indicated repeatedly that the U.S. is reserving for itself a potential alliance with Russia. He regularly says he wants friendly relations with Russia so when he repeatedly threatens to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, it indicates such an alliance is a factor for withdrawal. When he threatens to withdraw the U.S. from NATO which he also does repeatedly, this is one of the reasons he gives. As well, with its 32,000 troops and dozens of bases on German soil, the U.S. does not appear worried about Germany becoming a stronger military power. The rest of the Europeans, however, are worried. For them the problem of "keeping the Germans down," remains. As is the case in the U.S., there is also broad opposition among the people, not only in Germany but throughout Europe to stepped up militarization, increased war funding and aggressive U.S.-led NATO wars.

Not only did the summit do nothing to resolve "the German Question," but Trump, Pence and Pompeo repeated in tandem that it is "unacceptable," for Germany not to increase war funding and that the U.S. may not continue to protect Europe. This does nothing to assuage European concerns about the rise of Germany militarily and the possible refusal of the U.S. to uphold Article 5 and even withdraw from NATO. Whatever form NATO may take in the future, U.S. dictate and conflicts within NATO, within the NATO countries themselves including the U.S. and between the U.S. and Europe will remain. NATO's expansion since the end of the Cold War has done nothing as concerns keeping Germany down or resolving these conflicts. The inter-imperialist striving for domination has only exacerbated the contradictions and increased the danger of war in Europe causing the peoples increasing concern.

Force for Wars of Destruction

At the Summit, Pompeo presented NATO as a major force for peace. NATO has provided a "shield against aggression and acts as a deterrent," he said. Creating NATO has paid "a massive dividend: decades of peace and prosperity for the West on a scale unrivaled in world history," he said. Everyone is to forget the massive U.S.-led NATO war to destroy Yugoslavia by completely dismembering the country. Evidently we are to forget the U.S.-led NATO aggression against Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and interference in Africa and now Latin America as Colombia has become a "global partner" of NATO, possibly to be followed by Brazil. The "deterrence" provided is to deter the striving of the peoples against war and for their rights. The upsurge after WWII to secure democracies that favour the people remains incomplete. NATO is precisely a deterrent to the completion of these democratic revolutions in Europe as well as the U.S. and Canada.

Pompeo Raises Spectre of Communism

Pompeo used the occasion of the NATO Summit to once again resurrect the Cold War rhetoric about the threat of communism. He used Germany to do so. He said, "There's a second anniversary of significance to the West that we celebrate this year too: the crumbling of the Iron Curtain... That anniversary is intimately connected to NATO. For 40 years, the NATO alliance was a bulwark against communist expansion in Europe. We were ready to invoke Article 5 at any moment if the Soviets poured through the Fulda Gap, the way that we did after 9/11. Our military superiority deterred them from acting on their designs of dominating Europe, and in the meantime, President Reagan's military buildup drove the evil empire into bankruptcy."

The Cold War has long since ended. The promised "peace dividend" proclaimed by Pompeo never materialized. The destruction of Yugoslavia, ongoing U.S.-led NATO wars and massive Pentagon budgets and demands for increased military funding by NATO reveal the truth of the matter. What then is the purpose in raising this spectre of communism today? It is to target the striving of the people for their rights, for societies that favour the interests of the people and their drive for an end to war and for relations of mutual respect and benefit among the peoples, as was the case 70 years ago when NATO was founded in the first place. It is to say once again that there is no alternative to imperialism, to U.S. domination, and to military and political blocs against the people such as NATO. It is to claim that history can go no further than this. The peoples must simply submit to the U.S. and its dysfunctional and outmoded democracy. The peoples say NO! as the actions show which were held against NATO in Washington in D.C. and elsewhere in the world at the time of the Summit and on this NATO anniversary. The peoples are fighting together for modern democracies that empower the people and block the warmongers.

Pompeo also called for NATO to extend its reach. "We must adapt our alliance to confront emerging threats too, whether that's Russian aggression, uncontrolled migration, cyber attacks, threats to energy security, Chinese strategic competition -- including technology in 5G -- and many other issues that jeopardize our people's ideals and our collective security," he said. To raise "uncontrolled migration" as a threat at a time Trump is threatening to close the border with Mexico and has positioned thousands of troops on the border and the crisis caused by U.S.-led wars in West Asia, is a deliberate offence. He mentions China and 5G at a time when Canada and the U.S. are already criminalizing the Chinese company Huawei, claiming its 5G network is a threat to national security. Similarly, the U.S. is targeting NATO member Turkey for purchasing a Russian missile defence system. "Turkey must choose," Vice President Pence warned. "Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history, or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?" Pence thundered. The U.S. is not only demanding that NATO countries increase their funding but the standardization of weapons and equipment as produced by the U.S. war industry, not any other. The rivalry is not only with China and Russia, but with the European Union as well.

The U.S. thinks that its self-serving portrayal of NATO will prevail. "Our structure is designed to empower each ally, not to subjugate it. We maintain an outstanding degree of unity," Pompeo said. The reality is that just as NATO was brought into being as an instrument of the U.S. striving to control Europe so as to dominate Asia, it could just as well pass away as others also strive to control Europe and dominate Asia, including the Asians themselves. Most importantly, the peoples of the world continue to hoist the banner of peace, freedom and democracy in a manner which is consistent with the actual conditions today which defy attempts by the imperialist powers with the U.S. in the lead to control the situation. NATO's anniversary summit was a muted affair that did nothing to resolve any of the conflicts within NATO and, especially, did nothing to "keep Russia out, Germany down and the U.S. in."

The peoples' cause for peace and security is best served by getting out of NATO and dismantling NATO. That is what 70 years of NATO reveal.

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United Actions in Washington, DC
Stand Against War

Washington, DC, March 30, 2019

No to NATO! Close All U.S. Bases Abroad! Hands Off Venezuela! These were the peoples' slogans that rang loud and clear on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of NATO's founding. The NATO Summit in Washington, DC was met by demonstrations and other actions by the people demanding NO to NATO and the closing of all U.S./NATO bases worldwide. A main rally and march took place on March 30, followed by conferences, concerts and an additional action on April 4 near the State Department. The firm stand taken opposed NATO as a harmful, aggressive military and political bloc that stands against the interests of the peoples. Commanded by the U.S., NATO has played a major role in the wars against Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and was largely responsible for the destruction and dismemberment of Yugoslavia twenty years ago. Politically NATO acts to impose what are called liberal democratic institutions and it organizes "training sessions" for elections and "institute building." This is despite the fact that the democratic systems in the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries are crisis-ridden, dysfunctional, corrupt and reverting to increasingly totalitarian methods of rule.

The actions and conferences targeted the U.S. as the main force pushing war and militarization worldwide, including demands that all NATO countries utilize U.S. weaponry. They also denounced U.S. efforts to impose regime change on Venezuela and vigorously opposed military intervention against that country, which is standing up to pursue its own path and rejecting U.S. dictate. The slogans Hands Off Venezuela! No Sanctions, No Military Intervention! were chanted throughout the actions.

The importance of standing together as one, opposing all U.S. aggression and all aggressive wars and NATO's participation in them, stood out at the various activities. So too did the demand to close all U.S. bases abroad, including bringing an end to AFRICOM, the U.S. command in Africa where operations by special forces and other military actions by the U.S. are taking place.

Delegations from Vancouver and Belgium were among those participating in the
Washington, DC march, March 30, 2019.

Delegations from Belgium, Canada, Germany and Russia joined those from many cities across the U.S. While NATO was being promoted as the source of peace and security, the demonstrators made clear that it is the united stand of the peoples for rights that provide security. None were going to be drawn into the conflicts about whether the U.S. should withdraw, or whether more war funding should take place. On the contrary, the demand was No to NATO, No to U.S. Wars and Regime Change, stop militarization, oppose war funding and demand funding for the rights of the people. The importance of united actions in the U.S. and with the anti-war forces internationally was repeatedly addressed.

A spirited meeting celebrating the second anniversary of the Black Alliance for Peace concluded the events, with a strong stand for rights at home, ending AFRICOM, closing all U.S. bases abroad and no compromise with the warmongers, whether white or black. African Americans in their majority have long stood against war and the Alliance is working to strengthen and organize that resistance. Participants resolved to step up the fight for rights at home and abroad and to organize more united actions.

Washington, DC, March 30, 2019

Washington, DC April 4, 2019

New York City, March 30, 2019

Minneapolis, MN, March 30, 2019

(Voice of Revolution)

Other Actions on the Occasion of NATO's Founding



Montreal, QC







Belfast, Ireland

London, England

Edinburgh, Scotland

Copenhagen, Denmark

(Photos: TML, M. Kimberley, Rehumanize Int., N. Freeman, MPAC, Canadian Peace Congress, N. Pagliccia, Hands Off Venezuela, London Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, J. Fenton, Green SCND)

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Differences Within the U.S.-Led NATO Alliance

Despite a show of support for NATO by the executive during the 70th Anniversary summit that took place in Washington, DC April 3-4, Trump has made clear the possibility of U.S. withdrawal remains. These conflicts in the United States within and between the Executive, the Congress and NATO members reflect the serious conflicts within the U.S. ruling circles over how to control Europe and dominate Asia, including holding Russia and China in check.

The conflicts and contradictions within NATO ranks and within the United States itself continue to find expression and were a feature of the 70th Anniversary Summit despite declarations of unity and strength.

On April 3, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was invited to address a joint session of Congress by Nancy Pelosi, Democratic head of the House of Representatives and Mitch McConnell, Republican head of the Senate. It is an honour usually reserved for select heads of state. The invitation was part of the efforts by a majority in the Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to counter Trump's repeated threats to withdraw from NATO. The invitation followed several other actions by Congress, including the passing of a bill in the House in January, by a vote of 357-22, to support NATO and block funding for withdrawal (28 Republicans and 26 Democrats did not vote). That bill is now before the Senate.

Trump Continues Issuing Threats

Once it was known that Congress had invited Stoltenberg to speak, Trump invited him to the White House on April 2. While both used the opportunity to say NATO members have responded to U.S. demands for member states to put more into war funding, at a joint press conference held before their meeting, Trump continued to say that more is needed. "We have seven of the 28 countries currently current and the rest are trying to catch up, and they will catch up. And some of them have no problems because they haven't been paying and they're very rich. But we're looking at the two per cent of GDP level. And at some point, I think it's going to have to go higher than that." This provides him the continued pretext to withdraw from NATO. When a reporter asked him directly if the U.S. would withdraw, he did not say no but repeated the same story. "People are paying, and I'm very happy with the fact that they're paying," Trump said.

Shoring up the idea that the U.S. may withdraw from NATO is the fact that some forces within the military and Trump administration consider that the U.S. would be better able to secure its aim of world domination without the NATO commitment to defend Europe. The U.S. extensive bases throughout Europe, including in Germany where it still has 32,000 troops stationed, shows it has greater military capabilities than all the other NATO countries put together in terms of nuclear weapons, bombers, battleships, drones and Special Forces (which now number 80,000 troops). In other words, the U.S. does not rely on NATO's military capabilities. Without NATO the U.S. would be free to act unilaterally since it would not have to take into account concerns expressed by European members like Germany and France.

U.S. Military bases in Europe.

This includes the constraint of Article 5 of the treaty to provide defence to any of the members in the event they are attacked. Trump questioned having to defend smaller countries that are now part of NATO, like Montenegro, saying it could trigger World War III. As well, a U.S. withdrawal from NATO permits the Trump administration to enter into whatever alliances it likes, such as an alliance with Russia to counter China while still controlling Europe. He could also enter into stronger bilateral agreements with countries like Poland and those of Eastern Europe which have integrated their forces with those of the U.S.

Relations with Russia are also a disputed area. At the press conference Trump said, "I think we'll get along with Russia. I do -- I do believe that." Meanwhile, the Pentagon has said Russia and China now pose the greatest threats to the U.S. How to maintain an upper hand while both colluding and contending remains, as Trump has indicated, a source of conflict.

NATO members which are in their majority European, commonly emphasize Russia as a major threat but concerns over energy supplies also mandate relations with Russia. When speaking to the Congress, Stoltenberg said: "We do not want a new arms race. We do not want a new Cold War. But we must not be naive." He said NATO had "no intention of deploying land-based nuclear weapons in Europe" but would "always take the necessary steps to provide credible and effective deterrence." "We need to maintain credible defence and defence for all NATO countries," he added, which of course means relying mainly on the U.S. For Russia, however, the claim of not positioning land-based nuclear weapons rings hollow. Previously, the U.S. promised that NATO would not expand eastward to encircle Russia, which it has done. And the U.S. can position nuclear weapons on its bases whether or not NATO members agree.

The reality that those favouring withdrawal from NATO currently have the upper hand within the administration is evident from the resignation of Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. A long-time Trump supporter who remains well-respected within the military, in his resignation letter, he emphasized: "One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests and serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies."

What the rulers hold in common despite their differences is the view that the U.S. is "indispensable" and must dominate. How to maintain that domination is what the in-fighting is all about. Trump's refusal to rule out withdrawal from NATO along with the resignation by Mattis are indicators that withdrawal from NATO remains a serious consideration.

U.S. Congressional Actions

Part of the debate about U.S. withdrawal from NATO includes whether the President can act without Congressional authorization. The U.S. Constitution requires the Senate to approve treaties with a 2/3 majority, but it does not speak directly to withdrawal. Other presidents have withdrawn from treaties, such as Carter who withdrew the U.S. from the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan at the time the U.S. recognized the People's Republic of China, and Bush who withdrew the U.S. from the ABM treaty with Russia. The Carter case, known as Goldwater v. Carter went to the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of Carter. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the ABM treaty with Russia.

The majority in Congress currently supports NATO. The recent bill by the House is an effort to block Trump from withdrawing from NATO. It states in part that NATO "has served as a pillar of international peace and stability, a critical component of United States security, and a deterrent against adversaries and external threats." Calling NATO "one of the most successful alliances in history," and "the foundation of U.S. foreign policy," the bill also states: The United States "is solemnly committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's principle of collective defence as enumerated in Article 5." All of this is directed at Trump's threats. The bill also says the Goldwater v Carter ruling is not "controlling legal precedent" and that it is the sense of Congress that "the President shall not withdraw the United States from NATO." It concludes, "No funds are authorized to be appropriated, obligated, or expended to take any action to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty." The bill is currently before the Senate and expected to pass, possibly with enough support to counter a Trump veto. In 2017, the then Republican-controlled House and Senate passed resolutions to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the treaty.

The invitation to Stoltenberg to address the Congress was another action by Congress to both counter Trump and reassure European allies that the U.S. will remain in NATO and defend Europe. Stoltenberg drew applause for noting that NATO was founded as a counter to Soviet aggression and that it remains a counter to "an aggressive and unpredictable Russia." He claimed Russia is responsible for "attempts to interfere in democracy itself.'' House leader Nancy Pelosi, another big promoter of the view about Russian interference in U.S. elections, tweeted after Stoltenberg's speech: "For 70 years, America's relationships with our NATO allies have formed the foundation of our efforts to make the world a more secure and peaceful place. As we mark this historic anniversary, we affirm America's ironclad commitment to NATO and achieving permanent peace."

U.S. Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, commented: "Given the president's evident and frequently vocalized skepticism of the alliance, it is clear that Congress -- on a bipartisan basis -- wants to put the full weight of the legislative branch behind NATO." "We will never find a better pool of allies in the world than the Europeans, and this address underscores the importance of the trans-Atlantic bridge, which has been creaking a bit lately," he added.

Stavridis is also one of many retired military, former intelligence, state and defence department officials who have publicly condemned Trump's "national emergency" at the border with Mexico, which opens the way for use of the military inside the U.S. and against Mexico. These actions show that the conflicts over NATO and how best to secure U.S. control abroad are tied to the civil war inside the country, which threatens to become openly violent.

Imperialist war abroad and civil war at home are integrally related. The current dysfunction of Congress, budget fights that end in government shutdowns, elections that resolve none of these battles, are all contributing to the intensification of conflicts among the ruling factions who have no solution to problems at home or abroad. Congress, with its actions on NATO, is in part attempting to reassert its authority. But it is unlikely to block the continued usurping of power by the executive. Rule of law abroad and at home is no longer recognized by the office of the president, something which occurred before Trump and which he is now consolidating in a government of police powers. It is the actions of the President that will be the determining factor for whether the U.S. does or does not withdraw from NATO, but a withdrawal could well trigger the very civil war the rulers are trying too avoid.

NATO as a U.S. Protection Racket

During his presidential campaign and into 2017, Donald Trump repeatedly referred to NATO as "obsolete" and criticized lack of military spending by member countries except the U.S. At the 2018 NATO Leaders Summit held in July in Brussels, he sharply criticized other NATO countries for not dedicating at least two per cent of their GDP to military spending, tweeting that the U.S. is carrying the burden of military spending in NATO, and that other countries should be spending four per cent of GDP on defence, like the U.S. does. He also accused Germany of being held captive by Russia, calling German investment in an $11 billion Baltic Sea pipeline to import Russian gas "unacceptable." In January of this year, the New York Times reported that "several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. [...] In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, [current and former officials of his administration] said Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States."

In recent months, the Trump administration has taken things a step further. It plans to impose increased financial demands on those countries that host U.S. troops and bases, such as Japan, south Korea, Germany and others on the basis of what is referred to as "Cost Plus 50" -- that the host countries should cover the cost of hosting those U.S. troops and bases plus an additional 50 per cent.

"Wealthy, wealthy countries that we're protecting are all under notice. We cannot be the fools for others," Trump said in a speech at the Pentagon on January 17.[1] There are differences of opinion within the U.S. ruling circles on this plan, as some consider that it will be unacceptable to U.S. partners, especially those whose populations have long resisted the U.S. presence. "In some cases, nations hosting American forces could be asked to pay five to six times as much as they do now under the 'Cost Plus 50' formula," Time Magazine reported on March 8. "The president's team sees the move as one way to prod NATO partners into accelerating increases in defence spending -- an issue Trump has hammered allies about since taking office," Time adds. This demand is said to have nearly derailed recent negotiations about the status of the 28,000 U.S. troops in south Korea. Reports indicate that the U.S. might "offer a discount" to countries that agree to align their policies closely with those of the U.S.[2]

Meanwhile, the U.S. has in place many bilateral military agreements, including Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that permit its troops to operate with impunity in other countries and also provide a means to apply pressure for increased military spending to suit U.S. aims. A January 16, 2015 report by the U.S. government's International Security Advisory Board on Status of Forces Agreements gives an overview of SOFAs at that time. The Executive Summary of the report states that "The United States has some form of SOFA agreement with more than 100 nations, about half under the NATO or the Partnership for Peace SOFAs, which apply, respectively to all NATO allies and most Partnership for Peace partners.[3] In addition, there are comprehensive agreements with other nations. There are, however, still countries with which the United States has significant military relationships but no SOFA. It should be a U.S. government-wide priority to fill those gaps."

U.S. Demand for Standardization of Weaponry

One of the matters of contention and competition amongst the U.S. imperialists and other big powers at this time is the connection between NATO's development and the growth of the war economy both in the U.S. and worldwide, especially with regard to the world trade in arms. In addition to a certain level of spending on the military, NATO membership also requires standardization of weapons. This requires, in practice, the consolidation of weapons' development in the U.S. Only certain approved weapons would be allowed as part of the standardization and these were invariably made in the U.S. The Canadian Avro Arrow was one of the casualties of this demand in the late 1950s.

In Europe, the big powers resisted on the front of fighter aircraft and this led to intense competition with the U.S. which eventually spilled over into commercial aircraft with the growth of Airbus (formerly known as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS)). Now Boeing, having destroyed the Bombardier C-Series commuter jet, is itself in trouble and Airbus is thriving.

With monopoly comes stagnation and the law of the uneven development of the productive forces takes over. Now many countries have surpassed the U.S. in missile technology and fighter aircraft.

The latest generation of Russian fighter jet is said to be superior to the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter. India announced recently that it destroyed one of its own space satellites using a ground-based missile. Japan has also leaped past the U.S. in missile technology while China is also gaining fast in the field of missile technology and the use of Artificial Intelligence amongst others things.


1. "Trump Seeks Huge Premium From Allies Hosting U.S. Troops," Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg, March 8, 2019.

2. TheHill.com informs that "Countries that host permanent U.S. military installations traditionally pay a portion of the costs to house and equip the troops. The payment varies country to country and in how it is given. While some allies, such as Japan and south Korea, make cash contributions, others including Germany -- where the United States has more than 30,000 troops -- pay by footing the bill for land, infrastructure and construction of the military facilities, as well as waiving taxes and customs duties."

3. NATO says its Partnership for Peace "is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation. [...] Activities on offer under the PfP programme touch on virtually every field of NATO activity. [...] Currently, there are 21 countries in the Partnership for Peace programme."

NATO also has individual arrangements with a number of countries that are not part of its regional frameworks which it calls "global partners." These presently include Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

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For Your Information

U.S. House of Representatives Bill Supporting NATO

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the following bill in January. It was introduced January 17 and passed January 22. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour, 357-22 with 54 representatives not voting. The bill is now before the Senate. If passed by a similar margin it is sufficient to overturn an expected veto by President Trump, which requires a 2/3 majority in both houses.

* * *

House Resolution H.R.676 -- 116th Congress (2019-2020)


To reiterate the support of the Congress of the United States for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the "NATO Support Act."


Congress finds that:

(1) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which came into being through the North Atlantic Treaty, which entered into force on April 4, 1949, between the United States of America and the other founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has served as a pillar of international peace and stability, a critical component of United States security, and a deterrent against adversaries and external threats.

(2) The House of Representatives affirmed in H. Res. 397, on June 27, 2017, that;

(A) NATO is one of the most successful military alliances in history, deterring the outbreak of another world war, protecting the territorial integrity of its members, and seeing the Cold War through to a peaceful conclusion;
(B) NATO remains the foundation of United States foreign policy to promote a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace;
(C) the United States is solemnly committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's principle of collective defence as enumerated in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty; and
(D) the House of Representatives --

(i) strongly supports the decision at the NATO Wales Summit in 2014 that each alliance member would aim to spend at least 2 per cent of its nation's gross domestic product on defence by 2024;
(ii) condemns any threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, freedom and democracy of any NATO ally; and
(iii) welcomes the Republic of Montenegro as the 29th member of the NATO Alliance.


It is the sense of Congress that:

(1) the President shall not withdraw the United States from NATO; and
(2) the case Goldwater v. Carter is not controlling legal precedent with respect to the withdrawal of the United States from a treaty.


It is the policy of the United States:

(1) to remain a member in good standing of NATO;
(2) to reject any efforts to withdraw the United States from NATO, or to indirectly withdraw from NATO by condemning or reducing contributions to NATO structures, activities, or operations, in a manner that creates a de facto withdrawal;
(3) to continue to work with NATO members to meet their 2014 Wales Defense Investment Pledge commitments; and
(4) to support robust United States funding for the European Deterrence Initiative, which increases the ability of the United States and its allies to deter and defend against Russian aggression.


Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds are authorized to be appropriated, obligated, or expended to take any action to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty, done at Washington, DC on April 4, 1949, between the United States of America and the other founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Passed the House of Representatives January 22, 2019.

Origins of NATO

Events Related to Establishment of NATO

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Collusion and Contention Over the Arctic

Trudeau Government Moves to Militarize the Arctic

Since NATO was founded 70 years ago, successive Canadian governments have had a policy of not allowing NATO-led activity to take place in the Canadian Arctic. Despite this, Canadian governments have invited certain NATO countries to participate in Canadian-led military exercises such as Operation Nanook held annually or the controversial low-flying exercises over Labrador and northern Quebec back in the 1980s and 90s. And, of course, being under the U.S. dominated NORAD and NORTHCOM military structures, Canada has been involved in numerous joint activities of a bi-lateral nature with the U.S. in the Arctic. In addition, over the years, Canada has participated in collective NATO activities in Norway, the most recent being the massive "Trident Juncture 18" exercises last Fall to which Canada contributed 2,000 personnel.

Nonetheless, even though Canada has by far the most extensive polar territory of all 29 NATO countries, large-scale NATO exercises have never taken place in the Canadian Arctic.[1] Wikileaks provided a window into the rationale of previous Canadian governments by releasing a number of confidential U.S. cables in 2011. In one cable, U.S. officials related that Harper had told NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen that Canada opposed "a NATO role in the Arctic" and that Canada had "a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions."[2]

Harper further stated that "some non-Arctic members favoured a NATO role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where 'they don't belong.'" In that regard, Harper was probably referring to "non-Arctic" European Union (EU) countries like Germany, France and the UK which have expressed great interest in eventually utilizing Canada's Northwest Passage as well as gaining access to the abundant natural resources that will open up in the Arctic as global temperatures rise and ice recedes.

The Northwest Passage winds through Canada's northern archipelago. However, the EU countries do not recognize Canada's claim that the sea lane lies within Canada's internal waters. Having U.S.-led NATO activities in the Canadian Arctic would fortify the EU's position that the Northwest Passage is situated in international waters. As a result, Canada's claim to the waters could become null and void.

For its part, the U.S. also does not recognize Canada's claim over the Passage. NATO activity in the Canadian Arctic could strengthen its case also. But there is also a downside for the U.S. Currently, the U.S. militarily has Canada under its thumb through NORAD and NORTHCOM. Inviting other European countries into the North American Arctic through U.S.-led NATO operations, especially competitors such as Germany, Britain and France, could be counter-productive in the long run for U.S. interests as well.

Indeed, the current bi-lateral arrangement between the U.S. and Canada is very much to the American advantage, and fits in well with the Trump administration's preference for establishing bi-lateral rather than multi-lateral deals with other countries. It also fits in with the aim of consolidating a "fortress North America" of monopolies and oligopolies.

However, while it is clear that Canadian governments of the past, both Liberal and Conservative, have opposed or discouraged NATO involvement in the Canadian Arctic, the Trudeau government appears to be throwing this longstanding position overboard.

For example, in 2017, the government put forward what it termed a new National Defence policy under the title "Strong, Secure, Engaged." This policy states that "Acknowledging rising international interest in the Arctic, Canada must enhance its ability to operate in the North and work closely with allies and partners." It further proposes a "new initiative" to "conduct joint exercises with Arctic allies and partners and support the strengthening of situational awareness and information sharing in the Arctic, including with NATO."[3]

Following up on the policy, the House of Commons Committee on National Defence, which was chaired by Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr, issued a report in June 2018 titled "Canada and NATO: An alliance forged in strength and reliability."[4] The tone of the report and many of the witness submissions suggests a much closer involvement with NATO in the Arctic is on the agenda.

In its final recommendations, the House of Commons Committee states "that the government of Canada take a leading role within NATO to specialize in Arctic defence and security doctrine and capabilities, and enhance NATO's situational awareness in the Arctic, including joint training and military exercises for NATO members in the Canadian Arctic."

As the language suggests, the new policy could lead to increased NATO and even U.S.-led NATO military activity in Canada's Arctic. If so, the Trudeau government risks losing Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, alienating Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who are opposed to militarization of the region, as well as further ramping up tensions with Russia which sees itself being encircled by NATO on various fronts.


1. "List of NATO exercises," Wikipedia, accessed March 18, 2019.

2. "Canada PM and NATO S-G discuss Afghanistan, the Strategic Concept, and the Arctic." Wikileaks, January 20, 2010.

3. "Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada's Defence Policy," Department of National Defence, 2017.

4. "Canada and NATO: An alliance forged in strength and reliability." Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence. House of Commons. Canada. June 2018.

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Northwest Passage Dispute

The Northwest Passage, the shipping route which winds through the many islands of the Canadian Arctic archipelago, has long been claimed by Canada to be internal waters under its jurisdiction. However, this position is disputed by the U.S. (and various European countries) who argue that the Passage is an international strait joining "one area of high seas to another," i.e. Davis Strait in the east and the Beaufort Sea in the west.[1] Thus, from the U.S administration's perspective, it does not fall under Canada's legal jurisdiction, and does not require Canadian government permission to sail through. As Arctic ice melts and clears the way for more trans-oceanic shipping, both commercial and military, this issue is expected to heat up.

The Canadian stand on the Northwest Passage was articulated in 1985 in the House of Commons by then Secretary of State for External Affairs Joe Clark who said: "Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic is indivisible. It embraces land, sea and ice. It extends without interruption to the seaward-facing coasts of the Arctic islands. These islands are joined, and not divided, by the waters between them. They are bridged for most of the year by ice. From time immemorial Canada's Inuit people have used and occupied the ice as they have used and occupied the land. The policy of the Government is to maintain the natural unity of the Canadian Arctic archipelago and to preserve Canada's sovereignty over land, sea and ice undiminished and undivided."[2]

Clark's speech came about in the wake of the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Polar Sea sailing through the Northwest Passage in 1985 without formal authorization by the Canadian government. This act of defiance by the U.S. government enraged many in Canada who saw it as a violation of Canadian sovereignty. There were protests across the country, including an incident in which Canadian students and Inuit activists dropped a Canadian flag and leaflets from an aircraft onto the deck of the Polar Sea and called for the crew to exit the Northwest Passage and return to international waters.[3] For its part, the Soviet Union supported Canada's claim of jurisdiction over the Passage just as it claimed sovereignty over the Northeast Passage which follows along its coast on the other side of the polar ice cap (a stand which Russia maintains to this day).

A similar controversy happened back in 1969 when the U.S. tanker SS Manhattan transited the Northwest Passage from east to west without asking permission of the Canadian government. Once again, this action was met with protests. For example, in the course of the voyage along the ice-clogged sea lane, "Inuit hunters stopped the vessel and demanded that the vessel master ask permission to cross through Canadian territory, which he did, and they granted."[4]

When the SS Manhattan, the first oil tanker ever to cross the Northwest Passage, came through Pond Inlet in 1969, Joseph Komangapik went out in front of it and began to build an igloo. Done as a symbolic gesture, it ran in a number of mainstream newspapers across Canada.

Even during the tense times of the Cold War and nuclear brinkmanship, the U.S. has considered its unfettered right of passage to be paramount, not just in the Arctic but globally. Indeed, these global naval interests "prevent the U.S. government from conceding to Canada on the [Northwest] passage." As one commentator puts it, the U.S. "will continue to project power from straits and channels and protect vital trade routes around the world."[5]

In 1987, more than a year after the Polar Sea incident, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney met with then U.S. President Ronald Reagan and discussed the Northwest Passage issue. In essence, rather than taking the issue further legally or diplomatically they agreed to disagree. The two countries decided "that the U.S. would always ask permission before sending icebreakers through the Northwest Passage. And the Canadians would always give it."[6]

At that time, according to some analysts, "the Americans did not want to set the precedent that accepting full Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage would mean elsewhere in places such as the strait of Hormuz [between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman]." But there was another complicating factor. The Americans did not want to win a court challenge against Canada in an international court "because to do so would mean that countries such as Russia would then have the clear international right to transit the [Northwest Passage]" close to the North American continent.[7]

The issue subsided for some years. However, in the dying days of his administration in 2009, President George W. Bush issued "National Security Presidential Directive -- 66." This directive states that "The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests ... "[8]

The directive challenges both Canada and Russia. It states: "Freedom of the seas is a top national priority. The Northwest Passage [claimed by Canada] is a strait used for international navigation, and the Northern Sea Route [claimed by Russia] includes straits used for international navigation; the regime of transit passage applies to passage through those straits. Preserving the rights and duties relating to navigation and overflight in the Arctic region supports our ability to exercise these rights through the world, including through strategic straits."

When the Harper government put in place a mandatory shipping reporting system, the American administration issued a diplomatic protest on March 19, 2010 in which it restated its position that 'the Northwest Passage constitutes a strait used for international shipping' and that Canada does not have "the right to unilaterally impose such a requirement."[9]

Since the Trump administration came into office, according to some observers, there are signs that the U.S. may be about to ramp up its challenge to Canada over the Northwest Passage. This is consistent with its scorn towards international laws and agreements, as well as bellicose attitude towards friend and foe alike, unintended consequences to be steamrolled over.

Most recently, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer stated that "the United States will have to be more engaged in the region" by conducting freedom-of-navigation operations "in the northwest -- in the northern passage"[10]. It is not clear whether "northern passage" refers to Canada's Northwest Passage or Russia's Northeast Passage or both. Whichever operation is undertaken would be highly provocative and, in the case of Russia, dangerous militarily.


1. Charron, Andrea. "The Northwest Passage in context," Canadian Military Journal, Winter 2005-2006.

2. Killas, Mark. "The legality of Canada's claims to the waters of its Arctic archipelago," Ontario Law Review, Vol. 19:1.

3. "1985 Polar Sea controversy," Wikipedia, accessed March 26, 2019.

4. "SS Manhattan (1962)," Wikipedia, accessed March 26, 2019.

5. Charron, Andrea. Ibid.

6. Beeler, Carolyn. "Who controls the Northwest Passage? It's up for debate," PRI's The World. September 4, 2017.

7. Huebert, Rob. "Protecting Canadian Arctic Sovereignty from Donald Trump," Canadian Global Affairs Institute, November 2018.

8. "National Security Presidential directive -- 66," White House, Office of the Press Secretary, January 9, 2009.

9. Huebert, Rob. Ibid.

10. Lajeunesse, Adam. "Is the next big fight over the Northwest Passage coming?" Policy Options, February 14, 2019.

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The Inuit and the Struggle for an
Arctic Zone of Peace

Canadian delegation at the 2018 general assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference,
held in Utqiagvik, Alaska.

Indigenous peoples of the Arctic, along with non-Indigenous residents, have a long and proud history of striving for a peaceful Arctic region. This includes the massive opposition to U.S. atomic bomb testing on Amchitka Island off Alaska in the 1960s and early 70s, the campaigns for peace in Nordic countries, and the long struggle of the Innu and Inuit peoples against the low-level and supersonic military flights that the Canadian government and various NATO countries conducted across Labrador and northern Quebec in the 1980s and 90s.

In 1989, in a powerful statement that still resonates today, Mary Simon, then President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), wrote eloquently about the need to establish an Arctic Zone of Peace. She points outs in her article that a vital starting point is to "recognize that vast regions in northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland and eastern Siberia constitute first and foremost the Inuit homeland" and that Inuit people do not want their traditional territories treated as "a strategic military and combat zone between eastern and Western alliances."[1]

She notes that the Inuit people, who have lived in the circumpolar regions for thousands of years, are the Arctic's legitimate spokespersons. Because their lands and communities "transcend the boundaries of four countries" (i.e. U.S., Canada, Greenland and Russia), the Inuit are in "a unique position to promote peace, security and arms control objectives among Arctic states."

"Any excessive military build-up in the North," she states, "whether by the Soviet Union [which was still in existence then] or the United States, only serves to divide the Arctic, perpetuate East-West tensions and the arms race, and put our people on opposing sides."

From an Inuit viewpoint, an Arctic zone of peace would not allow nuclear weapons or testing of weapons of mass destruction, nor military activities that "disrupt or undermine the communities, territories, rights and security of aboriginal and other northern peoples." In that regard, safeguarding the Arctic environment "must take precedence over military exercises and activities."

As a first step, the ICC proposes that Arctic nations must declare that an Arctic zone of peace should be a central objective for them, possibly brought about in stages. Furthermore, that, from these countries, "there must be an express commitment that their future military and arms control policies will be consistent with the objective of a zone for peace" and that Canadian and Nordic state territory "must not be used by any country for offensive and destabilizing military purposes."

Suring the 1980s Inuit assert sovereignty over their lands, Ntesinan, and oppose low
level flights.

In addition, nuclear weapons and all air- and sea-launched cruise missiles must be banned and the naval uses of the Arctic reviewed, keeping in mind that "the principle of unrestricted 'freedom of navigation' on the high seas is out-dated and open to abuse by military powers."

An important step in reversing the trend of militarization would be to develop an "international legal framework that codifies offences against the peace and security of humankind" and that these standards would include such human rights "as the right to peace, the right to development and right to a safe and healthy environment."

In closing, she urged "all Arctic governments, regardless of their military affiliation or nuclear status, to embrace the idea of an Arctic zone of peace" and that for those whose ancestral home has always been the Arctic the future of the North merits no less!"


1. Simon, Mary. "Toward and Arctic Zone of Peace: An Inuit Perspective." Peace Research, Vol. 21, No. 4 (November 1989). Canadian Mennonite University.

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For Your Information

The Arctic -- An Overview

Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The Arctic is one of the treasures of the planet earth, a region of great beauty, pristine wilderness, and often unforgiving climate. If the dividing line for its Southern boundary is set at the 60th parallel (which would include the Arctic and parts of the sub-Arctic), it encompasses millions of kilometres of ice, snow, tundra, glacier, ocean, mountain, forest, muskeg, polar desert, and perma-frost. About 40 per cent of Canada's territory lies within the Arctic region as does much of the other Arctic countries. Despite the harsh climate, there is a wide range of animal life, including caribou, reindeer, walrus, whales, polar bears, wolves, great flocks of birds, and other species.

Despite the impression of it as an ancient, primordial region, the current Arctic environment is the world's youngest in geological time. Seventy million years ago the region was virtually ice-free and was blanketed with ferns, cypress trees, and other flora, and populated with animals associated with sub-tropical climates.

The population of the Arctic today is about four million people of which approximately 10 per cent are Indigenous (numbers can vary widely depending upon where Arctic boundaries are drawn). In Canada, however, Indigenous people represent about half the Arctic population, and in Greenland, the majority. These Indigenous and non-Indigenous people live in eight different countries, including the U.S. (Alaska), Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Northern Quebec and Labrador), Greenland and Faroe Islands (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Over half of the 4 million live in Russia which has the largest city north of the Arctic Circle (Murmansk).

Indigenous peoples are believed to have inhabited Siberia in Russia as far back as 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. In Canada, estimates for penetration of the Arctic Circle region range between 12,000 to 14,000 BCE, with the settlements of Inuit peoples estimated to be 2500 BCE or as early as 6500 BCE. Through ingenuity, hard work and intelligence, these peoples were able to build and sustain their nations and rich cultures in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, often with very limited materials.

A partial list of Indigenous Arctic groupings today includes Inuit (Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Russia), Gwich'in (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska), Athabaskan (Canada, Alaska), Sami (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia), Aleutian (Alaska, Russia), Innu (Canada) and Cree (Canada). Russia alone has over 40 Indigenous peoples. In all these regions, Indigenous populations were decimated by colonial exploitation, cultural aggression, introduced diseases, and other scourges. But in the face of it all, through their determined efforts, they have defended their rights, land and livelihoods, as well as opposed militarization of the region.

There are wide divergences across the vast region of the Arctic in terms of population, governance, cultures, languages, and climate, as well as extent of urbanization, industrialization and militarization. For example, northern Canada and Greenland are sparsely populated, while Alaska and Russia are significantly larger. The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth (minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit) was in Siberia. Yet the climate in Reykjavik, Iceland, influenced by ocean currents, is relatively moderate with the temperature varying only a few degrees either above or below zero year round. Despite the differences and distances, the peoples of the Arctic have links that go back many years and see themselves as having not only common territory but often common cause with each other.

The Arctic region is rich in natural resources including an estimated 22 per cent of the world's oil and gas reserves; deposits of uranium, bauxite, iron ore, copper, nickel, cobalt, phosphates and numerous other metals and minerals; fresh water (10 per cent of the world's fresh water is tied up in the Greenland ice sheet); hydro power; and extensive fish and sea animal stock. Industries include mining, oil and gas drilling, hunting and gathering, fishing, trapping, animal husbandry (reindeer), tourism and Indigenous art and sculpture.

Despite its pristine nature, the Arctic is experiencing dramatic effects from pollution and global warming. Industrial development, along with increased military activities, are increasing pollution in the land and waters. In addition, airborne pollutants from other regions of the earth are accumulating.

As temperatures rise (much faster than almost anywhere else on earth), the melting of sea ice and glaciers is having a huge impact on the land, wildlife and peoples of the region, as well as sea levels worldwide. Along with other issues, the problem is compounded by the permafrost thawing and releasing huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.

In coming years, it is expected that Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northeast Passage will become less ice-bound and more navigable, opening up these routes for trans-oceanic shipping, as well as oil and gas drilling and fishing. As a result, competition between the big powers and corporate cartels is ramping up for access and control through both commercial and military means.

It is true that new and challenging problems are emerging. But is also true that the peoples of the Arctic, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, including those in Canada, are resilient and will continue fighting to defend their rights, lands and way of life.

In the following songs (translated from Inuktitut 100 years ago), the wonderful Inuit oral poet and singer Uvavnuk captured so well the resilient spirit and outlook of her people amidst the awe-inspiring forces of nature:

The Great Sea

The great sea
Has sent me adrift.
It moves me
As the weed in a great river
Earth and the great weather
Move me
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts with joy.

The one great thing

And I think over again
My small adventures
When from a shore wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And I thought I was in danger.
My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.
And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing.

To live and see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.

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Arctic Council and the Military Issue

The Arctic Council, formed in 1996, is the leading multi-lateral body in the Arctic region.[1] Its eight voting-member states are Canada, U.S., Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, all of which have territory within the Arctic Circle. As well, there are six "Indigenous Participant" organizations, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich'in Council International, Russian Association of Indigenous peoples of the North and the Saami Council. In addition, thirteen Asian and European states, including Germany, U.K., Japan, and China, have "Observer" status.

In its work, the Council is defined as the leading inter-governmental forum in the Arctic that:

a) provides a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
b) oversees and coordinate the programs established under the Arctic Environmental Assessment Strategy.

The Council came into being following the suggestion of Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in a speech he made in Leningrad on November 24, 1989. In his speech, Mulroney posed the question: "And why not a council of Arctic countries eventually coming into existence to co-ordinate and promote co-operation among them?"[2]

This echoed the statement of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and secretary of state Lester B. Pearson back in 1946 that Canada "wished to work 'not only with the USA but with the other Arctic countries, Denmark, Norway and the Soviet Union,' in fostering cooperative measures for the economic and communications development of the Arctic'." According to some analysts, this statement was prompted by longstanding "Canadian fear of American pressure."[3]

In 1987 in Murmansk, two years before Mulroney's statement, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, made a foreign policy speech calling for the Arctic to become a "zone of peace."[4] In his comments, he called for the following six measures:

1. Establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Northern Europe.
2. Consultations between the Warsaw Pact and NATO aimed at restricting and scaling down naval and airforce activities in the waters of Northern Europe and Greenland.
3. Cooperation on resource development and technical exchange.
4. Coordination and exchange of research between northern and sub-arctic countries on scientific issues with special attention on Indigenous populations and ethnic groups.
5. Cooperation between northern countries on environmental protection and management.
6. Opening up of the Northern sea route to foreign ships, with Russia providing the ice-breakers.

Gorbachev's speech is seen by many as laying the foundation for the Arctic Council and other cooperative initiatives that followed amongst the Arctic countries and peoples, including the Finland-led Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (which was later to be transformed into the Arctic Council).

Following up on Prime Minister Mulroney's suggestion, a panel of Canadian northerners and northern experts began what was called "The Arctic Council Project," which received financial support from the Walter and Duncan Gordon Charitable Foundation. Walter Gordon was a federal Liberal cabinet minister known for his economic nationalist policies.

Another factor in the development of the Project was "the growing voice of the indigenous peoples of the Canadian North" which was reflected in the composition of the panel. Members included co-chairs Franklyn Griffiths, a professor of political science and Rosemarie Kuptana, former president of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, as well as individuals from various northern Indigenous organizations including the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Dene Nation, Indigenous Survival International and Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Other members were from the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee and the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament.

After consulting with northerners across the Arctic, the panel released a "Framework Report" in 1990 to establish an international Arctic Council.[5] In the report, the panel noted that "Canada's fate and the fate of the Arctic are inseparable" and that Canada, as a northern people and northern land, was in a unique position to take the lead in establishing the Council. It stated that "as the alignments and priorities of the Cold War give way to a new architecture of regional and global co-operation, the ice states are presented with a truly extraordinary opportunity for institution-building in the Arctic."

The panel's vision of the Arctic was not as a frontier "but as part of the common home of the circumpolar nations." This vision acknowledged "that the outstanding resource of the Arctic is its people, not its oil and gas, hard minerals or space for military action." Furthermore, the panel believed that the new Council would break with the past "in giving new voice to northerners" and new opportunities for collaboration and cooperation.

The report argued that "to view the Arctic primarily in terms of sovereignty and its defence against foreign intrusion is to be woefully behind the time," especially in light of "countless silent border crossings [that] occur daily in a region whose environment forms a whole." It further stated that the Arctic is a distinct domain, that new inter-state cooperation is required, and that to conceive of the Council's Arctic purpose "essentially in terms of what might be accomplished behind lines of national jurisdiction is no longer adequate."

Speaking of Canada's support for civil collaboration, the report stated that Canada had pursued "bilateral Arctic measures with the Soviet Union since the 1970s" and favoured "multilateral arrangements that in some instances have had more in common with the thinking of the Soviet Union than the United States." However, it also pointed out that "for the time being, though, Canada adheres to the NATO view that the Arctic military matters are to be negotiated exclusively on an East-West rather than a circumpolar basis."

The report noted that the increased militarization of the Arctic up to then, i.e. 1990, was not likely to be checked by current arms control means and that the region was "subject to continued militarization even as demilitarization becomes the rule in Europe and in American-Soviet relations." This amounted to being treated in a "prejudicial fashion by national security decision-makers."

In the opinion of panel members, the eight member states of the proposed Arctic Council would have "an obligation to discuss the military problems of the Arctic, and to carry any common understandings forward into the relevant extra-regional negotiations," and that "the stronger the force of Arctic military competition and the opposed-forces thinking that accompanies it, the more difficult the civil collaboration that is essential to sound management of an interdependent region." The conclusion was that the Arctic "cannot remain a home to military competition increasingly viewed as intolerable elsewhere" and that there was a need for an international instrument like the Arctic Council which "permits all concerned to generate and act upon a common vision of the region's future."

Regarding the inevitable criticism from some quarters about including military affairs in the Council's agenda, the report claimed that there was no "iron curtain" between civil and military matters and "that only a general-purpose Arctic institution is equal to the shared responsibilities of the Arctic states and to the opportunity to make a new beginning at a time of fundamental transition in international affairs." Furthermore, that "to constrain [the Arctic Council] to a non-military agenda would in effect be to affirm that a southern user's mentality enjoys undiminished official support among the Arctic Eight."

At first, "neither the Americans or Soviets accepted the initial effort to create this council."[6] As time went on, the Panel saw its recommendations being watered down or eliminated. Various states were "unanimous in tacit opposition to negotiations among arctic states on military matters" and that these matters "were more appropriately addressed in fora like NATO or the Helsinki Process (CSCE)." On the other hand, Indigenous peoples and territorial governments were more likely to want these issues on the agenda.[7]

Besides the problem of military issues, the U.S. was also opposed "to the Canadian focus on Indigenous issues" over that of the environment, as well as being concerned about Canada's insistence on "sovereignty over ice-covered waters where Canadian Inuit were hunting and where the U.S. wished to establish shipping routes."

The Americans eventually joined the Council, but reluctantly. The price paid for persuading the Americans to join was "their determination to keep the Council as weak as possible." As a result, Canadian officials were unable to give the Arctic Council the powers they believed it needed to serve as an effective forum for the circumpolar world."[8]

Since 1996, the Arctic Council has convened on a regular basis and has undertaken a number of environmental, ecological and social initiatives. In addition, although the Council itself does not have enforcement powers, it has provided a forum for the negotiation of "important legally binding agreements among the eight Arctic States" such as regarding search and rescue in the Arctic, marine oil pollution preparedness and response, and Arctic science cooperation.

However, the mandate of the Council continues to explicitly exclude issues of "military security" or militarization regarding the Arctic. But in recent years there has been some questioning of this longstanding position. The irony is that the concern is now coming from U.S. sources. For example, in 2016, during the Obama administration, the Washington, D.C. security and defence think tank "Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)" called for a redesigned Arctic Council to include a "security dimension." And there are other U.S. voices also wanting to expand the Council's mandate. The rationale for this expansion appears to come from what is perceived by some to be a developing Russian military threat in the region and elsewhere.[9]

Still others see the inclusion of military issues on the Council's agenda as a "politicization" of the organization and "risks damaging the current cooperation and coordination between Arctic states and indigenous communities." In that regard, the boycott of an Arctic Council meeting in Russia in 2014 by Canada and the U.S. over the Ukraine/Crimea crisis is viewed by some as an example of this politicization. Such politicization could "paralyze" the organization, they argue. Instead, the existing Council governance structure is said "to function very well, largely unaffected by major security crises."[10]

However, in 2019, given the Trump administration's concern about participating in multilateral structures, it remains to be seen what its position will be regarding any proposed expansion of the Arctic Council's mandate to include military issues or, for that matter, what form its participation in the Council may take in the future.


1. "The Arctic Council."

2. "To establish an international Arctic Council: A framework report." Interim Report of the Arctic Council Panel. Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. November 1990.

3. Keskitalo, Eva. "Negotiating the Arctic: The construction of an international regime." New York: Rutledge, 2004.

4. Gorbachev, Mikhail. "Speech in Murmansk at the ceremonial meeting on the occasion of the presentation of the order of Lenin and the gold star to the city of Murmansk." Oct. 1987.

5. "To establish an international Arctic Council: A framework report." Interim Report of the Arctic Council Panel. Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. November 1990.

6. Huebert, Rob. "Canadian Arctic sovereignty and security in a transforming circumpolar world." Canada and the changing Arctic: Sovereignty, security and stewardship. Wilfred Laurier University Press. 2011.

7. Scrivener (1996) in Keskitalo, Eva. "Negotiating the Arctic: The construction of an international regime." New York: Rutledge, 2004.

8. Huebert, Rob. "Canadian Arctic sovereignty and security in a transforming circumpolar world." Canada and the changing Arctic: Sovereignty, security and stewardship. Wilfred Laurier University Press. 2011.

9. Groenning, Ragnhild. "Why military security should be kept out of the Arctic Council." The Arctic Institute. June 2, 2016.

10. Stephen, Kathrin. "An Arctic security forum? Please, no!" The Arctic Institute. May 26, 2016.

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Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  editor@cpcml.ca