April 6, 2019 - No. 12
Muted NATO Summit
70th Anniversary of NATO's Founding
• 70 Years
Later, the German Question Remains
and Divisions Increase
Actions in Washington, DC Stand Against War
Within the U.S.-Led NATO Alliance
For Your Information
• U.S. House
of Representatives Bill Supporting NATO
Collusion and Contention Over the
Government Moves to Militarize the Arctic
- Peter Ewart -
• The Inuit
and the Struggle for an Arctic Zone of Peace
For Your Information
• The Arctic
Council and the Military Issue
Origins of NATO
Related to Establishment of NATO
Muted NATO Summit on 70th Anniversary of
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
Pompeo also called for NATO to
extend its reach. "We
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
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.
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
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
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
Delegations from Vancouver and Belgium were among those participating
Washington, DC march, March 30, 2019.
Delegations from Belgium, Canada, Germany and Russia
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
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
Washington, DC, March 30, 2019
Washington, DC April 4, 2019
New York City, March 30, 2019
Minneapolis, MN, March 30, 2019
Other Actions on the Occasion of NATO's Founding
Despite a show of support for NATO by the executive
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
The invitation to Stoltenberg to address the Congress
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
U.S. Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis, a former supreme
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
Imperialist war abroad and civil war at home are
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
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
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
"Wealthy, wealthy countries that we're protecting are
under notice. We cannot be the fools for others," Trump said in a
speech at the Pentagon on January 17.
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
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.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has in place many bilateral
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. 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
In Europe, the big powers resisted on the front of
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
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
The latest generation of Russian fighter jet is said to
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
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
3. NATO says its Partnership for Peace "is a programme
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
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.
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
To reiterate the support of the Congress of the United
for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for other
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the "NATO Support Act."
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
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,
(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;
NATO remains the foundation of United States foreign policy to
promote a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace;
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
(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.
SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS.
It is the sense of Congress that:
(1) the President
shall not withdraw the United States from NATO; and
case Goldwater v. Carter is not controlling legal
precedent with respect to the withdrawal of the United States
from a treaty.
SEC. 4. STATEMENT OF POLICY.
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
(3) to continue to work with NATO
members to meet their 2014 Wales Defense Investment Pledge
(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.
SEC. 5. PROHIBITION ON THE USE OF FUNDS TO WITHDRAW
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds
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
Collusion and Contention Over the Arctic
Since NATO was founded 70 years ago, successive
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
Nonetheless, even though
Canada has by far the most
polar territory of all 29 NATO countries, large-scale NATO
exercises have never taken place in the Canadian
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."
Harper further stated that "some non-Arctic members
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
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
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
Indeed, the current bi-lateral arrangement between the
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
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
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."
Following up on the policy,
the House of Commons
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."
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
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
1. "List of
exercises," Wikipedia, accessed March 18, 2019.
PM and NATO S-G discuss Afghanistan, the Strategic
Concept, and the Arctic." Wikileaks, January 20, 2010.
Policy," Department of
National Defence, 2017.
reliability." Report of the Standing
Committee on National Defence. House of Commons. Canada. June
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. Thus, from
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
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."
Clark's speech came about in the wake of the U.S. Coast
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
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
A similar controversy happened back in 1969 when the
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."
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
In 1987, more than a year after the Polar Sea incident,
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
At that time, according to some analysts, "the
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.
The issue subsided for some years. However, in the
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 ... "
The directive challenges both Canada and Russia. It
"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
When the Harper government put in place a mandatory
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."
Since the Trump administration came into office,
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
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".
Whichever operation is
undertaken would be highly provocative and, in the case of
Russia, dangerous militarily.
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
Review, Vol. 19:1.
3. "1985 Polar Sea
controversy," Wikipedia, accessed March 26, 2019.
"SS Manhattan (1962)," Wikipedia,
5. Charron, Andrea. Ibid.
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.
"National Security Presidential directive -- 66," White House,
Office of the Press Secretary, January 9, 2009.
10. Lajeunesse, Adam. "Is the
fight over the Northwest Passage coming?" Policy Options,
February 14, 2019.
Canadian delegation at the 2018 general assembly of the Inuit
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
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
"Any excessive military build-up in the North," she
"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
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
As a first step, the ICC proposes that Arctic nations
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
Suring the 1980s Inuit assert sovereignty over
their lands, Ntesinan,
and oppose low
In addition, nuclear weapons and all air- and
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
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
In closing, she urged "all Arctic governments,
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
1. Simon, Mary.
"Toward and Arctic Zone of Peace: An Inuit Perspective." Peace
Research, Vol. 21, No. 4 (November 1989). Canadian Mennonite
For Your Information
The Arctic is one of the treasures of the planet earth,
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
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
The population of the Arctic today is about four
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
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
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
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
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
As temperatures rise (much faster than almost anywhere
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
It is true that new and challenging problems are
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
In the following songs (translated from Inuktitut 100
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
Have carried me away
And move my inward parts
The one great thing
And I think over again
My small adventures
a shore wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And I thought I
was in danger.
Those small ones
thought so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and
And yet, there is only
One great thing,
To live and see in huts and on journeys
The great day
And the light that fills the world.
The Arctic Council, formed in 1996, is the leading
multi-lateral body in the Arctic region.
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"
In its work, the Council is defined as the leading
inter-governmental forum in the Arctic that:
a) provides a means for promoting cooperation,
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
This echoed the statement of Prime Minister Louis St.
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
In 1987 in Murmansk, two years before Mulroney's
Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, made a foreign policy speech
calling for the Arctic to become a "zone of peace." In his comments, he called
following six measures:
1. Establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Northern
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.
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.
between northern countries on environmental protection and
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
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
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
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,
panel released a "Framework Report" in 1990 to establish an
international Arctic Council.
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
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
The report argued that "to view the Arctic primarily in
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,
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
The report noted that the increased militarization of
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
In the opinion of panel members, the eight member
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
Regarding the inevitable criticism from some quarters
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
initial effort to create this council."
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
Besides the problem of military issues, the U.S. was
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
The Americans eventually joined the Council, but
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."
Since 1996, the Arctic Council has convened on a
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
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
Still others see the inclusion of military issues on
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."
However, in 2019, given the Trump administration's
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
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.
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.
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.
7. Scrivener (1996) in Keskitalo, Eva. "Negotiating the
Arctic: The construction of an international regime." New York:
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
Arctic Institute. June 2, 2016.
10. Stephen, Kathrin. "An
no!" The Arctic Institute. May 26,
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