Nuclear weapons and the ‘Letter of last resort’: what my students think

By Jez Littlewood

NPSIA’s disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation course began last week (INAF 5201). Once the administrative side of the first class was completed I began the class with the 2015 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists What would happen if an 800-kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above midtown Manhattan? However, to inject some additional reality into the subject each was tasked with deciding on how the UK would respond to a nuclear attack.

The scenario was simple: each was to assume they had been elected (or appointed) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and each had to decide the nuclear response in the event of a surprise attack. Pre-reading included Richard Norton-Taylor’s story in The Guardian from July 2016 – Theresa May’s first job: decide on UK’s nuclear response. Thus, sixty minutes after arriving in class task one for my 21 students was the drafting of what is generally known as “the letter of last resort”.

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The Next Canadian Deployment

by Steve Saideman

Many people are asking the right questions about the much ballyhooed next Canadian military deployment, including where and whether there will be a vote or not.  The problem is that we are getting the questions in the wrong order, which is creating more confusion.  We cannot ask some questions until we know the answers to the others.  The vote question should be after we know much more about the mission.  The where question actually is not first either.  So, here is the correct order of questions:

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Pan Canadian Defence Review

by Steve Saideman

Today, the Centre for Security, Intelligence and Defence Studies at NPSIA along with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Centre for International Policy Studies (Queens) held a workshop that involved much of the Canadian defence academic community.  The idea was to feed into the Defence Review Canada is running this summer.

Andrea Charron, our Centre’s director, did a great job of organizing so that the day was very engaging.  We were split into four groups: threat environment, the forces, readiness, and missions/allies.  Each group was tasked to come up with five ideas/priorities.  Then each group would Red Team (criticize, respond/react) to two of the other groups.  My group was Missions/Allies led by Andrea C and Jim Fergusson.   This group included Sjrdjan Vucetic and Thomas Juneau of U of Ottawa, Justin Massie of UQAM, Theo McLauchlin of U of Montreal, and Kim Richard Nossal of Queens.  

I really didn’t know what I was going to say going into the event, as I had never done something like this before (of course, anyone who knows me would have predicted that I would talk alot).  Also, the missions for Canada are pretty established–that we will not be changing what Canada is likely to think its role is in the world: defending Canada, jointly via NORAD with US, NATO, UN, and occasional coalitions of the willing ops.  We did come up with a bunch of questions that one should always ask when considering a mission–what are the rules of engagement, who is involved, what are the desired goals, etc.  Kind of akin to the Dutch’s Article 101 letter procedure (see the Dave and Steve book).  

The big point I pushed was that the classic Canadian question of whether to provide small units in many operations or concentrate in one place for extended period of time should be resolved thusly: do the latter.  If you want to make a difference, concentrate the effort and be patient.  

The challenge for any review is that there is not much room to move Canada. That is, the budget is mostly set, 47% is dedicated to personnel, the big procurement decisions are decided/have a process of their own, AND Canada faces few threats and has limited capabilities.  So, neither our review nor the big government one can really alter the path of the CAF and DND much.  Still, it was a very useful exercise for thinking about this stuff and giving input to government.

Personally, it was mighty good for me both because I could connect with the many folks I know who attended and help set the stage for one of my major sabbatical priorities: applying for a partnership grant to create a Canadian Defence Research Network so that we can meet more often, develop shared research agendas, communicate our results and train the next generation of defence scholars.  

In short, woot!






Defence Review Roundtable: Montreal

by Steve Saideman

I got the chance to participate in the Defence Review via a roundtable in Montreal.  Since I pooped all over the project when it was first announced, I have to say that I am both impressed and thankful that the Minister of Defence and his staff invited me to join the process.  That was mighty big of them.

The meeting was governed by Chatham House Rule, which means I cannot attribute stuff to anyone.  So, I will apply Saideman House Rule–I will describe the event and then say what I said.

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Brexit and national security: the short term – second thoughts

by Jez Littlewood*

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has voted to leave the European Union. The close vote, 52% in favour of leaving and 48% voting to remain, also underlined the regional divisions within the UK. As such the vote to leave may act as a catalyst for dissolution of the United Kingdom itself. Indeed, within hours the First Minister of Scotland has stated a second vote on Scottish independence is very likely.

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Provoking or Tempting the Bear

by Steve Saideman

I wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail where I advocate Canada take a significant role in NATO’s new “persistent presence” mission on the Eastern Front (the Baltics plus Poland).  I didn’t spend much time arguing for the NATO mission itself, as it is a done deal to be announced at the Warsaw Summit in July.  Instead, I argued for Canada’s participation, which is really the decision up for grabs this week.

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The Most Important Corpses

NATO symbol moving

By Steve Saideman

I was on twitter talking with some folks about what Canada might promise at the Warsaw Summit, with the focus on who is going to provide the troops for the four battalions that will be based in the Baltics and Poland.  The conversation went into a bunch of directions, so I had an epiphany while shopping–it is not about proximity or folks who have ties to the Baltics–it is about whose corpses would have the greatest international political relevance.

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