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Leaders questioned about arms control

David Cleary — September 1984

OTTAWA- A recent survey of the three federal party leaders conducted by the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament (CCACD) suggests that Canada has a poorly developed understanding of its role in disarmament negotiations.

The 25 page survey, entitled Arms Control: A Question of Leadership, was released at a luncheon press conference held at the Chateau Laurier hotel, August 16. It contains the verbatim responses of Brian Mulroney, John Turner and Ed Broadbent to 16 questions on disarmament and on Canada’s role in international peace and security issues, including its role in NATO.

In response to a question on Canada’s NATO contribution and influence on arms control, Conservative leader Brian Mulroney claimed Canada’s influence could be upgraded by an increased commitment to and participation in NATO. However, Admiral Robert FaIls, the retired former head of NATO’s military committee, and a director of CCACD, dismissed Mulroney’s claim. FaIls pointed out that it was “highly unlikely” that increased contributions to NATO would do anything to increase Canadian influence beyond its present level as a third rank member after the U.S., Britain, and West Germany, who are the leaders within NATO.

Falls indicated that NATO already has a higher level of troop strength in Europe than the Warsaw Pact forces. Even if Canada doubled its troop levels, he said, he doubted it would add to our influence in NATO. He added that nuclear arms control is a bilateral concern of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, rather than a NATO objective.

ted the current U.S. position that arms control agreements must be negotiated from a position of strength. In particular, Mulroney stated that he “believe(s) that President Reagan and his administration want nuclear arms agreements that will be credible and verifiable, and a return to better East-West relations as witnessed in the era of detente.”

Prime Minister Turner, in response to quesions concerning elements of the Trudeau peace initiative, including the five power conference of nuclear states, reiterated his support for the style and content of the initiative. Turner also described NATO as an “effective instrument” for promoting Canada’s arms control and disarmament policies. Responding to other questions, Mr. Turner was often vague, and often answered by citing current government policy.

Ed Broadbent expressed support for an increased role for the United Nations while he advocated withdrawal from NATO. Broadbent how he felt the U.N. could play a role in curbing the nuclear arms race, but rather pointed out that it is primarily “a matter of bilateral negotiations between the superpowers.” John Turner suggested that a third Special Session on Disarmament be held by the U.N. Brian Mulroney, on the other hand, questioned the effectiveness of the U.N. as a forum for promoting arms control initiatives.

Members of the CCACD used the occasion of the press conference to comment on the foreign policy debate in Canada. When asked how he felt about the Canadian peace movement’s effectiveness, Admiral Falls stated that he didn’t agree with many of the specific proposals made by the peace movement, but he did feel that foreign policy would not have been discussed during the election at all if it had not been for the peace movement’s efforts.

Lawrence Hagen, research director of the CCACD, commenting on the recent discussion of a nuclear weapons freeze in the election campaign, pointed out that it was unclear what kind of freeze supportive candididates are advocating. Hagen argued that there seemed to be no distinction in candidates’ minds between a comprehensive freeze and a selective freeze (advocated by the U.S. Democratic party as a first step towards a comprehensive negotiated freeze.)

In their evaluation of the leaders’ responses, the CCACD concluded that there were few significant differences between the positions of the three leaders on particular questions such as the banning of specific weapons systems (e.g. high-level anti-satellite weapons, etc.). However, differences were evident in the attitudes towards the Reagan Administration and the question of which diplomatic route Canada should follow in exercising its influence in arms control issues.

John Lamb, executive director of the CCACD, concluded the press briefing by saying that in their opinion there is a need for sustained pressure from the peace movement and a need for better leadership in developing more realistic and viable Canadian foreign policy options if arms control and disarmament is to be a political ptiority for the new government.

For more information on the survey, the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament can be contacted at 275 Slater St., Fifth Hoor, Ottawa, ON. KIP 5H9, telephone, 613-xxx-xxxx.