The G8 Masters of War

Ottawa Citizen
Page A19
By Senator Douglas Roche

Governments of G8 countries maintain nearly all the nuclear weapons in the world, account for most of the world's spending on the military, are the principal arms traders and the stingiest in providing aid to the poor. It is time to expose the duplicity of the world's self-appointed directors.

The Group of Eight rich and powerful industrialized countries includes the U.S., Britain, France and Russia, which all possess nuclear weapons, and Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, which support the nuclear powers. Together, the G8 holds 98 per cent of the 31,000 nuclear weapons in the world; spends 75 per cent of the $800-billion annual world military expenditures; accounts for 87 per cent of the $40-billion annual trade in weapons; and provides only 0.22 per cent of its collective Gross Domestic Product in official development assistance, far short of the UN target of 0.7 per cent.

The fundamental attitude of the G8 to world affairs and its claim to global stewardship should be examined. The G8 should, of course, be commended for providing more aid to Africa, a continent that contains 36 of the 48 poorest countries in the world and has been racked by decades of war, corruption and western indifference. Canada, as the leader of this year's G8 summit, is instrumentally placed to advance this social agenda. But G8 policies of militarization stand in the way of any real social achievements.

It is in its reliance on nuclear weapons that the G8 shows its true recklessness. Despite commitments made through the Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons, the G8 holds some 30,500 of these weapons. In doing so, these nations are flouting the decision of the International Court of Justice that such negotiations must be concluded.

The U.S., as G8 leader, is determined to weaponize space so that it can expand its dominance beyond land, sea and air. This superiority will be made possible by a military system that integrates nuclear and non-nuclear offensive systems. Already, the U.S. is spending $100 million a day to maintain its nuclear weapons. But it is not alone in such spending distortions. It staggers the imagination to envision how many schools, water and sanitation plants, health facilities and community enterprises could be built with even a fraction of the $600 billion a year the G8 spends on militarization.

The G8 is properly concerned with stopping terrorism. But doesn't help the world to take a wide range of anti-terrorism measures while leaving the door open to the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The G8 leaders must understand that the only certain way to save the world from nuclear terrorism is to eliminate all nuclear weapons, which they have committed themselves to do under the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Properly funded verification systems operating under international law can ensure compliance by all states. Nuclear materials must be put under the most stringent international safeguards. The longer the G8 delays in fulfilling its responsibilities, the more dangerous the world will become.

Douglas Roche is an Independent Senator from Alberta and the author of Bread Not Bombs: A Political Agenda for Social Justice.