Tag Archives: Ukraine

Image, supplied by Ukraine Department of Defense, illustrates the ferocity of the Ukraine war

In Ukraine, Neither Side Is Blameless

Richard Sandbrook and Arnd Jurgensen

Richard Sandbrook is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at University of Toronto. Arnd Jurgensen lectures in international relations at University of Toronto. Both are executive members of Science for Peace, whose board members debated the issues discussed here.

One prevalent explanation of the war in Ukraine pins the blame on Russia; the other, which has little institutional backing in the West, but far more outside the West, blames NATO. Proponents of each view largely ignore the opposing interpretation. Both sides agree the war is illegal under international law, but there the agreement ends. For those who blame NATO, their declaration of the illegality of the invasion is largely a formality because, from their viewpoint, NATO provoked Russia to invade Ukraine. For those who blame Russia, the invasion is not only illegal under international law but also a travesty of “unprovoked” aggression.

Yet neither side is blameless in this terrible war. To acknowledge that fact is an important step to envisioning a just and lasting settlement.

Conflicting Viewpoints

Consider first the anti-NATO interpretation. They see the existence of NATO as a problem. It is not hard to understand why.

NATO portrays itself as a strictly defensive club of democracies that share basic values and is compelled to admit other North Atlantic states that ascribe to them. Yet all military alliances need an enemy to justify their existence. The external threat that gave rise to the alliance – the USSR and the Warsaw Pact – disappeared in 1991, as should have NATO. NATO lost an opportunity in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union expired, to build bridges to Russia. NATO’s expansion to the borders of Russia and its willingness to arm and contemplate future membership of Ukraine and Georgia in NATO were provocations. Russia considers Ukraine as within its cultural, economic and political sphere of influence. Russia, of course, does not have a “right” to a sphere of influence, any more than does the United States in its own neighbourhood. But spheres of influence have always gone along with Great-Power status, whether we think it justified or not, Russia would inevitably feel threatened if NATO and the European Union incorporated Ukraine, with its close historical links and proximity to Russia, within its “Western” sphere.

However, from the opposing viewpoint, Russia for its part has made aggressive moves that frightened its neighbours. Eastern European states were not forced to join NATO; they applied for membership because, from historical experience, they mistrusted Russia. Within historical memory are Stain’s partnership with Hitler, 1939-1941, and the postwar imposition of Communist regimes in Eastern and Central Europe. In recent years, the intervention of Russian forces in Georgia and Moldova and covert use of Russian troops in Ukraine’s Donbass in support of separatists have rekindled the fears of former Soviet client states. Moreover, the brutality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stirred further resentment and fear in neighbouring states, such as Finland and Sweden (who are now joining NATO). 

In short, neither side is without some responsibility for this dreadful and unnecessary war.

Blame and Conflict Resolution

Apportionment of blame for the current conflict, however, is currently a distraction from the need to bring the war to an end. Such discussions must at some point take place to determine issues of reparations in the context of negotiations, but they must not derail attempts to engineer a ceasefire. The same is true concerning international law. Clearly the invasion of Ukrainian territory was a violation of the sovereignty of a recognized state, and it is, as such, a crime of aggression (which, as Justice Robert Jackson of the Nuremberg tribunals explained, is the highest crime under international law as it entails all the evils war necessarily brings with it). The United Nations Charter also recognizes the right to self-determination of nations, which implies the right of the Donbass and Crimea to declare their independence from Ukraine (a principle that NATO endorsed with its armed intervention in Kosovo).

These principles, again, raise issues that must ultimately be resolved; but disagreements on these issues must not stand in the way of ending the killing and destruction in Ukraine. Other oft-cited issues are also irrelevant to a settlement, including corruption in Ukraine or autocracy in Russia. These issues are relevant for the people of Ukraine and Russia, as are the personality traits of their leaders, but not to the need to end this war.

At present, neither side is inclined toward negotiations and a cessation of hostilities. Negotiations will have to take place sometime – unless Russia achieves total victory (and it’s not clear what that would look like), or Ukraine does (which is highly unlikely, given Russia’s much larger pool of recruits for the armed forces and actual and potential firepower). A Ukrainian victory would also risk igniting a nuclear war. However, if the upcoming Ukraine counter-offensive ends in stalemate, both sides may judge that their interests are best served by negotiating a peace settlement.

Reconciling Conflicting Principles

What might be the terms of a settlement that is (barely) acceptable to both sides? If we accept the shared responsibility for this war, each side will have to compromise. A resolution demands that two principles of international law be recognized: the inadmissibility of aggression leading to land-grabs, and the right of peoples to self-determination, if a clear majority opts for this outcome. Boundaries will have to be drawn that reflect the preferences of those who live within them. Unless the borders reflect such preferences, they will remain unstable and a future source of conflict.

There is no prospect of the ongoing destruction moving in the direction of resolving this dimension of the conflict. Instead, a UN monitored process of consultation and popular referenda would be most likely to produce such an outcome. To have legitimacy, the vote must include those who have fled their homes as well as those who have stayed. These boundaries will also have to be secure. In the long term, that can only happen through neutrality for Ukraine, border guarantees, and the creation of a new security architecture including Russia (perhaps including the withdrawal of long-range missiles from Poland).

Recognizing the Dangers, Forging Peace

The need for action is acute. If Ukraine should strike into Russian-held territory, using western weapons and intelligence, the possibility of escalation and nuclear war rises ever higher. Ukraine has the right to defend itself, but can Ukraine ever defeat a nuclear power with a much larger armed forces, even with weapons from the West?

To let this conflict fester poses an unacceptable risk to the survival of humanity. The only sane position is peace negotiations now – based on the notion of shared responsibility for this war.

Disinformation, or Debating with a Bot

Disinformation, or Debating with a Bot

“Disinformation” undoubtedly exists as a form of warfare in this contentious age of artificial intelligence. But how do we know disinformation when we come across it? The obvious danger is that officials and activists will dismiss strongly opposing views as disinformation, not to be taken seriously, or, at worse as potential sedition to be investigated.

An article in the March 30th (2023) Globe & Mail (Toronto) exemplifies this danger. Entitled “Pro-Kremlin Twitter Accounts ‘Weaponizing’ Users to Erode Canadians’ Support for Ukraine, Study Finds,” the article suggests that 200,000 Twitter accounts have been established in Canada that propagate the Kremlin’s line on Ukraine. The purported aim of this campaign is to undermine Canadian support for the Ukrainian government. Three centres, two at universities, conducted the study, which was supported financially by the Canadian and United States governments. Allegedly, the disinformation campaign succeeded to the extent that both “far right” and “far left” Twitter accounts extensively “shared’” the disinformation on their own networks.

What is the evidence for the impact of this alleged disinformation campaign? The article notes that 36 per cent of respondents in a recent Canadian survey believed that NATO was responsible for the war, or were unsure. Clearly, the writers of the report (entitled “Enemy of My Enemy”) believe that NATO holds no responsibility for the war. To uphold the opposite view is tantamount to disinformation or being uninformed.

And yet the idea that NATO provoked, or at least did not act to prevent, the war is not far-fetched or merely Russian propaganda. Neither side is blameless. NATO portrays itself as a strictly defensive club of democracies that share basic values and are compelled to admit other states that ascribe to them. Yet all military alliances need an enemy to justify their existence. The external threat that gave rise to the alliance – the USSR and the Warsaw Pact – disappeared in 1991, as should have NATO. NATO lost an opportunity in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union expired, to build bridges to Russia. NATO’s expansion to the borders of Russia and its willingness to arm and contemplate future membership of Ukraine in NATO were provocations. Russia considers Ukraine as within its cultural and political sphere of influence; Russian fears of NATO’s intentions are thus not unreasonable. However, Russia for its part has made aggressive moves in Georgia, Moldova and elsewhere that have rekindled the fears of former client states of the Soviet Union. The brutality of its invasion of Ukraine is unjustifiable. Neither side is without some responsibility for this dreadful and unnecessary war.

Consequently, debates are raging in academic and activist circles over apportioning responsibility for the conflict. Moreover, the left (contrary to the report’s view of a homogeneity of views) is split in its interpretation of the war, leading to many acrimonious exchanges.

It might be argued that the report itself is an example of disinformation. The article that describes the report provides no criteria for distinguishing the Twitter accounts engaged in disinformation, other than that the views they propound cohere with themes of the Russian narrative. The report veers toward the Red Scare techniques of the Cold war. But let’s be clear: you can advocate the view that NATO shares part of the blame for the war without in any way being part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.

Having said this much, I must also state that disinformation does exist. I know because I have debated with a bot. On a Canada-wide network of peace activists, I have been critical of those who jump to the conclusion that the war in Ukraine is a NATO war. Bots entered the intellectual fray, but one of them was very poorly programmed. It acted like a parody of a bot: in one message, claiming to speak on behalf of the ostensibly Western-oppressed “Third World” (this archaic term itself being a tip-off); in the next as an outraged representative of the people of the Donbass, allegedly brutalized by the “Nazi” government in Kyiv. It was over the top in the most extreme version of Russian disinformation and bombast. It was a stupid bot. Bots like this give artificial intelligence a bad name.

The global situation is complex. Yes, there is disinformation undertaken by Russian agencies. But let us be careful not to equate disinformation with any ideas that conflict with the dominant Western narrative. If we allow that to happen, we will find ourselves returning to the era of US Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, with his “unamerican activities committee” rooting out fellow travelers of the Communists.

Those in Canada who dissent on the war are not “unCanadian” and rarely are they engaging in disinformation. We may disagree with their positions. Yet that disagreement is a healthy aspect of our democracy. And yes, disinformation and bots are real; but some of the bots are laughably stupid.

total noncooperation with an occupying invader is like a walll the invader cannot penetrate

The Viability of Nonviolent Defence Today

“Non-violent defence” is an oxymoron. Or so it appears to many people. You hear the word “defence”, you think of “military”. You hear the term “national security”, you think of a state’s military strength (and perhaps diplomacy). The military has hi-jacked the terms defence and national security. Consequently, it sounds absurd to talk about non-violent defence.

But is the idea so preposterous?

Consider the war in Ukraine. Civilian resistance to the Russian invaders is inspirational. Civilians have blocked tanks and convoys, berated or cajoled Russian soldiers to undermine their resolve, given wrong directions to Russian convoys, refused to cooperate, and mounted spontaneous protests in occupied areas. And all these tactics were improvised on the spot.

Think how more effective non-violent defence would have been if it had been planned, and if Ukrainians had been trained in non-violent methods. With a civilian defence system in place, the Ukrainian armed forces might have allowed the Russian tanks to enter the country unimpeded. No immediate deaths, no destruction. And what can you, the invader, do with tanks when you face a population united in defiance, unarmed protest and complete non-cooperation? Ukraine would be indigestible.

Whether non-violent defence would have worked cannot be known. But what is certain is this: the prevailing notion of national security is leading us to death and destruction, in Ukraine and elsewhere. Thus, a potential alternative — civilian-based defence — deserves critical scrutiny. My earlier reflection on this system reviewed its strategy and tactics, some limiting conditions and provisos, and its potential benefits. Now I turn to lacuna and obstacles in the theory and practice of non-violent defence. Only hard-headed questioning will mitigate the skepticism surrounding this approach.

This critical review emphasizes the work of Gene Sharp – sometimes referred to as the “Clausewitz of non-violent warfare”. Recent major contributors on the methods of civilian resistance – in particular, Srdja Popovic and Erica Chenoworth – follow in Sharp’s footsteps. They provide either updated non-violent methods for a digital age (and for young rebels) or empirical evidence of the effectiveness of such an approach.

Two issues strike me as pivotal in getting real about non-violent defence. The first is recognizing and overcoming major domestic obstacles, especially vested interests, partisan divides, and apathy. The second involves seeing beyond the static typologies of non-violent action to conceptualize its implementation as a dynamic, mutually reinforcing process. Taking civilian defence seriously confronts its proponents with several dilemmas.

Not Just an Abstraction

Non-violent defence is not simply a theory. Not only is there a long history of improvised civilian resistance to invasions, but also countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Lithuania have institutionalized civilian defence at various times.

Consider Sweden:  “Total defence” (military plus civilian defence) originated in neutral Sweden in the dangerous 1930s and World War II. Created in 1944, a Swedish Civil Defence Board undertook research on civil defence, organized training and oversaw the construction of air raid shelters. Sweden ran civilian-defence training centres in six cities during the Cold War. In 1986 the agency merged with the fire services board in a new Rescue Services Agency. The end of the Cold War led to a withering of the civil defence component. The initial idea – that all citizens had a duty to protect their country in an organized manner – fell into disuse by the mid 1990s.

The Russian attack on Georgia and seizure of Crimea however, revived the concept of total defence after 2014. Everyone between the age of 16 and 70 again has an obligation to respond in the event of an invasion or a natural catastrophe. “Everyone is obliged to contribute and everyone is needed” proclaimed a government pamphlet in 2018. Swedes were cautioned in the same pamphlet to prepare themselves for an emergency, though the emphasis was as much on peace-time natural emergencies as war. Nevertheless, in the event of war, the pamphlet declared that “we will never give up”. This basic idea is central to non-violent defence: an invader may occupy territory, but total non-cooperation and symbolic opposition will raise the costs of occupation, thereby discouraging invasion in the first place. In principle, all municipalities, voluntary organizations, businesses, trade unions, and religious organizations are required to prepare for civilian defence.

By March 2022, at the height of the war in Ukraine,  one in three Swedes was fairly or very concerned their country would be attacked.. Furthermore, a 2021 survey registered popular support for the idea of civil defence: 84 percent of Swedes said they would be willing to play a defence role, so long as it was non-combative.

Sweden is not an ideal case of civilian defence. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the government talked of raising the defence budget and perhaps abandoning Sweden’s neutrality by joining NATO. But the idea of civil defence persists as a defiant complement, though not alternative, to military defence.

Partisanship, Vested Interests and Apathy

If a country were to experiment with non-violent defence, what obstacles would the experiment encounter?

Sharp in Chapter 5 of Civilian-Based Defense contends that non-violent defence, to succeed, must not only adhere to an all-of-society, nonpartisan approach, but also secure the cooperation of the armed forces. People of both sexes and all ages must participate, according to Sharp. They will do so out of patriotism, the desire to maintain their way of life, and an abhorrence of domestic and foreign usurpers alike. It will also be necessary to bring the military onside, claims Sharp. Civilian-based defence (CBD) may thus begin as a minor supplement to the armed forces, the former’s role expanding as it demonstrates its efficacy and popularity.

Is this a realistic scenario in today’s world? The establishment of CBD, from this viewpoint, is largely a top-down exercise, based on two assumptions. The first is that partisan cleavages are bridgeable. According to Sharp, civilian defence must be “transpartisan”. It must accommodate conservatives as well as liberals and socialists. If it becomes the project of a radical movement, or any single party, Sharp contends, its appeal will be too limited.

Secondly, this scenario assumes that reason will trump interests. The armed forces, various security apparatuses, suppliers of weapons and military technology and the national-security intellectual wing, are apparently swayed by evidence. Sharp emphasizes the importance of research in demonstrating CBD’s potential effectiveness. If research on CBD is positive, if the training of the population proceeds, and if civilians show enthusiasm, the armed wing of defence will acquiesce to the ascendancy of non-violent defence. Reason and patriotism will prevail.

Note that Sharp advocates “transarmament,” not disarmament. Presumably, it will be easier to sell CBD if it is seen not as pacifism, but as another form of struggle. The weapons in the new defence system are not munitions, missiles, warplanes, tanks; instead, they involve the subtle employment of 198 non-violent methods, their selection geared to the stage of engagement with the opponent, and the degree of the latter’s repressiveness.

I see three problems with this approach. The first pertains to interests. Sadly, we do not live in a world governed by reason; indeed, today people contest even what counts as fact. Interests shape dominant ideas, including those, or especially those, concerning national security. President Dwight Eisenhower, long ago, warned of the power of the military-industrial complex in bolstering military expenditures. Today, we would need to refer to an expanded military-industrial-security-intellectual complex. Thousands of billions of dollars are spent worldwide on the military and ancillary activities: on weapons, personnel, training, think-tanks, research and development. Many corporations, wealthy shareholders, employees and intellectuals are invested in perpetuating and extending the system of military defence. And defence budgets grow year after year.

In contrast, how much is spent on research on non-military forms of defence? Virtually nothing – perhaps the occasional grant for esoteric scholarly research.

Demilitarization will therefore involve a political struggle. It will be a struggle obviously in the superpowers. But even in in developing countries with weak institutions, the military tends to be comparatively strong. Much is at stake in defence policy for a range of powerful interests. No research results in favour of civilian defence are likely to persuade those whose profits, privileges or job depend on military defence. Non-violent defence – as more than a minor supplement to military defence – is a radical proposal.

Secondly, many societies today are riven with partisan divides and authoritarian tendencies. The United States is an obvious example, but the phenomenon is widespread, in Europe and beyond.

Is it possible to forge transpartisan support for CBD in these circumstances?

Sharp notes in Civilian-Based Defence (ch. 5) that non-violent defence is more likely to work where social cohesion is high and democracy and civil society are strong. However, these ideal conditions are not, he claims, prerequisites.

But is Sharp correct? Can non-violent defence happen in the absence of social cohesion and strong democracy? It seems unlikely. The issue would be politicized and viewed with deep suspicion by conservative/populist forces. And autocrats would not empower their people via training in nonviolence.

Thirdly, alienation and cynicism are rife in many societies today; Yet Sharp emphasizes that non-violent defence requires intensive preparation and training of all or most of a country’s population. What will induce people to shake off their apathy and devote their free time to training? Motivation is a problem, magnified by deep partisan divides.

All these considerations – vested interests, partisan divides and alienation – suggest that a top-down, apolitical approach will not work. The reality is that non–violent defence is a radical democratic initiative. Nonviolent action is inherently democratic to the extent that it empowers people vis-a-vis their rulers or aggressors. Only a mass movement will be powerful enough to overcome the vested interests in militarism and motivate people to participate in training and preparation.

Of course, even if CBD fails as a national system, or is limited to a subsidiary role, people may, when the need arises, spontaneously take up nonviolent resistance. But a trained response would be so much more effective.

A Dynamic, Mutually Reinforcing Process

The prospect of non-violent defence is enhanced if it is understood as a dynamic process, rather than a static design. Don’t get lost in Sharp’s 198 methods of non-violent action and the complexities of relating strategy to circumstances. The key is this: CBD focuses on agency. People possess power to shape their own futures; how therefore  should this agency be harnessed for the common good? People have power because rulers depend on the ruled. Rulers cannot rule if the latter withhold their consent (or perhaps more accurately, assent). Thus, Sharp and his followers explore the bases of consent, and how consent can be denied to internal usurpers or external aggressors through nonviolent means.

Sharp and the others adhere to an inductive approach. They draw principles of effective action from successful and unsuccessful cases. In their examples, groups and individuals improvised responses to attempted domination — for example, the passive resistance of the German population to the French-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr Basin in 1923, the heroic non-violent resistance to German occupation in Denmark and Norway during World War II, and the astounding non-cooperation and defiance of the Czechs and Slovaks that met the Warsaw Pact army’s invasion to end the Prague Spring in 1968. The point of these cases is obvious: if improvised strategies can work so effectively, imagine if they were organized!

Fine. But how do you begin the process? Enthusiasm for nonviolent defence may be limited at first, and powerful groups will not cooperate and may be actively obstructive.

The process seems to work like this. The more the government builds the capabilities of the civilian defenders, the greater the willingness of people to unite and resist, drawing on the learned repertoire of nonviolent strategy and tactics.  And the more advanced the capabilities and the united willingness of defenders to resist, the less likely that enemies will attack or usurpers will usurp power. The costs of domination become too high.

What comprise the capabilities of non-violent defence? They include organizational structure, committed and shrewd leadership, training facilities geared to the general population, the proportion of the population that wants to participate, and ultimately the strength of civil society.

The final factor alludes to the importance of institutional involvement in civilian-based defence. What political parties, trade unions, religious bodies, school systems, municipalities support the system? Obviously, nonviolent action is much easier to develop within a democracy; indeed, it is inherently democratic. Again, CBD empowers people.

As the capabilities grow, the willingness to resist and the participation of the population expands. Concomitantly, the costs of asserting domination on the part of usurpers or aggressors rises, enhancing the prospects of peace – provided the society in question is willing to pre-empt conflict by negotiating jointly acceptable solutions to outstanding disputes.

Being Realistic

Demilitarization – reducing the budgets and roles of the armed forces – is a critical goal in today’s world. We face the rising probability of a nuclear holocaust resulting from accident, miscalculation, or escalation arising from a war like that in Ukraine. We are also very close to runaway global warming. The military, in the United States and increasingly elsewhere, is one of the largest institutional emitters of greenhouse gases. In addition, massive defence budgets are dedicated to waste – contributing neither to production not higher living standards – whereas we need to reallocate these resources to fighting climate change. Nonviolent defence, together with a renewed commitment to nuclear disarmament, is a potential way of achieving demilitarization.

Besides bolstering demilitarization, civilian defence has other positive outcomes. It reinforces civil society, builds democracy, discourages would-be tyrants and enemies, and extends norms of non-violent conflict resolution.

How then can we promote CBD? Civilian defence may proceed as a gradual process. Initially, it may be seen as only a supplement to military defence. Realism suggests that this approach is the most viable option. If popular enthusiasm grows and civilian capabilities advance, the military may be gradually reduced to a border control agency. But such a harmonious process is likely to be blocked at an early stage. Apolitical gradualism has severe limits.

Authoritarian states, for one thing, would balk at empowering their subjects. Civilian defence reveals the acute dependence of government on the assent of the ruled, together with the non-violent acts of omission and commission that withdraw that assent and paralyze rulership.

Nonetheless, in authoritarian systems, citizens have often improvised effective non-violent tactics. Consider the revolts of the people in eastern Europe and republics of the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s; the “Arab Spring” of the early 2010s, which featured in many cases massive street protests; the “colour revolutions” beginning in 2004 in the post-Soviet countries of Eurasia, including Ukraine; and the non-violent revolts against military rule in Sudan, Myanmar and elsewhere. Indeed, nonviolent protest reached its apogee in the period 2010-19, inhibited eventually by the pandemic.

Nonviolence, at a minimal level, is just common sense for people with grievances but without deadly weapons.

Partisan divides and power structures also hinder the expansion of nonviolent resistance at the expense of the military. “The people united will never be defeated,” yes. But the people are rarely united, and vested interests are powerful. Partisan and other cleavages allow those who govern to divide and rule their subjects. Social cohesion, together with democracy, is a key ingredient of success with non-violence. Unfortunately, many societies today are riven by partisan loyalties and authoritarian tendencies. What to do?

Accept the reality: civilian defence, in its full manifestation where the military’s role considerably shrinks, is a radical proposal. It will probably be advocated only by a progressive movement, along with measures to9 achieve democratization,  equity, and a Green New Deal for a just transition. Civilian defence, as a radical project of democratization and demilitarization, is the missing link in the programs of the left.

What sort of states are the best candidates for CBD? Nuclear-armed states are unlikely candidates. From the strategic viewpoint, it is assumed nuclear weapons deter attacks. We know the logic is strong. How else could a nuclear power such as Russia, without the deterrent, get away with attacking and devastating Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe? States will be reluctant to surrender their nuclear weapons.

Non-violent defence can still play a supplementary role in the US, the UK, France, India and Israel, acting as a major deterrent to domestic usurpers of power and building civil society for the longer run. In addition, the more states adopting CBD, the lower the international threats; the lower the tensions, the more likely are agreements on limiting and eventually abolishing nuclear weapons. There is an indirect benefit of civilian defence.

Clearly, CBD would be easiest to introduce in small democratic countries and territories that lack a military. Cases that come to mind include Costa Rica, Mauritius and Iceland.

Countries bordering on a Great Power could also benefit from civilian defence. These countries could not hope to defeat an invading force from the superpower – or at least not without inflicting enormous damage and casualties upon themselves. Besides training the population in the principles and methods of nonviolent defence, civil society organizations would need to build strong links with peace groups internationally and with dissident groups within the superpower. The aim would be to precipitate internal dissent in the aggressor’s country and international condemnation of the invader, together with sanctions, in the event of a conflict. This strategy would proceed along with a willingness to negotiate to resolve conflicts with the great-power neighbour. Ukraine would have been a major candidate for such an approach. Smaller countries would be in a more dangerous position with CBD. They would face the prospect of forced assimilation to the dominant ethnic group of the superpower, as has happened in Tibet and the western regions of China.

Democratic middle powers, especially the Nordic countries, also offer an opportunity. Sweden is an exemplar. They would begin with civilian defence as a supplement to military defence. As CBD is a dynamic process, it might expand over a decade as it demonstrates its viability. Given catastrophic climate change, civilian and military defence would both expand to encompass preparation and training in handling “natural” disasters (extreme heat and storms, floods and forest fires). The body in charge might be termed a “civilian protection agency.”

Nonviolent defence is one element in a broader program to allow humans to live and thrive in an increasingly dangerous world. Politics is key.

Richard Sandbrook is professor emeritus of Political Science at the University of Toronto and President of Science for Peace.

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