If you are feeling anxious about the state of global affairs, you are not alone. At Project Ploughshares, we are keenly aware of the multiple, overlapping crises facing the world today. So are millions around the world, increasingly concerned about the complexity of the formidable challenges before us – and about our collective ability as an international community to craft credible and effective responses.
Canada is in dire need of a solid diplomatic strategy that responds to the growing nexus between emerging technologies and national security. Newly-appointed foreign minister Mélanie Joly would do well to prioritize the development of robust and forward-looking policies to tackle tech-related security concerns, as is increasingly the case in the foreign ministries of a number of countries—including key Canadian allies as well as would-be adversaries.
In his book On War, published in 1873, military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” Contemporary military theorists and planners still find this idea of the “fog of war” relevant.
I think I finally REALLY get it. I’ve been reading analysis of autonomous weapons and AI-powered tech by Ploughshares Senior Researcher Branka Marijan for years, but I’ve never completely understood why so many individuals and organizations and even countries are totally against weapons that can target and kill humans without humans as part of the decision-making process.
When I started with Ploughshares in 2015, I did a scan of our work and saw that new technologies were transforming and amplifying existing security concerns across our programs—outer space security, arms control, the abolition of nuclear weapons, the nature and causes of armed conflict.
During the Trump administration, relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated significantly, leading to the death of major arms control treaties, escalating cyberattacks, and retaliatory measures. On June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of his first foreign trip as U.S. President, Joe Biden met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin to revive strategic stability talks. The meeting, which concluded with a joint presidential statement that calls for “ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war,” could mark the beginning of a new era of arms control diplomacy.
The government of Canada publishes federal arms export data in its annual Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada. The report for 2020 reveals that Canadian military exports were at historically high levels, and that some of the customers were among the world’s worst abusers of human rights. While the 2020 edition includes minor improvements in transparency, significant information is still missing or obscured.
“You can ignore reality,” said Russian-American author Ayn Rand. “But you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Canada needs to heed this warning. While it continues to support the policies of nuclear-weapon states, the multilateral policy landscape on which nuclear disarmament negotiations occur is being reshaped. And all parties that continue to shelter under a nuclear umbrella will be increasingly isolated.
There is currently strong international interest in a formal arms control agreement for outer space. However, many obstacles that have prevented such an agreement in the past must still be surmounted.
Over the past few months, experts have been surprised by the media attention given to the Turkish-made Kargu-2 kamikaze drone or loitering munition. Everyone, it seems, wants to know if the use of the Kargu-2 in Libya in March 2020 was the first instance of an autonomous weapon being used in conflict.