CANADA

The Prime Minister’s mission

John Hay November 28 1983
CANADA

The Prime Minister’s mission

John Hay November 28 1983

The Prime Minister’s mission

CANADA

John Hay

Pierre Trudeau’s self-styled “pilgrimage for peace” took him to the Far East last week. The Prime Minister left Ottawa on an 18-day tour that included visits to Japan, Bangladesh and New Delhi, where a meeting of Commonwealth leaders will try to find a common position on the Oct. 25 U.S. invasion of Grenada. But, as Trudeau arrived in Tokyo for a Nov. 19 lunch with strong-willed, pro-U.S. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, he seemed to have a clearer idea of why he made a last-minute decision to include Japan on his itinerary than did the Japanese officials themselves. The reason: normally well-briefed foreign ministry officials in Tokyo knew little about Trudeau’s peace initiative. Still, Trudeau won general encouragement for his ideas from Nakasone during a meeting lasting less than two hours. Nakasone was particularly interested in Trudeau’s proposal to draw nuclear powers—including China—into global arms reduction talks.

Trudeau was less pleased with reports that senior U.S. defence officials meeting in New York on Nov. 17 had dismissed his peace plan as “not credible in Europe”—largely because of Canada’s poor record on NATO defence spending. “Pentagon people are not noted for their concern with disarmament,” Trudeau said angrily. As it is, Canada is currently spending $7.8 billion, or two per cent of the country’s gross national product, on defence. That represents a 12.9-per-cent increase in one year, and Maclean's has learned that the government will announce another defence spending increase in the throne speech now being drafted for delivery next month. The themes of Trudeau’s peace strategy emerged in a speech last week to a Liberal party meeting in Montreal, where he warned that three “dominant and disturbing trends” were endangering life on the planet. Those were: “the brutalization of international relations” by the increasing use of force to settle conflicts; proliferation of nuclear weapons; and “the worsening state of relations between East and West.” The Prime Minister then outlined four elements of “a program for political management of the current crisis”—the program he has been propounding on his peace crusade through six countries in Europe. He called for a conference of the five nuclear weapons states (the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China) sometime in 1984, to start stabilizing and even reducing their nuclear arsenals.

Trudeau also wants to strengthen the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty-still unsigned by several countries, including India. As well, he urged cuts in conventional forces in Europe, suggesting that leaders or foreign ministers—not just diplomats—should launch the European security conference due to open in Stockholm in January. Finally, he pressed for the abolition of antisatellite “space wars” weapons and other armaments still on the superpower drawing boards.

Canada’s allies have so far given only lukewarm support to Trudeau’s peace initiative. U.S. Deputy Secretary of

State Kenneth Dam was politely cool to the Trudeau proposals during an Ottawa visit last week. One senior official in the three-member delegation from Washington said that the United States wanted to hear from the four other nuclear states before committing itself to a nuclear summit.

The Dam contingent earlier flew to Europe in an attempt to soothe Western alliance concerns about the U.S. invasion of Grenada. U.S. officials said that Washington did not oppose stationing a Commonwealth security force on the island after U.S. troops leave, but they

stressed that Grenada’s interim government, sworn in by Gov. Gen. Sir Paul Scoon, must first request such a force. But the Commonwealth itself is deeply divided on the Grenada issue. Several members, including Canada and Britain, have condemned the invasion, while five Caribbean Commonwealth countries landed on the island with the Americans.

Moreover, the 48 members gathering in New Delhi cannot agree on Commonwealth Secretary-General Sonny Ramphal’s proposal for a security force to keep order in Grenada. Last week Canadian officials said that the issue is so divisive that Commonwealth leaders might discuss it during a private weekend retreat in coastal Goa rather than

at the formal meetings.

After Japan, Trudeau’s extended travels for peace will take him from Bangladesh, where the average yearly wage is $140 (U.S.), and New Delhi to four oil-rich states on the Persian Gulf: the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, where the per capita income is $20,900 (U.S.) a year. Then, from the extremes of both poverty and wealth he will end his crusade as an international peace seeker, returning to Canada (per capita income $11,400 [U.S.] a year), with its more familiar domestic problems.