Reversing its previous nuclear policy, the US Congress passed a $400 billion 2004 Defence Authorization Bill that includes a provision for research on two new types of nuclear weapons -- small, low yield and earth penetrating "bunker-buster" bombs. After its last warhead was produced in 1990, the United States had been reducing its nuclear stockpile. Tis new measure does not authorize production, deployment, or use of the proposed new weapons, but only research. However, opponents (mostly Democrats) argue that the development will surely follow. Senator Dianne Feinstein said, "Just a study? Baloney. Does anyone really believe that?" She sees the move as indicating that the US administration intends to continue its reliance on nuclear weapons into the future, which will encourage other countries to build up their own stockpiles.
The Bush administration wants to determine whether nuclear warheads are capable of destroying chemical and biological weapons in underground bunkers without severely damaging surrounding areas.
In June the people of the Czech Republic went to the polls and, as the people of Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Poland had also done in the past few months, voted to join the European Union.
Not long ago the Serbian public viewed the UNWar Crimes Tribunal in The Hague with contempt. They considered its prosecution of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as designed "to destroy Serbia's reputation." But after the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, public opinion began changing significantly.
Strategic Marketing Agency in Belgrade has carried out many surveys over the past few years and it reports that now the majority of the population favors cooperation with The Hague. The change began, not necessarily because people became willing to confront the fact that crimes were carried out by the state, but at first because people understood that sanctions would continue unless the regime showed a readiness to cooperate. People also wanted access to the international lending institutions, which balked at the corruption that had continued. As new leaders began to hint at cooperation with the tribunal, public opinion began shifting, though most people still considered it as an anti-Serb institution.
That has changed since Djindjic's murder. The authorities suddenly reached a consensus that the government must end the criminal gangs that ran Belgrade. They organized a crackdown on some of the most notorious figures of the Milosevic period, including military officers. Since it began, the new ruling elite refers to the importance of cooperating with The Hague, for practical motives, and now also because they recognize a "moral obligation" to prosecute war crimes.
In May, news reports increased concerning the increase of violence and atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was increasing evidence that the area may become "the next Rwanda." Several Canadian peace groups, along with former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, proposed that Canada help the United Nations deployment to the Congo. Accordingly, Prime Minister Chrétien offered to provide transport planes.
Fergus Watt, Executive Director of the World Federalists of Canada, urged that Canada offer troops, as well as planes. "We do have troops available," he said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an emergency military deployment to reinforce the UN Observer Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo. A French team soon went to the town of Bunia to pave the way for a strengthened UN force.
On May 9 Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham announced additional Canadian funding to follow up efforts on "Responsibility to Protect," the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. This initiative aims to enhance the international community's responses to threats of genocide.
--Dr. Peter Stockdale