Hmmm... what if Canada wants nuclear weapons?

Did you happen to catch this tweet from the editors at the Ottawa Citizen, the largest daily newspaper in Ottawa, Canada?

That certainly caught the attention of a number of people. Was it satire? Some hint regarding a change in official Canadian policy toward nuclear arms? Reading the full editorial it sounds like neither, but they’re raising a provocative question. What if Canada, having become so distressed by the election of President Trump, fired up their own nuclear weapons program? They certainly have most of the required technical capability if they decided to do it.

As U.S. president Donald Trump thumps Canada with an out-of-the-blue trade war, he is simultaneously cozying up to a nuclear-armed North Korea: Saluting their generals, flattering their dictator and even making them fake movie trailers.

For Canadians watching all this is, a natural question is: What if we got some nuclear weapons, too?

“Your world would change,” said Mitchell Reiss, a former director of policy planning at the United States Department of State.

The action would be so needlessly provocative that it would likely result in Canada’s immediate ejection from NATO.

This was clearly dreamed up as a creative way to insult the American president and draw some clicks. The editors note at the top that they spoke to a number of sources in both countries and each and every one of them thought, “a Canadian nuclear bomb is an unbelievably terrible idea that is bad for everyone in almost every way.”

But since one of their leading newspapers decided to bring it up, let’s bat that idea around for a moment. They’ve got plenty of uranium to spare and nuclear engineers. (They have one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world.) They’ve made reactors in the past capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. And it seems unlikely that they couldn’t find somebody up there who knows how to design a bomb. (Or they could import some talent.) All the really hard work is already done. They’re not that many steps away from a bomb if they really want one.

But would they? Bombastic editorials aside, if the Canadians decided to force their way into the nuclear clubhouse they would immediately become a player on that part of the stage. One of the reasons that Canada has had such an easy ride on the military front for the past seventy years or more is that they live next door to the United States. Nobody in the world would dream of attacking them so they haven’t needed to invest all that much in their military. When you live next door to and are best buddies with the heavyweight champion you don’t worry about getting into too many fights.

I’m sure Canada would like to maintain the status quo in that regard rather than taking on the cost and responsibility of maintaining a full, nuclear-capable military infrastructure. Right, Canada? I mean, you wouldn’t want anything to happen to our special relationship, would you? Instead of an exit question we’ll just have an exit tweet.