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Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade/Library and Archives Canada.

Klaus Goldschlag


“The best foreign policy mind in the department.”

Allan Gotlieb
Canadian Ambassador to the United Sates (1981-1989)


Klaus Goldschlag wrote policies to change the world. In 1978, Goldschlag joined Canada’s delegation to the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSD). With the Canadian delegation chairing the Western Caucus, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decided to deliver a proposal to limit nuclear proliferation by restricting tests of nuclear detonations and delivery devices, reducing the production of fissionable materials for nuclear weapons, and capping spending on nuclear weapons systems. Goldschlag worked closely with Trudeau to draft his speech to the UN General Assembly. He coined the phrase “strategy of suffocation” to describe the proposed approach of reducing arms by curtailing the means of producing them. The final speech delivered a vision of non-proliferation that presented an achievable plan without condescending the world’s nuclear powers. Trudeau received wide acclaim for his speech, even garnering praise from the Soviet ambassador. It took decades to implement the proposed measures into multilateral treaties, but Trudeau’s speech – and Goldschlag’s words – gave Canada a leading role in the work of non-proliferation and arms-reduction.

Klaus Goldschlag at his desk in the Canadian Embassy in Bonn, West Germany. Gunther Schleith/Library and Archives Canada

Goldschlag joined the Foreign Service in 1949. A skilled linguist, his brilliant analysis of foreign policy sent him climbing up the ranks of the Department of External Affairs. In 1972, he drafted three foreign policy options for the Trudeau government. His “Third Option” set the template for a new Canadian foreign policy, independent of American influence. Goldschlag was appointed ambassador to Turkey, Italy, and West Germany. A surgical accident during his time as Ambassador to West Germany left him paralyzed on his right side and forced him into early retirement.

Goldschlag was born in Berlin, Germany in 1922. Orphaned under the Nazi regime, he was adopted by Toronto insurance broker Alan Coatsworth. He completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto in 1944 and joined the Canadian Army. After the war, he completed a master’s degree in Arabic at the University of Toronto and pursued a second master’s degree in Oriental Languages at Princeton University. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to the diplomatic service.

Further Reading:

Meyer, Paul. “Pierre Trudeau and the “suffocation” of the nuclear arms race.” International Journal 71, no. 3 (2016): 393-408.

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