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  • July 12th, 2016

Chris Westdal: Now is the time for diplomacy with Russia

Simulating attack in Poland

We wrote about Canada’s ill-advised decision to establish and lead a rotational multinational NATO battlegroup in Latvia in our blog post of 30 June entitled Trudeau government: Room for improvement on key security issues.

In that post we noted how the German Foreign Minister has variously described NATO’s actions in deploying four battlegroups on Russia’s very doorstep as “sabre rattling” and “war mongering.”

Since then former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, architect of the peaceful transition of his country from Communist bloc to Russian Federation, has described NATO’s actions thus:

They only talk about defence, but actually they are preparing for offensive operations.

Canadians elected the Justin Trudeau Liberals to forge a new relationship with Russia and to re-engage in UN peacekeeping, not to waste Canadian troops and equipment on a provocative NATO deployment, to which most European members of NATO are apparently contributing little.

Chris Westdal, the only Canadian Ambassador to have served as Head of Mission in both Russia and Ukraine, believes Canada’s Defence Minister understands the urgent need for diplomatic as well as military steps.

Defence Minister Sajjan gets the point. He says the work underway “behind the scenes” to re-establish a NATO dialogue with Russia “really is the most critical piece … We need to make sure the tensions are reduced because it doesn’t help anybody.”

However, Westdal also points out that, whatever NATO is doing multilaterally, there is precious little evidence of Canadian diplomatic efforts at the bilateral level:

Six months into his mandate, notably, Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has yet to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

He ends his analysis, Trudeau in NATOLand by Chris Westdal, with a plea:

If we [Canada] have anything to say, anything to contribute beyond a largely symbolic military gesture, any vision of Eurasian security to offer and help fulfil, now is the time.

For the full article, click Trudeau in NATOLand by Chris Westdal. It is also available to subscribers at Trudeau in NATOLand (The Hill Times, 8 July 2016).


Photo credit: Canadian Forces

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