Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 01.07.2018
July 1 is Canada Day, formerly Dominion Day. On the first of July in 1867, Canada became a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire. The July 1 holiday is a time to celebrate Canada’s peaceful, tolerant, open, and prosperous society. But in 2018 the world is at war: Russia is invading Ukraine; Muscovy is at war with the West. Countries that were once leaders of the West, the United States and the United Kingdom, have been badly weakened by Russian hybrid warfare. By default, countries like Canada have risen to the position of leadership of the Free World. Canada must act decisively to restore a rules-based international order and “punch above its weight” as a middle power to restrain Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, was presented the award for Diplomat of the Year by Foreign Policy magazine on June 13. In her speech accepting the award, Minister Freeland spoke in defence of “an international system of rules that had allowed our peoples to thrive.” She quoted Ronald Reagan’s “City on the Hill” farewell speech of 1989, in which the former US President spoke of the ideal city, “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace” in which “doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Minister Freeland said this about Reagan’s “City on the Hill”: “My country, Canada, believes in these values. We are ready to defend them and the rules-based international order that unites all of the world’s cities on the hill.”
No country is more responsible for the falling away from a rules-based international order than Russia. Progress towards the universal and homogeneous state is not inevitable, as some had thought when the evil empire of the Soviet Union collapsed. The rise of Putin meant the withdrawal of Russia from the community of civilized nations. “Some countries that had embarked on the difficult journey from communism to democratic capitalism have moved backwards. The saddest example for me is Russia,” said Chrystia Freeland.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Putin started an international war that is equivalent in historical importance to the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that happened in September 1939. In 2014, Invader Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea and partly occupied Ukraine’s Donbas. Russia shot down a passenger airliner, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and killed 298 people. Russia has been attacking Ukraine with relentless violence for four and a third years. Over eleven thousand Europeans have died in trench warfare fought between invader Russia and defender Ukraine in Donbas. War in the trenches of eastern Ukraine has lasted almost as long as trench warfare lasted in France and Belgium during the First World War.
Canada joined the United States, the European Union, and other democratic nations in imposing sanctions on Russian individuals and entities who pose a grave risk to international peace and security because of their involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a member of NATO, Canada participates in a military training mission with the Ukrainian armed forces in western Ukraine and leads a forward-presence battlegroup in Latvia. Canada contributes to reform efforts in Ukraine arising out of the Revolution of Dignity, notably the lustration of the militsya and the establishment of patrol police.
All of these initiatives to support Ukraine came from the previous Canadian government. They have been continued by the current government, which was elected on 19 October 2015. But the present government, of which Chrystia Freeland is a minister, has not introduced any substantial new measures to help Ukraine or to fight Russia.
In her speech accepting the Diplomat of the Year award, Chrystia Freeland considered the prospect of a world that had given up on the rules-based international order and had returned to the dark times of “a ruthless struggle between great powers governed solely by the narrow, short-term and mercantilist pursuit of self-interest.” She concluded: “Canada could never thrive in such a world.”
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has the power to act to restore the rules-based international order. It is time for “deeds, not words,” as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been urging allies. Canada can and should do a lot more, and should start acting like the leader of the Free World that it is.
Canada should sanction Igor Sechin and Vladimir Yakunin, as the Liberal Party of Canada promised it would do during the 2015 election campaign. Canada should explore with allies banning Russia from the SWIFT international payment system, as it also promised it would do. Canada should give lethal weapons to Ukraine, as the Canadian government’s own parliamentary committee urged it to do – after all, Ukrainians are fighting to defend all of Western civilization from Muscovy barbarism. Canada should bring in visa-free travel for Ukrainians, as the EU does already and as the government’s own parliamentary committee urged it to do. Canada should harmonize its sanctions list with allies, as the Liberal Party promised it would do during the 2015 election campaign (in particular, Russian terrorists in Luhansk, Leonid Pasechnik and Igor Kornet, must be added to the list). Canada should sanction the corrupt Russian officials responsible for organizing the so-called presidential ‘election’ in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea on 18 March 2018, as the EU has already done – Canada issued sanctions after the illegal parliamentary elections of 18 September 2016, why not this one? Canada should sanction corrupt Russian officials – under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) – who are responsible for the abduction, torture, and hostage-keeping of Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Roman Sushchenko, Pavlo Hryb, and the over 70 other Ukrainian political prisoners of war held in the Russian Federation and in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea.
Canada declared war on Nazi Germany on 10 September 1939, days after Hitler invaded Poland. Canada did that to defend the rules-based international order, even though it was not directly threatened by Nazi aggression. Canada has failed to act decisively to defend the rules-based international order after Russia invaded Ukraine. Chrystia Freeland is right that Canada cannot thrive in a world of great power struggles, bereft of a rules-based international order. It’s time for deeds, not words. Canada – one of the world’s oldest democracies – must assume leadership of the Free World: stop Putin, help Ukraine, and defend Western civilization.