Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit. Harper shook Putin’s hand but told him, openly and in public, “I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: Get out of Ukraine.”
With the recent tension over the Eastern Ukraine conflict and the expansion of the Russian Armed Forces in the Arctic, Prime Minister Harper has sent a clear message—Canada won’t be intimidated by the Russians.
Fortunately, the Americans, British, and the French are sharing the same opinion regarding current Russian incursions in Eastern Ukraine. Putin later told Canadian journalists that it was impossible to withdraw, as there are no Russian troops present in Eastern Ukraine.
Putin also added that no Russian troops have crossed into Ukraine for months. However, according to the International Business Times, more than “32 (Russian) tanks, 16 howitzer cannons, and 30 troop transports filled with men and equipment had crossed into the rebel-held area of Luhansk.”
Prime Minister Harper did talk tough to President Putin, but can Canada back up their boldness? Most of Canada’s fighters are deployed against ISIS and alongside NATO in the Baltic States. The United States Air Force is providing most of the interception against Russian bombers over North America as we speak.
Additionally, tensions are rising in the Arctic, where Canada and Russia are fighting a diplomatic war for dominance. Russia is reopening Cold War-era military installations all over their part of the Arctic, sending additional troops and supplies. Meanwhile, the Canadian government is cutting back on defense spending and still struggling with not having operational deep-water ports in the Arctic.
While I agree with Prime Minister Harper, I also think that it wasn’t the time or the best opportunity to send a message like that. It could have been perceived as a direct, actionable threat. As a representative of one of the G20 nations, Harper should’ve insisted on diplomacy by shaking Putin’s hand and not say a word.
The Russians are striking economical deals with China, making them less dependent on American and European currency, and are now becoming more aggressive with their air patrols. The Cold War might’ve officially ended at the start of the ’90s, but the Russians are now moving toward a renewed interest in reforming the Soviet Union.
Canada is clearly not on good terms with Russia, especially with the situation in Eastern Ukraine. They are also not in a position to adopt a firm stance against Russia, especially when it could lead to clashes in the Arctic.
It is pretty obvious that Canada will continue to support the NATO mission in the Baltic States and over the European members’ airspace, but the country should also start considering defending their own territory, especially in the Arctic.
Sending more soldiers to the Arctic to learn the arduous type of warfare waged in vast plains of frozen snow would be a great step towards ensuring their sovereignty. Canada can always count on its natural ally, the United States of America, but should also work hard so their armed forces are comfortable fighting domestically.