COMMENT: Troubled Times

Alex Atamanenko
By Alex Atamanenko
July 22nd, 2014

The more I reflect upon our troubled times, the more I am convinced that Canada is not acting in a responsible manner on the international stage.  As Robert Murray, Professor and Columnist for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy stated, “The Harper government has come out with its ‘principled foreign policy’.  Exactly what that principled foreign policy looks like, though, is very short on details but very big on strong, sometimes inflammatory rhetoric”

Murray goes on to describe Foreign Minister Baird’s comment that Canada is moving away from its historical orientation of pursuing a middle path in its approach to foreign affairs.  According to this logic, rather than exercising diplomacy to solve conflicts in the world, Canada is asserting itself more aggressively and is taking stronger stances according to what it sees as overtly right or wrong.

Unfortunately, this approach rejects a proud tradition of foreign policy involving diplomacy in favour of a path that is slowly leading us to irrelevance on the international stage.

Although there are many conflicts in the world today, the two that stand out in my mind are the slaughter in Central Africa, and the tragedy in my beloved Ukraine.  I should say that I am supportive of the people of Ukraine in their aspirations for a free and democratic society.  Member of my family stood in Maidan to express their outrage over the criminal actions of former President Yanukovich and support the newly elected President Poroshenko.

Tragically, however, we have seen an escalation of the conflict and more loss of lives.  In my opinion, the Russian government is behind the provocation in Eastern Ukraine and is helping to fuel the existing tensions.   This is a tactic not unlike that of the US government when it has destabilized and overthrown democratically elected governments in our own hemisphere and other parts of the world.

It is extremely unfortunate that, instead of using diplomacy to defuse this power-keg and to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict, our Prime Minister is cranking up his cold war rhetoric , while he demonizes Russian President Putin.

As Michael Harris in his article states, (i Politics2014 -06-09) “What you are seeing is a professional politician doing the only thing he knows how to do – extract crass political advantage back in Canada from the tragic events unfolding elsewhere… The specter of an aggressive Russia makes it easier to gloss over the facts and appeal to the emotions”.

Canada has engaged our military in this conflict.  A war ship that had been providing assistance to useful anti-smuggling operations has been diverted to the Black Sea.  Six fighter jets are deployed in Romania flying around with no real purpose or weapons, and 50 military personnel are stationed in Poland.  Canada has also promised up to 500 troops and there is talk of a permanent Canadian NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

One needs to step back and ask what Harper hopes to achieve by this “show of force?”  I believe that this belligerent policy is counterproductive.  Sending our military forces to Eastern Europe is ludicrous and only means we are preparing for war.

While other European leaders as well as President Obama engaged President Putin in dialogue during the D-Day Commemoration in June, Harper rejected all communication. I would say that this in not “the Canadian way” of doing business.

Just imagine what could be done if Canada diverted the expenses of its current NATO mission to the crisis in Central Africa?  We could be making it a priority to finance peacekeeping under the UN flag with a goal to prevent all-out genocide in Africa and actually make a positive contribution to world peace.

Why is it that we have chosen war games and belligerent rhetoric over creative diplomacy and peacekeeping?  Why have our Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister not been engaged in diplomatic efforts from the very beginning to ensure Ukraine’s security as well as that of Russia? 

The goal should be for Ukraine to enjoy healthy relations both with the European Union and with Russia and not to act as a base for further NATO expansion in Eastern Europe. How can we expect Russia to decrease its military presence along its borders if NATO continues to build its troop strength?

I believe Canadians need some answers.  Canada has strayed off course and is not fulfilling its middle power role to promote peace in the world.  We need to get back on track.

Surely, there must be a better way to resolve conflicts in these very troubled times.

Alex Atamanenko, MP

BC Southern Interior



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