Canada's Ukrainian borsch has bitter anti-Russian taste


Canada ardently takes most severe sanctions against Russia, following the U.S. or even paving the way itself. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is even more categorical than his American counterpart Barack Obama. Canada is neither a global player, nor a world power, its army is weak and poorly armed. Why is Canada so strongly against Russia?

Canada was the first, after the U.S., to introduce sanctions against Russia. The country at first expelled Russian military men, who were undergoing linguistic and software training at Canadian universities. Afterwards, Canada took the initiative to hold a G8 summit without Russia, joined all lists of targeted sanctions, suspended all scientific and business projects with Russia, including in space, aviation and in the Arctic. All this was being done with the use of rude and inconsiderate rhetoric, destroying everything positive that had been accumulated in previous years. One can say that Ottawa's militancy put the bilateral relations with Russia on the brink of collapse.

Canada is not a superpower; the country has just withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, so why should it get involved in a conflict that takes place so far away from its boundaries? To crown it all, the Canadian economy is not tied to the Russian one, or tied to a minimal degree. Why such bravado? Canadian newspapers ask themselves this question too. Thus, The Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, in an editorial from April 28, criticized the statement from Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, who said that Canada would rise along with NATO partners before Russia's aggression. This is largely a meaningless gesture, perhaps it would not be ridiculous, if Canada could substantiate its bellicose rhetoric, the newspaper wrote.

Six CF-18 fighters and a warship that Canada intends to send to the conflict area "in solidarity and protest against Russia's intimidation of Ukraine," is just a puny show of force, notes the newspaper, as Canadian jet fighters are so old they fall down from the sky. The Canadian navy is in a pretty much the same condition. The newspaper advised the government should not flex its muscles and rather provide specific financial assistance to Ukraine. Putin will not be intimidated by gunboat diplomacy, the newspaper said, but he will surely be impressed with the onset of economic and political support for the independent and prosperous Ukraine, the authors of the article wrote.

Why is Prime Minister Harper so aggressive? The first reason that arises in this connection is the territorial dispute with Russia in the Arctic region. Canada and Russia claim for the parts of the Arctic shelf, including the Lomonosov and Mendeleyev ridges that are rich with oil and gas. For Russia, the Arctic region is one of the priorities. Russia has been increasing military presence in the area.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the development of infrastructure in the Arctic would be one of the priorities of the ministry in 2014. According to plans, the formation of Russian troops in the Arctic region is to be finished during the current year. Given the weakness of the Canadian military (the country spends only 1.3 percent of GDP on the military budget), this may raise concerns with Mr. Harper. In addition, possibly the would-be president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, said that "the expansion of Russia in the Crimea" could manifest itself in the Arctic too. She urged Canada to unite with the United States to show military confrontation to Russia in the Arctic.

"This is not connected with the Arctic, - Vasily Sokolov, the head of the Canadian Department at the Institute for the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Pravda.Ru. - The Arctic is big enough for both the Canadians and the Russians. As for the division of the continental shelf, the international commission for the delimitation of the continental shelf can not make a decision without the consent of the Arctic states on the issue. Should everything be agreed upon, the UN bureaucracy will sign it. Should there be conflicts, they will not sign it. We are doomed to work within the scope of the Arctic Union," the expert told Pravda.Ru.

According to Vasily Sokolov, the Canadian leadership has been displaying aggression against Russia for two reasons: the influence of the USA and the Ukrainian diaspora. "In Canada, there are conservatives in power, who always follow the U.S. policy and always have close friendship, including in foreign political events. The second factor is related to internal affairs of Canada. There is a large Ukrainian diaspora in the country - more than one million people. For comparison, the Ukrainian diaspora in Russia counts 1.9 million people, according to the 2010 census, and it has a strong political influence in the parliament," said Vasily Sokolov.

He noted that the diaspora was formed when Ukraine was divided between the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most of the immigrants to Canada were immigrants from Galicia, from Austria-Hungary. "Therefore, the main core of the Ukrainian population in Canada are strongly pro-Western. The Ukrainian diaspora in Canada is well organized; it has different religious and public organizations, for example, the Congress of the Ukrainians in Canada that once awarded Harper for his "great contribution to the development of the Ukrainian community." It also has channels of political influence, and its leadership actively supports the moves to punish Russia and help Ukraine."

We can add here that a Ukrainian group from Canada came to Maidan during the protests in Kiev, and those people said that "in the Canadian government, there were more Ukrainians than in the Ukrainian government," a message distributed by VIDIA said. It is no coincidence that the Congress leadership then appeared on the list of Russia's responsive sanctions against Canada.

To crown it all, an election campaign for the vote in 2015 is currently unfolding in Canada, so the support of the influential Ukrainian community for the ruling Conservative Party is very important. "Canada is a regional country. Quebec has been losing its influence, whereas western provinces, where Harper comes from, come to the foreground. The Ukrainians live in steppe regions of the west. They naturally have influence on the regional level, and one has to win their voices," concluded Vasily Sokolov.

Lyuba Lulko
Read the original in Russian 

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov