Preamble: On the heels of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s fiasco in attempting to silence the music of a brilliant pianist Valentina Lisitsa for her outspoken position on the war in Ukraine, Lysiane Gagnon, a renowned Canadian journalist and a long-standing correspondent of the Montreal publication La Presse and the Globe and Mail, tackles yet another serious issue for Canada—whether or not to put boots on the ground in Ukraine. For Ms Gagnon, the answer is clear: “Stephen Harper’s Ukrainian obsession is a dangerous little game.” She concludes that it is Harper, not Putin who must get out of Ukraine. In Montreal, one of the centres of Western Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, this position is a bold one, notwithstanding the Québecers’ long-standing dissatisfaction with the Canadian Prime Minister. Do Ms Gagnon’s forthright condemnation of Canada’s meddling in Ukraine and the widespread media support shown to Valentina Lisitsa perhaps signal an awakening to the realities of the Ukrainian crisis among the Canadian public? Only time will tell.
Where will the Ukrainian obsession of the Harper government stop? Here he is now despatching two hundred soldiers to “advise” Kiev in its “little war” with Russia, at the very moment when the fragile truce which should have put an end to hostilities appears to be compromised.
What exactly does Canada have to do at the heart of Europe, in a conflict which holds no national interest for it—a conflict which, if things are conducted roughly, could engulf the Old Continent?
Alas, human folly is without limit. Let us recall how the First World War began: an individual attack of no great importance engendered a murderous escalation which threw the world into a slaughter that lasted four years.
The presence of two hundred soldiers more than a thousand kilometres from the combat zone will not change a great deal, speaking militarily. Eight hundred Americans and seventy-five British are already on the ground. But that will be seen by Moscow as a further provocation, after NATO has advanced its missile installations, without good cause, as far as the Baltic republics, a few steps away from the Russian border, and the European Union has accepted, far too lightly, the principle of an economic partnership with a country which had always been part of Russia’s orbit.
It is in response to these provocations that Vladimir Putin recovered Crimea, territory that had belonged to Russia up until 1954, when Khrushchev—after a day of great drinking, it is said—ceded it to Ukraine while retaining its military bases. Since then, Russia has covertly encouraged the pro-Russian rebels who want to link the Russophone east of Ukraine with Russia.
The untimely intervention of distant Canada only serves to add a little more fuel to the fire.
The ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, commenced proceedings in December, 2013, by participating, against all diplomatic rules, in a demonstration against the then Russophile government in Kiev.
At the G20 summit of last November, true to the brusque and outspoken approach which characterises his relations with overseas, Mr Harper harpooned President Putin in the tone of a small-time bully from the school playground, telling him “Get out of Ukraine!”
The White House, France and Germany are showing a certain restraint. Europe has wisely refused to grant this badly managed and corrupt country an entry pass to the EU, which the Kiev authorities covet. As for Mr Harper, he is on the same wavelength as the American Republicans, great supporters of a muscular intervention in Ukraine.
It has even been suggested by Ottawa to some Canadian representatives abroad that they leave any meeting where a representative of Russia was seated!
In the front-row seats, the powerful Canadian-Ukrainian lobby is applauding. The thousands of citizens of Ukrainian origin, and more generally those whose ancestors suffered in the former USSR, form an electorate that the Conservatives have not ceased to court (as did the Liberals before them).
The electoral solicitation began with this absurd project of a monument to the “victims of communism” right in the heart of the federal capital, a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court.
Certainly, communism has generated countless victims, in Europe, in China or in Viet Nam. But why a monument, here and today, when communists are everywhere on the road to extinction? Perhaps with the shabby goal that this large construction should crush with its massive shadow the delicate edifice of the Supreme Court, the enemy number one of the Harper government? But it is above all, of course, to accommodate an electorate eager to do battle with Russia.
Electioneering is a normal phenomenon in politics. But Stephen Harper’s Ukrainian obsession is a dangerous little game. It is to him that we would like to say: “Get out of Ukraine, Mister Harper!”