It is no secret that over the last year Canada-Russia relations have become practically frozen. Stephen Harper has been an adamant critic of the Russian president Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine and has suggested that Russia won’t be allowed to return to the G7 talks as long as Putin is in power. Now, with the transition in Canadian government, Russian news media question if, and in what way, Canada’s foreign policy towards Russia will change. The majority of Russian articles comment on Justin Trudeau’s campaign promises. Below are some selected extracts on the most prominent topics. The extracts are translated from Russian by the author of this post.
The Putin Test
Under the headline Canadian Prime Minister Critical of Putin Lost His Post, news portal RBK informs that Conservatives have lost to the Liberals in the Canadian election. Last summer Canada sent 200 military trainers in Ukraine, who, as expected, work in close collaboration with their American allies in the region, recalls RBK. The portal quotes Justin Trudeau, who prior to the election said he would confront “the bully” that Vladimir Putin is, blaming the Russian leader for being “dangerous” in Eastern Europe, “irresponsible and harmful” in the Middle East, and “unduly provocative” in the Arctic. RBK further refers to the National Post, noting that nowadays, the potential of Western leaders is often measured by their ability “to not turn sour” in a conversation with Vladimir Putin. Now, it is Justin Trudeau’s turn to take the Putin Test, notes RBK.
The F-35 will become even more expensive as the new Canadian Prime Minister intents to exclude Canada from the F-35 bidding process, comment a number of news websites. They recall that the development of F-35 is led by Lockheed Martin and is financed by nine countries, including Canada whose part represents 2%. In addition, Canada’s refusal from purchasing the F-35 will cost tens of millions of US dollars, comments ITAR-TASS. The news agency quotes Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan according to whom if Canada, or any other country puts an end to its participation, the cost of F-35 will increase by $1 million each.
New Ukrainian MPs
More than ten Ukrainians, representing the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau made their way to the Canadian Parliament, reports the Russian news agency Rosbalt. Most of them were nominated in the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta – home of the largest Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. The agency quotes the vice-president of Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, Ivan Moskaluk, who “has certain fears” with regard to Liberals’ domestic policy, but in terms of foreign policy, he is confident that Ukraine will keep its “loud voice” on the international arena thanks to Canada’s support. Ukrainians rely on Canada’s support, stresses Moskaluk.
Syria and ISIS
Until the end of the year, Canada will accept 25 000 Syrian refugees, informs Rosbalt recalling that Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper refused to take such a step. During his election campaign, Trudeau promised to withdraw Canadian CF-18 fighter jets from the Middle East, but the deadlines for the withdrawal are still unknown, comments the agency. The popular daily Izvestiia, as well as the news agency RIA Novosti report that Canada will stop the military operation against ISIS, but quote Trudeau who assured Barack Obama that Canada will remain a reliable member of the coalition against the terrorist group. However, the decision made by the new Canadian Prime Minister to cease its participation in the international operation in Iraq and Syria causes undisguised irritation in Washington, points out ITAR-TASS.
The Anti-Russian Attitude
The new Canadian authorities can mitigate the anti-Russian rhetoric, observes Nezavisimaia Gazeta, although it still remains unclear in what way the change of government in Canada will affect the relations with Russia. Under Harper, Ottawa’s contacts with Moscow were kept to a minimum. The “country of the maple leaf” voluntarily took the lead of the economic war against Russia, taking the most prominent anti-Russian position among Western countries over the crisis in Ukraine, notes NG. In a TASS interview, Carleton’s Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz comments that the question concerning the relations with Russia will be soon put on the agenda, since Russia should not be ignored, it should be understood, and furthermore a cooperation is needed. Despite the optimism, however, most of the observers do not expect any significant warming between the countries. As the experts believe, the anti-Russian attitudes are not a distinctive feature of the Conservatives, rather they represent a contemporary reality among all Canadians.
A Favorable Sign
According to Elena Komkova, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, whose work is focused on Canada and the US, the Liberals’ victory and the rise of Pierre Trudeau’s son – Justin Trudeau – is a favorable sign for Russia. During his campaign, Trudeau said more than once that he respects his father’s legacy. As we all remember, Komkova continues, under Trudeau Sr. the relations between the USSR and Canada were not bad at all. According to the expert, Canadian Liberals’ foreign policy is traditionally more independent, balanced, and more consistent with Canada’s national interests. For that reason, Trudeau’s coming into power should be seen as “not at all a bad option” for Russia, believes Komkova.
What Trudeau’s policy towards Russia will look like, remains to be seen…
Katarina Koleva is a first year PhD student at NPSIA and Managing Director at iAffairs.
Featured Photo From Wikimedia.
Tweet to @iAffairsCanadaFollow @iAffairsCanada