Canada Talks Ukraine at Arctic Council

Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy at the Arctic Council
Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy at the Arctic Council.

Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy voiced his concerns about Canada’s promotion of its agenda on Ukraine at the Arctic Council.

In fact, chair of the Arctic Council Leona Aglukkaq of Canada expressed her concerns directly to Donskoy about the situation in Ukraine.

Sputnik News reported that Donskoy felt like Canada was creating obstacle for the “promotion of international cooperation in the Arctic.”

“We are sorry that Canadian chairmanship used consensus forum which the Arctic Council is, to promote its home policy agenda in the context of events in Ukraine. It creates obstacles for the promotion of international cooperation in the Arctic” Donskoy said.

Aglukkaq’s statement about her government’s concern over Russia’s presence in Eastern Ukraine during the Arctic Council meeting was not appropriate.

According to the Barent Oberserver: “During Friday’s meeting of circumpolar ministers and the permanent participant leaders, Aglukkaq neglected to mention Russia in remarks while acknowledging the U.S. and Nordic countries.”

Aglukkaq transferred the chair to the United States. John Kerry, Secretary of State, is now the chair of the Arctic Council. The United States will lead the Arctic Council until 2017.

What is the Arctic Council?

Drawn from the Arctic Council website, its definition clearly demonstrate how military affairs are not a concern.

The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 formally established the Arctic Council as a high level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Arctic Council Member States are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America.

In addition to the Member States, the Arctic Council has the category of Permanent Participants.

Talking about military affairs, especially outside the Arctic region, is forbidden. Even if the Russia-Canada relations are at its lowest in years, Aglukkaq should’ve kept her opinion for herself and work toward a tighter cooperation for the Arctic between both countries.

“Russia proceeds from the fact that the Arctic is territory of dialogue, not a platform for political quarrels and settling scores,” Donskoy said.

Adding to that, Canada boycotted an Arctic Council meeting in Moscow last year to stand against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Canada-Russia relation at its lowest in years

Since the annexation of Crimea, Canada has been reluctant to talk with Russia. In fact, the Russia-Canada relations haven’t been that low since the end of the Cold War.

The boycott of last years’ Arctic Council meeting in Moscow is another example of Canada’s new position on Russia. Although the Arctic Council does not include military affairs, Canada has seen fit to not attend due to current military and political conflicts.

Unfortunately, events in Eastern Ukraine are also dismissing possible talks between both countries. Although I believe Canada is being stubborn, I agree that Russia’s position on Eastern Ukraine and Crimea is not contributing to the possible renewal of a good relationship between both countries.

The Arctic Council is a great platform to bring Canada and Russia together and cooperate on different Arctic issues. This cooperation could bring a new start to the relationship between both countries.

The fact that Canada is not sending anyone to Russia’s May 9th Victory Day parade is another missed opportunity to further enhance relationships. The Canadian Ambassador to Russia should demonstrate Canada’s recognition of Russian sacrifices during World War II. More than 550,000 Russian Canadians are living in Canada and have ancestors who valiantly fought for Russia during WWII.

Even the United States acknowledged Russia’s contribution to the victory of the allies in Europe against Nazi Germany. The US Ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, will be present for the Victory Day parade.

Since the US Ambassador will be present, I do believe Canada should do the same. Let’s face it, the United States once was Russia’s archenemy and they will still attend.

The Arctic Council is a perfect situation where Canada and Russia could renew its good relationship. Although both countries firmly disagree with each other’s position over Ukraine, I do believe that diplomacy should prevail and a communication channel between both countries should still be open.

That said, it is also Russia’s responsibility to open itself to Canada. Russia should understand and acknowledge Canada’s position on Ukraine. Diplomacy through dialogue is always better than diplomacy using weapons and a proxy country to make a statement.


Do you think Aglukkaq’s statement was necessary? Let me know in the comment section below!

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.