Time for Canada to Reengage with Russia

Diplomatic relations between Canada and Russia has been at an all-time low since the annexation of Crimea. Two years past and nothing has changed. It is, in my opinion, time for Canada to re-engage diplomatically with Russia in effort to work on mutual interests.

Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion
Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion

Although Canada was firm about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, completely cutting diplomatic ties was most likely the worst possible decision the Harper government took. It is normal to disagree on certain subjects but that does not mean to completely shut down talks.

Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion said last month that although Canada would firmly stand with Ukraine, it was time to reopen diplomatic channels with Russia to work on common interests.

“Canada was speaking to the Russians even during the tough times of the Cold War. And now we are not speaking … because of the former policy, of the former government,” Dion said on Parliament Hill. “In which way is this helping Ukraine? In way is it helping our interests in the Arctic?”

“We have a lot of disagreements with the government of Russia but it’s certainly not the way to stop speaking with them when the Americans speak with them and all the Europeans, the Japanese, everybody except Canada,” Dion added.

Russian Ambassador to Canada Alexander Darchiev
Russian Ambassador to Canada Alexander Darchiev

Alexander Darchiev, Russia’s Ambassador to Canada added to the rhetoric that it was time to restore a “true dialogue between Russia and Canada.”

“We need to go back to common sense as opposed to name-calling and brinksmanship statements that we so often heard before the October elections,” he said. “I am not criticizing anyone, but what we have seen is ideology put before pragmatism, and this was counter-productive in terms of Canada’s own interests.”

“We have disagreements but we need to talk and that was the message that I brought here when I came as ambassador, we need diplomacy. We can agree to disagree but we can’t stop talking,” Darchiev said.

For many, Russia is still perceived as the number one enemy of the Western world. Let me say that: Russia is FAR from being the number one enemy, Islamic States and global terrorism is!

Instead of blaming each other for different political ideologies, Russia and Canada—the Western world here—should combine their effort to launch a real Global War on Terrorism (GWoT). Frankly, this Cold War-era attitude is only bringing us into a second one where the end state might be completely different from the first one.

The West blames Russia for the annexation of Crimea and instilling political tensions in Ukraine while Russia is claiming NATO’s eastward march aims at isolating them. Both arguments have some truth in it but when a global menace erupts such as the Islamic State, you need to set aide political differences and end this menace.

By reopening diplomatic channels, I believe Canada is willing to restart cooperating on important issues such as the Arctic, terrorism and business opportunities with Russia. I believe the first effort into reopening diplomatic ties would be to start working on common interests first; the Arctic would be a great start.

I am NOT implying that Russia is white as snow here, I am only saying that it is through dialogue that we can find solutions.

The Canadian media’s old mentality has a part in it

For some reasons, Canadian media prefers to stick with Cold War-era analyst who are so deeply stuck in their mindset that it’s impossible for them to open up to possible cooperation. Nowadays, a younger generations of analyst who has been raised with open-mindedness. Younger analyst who can do unbiased reports and can undoubtedly critic both Russia and the West without being too subjective.

Almost every Canadian will base their opinion on what they see and hear on TV. Many Canadian broadcasters pretends to be objective but fails at making sure their collaborators are. This is a vicious circle. As long as I can recall, it is almost impossible for find an analyst who will go on national TV and say that Russia is not to be blamed for this and that.

Why you ask me? Because most of them are the older generation to close-minded analysts who still think they are living in the Cold War.

I am not saying every analysts should become pro-Russia here! I am only saying that Canadian media needs to do their homework and get more unbiased analyst so they can properly inform the Canadian people.

Although Foreign Minister Stephane Dion’s willingness to reopen diplomatic channels seems sincere, the support of the Canadian population is still needed—indirectly at least. If the media can be more balanced, it will help Canada’s intentions to talk with Russia.

I might not agree with Hillary Clinton most of the time, but this quote says it all when it comes to diplomacy.

One of my goals upon becoming Secretary of State was to take diplomacy out of capitals, out of government offices, into the media, into the streets of countries.

This is where real diplomacy becomes possible, through the population and public opinion. Having unbiased views make it easier to balance the good and the bad.




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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.