A policy dilemma

Matthew Fisher, writing for Global News, says that “Canadian foreign and security policy is sure to test the mettle of Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence and the federal government during its new, more complicated minority mandate.” Bingo!

Mr Fisher says that the three “defining issues” are:

  • Screen Shot 2019-11-16 at 09.39.36How Canada and its friends and allies deal with China’s emerging military and economic power in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world, its constant bullying of its neighbours and unrelenting repression of millions of its own citizens;
  • 51bf59b3ecad044e73000010-320-240What to do about Russia’s intrigue, mischief and worse in the cyber domain, the Middle East, the High Arctic, Ukraine and along the historic fault line that runs from the Baltics to the Black Sea; and
  • Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 06.20.29How to sort out Canada’s habitual problems with defence procurement, which have left the world’s second-largest and 10th wealthiest country decades behind in acquiring platforms and systems that are crucial to the defence of Canada and the West.”

With regard to the first two, he quotes Richard Fadden, “a retired national security adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper and former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service,” who “got a lot of attention last week when he warned that “Russia and China are not just aggressive competitors, they are our strategic adversaries.”” That phrase, “strategic adversaries” is strong, even loaded language for a career civil servant and former diplomat like Mr Fadden.

Mr Fisher says that “What Fadden and others in Canada’s security and intelligence community are up against is that even after China’s outrageous kidnapping and detention of a former Canadian diplomat and another Canadian citizen, and the buzzing by frontline Chinese warplanes of a Canadian warship in international waters, an ardent pro-China lobby remains ascendant at Global Affairs CanadaScreen Shot 2019-11-19 at 09.58.12[and] … Perhaps more shocking is that Canada’s business leaders and several well-known retired politicians who are in China’s thrall — and have presumably done well out of their business connections there — have ignored the kidnappings and China’s long list of human rights abuses, while talking up downloadthe urgent need for Canada to roll over on Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou’s extradition case in order to get back in Beijing’s good graces.” The Laurentian Elites watch what China is doing in the South China Seas and in Hong Kong and say, something like “It’s all OK, it’s not our businessour business is getting back in China’s favour.

Matthew Fisher says that “Though a lesser threat, Russia also presents Canada with a security dilemma. President Vladimir Putin continues to keep Canada’s friend, Ukraine, off balance, and his government’s actions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are a potential risk to the troops that Canada has in Latvia, Ukraine and Iraq.” I disagree that Russia is a “lesser threat.” My guess is that Xi Jinping is a clear-headed strategic thinker who really wants to achieve his aims without armed conflict but that Vladimir Putin, an adventurous opportunist, is willing to risk conflict if he thinks that the odds are in his favour.

He also hits on one of my pet peeves: “On NORAD or the defence of the North America front, Russia is building or vastly improving military airfields and missile defences in the High Arctic while developing new generations of highly-lethal ballistic and hypersonic missiles. Canada, meanwhile, has dawdled for years about whether it should join the U.S. in setting up a new ballistic missile umbrella to defend North America against one of the most dangerous of these threats.” Canadians are, out of ignorance which was driven by a masterful Soviet propaganda campaign ~ based on lies that the technophobic Canadian media was only too happy to believe ~ terrified of ballistic missile defence. Someone and it probably has to be a major political leader has to commit a sort of ritual suicide and tell Canadians what they don’t want to hear: 1) the Russians lied about missile defence; 2) too many of you believed them; and 3) ballistic missile defence is both a) good for Canada, and b) an essential part of our national defence; and 4) regardless of your irrational fears our country is going to join with the USA to provide a comprehensive, continental ballistic missile defence scheme … we all know that Justin Trudeau is not that leader, in fact, in my opinion, he’s not any kind of leader at all.

I have commented, more often than I care to mention, about Canada’s defence procurement muddle. I said, most recently, that I expect President Trump to lambaste Canada at the forthcoming (early December) top-level NATO summit. Mr Fisher recounts a couple of horror stories but Canadians need to recognize that our national defence procurement system is broken and needs a complete, bottom-to-top, political and bureaucratic overhaul.

Mr Fisher concludes, and I agree, fully, that “There was infamously almost no discussion of these three pre-eminent foreign and security policy considerations during the recent federal election campaign … [and] … Given how little any of the political parties are interested in such issues, it may be too much to hope that with a minority government, and opposition control of parliamentary committees, elected officials will finally begin to publicly discuss how they intend to defend Canada against the emerging threats that they have been warned about.

I believe that Mr Fisher is a bit of an optimist. I would have added continuous and growing anti-Western turmoil in the Islamic Crescent and North Korea to his list of Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 12.30.09trudeauchicago-e1518051554787threats to Canada. In my opinion, however, the biggest threat to Canada’s national security is the Liberal government led (if that’s the right word) by Justin Trudeau and increasingly guided (misguided) by Chrystia Freeland.

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