I’m going to the bottom of the list I posted a few days ago to deal with “Foreign and defence policy and the compelling need ~ see What Canada needs from a couple of day ago ~ to face a dangerous world with confidence, including, especially how to deal with China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, but also stressing a need for principles (our values) in our foreign policy.“
It seems to me that:
- First, our (probably any nation’s) defence policy must support our foreign policy. There are some very important domestic roles for armed forces but, in a liberal democracy, unless we are being attacked, the use of force should be mainly considered as a foreign policy problem; and
- Second, foreign policy can be seen as a series of concentric circles of decreasing importance.
The first circle, he innermost circle, the primary focus of ALL Canadian foreign policy must be: good relations with the USA. America is the guarantor of our security, it is a good neighbour, it is our biggest and most important trading partner, America, whether some Canadians like it or not (and, rather sadly, in my opinion, a great many Canadians don’t like it at all) is our best friend.
The next circle, priority 2, ought to be the Five Eyes. These countries (Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA) …
… are our oldest and most trusted allies. There is much more to the five nations cooperation effort than just sharing intelligence. There are several military and civil groups ~ I worked in two different ones ~ that deal with issues from aviation to telecommunications. The five nations have a truly global arrangement ~ which is generally more flexible than a formal alliance ~ which allows them to respond, quickly and efficiently to a wide range of problems or opportuities. In some areas I can guarantee you that, when I served, the five nations drove e.g. NATO decision making: the five nations agreed on something and then presented their conclusion to NATO as, almost, a fait accompli; NATO, at least for the several years I was working on the same issue in both fora, never objected. The five nations cooperation needs to go beyond the intelligence and military spheres. If the combination of Chinese bullying, Canada’s failed bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council and the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else it should have reminded us that a) Canada needs friends, and b) we don’t have many. America, Australia, Britain and New Zealand are far more likely to be friends ~ reliable friends ~ than are Angola, Argentina, Brazil and Nigeria.
The third circle should be Asia. Asia is a vast place that includes part of Russia and also China, India, Japan and Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim country. We, the world, may be in the middle of the Asian century. Some might say that it began in the 1970s when the oil shock (1973) suddenly made Japanese cars very popular because if their fuel efficiency and general high quality. There was, later, considerable angst when (circa 1990) Japanese corporations bought some Hollywood movie studios. None of that, of course, compared to the challenges posed by the rise of China. Asia is home to one emerging global superpower, China, and one rising great power, India. It is the world’s most populous region and it should be a HUGE market for Canadian goods, especially natural resources, and services. Canada’s primary goal in Asia should be to contain China. That does not mean we want to stop, much less turn back China’s remarkable rise; in fact, we should celebrate the fact that so many hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of abject poverty. But we should want to persuade China to work within the rules and to not bully its neighbours. Canada should also want to help India to rise, too, both economically and militarily. Repairing relations with India, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has damaged by his own stupidity ~ I’m afraid there is no other word for it ~ is a key to having a successful foreign policy.
Here is a graphic representation of what I’m talking about:
Priority 4 is Europe: both the European Union and NATO. One of the biggest threats to world peace is Russia and Russia is, partly, in Europe and NATO is what keeps it from dominating all of Europe. The European Union has the potential to be a great economic and social power but its organization is a problem. There are vast economic, cultural and political differences between the the frugal, sensible North-West (sometimes called the New Hanseatic League) and the free-spending South and the Eastern European states. NATO links Canada to Europe in a way that trade agreements and conventional diplomacy cannot. Over generations, Canada has paid a high price to liberate and support Europe; we must not forget that and we must not allow the Europeans to forget it, either.
The fifth priority is the Middle East. If there is going to be a nuclear war in the next quarter century it will likely start there or in the regions adjacent to it. Canada has interests there but little influence. Canada needs friends in the region, but only two counties stand out as likely or useful friends: Israel and Jordan. Canada should work hard to improve ties with both.
I believe that five priorities in any policy area is about all that any government, even the best one, can manage, and so, for me, everyone, everywhere and everything else is “other” and, de facto, not a priority at all and must be dealt with on an ad hoc basis. But we can be 100% certain that new, unforeseen problem will arise ~ and many will come from “everywhere else.”
Coming next: defence policy.