“With his most serious drama teacher look and voice, and attack dog Chrystia Freeland shaking her head in agreement behind him, the preppy boy who occupies the PMO outlined Canada’s sanctions against Russia.”
Boris Johnson came out swinging.
It was a historic moment and he knew he had the support of both sides of the House.
He just had to deliver a hard-hitting, rousing speech and he sure did.
The British prime minister gave Mr. Putin a bloody nose, to put it mildly. Announcing strong sanctions against Russian banks and individuals, naming names as he went along.
He was not taking any prisoners and everyone in attendance knew the importance of those actions.
With Russian forces about to invade Ukraine, something had to be said, something had to be done.
Churchill would have been proud.
Across the pond, a dour-faced US President Joe Biden also faced the media, again announcing comprehensive sanctions at a White House presser.
His stance, almost war-like, as Russian financial institutions were named, along with a series of moves that would likely dent the Russian regime.
While some think the US sanctions didn’t go far enough, it was clear that Joe was mad, mad as hell and he meant business.
He didn’t take questions, either, stoically marching away from the WH press corps.
And then, along came Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau — the stage set, for … well, not quite in the same league, shall we say.
With his most serious drama teacher look and voice, and attack dog Chrystia Freeland shaking her head in agreement behind him, the preppy boy who occupies the PMO outlined Canada’s sanctions against Russia.
Surely, the Russian embassy on Charlotte Street was shaking in its boots?
What followed, was one of the most embarrassing and, rather pointless episodes in the history of Canadian foreign affairs.
The sanctions are as follows:
A ban on all financial dealings with the “so-called independent states” of Donetsk and Luhansk and the sanctioning of members of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of the independence of those regions;
The deployment of up to 460 Canadian Armed Forces troops to Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE to “reinforce” Canada’s commitment to NATO;
An artillery battery of up to 120 personnel will be deployed for six weeks in about 30 days;
The deployment of a naval frigate and Aurora surveillance aircraft;
A ban on purchasing Russian sovereign debt and sanctions on two state-backed Russian banks — which were not named; along with steps to be taken against business leaders, companies and defence firms;
A second shipment of lethal aid sent to Ukraine — a complete U-turn, by the way, from the government’s previous stance.
Embarrassing. Downright, embarrassing. This was the best we could do?
What about the Magnitsky laws that were established in 2017?
According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen, the Magnitsky Act gives the country in which it was passed the power to punish human rights violations and corrupt actions taking place in foreign countries.
It also gives the power to freeze assets located within its borders that belong to the human rights violators.
It is named in honour of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was tortured to death in a Russian prison after alleging there had been fraud and theft committed by the Russian state.
While Canada sees itself as a leader in protecting international human rights, why has it not ever been used as a vehicle for sanctions?
Not a single individual has ever faced its wrath. Not one.
But let’s go back to Trudeau’s sanctions.
How many Canadian firms are affected by the ban on doing business in Ukraine’s breakaway provinces? Does anybody know or care? Clearly, a pointless sanction.
What about the business leaders, banks, companies and defence firms? Why weren’t they named, in good old black and white?
I’ll tell you why: because either these sanctions don’t exist or we’re too cowardly to say it!
And great we are sending artillery troops — how long will they take to mobilize? By the time that finally gets done and all the COVID-19 forms are filled out, the Russians will probably reach the English Channel. Too little, too late. Should have been done already.
More troops to Latvia, a frigate, an Aurora aircraft and some lethal aid. Wonderful. The Russians may as well pack up, and go home now.
Oh, and Henry and Martha definitely can’t purchase any Russian sovereign debt, so don’t even think about. That will really have the Russians shaking in their boots.
Sorry for all the dripping sarcasm, folks, but I just can’t help it. While this is, we’re told, only the first round of Canadian sanctions, one really has to wonder why they even bothered.
One would think with all the Ukrainians living in Canada (me included), that the PMO could have done a tad better.
This is also on the heels of a suspected Russian cyber-attack on Global Affairs just a month ago.
According to Global News, the federal Treasury Board acknowledged GAC suffered a “cyber incident” that government and security agencies were still working to mitigate. According to the statement, the incident was detected on Jan. 19.
I have to credit my Canadian foreign policy professor at the University of Windsor, Prof. Terry Keenleyside, who taught one of the best courses on the subject, and, was also author of The Common Touch, “a novel of diplomatic conflict in Southeast Asia in the post-Vietnam era.
Prof. Keenleyside, a former Canadian diplomat, for many years stationed in Thailand and Indonesia, offered us naive students an inside look at how things ran at what’s now called Global Affairs Canada.
What I and others learned was Canada has always talked a big game when it came to human rights, but in reality has done very little to take any concrete actions.
And when aid was offered, it was often what’s called “tied aid,” requiring these poor nations to purchase exclusively Canadian goods and services.
In fact, foreign trade has always trumped human rights, in the game of Canadian foreign policy — almost to an embarrassing extent.
This is why Canada is afraid of offending China in any way, shape or form, and, why Trudeau’s Russia sanctions are nothing but a hollow gesture.
If our PM had any courage whatsoever, he could have invoked the Magnitsky Act against specific Russians who have financial interests in Canada … and named names!
Alas, he is too busy freezing the assets of Canadians who took part in the Freedom Convoy.
Again, embarrassing. Pointless. An affront to our American allies and Ukrainian brothers.
The reality is for sanctions to have political repercussions, they need to be harsh.
“‘Smart’ or ‘targeted’ sanctions won’t work,” Edward Fishman and Chris Miller, two international-relations experts, recently wrote in Politico.
Let’s hope the second round of Canadian sanctions, if they’re ever tabled, have some weight to them, rather than this punishment by “feather-duster.”