Canada: A Powerful Force for Good? Don’t Hold your Breath!

By David Dunlop, 18 May 2022

(Note that I am expressing my opinion and this does not represent the opinion of CNR!) Canada’s recent unwavering support for Ukraine shows that Canada can be a powerful force for all that is good in this fractured world. Canada has definitely pulled its weight with the level of assistance to Ukraine, and with more to come. Indeed, Canada has been at the forefront within the NATO alliance, based on population, with its generous military and civilian assistance to Ukraine and we should be proud of that. We must give the Canadian government credit for quickly acting upon the recognition that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not only illegal and outrageous but poses a great threat to the credibility of the West. Yes, the world ‘needs more Canada.’

The cordial and respectful reception given our Prime Minister and his colleagues in Ukraine last week was the most significant international recognition of Canada’s importance to the West that we have seen in many years. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his brave forces are fighting an existential war against a Russian ‘Stalin-like’ actor, President Vladimir Putin, who is trying to pummel and politically exterminate a state of over 40 million people that has clearly expressed its desire to be independent and free from illegal and brutal aggression. The aggression has been suffered mostly by the civilian Ukrainian population.

Successive Canadian leadership though, has time and time again, failed Canada’s own military needs and future requirements. We have let our military deteriorate to the point where it is embarrassing that our armed forces have become a Mickey Mouse institution (nothing disparaging to Walt Disney) with antiquated weaponry: 50-year-old fighter planes, submarines that spend more time up-on-the slips under repair than diving, recruitment disasters, sexual misconduct scandals and a broken military procurement process. This is a country which asks its Inuit peoples to patrol and defend the northern flank with World War II weapons, and a Canadian Armed Force (CAF) with too many generals/admirals and too few soldiers, sailors and Air Force personnel. This government has steadily permitted foreign policy, military policy and development aid policy to be mixed up together in a way that has blurred the distinction between them all.

We must rebuild our military, taking advantage of the most productive and invest technologically in economic stimulus that defence spending entails, while making Canada a go-to country within the western alliance and the world when collective responses are being devised for rising international crises. We need to re-build our military and foreign policies in order to cement our status as a trusted global middle power within the NATO alliance and with other allied states. Canadian foreign policies with respect to the Indo-Pacific and European regions must change soon to reflect an updated Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) defence policy.

It is heartening to see that the NATO alliance may very well expand with both Finland and Sweden recently asking for acceptance no matter what an aggressive Russia may think. Any NATO partner that does not agree or thinks otherwise, should consider leaving the NATO alliance as soon as possible. It may also be time for Canada and the world to think of re-configuring and reorganizing the United Nations Charter structure to reflect a more diverse membership where member states can have a real impact on world events without threats of permanent United Nations Security Council vetoes.

This would enable us to be taken seriously when giving advice on conflict avoidance and de-escalation to NATO and UN member states. It would assure others that Canada can be trusted when, as co-founders of both NATO and the UN, we propose comprehensive reform and modernization of both of these institutions. Having assured itself of another 3½ years in office, the Liberal-NDP governing majority might wish to surprise and uplift us all with that prospect. Hopefulness is always justified in Canada, but in this case, don’t hold your breath!

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