Ukraine: minimum expected from Ottawa

Very harsh words against Vladimir Putin and a series of economic and financial sanctions to punish Russia, its companies, its banks and its oligarchs: in fact, this is the response offered so far by Canada to the invasion of Ukraine.

These measures are likely to be stepped up in the coming days, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said on Thursday. They reflect the generally limited role that Canada can play in this crisis, but they have their own symbolic value, said Stéphane Roussel, a professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) and an expert on Canadian foreign and defense policy.

What is the reach of Canada’s diplomatic voice in this kind of crisis?

It is both limited and embedded, in the sense that in some more specific ways our voice can carry.

Limited because decisions are made in London, Paris, Washington… Then Canada joins in. When the great powers are already involved, it is they who determine the course of things.

But I also say “nest” because we have influence when it comes time to try to influence other members of NATO. [Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord]. Historically, our role has always been to maintain the cohesion of the alliance. Canada negotiates with other middle-level states to ensure that there are no irregularities or disagreements between member countries. This is especially important these days.

What impact could Canada’s response, consisting of financial and economic measures, have on the conflict?

First of all, it serves as an example for others. If we want the sanctions to have any impact, as many players as possible must join them. The more states that take action, the greater the deterrent effect will be – and in this case, if it is known that Russia has options to circumvent sanctions, in particular by turning to China. Canada has no choice but to support multilateral action, if only to lead by example. But then again, we’re not playing a game here.

Is Canada’s response commensurate with the importance of this event? This is still the first invasion by a European country against another European country since the end of World War II…

I would say yes because you can’t expect Canada to be the leader in other countries. He plays his role as a true ally. Canada will make the most promising efforts within NATO, playing this role to strengthen the unity of the alliance. This is indeed the key to the West’s reaction.

What could be done beyond what Ottawa has already announced? Is the question of military intervention ruled out?

There can be absolutely no question of a military intervention by Canada or NATO. We can work on facilitating the admission of refugees, we can increase economic sanctions, we can send humanitarian or material assistance (such as ammunition) to Ukraine, but there will be no military intervention on the ground. President Biden has made this clear, and no one is ready for it. On the other hand, everyone will be defended by the Member States, be it Poland. [qui partage une frontière avec l’Ukraine] or the Baltic States [Estonie, Lettonie, Lituanie, limitrophes à la Russie].

You must understand that NATO intervention in Ukraine will mean a full-scale war: we do not know how it will end. Europeans, Americans and Canadians understand that the risks are too great. On the other hand, when Joe Biden talks about not giving up a single inch of land on NATO territory, this is serious. And it is possible that more Canadian soldiers will be stationed among NATO members in Eastern Europe.

And on an economic level, can we go further?

Yes, but at the same time, our trade relations with Russia are very weak… We can impose other sanctions and affect financial networks, but it is multilateral efforts that will have an effect, not just Ottawa’s decisions.

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