A new Cold War?

We don’t need a new Cold War

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Feb. 18 2014 and RealClear Politics February 19 2014

We Don’t Need a New Cold War. In RealClearWorld, Colin Robertson writes that the West must develop a partnership with Russia despite differing goals, as the alternative is unacceptable.

Colin Robertson

After the anthems still and the athletes go home, will the enduring picture of the Sochi Olympics be that of Putin and the snow leopard as the precursor to a new Cold War?

That was the warning of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk who last week called on the West to adopt a “proactive policy” in the face of Russian aggression. Humanity, he declared, “may well be on the verge of a new Cold War.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by accusing the West of trying to build “spheres of influence” in Eastern Europe. “Attempts to isolate our country,” argued Lavrov, “inevitably set in motion processes that led to the catastrophes of the world wars.”

The U.S. Intelligence Community in its recent Worldwide Threat Assessment concludes that Russia “presents a range of challenges.” Top U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper says that Russia’s military took an “increasingly prominent role” in out-of-area operations last year, notably in the eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and the Arctic.

Canada’s Conference of Defence Associations Institute Strategic Outlook 2014 reaches a similar conclusion.

Putin’s 104-point foreign policy doctrine, write authors Ferry de Kerckhove and George Petrolekas, is a “declaration of difference” bent on establishing Russia as one of the “influential and competitive poles of the modern world.” This explains Russian behaviour towards its neighbours: armed intervention in Georgia, cyber-attack on Romania and now interference in the Ukraine.

The West’s relations with Russia have been on a roller-coaster since the end of the Soviet Union. Putin has described the Soviet Union’s collapse as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. In Putin’s view, it is the West that is the disruptive force, imposing on others its system and ways.

The West needs to develop a partnership with Russia,  recognizing it has limits. argues Angela Stent in her excellent new book. Stent says that Putin is determined to make Russia the leader of a new conservative international system with Russia upholding traditional family and Christian values and respecting states; sovereignty. It would begin with a Eurasian Union (as counterweight to the European Union), consisting of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan: the heart of the old USSR.

After Putin granted asylum last year to Edward Snowden, President Obama cancelled their proposed summit. An aggravated Obama broke his customary cool, saying that Putin’s “got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.” But he continued, “when we have conversations, they’re candid, they’re blunt, oftentimes they’re constructive.”

Constructive must be our watchword.

The West, including Canada, has to invest time and effort in Russia. Russia matters because of its strategic location, its nuclear arsenal and its ability to support – or thwart – the West in the United Nations and other forum.

We co-operate on counter-terrorism. The Russians are party to the discussions on Syria, Iran and North Korea. They have been helpful in Afghanistan, where assistance is even more necessary as we withdraw.

One of the best Canadian observers of the Russian mind was Robert Ford, our ‘constant diplomat’ in Moscow for 20 years.

Ford noted “the almost psychopathic feeling of inferiority of Russians” and their readiness to hear insults even when none was intended. The Russians, Ford observed, “secretly admire those who stand up to them.” Ford would later worry that Canada’s diplomatic service put too much weight on management skills rather than expertise in foreign affairs and original thinking.

After Ambassador Ford’s retirement, then U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz brought him to Washington for advice.

Prime Minister Harper would profit from reading Ford on both Russia and diplomacy.

Long critical of the President Putin’s “self-serving monopolistic political strategies”, Harper described last year’s G8 meetings as “G7 plus one”, accusing Putin of ”supporting the thugs of the Assad regime.” Foreign Minister John Baird has denounced Russia’s anti-gay laws as “hateful and mean-spirited” and last week sent medical aid to the Ukrainian activists.

Blunt talk and action can be useful tactics as long as they fit into a strategy of constructive engagement with Russia. In addition to the multilateral agenda, we share the same challenges in our North and in stewardship of the Arctic.

Our bilateral entrée starts with Russian Ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov.

Now the Dean of Ottawa’s diplomatic corps after a decade in Canada, Mamedov is highly experienced: a former deputy foreign minister who negotiated arms control with the United States and helped negotiate the removal of nuclear weapons from the Ukraine. We should be using his knowledge and network.

The West’s relationship with Russia has always been complicated but stretching the uneasy partnership to its limits is essential for peace and security. We don’t need a new Cold War.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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Trilateral Summit

CBC The National on Harper Visit to Mexico

Power Play: Frosty meeting in Mexico?

Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation, and Colin Robertson, a former diplomat, discuss the relationships of the free trade partners.

CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, February 17, 2014 10:01PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in Mexico to meet with his North American counterparts with a plan to boost Mexican travel to Canada, despite the controversial visa requirements.

The Canadian Press reports that Trade Minister Ed Fast has been authorized to sign an expanded airline access agreement with Mexico.

The agreement would give Mexican airlines greater access to more Canadians cities, while Canadian travellers would benefit from more direct flights to Mexico, according to CP.

The expanded airlines agreement is seen as a pathway to eventually lifting the visa requirements Ottawa imposed on Mexican travellers in 2009 to deter bogus asylum seekers.

Senior officials have confirmed to CTV News that Harper is not expected to lift the visa requirements any time soon. But there are rumblings that a fast-track process for frequent, pre-approved Mexican travellers – similar to the Nexus program — could be put in place.

The visa issue has been a source of tension between Canada and Mexico and is expected to cast a shadow over the North American leaders’ summit. There are also tensions between U.S. and Canada over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said Monday that signalling an eventual lifting of the visa requirement is important because of the significance of Canada’s trade relationship with Mexico.

“I would be surprised if we don’t come out of (the summit) with at least something that gives the Mexicans what they are asking for, which is a pathway to lifting the visa,” he told CTV’s Power Play.

But Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation says the leaders of the three countries – often referred to as “the Three Amigos” – are now “perhaps worse than rivals.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed about the state of relations,” he told Power Play. “The Mexicans are mad at us, and in Canada, we’re mad at the Americans and the Americans seem to have had it up to here with both of us.”

He said he doesn’t foresee anything positive coming out of the summit, and believes most of the time will be spent on “damage control.”

Harper will meet on Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and then participate in the North American leaders’ summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper reviews the honor guard after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ninos Heroes monument, or Children Heroes, in Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (AP / Eduardo Verdugo)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Mexico City, Mexico on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Piden a Canadá eliminar Visa para paisanos

17 / febrero / 2014Solicitan diputados y senadores eliminar el requerimiento de visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple

VisaLa Visa es requerida desde junio de 2009.


Diputados y senadores mexicanos pidieron nuevamente a la delegación de parlamentarios canadienses que se elimine el requerimiento de Visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple.

Al tomar la palabra, el presidente de la Mesa Directiva en San Lázaro, Ricardo Anaya recordó que la solicitud no es una concesión o una excepción sino que responde al restablecimiento de la buena y cordial relación que existe entre ambas naciones.

“La visita a México el próximo mes de febrero del primer ministro canadiense Stephen Harper, nos parece, sería un marco extraordinario para el anuncio del regreso a nuestra normalidad histórica, del regreso de lo que ha sido la práctica común, la no necesidad de una visa para que los mexicanos entremos a Canadá”, exigió el panista en el evento inaugural de la XIX reunión interparlamentaria México-Canadá y aseguró que quitar el visado aportaría beneficios por igual a ambos pues desde que se instauró la medida, en junio de 2009, la visita de paisanos se ha reducido en 50% pues pasó de una afluencia de 300 mil viajeros al año a 150 mil.

Sin embargo, el diputado también reconoció ante su homólogo canadiense, Andrew Sheer, que el gobierno ese país optó por esa medida debido al abuso de solicitudes de asilo político mal sustentado y al ‘boom’ de oficinas de intermediarios que hacían negocios con el trámite de los documentos.

Al respecto la prensa canadiense de corte liberal y algunos órganos empresariales, también ha presionado por la eliminación de la Visa pues considera que “si Canadá quitó el requisito a la República Checa para concretar su acuerdo de libre comercio con la Unión Europea, debe hacer lo mismo con México”, opinó Colin Robertson, vicepresidente del Instituto Canadiense de Defensa y Asuntos Exteriores en una entrevista.

En tanto, el Consejo Canadiense de Directores Ejecutivos, principal organismo empresarial de esta nación, advierte que México y Canadá “no podrán reimpulsar sus relaciones diplomáticas y de inversión hasta que la visa sea modificada o eliminada”.

Sin embargo, a días de que el primer Ministro Stephen Harper arribe para la cumbre de Norteamérica, una fuente gubernamental adelantó que el Gobierno no prevé cambios próximamente “No tenemos la intención de quitar la vis. Hemos implementado numerosas medidas para facilitar la entrada a visitantes legítimos”, dijo un funcionario anónimo a Canadian Press.

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Congressional visits to Canada…few

U.S. foreign relations scorecard: Burkina Faso: 2 Canada: 0

Washington politicians weren’t inclined to venture north of border last year

By Ian MacLeod, OTTAWA CITIZEN February 15, 2014
U.S. foreign relations scorecard: Burkina Faso: 2 Canada: 0

U.S. Sen. John McCain was among a small group of American politicians who came to Canada last year — Halifax, in particular — but it wasn’t for official government business.

Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS , CP

OTTAWA — We’re the world’s largest trading partners, with the world’s longest border, a common heritage, an extensive security and military alliance and neighbours for more than two centuries.

So, guess how many times elected politicians from Washington visited Canada on bilateral, government-to-government business last year?

Zip. Zero. Nada. Rien.

Not that those working on Capitol Hill don’t like to travel. U.S. senators and congressmen are world-class globetrotters, according to congressional records.

Even Burkina Faso, the diminutive and destitute western Africa nation, saw two U.S. congressional delegations arrive last year.

Yet the Americans seem to have cold feet when it comes to our fair land.

The 2013 foreign travel financial reports for the Senate and House of Representatives show not a single member of Congress ventured north of our shared border on official U.S.-Canada business.

“This is, unfortunately, illustrative of congressional and administration attention to Canada. They take us for granted and think they know all they need to know about Canada,” says Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Canadian politicians, he adds, are good at legislative exchanges at the state level, “but terrible in working Congress.”

A U.S. delegation of four senators and one congressman did travel to Nova Scotia in November for the Halifax International Security Forum. But that was to address global security issues with 300 other delegates from 50 nations. (Even the name is a bit misleading. The Halifax International Security Forum is actually a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.)

It’s doubtful the likes of delegation leader Sen. John McCain would have buttonholed then-defence minister Peter MacKay or Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to discuss the Keystone XL pipeline, or a new Windsor-Detroit bridge or other issues languishing in the Ottawa-Washington relationship.

The post of U.S. ambassador to Canada has also been vacant for six months now, awaiting Senate confirmation of nominee Bruce Heyman.

To be fair, for the day or so they were in Halifax, the U.S. lawmakers did contribute $5,086.77 US to the Canada-U.S. economic partnership for hotels, food, taxis and tips.

One was Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. He represents the 16th Congressional District of Illinois, which includes the city of Ottawa, county seat for LaSalle County. (Ottawa was the site of the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 and where William Dickson Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.)

But, perhaps fittingly, Kinzinger’s office ignored repeated requests from the Citizen here in Ottawa, Canada this week to comment for this story.

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Canada and Mexico

Vamos – let’s go! While Canada procrastinates, the competition is wooing Mexico

uesday, Feb. 11 2014 Colin Robertson

Two million Canadians visit Mexico every year. Next week Prime Minister Harper will be one of them. In advance of the North American leaders summit, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has personally invited Mr. Harper to discuss a more meaningful Canada-Mexico relationship.

At this time of year many of us go south to seek sun and sand, but increasingly others go because Mexico is a foreign investment magnet.

Much credit is due to Pena Nieto. Initially but incorrectly assessed as a handsome lightweight, he has sustained the multiparty, reform-minded ‘Pacto por Mexico’ that is transforming Mexico. Most impressive are the structural reforms in education, banking, labour, competition policy and energy.

While the reforms were the catalyst, Export Development Canada’s chief economist Peter Hall attributes the Mexican manufacturing renaissance to reshoring as a hedge against supply chain vulnerability and the pool of young, skilled Mexicans compared against the rising costs in China, especially labour.

In its celebratory essay on NAFTA at 20, The Economist points to Canada’s Bombardier. Its aerospace plant in Queretaro is both prototype and poster child for successful investment in Mexico. Mexico is becoming a global hub for auto manufacturing, with Canadian companies like Magna and Linamar having significant operations.

Mexico wants Canada as a partner. President Pena Nieto is considering a Team Mexico visit here this fall to explore our proven capacity in energy and environmental technology as well as engineering and infrastructure project management. This means jobs for Canadians.

But to travel here Pena Nieto and his delegation would be obliged to tender their passports for up to six weeks, provide personal information that would make even the NSA blush and then, if lucky, get a one-shot visa for seven days.

All this was imposed, without notice, on Mexico in 2009 because of Canada’s dysfunctional refugee system.

Jason Kenney mostly fixed the problem and, at their end, Mexico has cracked down on unscrupulous operators. Yet we have still not responded to the Mexican request for a road map to visa resolution.

As a prerequisite for the Canada-Europe trade deal, we lifted the visa requirements for visitors from the Czech Republic, imposed at the same time as Mexico.

Let’s do the same for Mexico, our NAFTA partner and a priority market in our new economic diplomacy. One solution would be to accept Mexicans holding a U.S. visa. Then incorporate Mexico into NEXUS, our trusted traveller program with the U.S.

We complain about low Mexican investment in Canada but how can they invest if they can’t get here? We recently launched an international education strategy to attract foreign students. Mexicans want to come but we need to be more welcoming.

Put this irritant to bed. Then get onto a forward-looking agenda around North American competitiveness.

We both need to make contingency plans in the event that U.S. President Barack Obama is denied trade promotion authority – essential for U.S. implementation of trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Neither Canada nor Mexico can afford to wait for the U.S. to get its act together. Given supply chain dynamics, we need to sit down and figure out a strategy to serve our mutual interests.

First, figure out how together we can improve competitiveness. Autos and aerospace are obvious. We could take lessons in food production from Grupo Bimbo. Instead of ragging the puck on recognition of Mexican meat producers, we should be collaborating in the fight against US country-of-origin labelling and ongoing U.S. protectionism.

A Canada-Mexico summit should be an annual event. Mexico should top the list in our new foreign policy objective of tying trade and development assistance. Start with police and judicial training.

Second, establish an agenda of what we can reasonably achieve with the U.S. Even with a constipated Congress, the President has executive authorities. Obama’s State of the Union address prioritized infrastructure. Why not a trilateral project to improve our transportation arteries and to secure and modernize our electricity transmission networks?

Third, should the TPP stall, Pena Nieto and Harper should carry on regional trade liberalization. Start with like-minded leaders – Shinzo Abe of Japan, Tony Abbott of Australia, John Key of New Zealand, Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Susilo BambangYudhoyono of Indonesia – and those of the Pacific Alliance.

While we procrastinate, the competition is wooing Mexico. ‘Vamos – Let’s Go’ should be our operating principle.

In marking seventy years of Canada-Mexico diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister John Baird recently declared Mexico to be a “trusted and long-term partner of choice for Canada.” Let’s make the words mean something.

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The case for Ballistic Missile Defence

Time to join the missile shield, Canada iPolitics Insight

By | Feb 10, 2014

    The Israeli Iron Dome defense system in action in the port town of Ashdod, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo /Tsafrir Abayov, File)

    This article is based on a presentation made by the author to the Senate National Security and Defence Committee.

    When stormy weather threatens, prudent people carry an umbrella. It is time for Canada to find shelter under the umbrella of ballistic missile defence (BMD).

    The threats to Canadians are real. North Korea has developed a road-mobile ballistic missile capability that’s intended to target the U.S. but — given its wonky aim — could just as easily hit Canada. Iran has an arsenal of ballistic missiles. And what if Pakistan, with its missiles and nuclear weapons, were to go rogue?

    Risk assessments conclude that in the coming years we will see more bad actors with access to warheads, intercontinental missiles and weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, chemical and biological.

    Missile defence has been embraced already by our 27 partners in NATO and our friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific: Australia, Japan and South Korea.

    We share information in early warning and attack assessment with the United States through our participation in NORAD. But when it comes time to make the critical launch decisions, our officials literally have to leave the room.

    The algorithms developed by U.S. Northern Command to protect the American homeland do not include Canadian cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto or Montreal.

    The core principle of our Canada First Defence Strategy is the protection of Canadians. Membership in BMD means we are full partners in the conversation on defending North America, including Canada. This is why we need to join BMD.

    Critics of BMD say it doesn’t work. They describe it as a latter-day Maginot Line: unreliable, costly and provocative. NORAD, they argue, provides sufficient defence — but they’re forgetting that, at the critical moment, we must leave the room.

    BMD is not Ronald Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ initiative, with its improbable futuristic weapons and enormous cost. The current system has no space-based weapons. Instead, it uses kinetic energy to stop warheads.

    New technology, research and constant testing have made BMD a reasonable shield. The Israelis’ Iron Dome demonstrates the worth of anti-missile technology.

    Shouldn’t Canada have a say in the development of the North American BMD architecture before the emergence of a combined ICBM/nuclear threat?

    With the system essentially in place, participation does not come with an admission charge. Any future costs can be scaled and shared within the alliance.

    Foes of BMD also claim that it makes us too reliant on the United States. It’s the same, tiresome old argument typically applied to questions of trade and commerce — but who would argue that free trade has not been good for Canada?

    The whole point of collective security is to contribute according to our capacity for our mutual security and protection. Protecting Canadians (and Americans) was the logic of the original DEW line and NORAD, the bi-national aerospace defence agreement which has served us since 1958 and now includes aspects of maritime warning. Shouldn’t Canada have a say in the development of the North American BMD architecture before the emergence of a combined ICBM/nuclear threat?

    During the cruise missile debate, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau remarked that some Canadians “are eager to take refuge under the U.S. umbrella — but don’t want to help hold it.” The other NATO partners have signed on to missile defence. So have Australia, Japan and South Korea.

    Some critics suggest BMD is somehow morally wrong. But we’re living in the world, not Elysium. We can’t be sure that a missile aimed at the United States isn’t going to strike Canada. Reframe the moral argument and ask yourself: Why doesn’t the Government of Canada have a voice in how BMD may be used? One could argue that it is a moral imperative for the government to have such a say when the target could a Canadian city.

    BMD is part of the continuum of capabilities that contributes to the Alliance and protects Canadians. Taking part in BMD surveillance could save Canadian lives in the event of a missile attack, and provide early warning to the rest of the Alliance.

    By being part of the defensive shield, we strengthen the deterrent effect of BMD. This could include missile defence capacity in our new warship, or using our submarines to track potentially hostile attack subs.

    Participation in BMD is both an insurance policy for our homeland and a renewed commitment to contemporary collective defence. Canada has benefitted greatly from that collective defence, with marginal premiums. Collective defence means preparation and commitment. “Only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt,” observed John F. Kennedy, “can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”

    Changed circumstances, Alliance solidarity, and self-preservation oblige us to revise our policy. BMD must now be incorporated within our ‘Canada First’ defence strategy.

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    On Keystone XL environmental permit

    Keystone decision feels like Alice in Wonderland experience

    The Globe and Mail Monday, Feb. 03 2014 Colin Robertson

    For Canada, the Keystone XL presidential permit application process continues to be an Alice in Wonderland experience. The six-year odyssey gets “curious and curiouser.”

    Much anticipated, long delayed, the State Department report contained no real surprises. Its most important conclusion is its assessment that whether or not the pipeline is built it is “unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands.”

    Rail transport in the U.S. is predicted to grow from nearly nothing a decade ago to 1.1 million barrels per day by the end of 2014 (the increase in Canada is similar). In the absence of the pipeline, alternative modes of transportation, notably rail, would result in 28 to 42 per cent more GHG emissions. Accidents on both sides of the border have surged as the oil industry takes the train.

    So can we anticipate a decision in the coming months? Maybe. But maybe not, given U.S. politics in an election year.

    For environmentalists, the pipeline is their litmus test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to containing climate change. This is where politics will play into calculations about the timing of the Administration’s final policy determination.

    Environmentalists are a key component of the Democratic coalition bringing money, passion and campaign skill. While the odds are long, Mr. Obama’s last hope for a legislative legacy is to win back the House of Representatives in November. To win he needs environmentalists.

    Three other perceptions will factor into White House thinking:

    · Sense of U.S. energy independence created by the shale revolution. The United States is projected to become a net exporter of natural gas by 2018.

    · Acknowledgement (sort of) in the report that there aren’t that many jobs at stake. The report says pipeline construction will generate 3,900 direct jobs (for a total of 42,100 in indirect and induced) and then 50 jobs for its post-construction operation.

    · Influence and ‘gut’ feeling of those in cabinet and the senior policy staff who have embraced climate change as religion. For them it is about the world they leave to their children and grandchildren.

    Originally a Canada-U.S. dispute, the XL permit has long since morphed into a U.S. domestic issue. It featured in the 2012 presidential race and it continues to pit Democrats against Republicans in congressional politics.

    For Canada, this is both a huge complication and a considerable handicap to finding a diplomatic compromise. After some initial missteps – using foreign steel annoyed the unions (rectified they came onside); inexplicable obduracy over changing the Nebraska route (since rectified) – we have waged a reasonable campaign in the U.S.

    Ambassador Gary Doer has been an effective and articulate advocate. Go With Canada is based on security of supply, jobs, environmental due diligence and good neighbourliness. We moved in tandem with the U.S. on emissions policy. We haven’t delivered on our promised oil and gas regulations but then both national governments suffer from dysfunctional national energy strategies.

    In a rational world we would anticipate a permit decision by summer. But in the world of Washington politics, like that of Alice’s Wonderland, there is no predictability and very few certainties. Like Alice, we should eventually get there, as long as we are sure we know where we want to go.

    A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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