Harper in ukraine

Harper Visits Ukraine Amid Russia Moves Ahead of G-7 Meet

By Andrew Mayeda Mar 21, 2014 12:01 AM ET

Photographer: Stuart Davis/Bloomberg

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Mr. Putin’s reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the community.”

When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets his Group of Seven counterparts to discuss the crisis in Ukraine next week, he’ll be the only leader able to give a first-hand account.

Harper heads to Ukraine today, where he will cement his status as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sharpest critics within G-7. He will meet Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev tomorrow and repeat his condemnation of Russia’s “illegal military occupation” of Crimea, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The trip comes days before G-7 leaders meet during a nuclear security summit in The Hague to discuss how to respond to Russia’s actions. The dispute over Ukrainian territory has set off the bitterest confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Harper’s animosity toward Putin and Russia is driven by a principles-based foreign policy and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind to his counterparts, said John Kirton, director of the G-8 research group at the University of Toronto.

“He’s regarded as a man of conviction who’s very clear,” Kirton said in a telephone interview yesterday. Paraphrasing former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Kirton said of Harper: “The man’s not for turning.”

There’s little doubt about Harper’s views. In June, he accused Putin of supporting “thugs” in the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and said the G-8 had evolved into the “G-7 plus one.”

Imposed Sanctions

Like the U.S. and other allies, Canada has imposed financial sanctions and travel bans on Russian officials. Harper’s government has also recalled its ambassador to Russia, suspended military cooperation and pledged C$220 million ($196 million) in financial aid to Ukraine.

“Mr. Putin’s reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the community,” Harper said after Crimea voted to join Russia in a March 16 referendum.

Canada has also clashed with Russia over territorial claims in the Arctic. In January, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada planned to claim the North Pole, prompting Putin to promise to devote “special attention” to Russia’s Arctic military presence.

Trading Relations

Harper’s verbal attacks have come despite the relatively small trading relation between the two countries. Canada trades more with Peru and Algeria than it does with Russia, and Canada is the only G-7 country not among the list of Russia’s top 20 trading partners.

At the same time, Canadian companies such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX) Inc. have seen an impact from the crisis in Ukraine. In Russia, Valeant sells $400 million to $500 million worth of over-the-counter medicines like AntiGrippin for treating colds. Sales growth in the country was as high as 20 percent and has slowed since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine dispute to low double digits, Chief Executive Officer Mike Pearson said.

The visit also gives Harper the opportunity to bolster political support among the nation’s 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who’s now vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Canada had a population of 32.9 million in 2011, according to the last national census.

“It’s heartfelt, but it’s also very good politics,” Robertson said.

‘Energy Superpower’

Harper, who has called Canada an emerging “energy superpower,” may also use the trip to emphasize Canada’s potential as a reliable supplier of crude and natural gas. The European Union is looking at ways to reduce its reliance on Russian gas exports, according to a draft EU document released this week.

The crisis underscores the need for Canada to build crude pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals that would enable shipments to Europe, said former natural-resources minister Joe Oliver.

“A lot of countries are under the Russian boot,” Oliver said in an interview in Toronto on March 14, five days before he was appointed finance minister. “We present ourselves, not currently but hopefully, as a potential source of energy to Europe.”

As a member of NATO, Canada can play a “small but important role” in encouraging other countries in the alliance to recognize the threat posed by Russia, said Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Strong Support

“I expect that he’ll offer very strong support of the Ukrainian government in Kiev and that he’ll lambaste Russia for its intervention in Crimea,” Paris said. “Whether that criticism goes beyond words, mild sanctions and the symbolism of recalling an ambassador remains to be seen.”

Harper will also meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and then travel to Germany for an official visit, where he’ll meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Harper, 54, has shown that he has a “binary” view of foreign policy that categorizes countries as good or bad, Robertson said.

“It’s the autocrats versus the democrats,” he said. “It’s the Cold War 2.0.”

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US Ambassador Bruce Heyman

Success of new U.S. ambassador to Canada depends on style, personality and initiative

The Globe and Mail Thursday, Mar. 13 2014

It’s taken a while, but Bruce Heyman is finally the U.S. ambassador to Canada. His nomination, leaked last April, announced in September, considered by committee in December, was confirmed Wednesday night by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. ambassador occupies a singular place in the Canadian establishment. More than first among equals in the diplomatic community, the position is closer to that of a senior member of the cabinet. Arguably, the ambassador is better known and recognized than most cabinet ministers or premiers.

The ambassador’s calls, even to the prime minister, will be quickly returned. Every pronouncement is pored over for meaning and reported by the media, and the U.S. envoy is one of a handful of diplomats to travel with RCMP security.

The U.S. Embassy, now on Sussex Drive, once faced Parliament (its empty shell was to house our stillborn Portrait Gallery). The U.S. residence, in elegant Rockcliffe Park, overlooks the confluence of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers. The ambassador’s Fourth of July party – the yards can accommodate several thousand – is the social event of the season.

Mr. Heyman succeeds fellow Chicagoan David Jacobson. Like Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Heyman raised a lot of money for President Obama. He is not a professional diplomat but rather a friend of the president, like his predecessors.

From a Canadian perspective this is a good thing. Whatever knowledge U.S. ambassadors lack in the niceties of protocol, they quickly learn and more than make up for in political acumen and access.

We want an ambassador who can pick up the phone and get an answer in the White House. Mr. Heyman’s predecessors – Governors Jim Blanchard and Paul Cellucci, South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, Gordon Giffin, and David Jacobson all had that capacity. They were also problem solvers.

They best developed a strategic approach – the Canada-U.S. Partnership (CUSP), for example, that was aimed at greater integration while acknowledging two very different sovereignties. It provided the intellectual base for the Smart Border Accord. Today’s Beyond-the-Border finds its roots in CUSP.

Success depended on a low-key style, mastering the files and consummate networking. This means regular trips across Canada. Ottawa, like Washington, operates in a bubble and is not representative of the country.

Another rule for success: Spend time with the premiers. In the Canadian system, they combine the role of both governor and senator. The first ‘défi’ for a new ambassador: read President Clinton’s speech on federalism.

When personalities click, as with Mr. Jacobson and Gary Doer, the two ambassadors are our quarterbacks in the field. Their playbooks are different but their goal is same: good relations with no surprises.

The U.S. ambassador’s in-tray is always full. Work falls mostly into two baskets: security (always the U.S. priority) and economics – trade, investment. energy and the environment.

In his December congressional hearing Mr. Heyman said his “number one mission” in Canada is to expand the U.S. “economic footprint.” He promised to make IP a priority, declaring that “American ingenuity is our special sauce … the core of what American institutions depend on to compete globally.”

The Keystone XL pipeline “process,” as Mr. Heyman termed it, dominates and poisons the relationship. The six-year “process” may well be punted again because of the November midterms. Meanwhile, the oil flows south – by truck, train and existing pipelines.

Mr. Heyman acknowledged there is “still much work to do” around the beyond-the-border and regulatory reform initiatives. Both need a boost from leaders if they are not to slide into irrelevance.

While much of the agenda is set, there is opportunity for personal initiative. For example:

• Address the border fees that undermine the spirit of free trade, delays travellers and turns border guards into cashiers. U.S. fees mostly on agricultural products, are 10 times those of Canada. The Obama budget proposals go the wrong way, adding new border fees to pay for more inspectors, ostensibly to clear border congestion. Negotiate a standstill on future fees.

• Secure the funds for the Detroit customs plaza. How serious is the Obama Administration if, in a $3.9-trillion dollar budget, it can find $216-million for modernization of San Ysidro, the busiest U.S. commercial port of entry, but not $250-million for Detroit – the busiest trade corridor in the world?

• Revitalize the Canada-U.S. energy dialogue. Take up Prime Minister Harper’s offer, reiterated in Ambassador Doer’s letter, to “work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down.” Keystone XL has sucked too much oxygen and chilled the relationship.

After he presents his credentials to Governor General Johnston, Ambassador Heyman will have position and place to influence the course of Canada-U.S. relations. Performance will determine his standing.

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US Budget and Defense Spending

Between the budget lines: U.S. needs a little help from its friends

Globe and Mail Tuesday, Mar. 04 2014

Colin Robertson

It’s Budget Day in Washington. Its importance this year is in signaling the future direction of U.S. defence policy. It is also another reminder of the differences in our two systems of government.

Traditionally devised in secret, Canada’s budget day is the highlight of the parliamentary calendar. There are new shoes for the finance minister and live media coverage of the speech and opposition reaction. Governments rise or fall on the subsequent confidence motion.

By contrast there is little in the President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget that has not already been previewed.

This budget, for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 (vs. April 1 in Canada), is already a month behind its statutory requirement because Congress only resolved its final spending for 2014 in mid-January (months behind its deadline).

There is no expectation that the spending bills that come out of Congress – most likely another series of continuing resolutions – will bear any resemblance to the brick of documents wheeled into Congress on Tuesday. Legislating on Capitol Hill has been compared to sausage-making and this is especially true for presidential budgets.

It does give a sense of presidential direction. It is the financial companion to the policy blueprint laid out in the annual State of the Union. Most of this year’s estimated $3.5-trillion spending is for non-discretionary entitlements like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Discretionary spending will cover everything from modernizing the electricity grid and repairing road and bridges, to the Pentagon.

It is for the Pentagon and future U.S. defence policy that this budget is especially significant.

It confirms the downward spending trend begun with sequestration. It also confirms the shift in the long-standing strategic goal of being ready to fight two simultaneous wars on separate fronts.

In his budget preview last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged that “we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted.”

After 13 years of war, the longest conflict in American history, Mr. Hagel said this ‘defining budget’ “starts to reset, reshape … rebalance, refine our enterprise for the future.” U.S. armed forces will shrink: fewer ships, aircraft and armored vehicles with troop numbers down to about 450,000.

U.S. defense strategy, to be spelled out in the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, will focus on defending the homeland; building security globally by projecting U.S. influence and deterring aggression; and remaining prepared to win decisively against any adversary should deterrence fail.

The shift in operational focus and forces to the Asia Pacific will continue. Recognizing new centers of power in a world that is “growing more volatile, more unpredictable”, there will be more emphasis on special forces and new technologies.

In his new book Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama, scholar Stephen Sestanovich demonstrates that when the costs in blood, treasure and public morale reach a tipping point, the backlash leads to a period of retrenchment.

Most Americans believe the U.S. does too much to solve world problems. They want the U.S. to “mind its own business internationally” and pay more attention to problems at home. Americans still see themselves as the number one global military power. They are divided on reductions in military spending.

Elected, in part, to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Obama ‘led from behind’ in Libya, then found no enthusiasm for engagement in Syria beyond diplomatic parley and sanctions. Ukraine should take note.

Retrenchment to rebuild at home is probably good politics. Good policy will depend on the smart diplomacy that the Obama administration aspires to achieve. It starts with attention to the allies.

The Atlantic Alliance needs more attention and the Center for Transatlantic Relations lays out a plan of action in its forthcoming report. It should begin with the North American neighbourhood. Last month’s trilateral summit in Mexico was long on rhetoric and short on actual achievement.

It is a verdict that, unfortunately, threatens to characterize the Obama record. The trade agreements with the Pacific and Europe are now in limbo pending congressional approval of presidential trade promotion authority.

Retrenchment, warns Mr. Sestanovich, often evolves from being seen as a strategy for averting decline of U.S. power to one “that accelerates, accepts, and even embraces it.”

While hardly an encouraging prospect for Canada and the alliance, it reminds us that good allies keep the U.S. engaged. It also means recognizing that burden-sharing is a collective responsibility, with application to all, not just the United States.

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