Robert Murray: With rising global threats, Canada’s lazy foreign policy is growing vulnerability

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscored what many have observed for over a decade: the structure of the international order is changing. The rise of new powers and the continued decline of American power necessitate the realignment and reassessment of international and domestic security strategies for states and institutions. Indeed, given rapidly evolving threats, the evolving global order promises to be both complex and unstable.

For decades, however, Canada allowed itself to become seemingly lazy on the world stage. By being so closely associated geographically, economically, politically and culturally with the United States as the world’s sole post-Cold War superpower, Canada allowed its international strategy to focus more on domestic political consummation than substantial global engagement. . This decline, despite warnings from observers and experts, has been largely ignored by Canadians, who have traditionally shown little interest in Canadian foreign policy, even in times of global crisis.

Canada has put itself in a position where it has no international strategy to navigate this changed and more uncertain world. There is no clear definition of Canada’s national interests, which means that Canada has no discernible goals to pursue globally. Canada has not been able to consistently present or use effective tactics to pursue its interests or objectives, and its preferences for what it wants to influence internationally remain ambiguous at best. Furthermore, Canada has no vision or plan to protect its national defense against emerging and evolving threats, which leaves the country vulnerable domestically and globally.

In addition to having no international strategy, Canada’s actions and behaviors on the world stage in recent years have sent an important, and decidedly unnecessary, message to the global community that Canada is more interested in a foreign policy focused on public relations, photo opportunities and sound bites as the substance. Whether it’s the continued disinterest in meeting NATO spending targets, empty rhetoric from the prime minister or foreign minister, a futile campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council or largely ignoring core strategic interests like Canada’s Arctic, Canada is widely seen by other states. as if adrift on the world stage with no plan to get on track to seriously contribute to the rules-based order.

The prospect of a bipolar international structure, with two superpowers dominating international politics, is not foreign to Canada. Throughout the Cold War years, Canada defined, developed and executed an international strategy and foreign policy that saw Canada forge an independent path in the world while benefiting from the protection of its deep relationship with the States United in the West’s conflict with the Soviet Union.

Canada’s conscious effort to develop an international strategy evolved into what came to be known as “middle power,” which involved leveraging its political, diplomatic, and economic capabilities while overcoming its lack of military might to seize unique global opportunities. And Canada’s historic foreign policy has proven very successful. One of the country’s best-known and most effective tactics was multilateralism, which allowed a middle power like Canada to improve its position of relative power by working with other states and institutional arrangements to pursue national interests. , such as through the United Nations and NATO.

We are witnessing a return to a bipolar international structure, dominated by the United States and China. Canada must therefore take its international strategy more seriously and engage in a process to chart a clear, coherent and deliberate course in today’s world. Canada has an opportunity to project values ​​consistent with its national priorities into a world that desperately needs more rights, freedoms and democracy while strengthening its sovereignty and national security.

The world is not waiting for Canada, and the costs of inaction and continued irresponsibility will be enormous. Canada is adrift and time is running out if it hopes to find its place in this changing world order.

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