BRUSSELS – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting with Canada reiterating his broad support for Ukraine, but not whether he will back a move by Kiev to join the military alliance amid tensions with Russia.
The federal government said last week that Canada would continue to help address security threats in the region, but did not go so far as to say that it would lend its unwavering support to the pressure from the ‘Ukraine for NATO membership at the summit.
Ukraine’s call to join NATO precedes this week’s first face-to-face meeting in Geneva between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, after years of strained relations between Moscow and Western countries.
Russia’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border, Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, alleged Russian interference in the US elections and allegations that the Kremlin was behind the hacking campaign from SolarWinds have all helped to escalate the tensions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly lobbied to join the military alliance, raising the issue recently in separate talks with Trudeau and Biden.
A reading from the prime minister’s office said Trudeau and Zelensky discussed Russia’s actions and “underscored Canada’s continued support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations” during their meeting last Tuesday.
When specifically asked if Canada maintains Ukraine has a NATO membership action plan, a spokeswoman for Trudeau said there was nothing to add.
Earlier, Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a specific question about Ukraine’s membership in NATO, saying Canada “remains steadfast in its support for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as to the Ukrainian people â. He also noted that the allies decided at the 2008 summit that Ukraine will eventually âjoinâ the organization.
The Canadian government has in the past advocated Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed Canada’s “strong support” for the move, praising Ukraine’s democratic reforms and the two countries’ shared values.
At the time, Harper called on leaders to accept that Ukraine be allowed to move forward in the accession process and pledged that Canada would support the candidacy, as long as “the country continues to make progress in democratic reform and ‘opening up of its economy’.
The party still shares that view, a spokesperson for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement.
Alexander Moens, director of the NATO field school and simulation program at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, says the problem is “we wish the Canadian government would talk a little more openly about it.” .
He highlighted the fact that there are a million people in Canada who are of Ukrainian descent, and noted that the country has supported Ukraine, including when it imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation. of Crimea in 2014.
But at the same time, says Moens, Canada knows it has to be sensitive.
“Ukraine’s membership in NATO could very well be a red line for Russia, which means a dangerous reaction from Russia, so there is a lot of caution on how to proceed,” he said. -he declares.
“The biggest problem here is not to worsen relations with Putin and at the same time not to discourage the Ukrainians.”
It’s worth seeing how NATO is handling the issue and whether it is moving any closer to Ukraine joining, he said, adding that the allies are likely to be cautious.
Allen Sens, professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, believes the issue will be raised only out of politeness to Ukraine, but that it is largely “off the table.”
“I can’t imagine anything more provocative,” he said.
“It would be one of the most controversial and provocative dialogues NATO is having right now when there are so many other things this summit needs to address, there are so many other things that ‘NATO must do. “
These include advancing on new strategic planning priorities and modernization. Additionally, experts say the focus will be on tackling cybersecurity and information warfare, not to mention the challenges presented by Russia and more recently China.
They believe that a defining feature of this year’s summit will undoubtedly be a sense of renewal due to the absence of former US President Donald Trump, who has criticized the existence of NATO.
“Every NATO member will remember that Donald Trump called the alliance obsolete,” said Roland Paris, professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.
“Joe Biden’s arrival at a NATO summit and expressing wholeheartedly the United States’ commitment to its allies will be a significant symbolic change.”
He added that “the legacy of the Trump years will continue in the sense that NATO members, especially NATO members in Europe, are aware that the United States produced Trump ÎÃÂª and could elect one again “.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 13, 2021.
With files from The Associated Press.