December 19, 2000

Ottawa Citizen
Letters to the Editor
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Dear Editor,

Putin's visit to Canada

Putin seeks Canada's help to fight US missile shield, Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 19, 2000, reads like a successful visit for the Russian President -- well timed to get Canada's support prior to the EU meeting.  It is a story reminiscent of the peacenik era when the left-wing crowd, financed largely by the then USSR, helped to win the Vietnam war for the Communists. Public pressure was a key weapon.  In getting Canada on side,  Mr. Putin placed a wedge between Canada and the US, thus possibly starting another propaganda war of words between them while obfuscating the real threat to global peace: the political, economic and social instability of Russia wrapped in its megalomaniac obsession with its own spurious glory.  Putin achieved a lot.

What did Canada achieve?  It is easier to answer in the negative. Canada failed to condemn Russia's land mines use in Afghanistan and Chechnya, thus capitulating on its central foreign policy pillar.  It failed to solicit an end to Russia's annihilation of Chechnya whose interest there is driven by oil and gas considerations, a central pillar of Russia's international agenda, and human rights -- like life and self-determination be damned. Interestingly, human rights weren't raised at all with Russia, a habitual violator, though yet again respect for human rights is central to our foreign policy.  Nor did our government make a token gesture to its Ukrainian community, a founding people of Canada's West, who have been worried about Canada's Russo-centric foreign policy stance.

Certainly, we did not criticize Mr. Putin for the arrogant revival of the USSR's murderous symbols.  It does not appear to matter to Canada that the anthem and flag represent the death of over 60 million citizens destroyed by the Communist Kremlin in peace-time: is this what we are encouraging Russia to repeat?

Imagine the uproar had Chancellor Schroeder dared to change Germany's anthem to a Nazi march?  Imagine the agenda of his subsequent visit to Canada: in all likelihood the visit would have been cancelled! Similarly, how double-standard and hypocritical of us to crucify Mr. Haider for his feeble Nazi past while giving the red carpet treatment to Mr. Putin, a self-confessed KGB apparatchik, and proud of it? 

What a study in international diplomacy this has turned out to be. Canadians should be seeking some equitable application of fundamental principles in our foreign policy.

Warm regards,

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn
Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Federation