With Russia planting a flag on the Arctic Ocean floor, Peter Mckay’s observing “You can’t go around the world these days dropping a flag somewhere. This isn’t the 14th or 15th century” and the press corp pointing out the rich irony of the situation (see Hans Island), it’s an exciting week in Canadian Foreign Policy.
Of course no one could have prevented the Russians from sending out a submarine to plant a flag on the Arctic floor. However, the irony of the Canadian response was entirely preventable. Once again, Paul Martin’s short sighted, “ready, shoot, aim” policies designed to capture voters comes back to haunt us.
(BTW: If I were a Russian diplomat, I’d carry a photo of this to every meeting.)
Indeed, the only silver lining to the whole thing is a rather personal one. It isn’t often that pundits make predictions that are accurate, so when it happens you know we are going should “I told you so…”
Back in September of 2005 I wrote the following paragraphs in an article entitled “Reality vs. Fiction: Canadian Foreign Policy in Light of the International Policy Statement” for the Queen’s International Observer:
…the government’s recent tactics in the ongoing dispute with Denmark over the ownership of Hans Island appear to run counter to the strategic goals of the IPS. By resorting to jingoistic rhetoric and petty tit-for-tat flag planting symbolism the government has undermined the country’s reputation as a state that both perceives security as a “common interest” and strives to overcome disputes peacefully.
Ideally, the Hans Island issue should have presented Denmark and Canada – two NATO allies – with an opportunity to model effective international conflict-management diplomacy-based on a fair and respectful process. Instead, the government’s actions may have undermined one of the few arrows left in the quivers of small countries that have under invested in their foreign policy assets: moral legitimacy. One’s capacity to “build a more secure world” by advocating for a “responsibility to protect” in complex intra-state conflicts is necessarily undermined when one is incapable of handling maturely and responsibly one of the most traditional forms of inter-state conflict.
I’ll concede it isn’t a perfect prediction, but not bad in the chaotic world of international relations.
I’m sure trying to score some jingoist points in the polls seemed like a good idea at the time. Indeed, it was probably even designed to demonstrate that Canada would be serious about dealing with threats to our sovereignty by other arctic powers (such as, for example, Russia). In reality, all we did was give up any sense of honour in order to sanction the basest and most child-like behaviour.
Thank you Paul!