Just days before the NATO summit in Warsaw, US President Barack Obama paid a visit to Ottawa and told the Parliament sitting in joint session: “World needs more Canada, NATO needs more Canada.”
The two parts of this statement may well constitute a contradiction in terms, but certainly not for a US president who is entering the last few months of his second term as his country faces an increasingly turbulent and even uncertain future.
The Warsaw summit decided to have new forces deployed to encircle Russia’s military positions around Eastern Europe, ostensibly to contain potential Russian aggression. And Canadian military will be among the forces deployed in these positions, in Latvia to be more specific.
Of course, this deployment is quite controversial in the sense that the soldiers of NATO countries positioned there will be far too weak to prevent any aggression if it is ever really intended. Last week, one commentator described the job of these soldiers as “to die in case of a Russian attack just to be able to draw all NATO countries into the conflict.”
Not surprisingly, Russia immediately reacted by likening the NATO move to “sabre-rattling reminiscent of Cold War.”
Is this really an effort to contain Russia or is it a last ditch effort to use NATO as the glue to prevent western alliance from disentangling in an increasingly uncertain world?
While the Brexit vote has had nothing to do with London’s military alignment with the US, Canada and other EU member states, it has certainly opened a Pandora’s Box, in the sense that it has proved the status quo is not cast in iron, it can change and it can change with a bang.
While we are in peace in rural Alberta, we can very rapidly be pulled into a conflict by factors outside the control of the government or the military leadership of Canada. So we will be well advised to follow what factors are shaping the circumstances that might have a major impact on our lives.
Let’s look, for instance, at some of the underlying currents that might be affecting the developing new political order: The US-led economic sanctions are hurting Russia, but they are also hurting Europe as much as they are hurting the intended target. With the growth rates failing to improve, European countries are missing the opportunities offered by the vast Russian market. Growing debt, consistently high unemployment and steadily declining confidence of the electorate in the political elite’s ability to govern are creating major problems for European leaders from Germany’s Merkel to France’s Hollande to Italy’s Renzi.
How long will they follow the lead of the US in putting pressure on Russia, particularly if Trump is elected to go into the White House?
In the United States, the support that presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump has mustered among the mainly white, middle class Americans is, according to social scientists, signaling a paradigm shift in the American society. Add to that the recent unrest caused by killings of black individuals by white policeman and the ensuing wave of protests, the emerging picture is one of a global power, which is facing a crisis of leadership itself not witnessed in modern times.
When the US was engulfed in turmoil because of race relations in the late 60s and early 70s, there was a growth of prosperity and wealth. Now there is growing poverty among both whites and blacks and Hispanics,
Will the US be able to control internal conflict if it emerges while trying to continue to lead the western world?
How will other international political actors, from countries like China and India to non-state actors like ISIS or El Qaeda, try to exploit the new circumstances?
An uncertain world like this does need more Canada as we have a government that consults with stakeholders before making decisions, tries to find common ground with interlocutors, cares for the environment and the world we will leave to future generations. But maybe the NATO needs more Canada part deserves a rethinking.