02 May 2015

Chrétien, Putin and Harper—opportunity lost?

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien's recent chat with Vladimir Putin in Moscow presents an opportunity to our government. Since Mr. Harper has, unlike all the other G7 leaders, refused to talk to the Russian leader, a debriefing of Mr. Chrétien would offer him a possibility of learning what motivates Putin's actions in Ukraine—his sentiments, his goals and his perspectives. Understanding the man would increase the chances of negotiating a peaceful solution to the hostilities in the region. Commonly in international affairs, leaders of hostile nations find common ground for compromise through neutral intermediaries. A leader can gain critical knowledge while avoiding loss of face.

The chance that Harper will avail himself of this opportunity is slim. First, Jean Chrétien is a Liberal and the prime minister hates Liberals. He is unlikely to ask one for advice no matter how useful that advice might be. Second, and more to the point, Harper is incapable of recognizing that an opponent may have valid reasons for his actions. To Harper, everything is black and white. If you're one of us, you are 100 per cent right, if you're antagonistic to one of us, you are 100 per cent wrong. Thus, in Ukraine, Putin is 100 per cent wrong. What he, and Russians generally, feel or think about the security of their country's borders, about their legitimate fear of invasion from the west, is irrelevant. There is nothing to talk about.

At one time—back in the good old days—I thought it unfortunate Canada didn't have more clout on the world stage. We were widely seen as honest brokers whose ability to appreciate both sides of a dispute and whose mastery of compromise could bring hostile parties together. Not any more. Now I am grateful we have little influence. A man like Harper, with his simplistic us and them attitude, would be dangerous if he held any real power in the world. Fortunately, for us and others, his preening self-righteousness isn't taken too seriously.

If Harper does arrange for a meeting with Chrétien in order to exploit his superior knowledge of what makes Putin tick, I'll duly apologize. But I have little fear of that happening.

1 comment:

  1. Harper does not hold any real power in the world, he does however hold real power in Canada. I agree with you about the need to have a face to face with Putin. I'm glad Chretien met with him. Chretien probably has more political experience then anyone in Ottawa.If Harper had any intelligence or integrity he would be picking Chretiens brain, but Harper has sided with the US's propaganda and lies about Russia being the aggressor. There is no way Harper does'nt know about the American engineered coup in Ukraine, yet he still bellows loudly and foolishly about Putin invading Ukraine.Because Harper has power in Canada and because he is a tyrant who only pursues power he is thus a danger to our country. Hopefully he will be gone in Oct. On the world stage he is just an embarassment.