Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Canada's Place in a Trump World

Today (Tuesday in Canada, Wednesday morning in Japan), Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland gave the big speech, one that has been anticipated for a while.  It serves not just as a scene setter for tomorrow's Defence Policy Review, but also as a defining portrayal of Canada's place in a world where the US is surrendering its role of defender of the international order that it built long ago.  Again, the effect of Trump's omission about Article 5 and his anti-Paris Accord Stance have not really changed too much but have disillusioned those who thought that the adults of the administration would be driving US foreign policy.

Freeland's speech is a nice reminder of what an adult looks like in foreign policy and especially one that is actually relevant (unlike, say Tillerson who is both ignorant and irrelevant).  I found the speech to be a very strong effort in a very difficult time and context--how to set a Canadian course in a way that acknowledges that Trump is a force for disorder but without needlessly trolling Trump (that would be a Macron reference).  I tweeted a reference to Scylla and Charybdis, because I like the Odyssey a great deal and have to show off the one classic text I remember so very clearly.

The speech makes clear that Canada benefits by the international order--of the commitment to peace and security in Europe via NATO, of free trade, multilateral solutions.  And that this order is under attack by Russia, by IS, and by others (China is not named, more on that below).  Canada's place is to defend that order with or without the US.  She spends significant time talking about the importance of not violently changing boundaries--which is exactly what Russia did in Crimea. 

Regarding trade, Freeland argues that trade is not the enemy, as it has helped to build community and peace and prosperity, but that the rise of opposition to globalization needs to be addressed by better domestic policies that help those hurt by these forces.  Indeed.  In this, she is arguing against Trump and those who voted for him.  Oh, and also those in Canada of similar beliefs.

Freeland's speech does not have much in the way of new policy proposals although she did talk of a feminist aid policy and hinted at what might be in the Defence Review. 

The only big omission in my mind is China. Perhaps because I am in Japan and remember last year's briefings by Japanese officials who wanted to persuade me of China's problematic role in the region, I can't help but wonder if Freeland is soft on China because of the temptation of the Chinese market.  That Trudeau's policy stance towards China has been far more focused on opening up trade for Canadian companies (even if they may find that working in China is like working with Tony Soprano) than the island building stuff that is akin to what Russia did in Crimea--alter boundaries without negotiations and consent.  So, yes, I worry about this. 

A larger bit of context: as Glenn Snyder and Patricia Weitsman observed, allies have two fears--that their fellow ally will either entrap them into an endeavor they don't want (WWI for many) or abandon them when needed.  For much of post WWII history, the US has spent much effort to reassure the allies that they will not be abandoned.  At moments such as 2003 re Iraq, the entrapment concern rises to the fore.  Usually, one fear or the other is most prominent. Trump's big accomplishment here is to have allies fear both bigly right now.  Will the US come through in a crisis?  The omission of Article V suggests it will not.  Will the US start some adventure and demand allied help?  Maybe.

Anyhow, as Obama gives essentially the same speech in Montreal as I am writing this, I can only conclude that the adults elsewhere are now trying to figure out how best to keep the tempremental baby from breaking everything.  And I am glad that Canada's got the foreign minister it has right now as she is the right person in the right place at the right time.