The world is saddened and rightfully
outraged by images of the charred remnants of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17,
and by the loss of almost 300 people from 11 countries, strewn across fields in
eastern Ukraine. While the grim work of identifying victims’ remains and
tracking down the perpetrators of this appalling crime is just beginning, the
world can be certain of one thing: There can be no weakening of our resolve to
punish the Putin regime for threatening the peace and security of eastern and
Although we may refer to militants in
eastern Ukraine as “pro-Russian separatists,” we are not confused by who, and
what, they really are: an extension of the Russian state. They derive their
material, political and logistical support from the Putin regime, and their
criminal aggression and recklessness reflect the values of their Russian
benefactors. Some have suggested that these agents of the Putin regime may have
shot the plane down by accident. We do not, and may never, know. But accident
or no accident, the blood is on the hands of the men who took such a risk and
of the government that encouraged them to do so. Even if they did not intend to
kill hundreds of innocent civilians, there is no denying their intent to
continue waging a war on behalf of a regime that remains in violation of
international law for its illegal occupation of Crimea.
Russia’s aggressive militarism and
expansionism are a threat to more than just Ukraine; they are a threat to
Europe, to the rule of law and to the values that bind Western nations. Canada
will not stand idly by in the face of this threat.
That is why we have taken a strong
stand, imposing a broad range of sanctions against those entities and
individuals responsible for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Since the start of
the crisis in Ukraine, Canada has imposed sanctions on nearly 150 individuals
and entities. Earlier this week we broadened our approach, announcing economic
sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy.
It is why Canada has pledged more than
$220-million in loan and loan guarantees which, once the appropriate conditions
have been met to ensure that the funds are being used for their intended
purposes, will help Ukraine to stabilize its economy and promote economic and
social development. It is why we are providing training for the Ukrainian
military, as well as Canadian military personnel and equipment to NATO’s
reassurance package in eastern and central Europe.
It is also why, last spring, G7 leaders
decided to suspend preparations for the 2014 G8 Summit scheduled to take place
in Sochi and convened instead as the G7 in Brussels. Through its actions,
Russia under President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated that it does not share
the values of this community of nations, dedicated as we are to democracy,
international security, and the rule of law. Given this, it is difficult to
foresee any circumstance under which Mr. Putin’s Russia could be readmitted to
the family of G7 nations.
Along with the sanctions imposed by our
American and European allies, the measures undertaken by the international
community are having an impact on the Russian economy. Investments are dropping
and capital is leaving the country.
The steps Canada has taken have not
been made without careful consideration of their potential impact on Canadian
business interests abroad and at home. Like our allies, we will put our
national interests first, but we will not allow business interests alone to
dictate our foreign policy. With Mr. Putin’s Russia increasingly autocratic at
home and dangerously aggressive abroad, now is not the time to ease the
diplomatic and economic pressure on the regime. Sustained, strong and
co-ordinated action among like-minded countries is the best way to ensure that
our actions have the maximum impact on the Putin regime.
Mr. Putin claims to abide by notions of
stability, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of international
disputes, and yet we have seen reports this week of more Russian troops being
moved to the border with Ukraine, while weapons and other supplies continue to
flow freely over the border with his approval. It is time Mr. Putin matched his
words with actions. He must reverse his course in Ukraine. He must withdraw his
troops from the Ukrainian border, stop the flow of weapons and militants into
Ukraine, and use his influence to persuade the militants, currently operating
with the support of his regime, to lay down their weapons and cease the violence.
He must also work to ensure that those investigating the shooting down of MH17
are not impeded in any way in their efforts to uncover the truth behind the
deliberate or reckless targeting of innocent civilians.
The choice is Mr. Putin’s. He can take
these actions to recommit Russia to peace, democracy, and the rule of law or he
can persist with the politics of intimidation and aggression, in which case
Canada – and its allies – must take further, more punitive steps to isolate
Russia from the rest of the world’s democratic states. The values and
principles we cherish as Canadians, and for which so many generations have
fought and died, demand it.