(Sergey Ponomarev's photo courtesy New York Times)
The knee jerk reaction of Harper Government on the Ukraine situation is not helping to turn the temperature down, instead it could create more difficulties for the Ukrainian public from a more aggressive Russia. Instead of taking a hard right pro U.S. position, Canada should have taken a middle of the road approach whereby it could act as a mediator in resolving the crisis.
Germany's Angela Merkel has demonstrated a great deal more maturity by suggesting a peaceful resolution rather than Harper Government's empty threats of imposing sanctions on Russia and expelling it from the G8.
To start with, Mr. Harper needs to restrain his Foreign Minister, whose aggressive tactics have done more damage to Canada's foreign relations than good. His handling of relations with UAE resulting in Canada losing a free military base in Dubai, with an estimated cost of a few hundred million dollars to Canadian tax payer is a case in point.
It is obvious that U.S. interference in Russia's back yard has brought Ukraine to this situation. A deft handling and a diplomatic solution is what is required here. Alas, Canada has lost its position as a neutral umpire, whereby it could offer to mediate between aggrieved parties, rather than take an extreme position as the Harper Government has done.
A peaceful solution to Ukraine's situation would be where the people's aspirations are met, where the minorities are not afraid of domination and persecution by the majority and where Russia does not feel, there is a hostile Government in place right next door.
This is a great opportunity for Mr. Harper to demonstrate leadership, maturity and diplomatic prowess. By actively helping to resolve the Ukraine situation, he could distinguish himself from a bunch of mediocre Western leaders. This requires him to get on that plane to Moscow and talk to President Putin, ask him for restraint and find out what it would take to diffuse the situation and bring the Ukranian and Russian leadership together for a peaceful resolution.
It may already be too late for Mr. Harper as Russian and U.S. Foreign Ministers have started a direct dialogue, though there may still be space for Canada to play a role. There may be issues that Russia and U.S. may not want to talk to each other about, but could open up to a neutral third party.
Mr. Harper, stand up and make Canada proud.