Pierre Poilievre: Canada must get tough on Russia

Originally published in the National Post, Feb. 28, 2022

Canada must be able to speak from a position of strength

We’re in a global crisis: Russia has illegally invaded Ukraine — and it has shocked the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has violated every one of the West’s shared democratic principles and the world must respond with strength. Rhetoric and virtue signalling are not enough. We must take concrete action.

I was honoured to serve in a previous government that stood up to Putin. Prior to 2016, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we made support for Ukraine a cornerstone of Canada’s foreign policy. We responded forcefully in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and worked to exclude Putin from the G8.

The current government has not taken the same approach. The Government of Ukraine has been pleading for years for Canada to provide it with weapons, in order to bolster its defensive capabilities. This plea was rejected until earlier this month, on the very cusp of the invasion. Even then, the urgently needed anti-tank weapons were reportedly dropped from the shipment.

The tragedy in Ukraine is the result of a failed western policy. To mitigate the damage of this tragedy and try to prevent it from happening again, Canada should take a number of concrete steps.

First, we should provide urgent assistance to mitigate the humanitarian crisis that is happening in Ukraine. We need to mobilize our military airlift assets to deliver all the aid that we can. We must also open our doors to those fleeing this conflict, just as we did in 1956 in the face of the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

We must impose a comprehensive set of punishing sanctions against Russia and stop all exports of western technology to Russia, and to the dictatorship in Belarus, which is complicit in this invasion.

We must expel Russia’s ambassador to Canada, immediately recall Canada’s ambassador from Moscow and withdraw Russia Today’s broadcast license.

Canada must be able to speak from a position of strength. Our defence capabilities have been neglected for six years despite a relentless build-up of Russian military capabilities in the Arctic.

Finally, we cannot ignore what is literally and figuratively fuelling Putin’s power: oil and gas.

The countries that have been weakest on Russia’s aggression are the ones that rely on Russian energy to heat their homes, drive their cars and power their economies. In fact, almost 40 per cent of the European Union’s natural gas comes from Russia. Bloomberg reported that western countries paid US$700 million ($890 million) for Russian resources in the 24 hours after Putin proclaimed the breakup of Ukraine.

Russia’s abundant hydrocarbons have meant that Putin has all the power when he’s negotiating with Europe. It’s meant that by buying Russian oil and gas, Europe has been filling Putin’s war chest, paying him the money he needed to build up his army and invade his neighbour.

Europeans have had to beg Russia for energy, so Putin has held all the cards. But Canada can help take those cards away. We have what Europe needs, and lots of it: energy. We have vast, untapped resources from coast to coast, but as the Financial Post pointed out recently, “Canada currently has no LNG export terminals on either coast, thanks in part to a regulatory environment that often delays projects for years.”

There is good news: there are proposed projects across Canada that can unlock new markets for that very same liquified natural gas (LNG). Take LNG Newfoundland and Labrador — a $10-billion project that would liquefy and ship natural gas from the East Coast to Europe. Approving and fast-tracking this project, and others like it, would help Europe kick its addiction to Russian gas, so it could stand up to Putin, rather than funding him.

As prime minister, I would replace Justin Trudeau’s anti-energy policies with a regulatory regime that truly protects the environment, consults First Nations and is able to render quick decisions on whether new projects will be approved. I would also require regulators to fast-track decisions on projects that bolster international security, like LNG Newfoundland and Labrador.

I was born the year that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The democratic world responded forcefully to that aggression and, in the end, the Soviets failed. Today our response must be equally strong. Canada must lead the way and I urge our government to begin that effort today.

National Post

Pierre Poilievre is the member of Parliament for Carleton.