Relations between the two countries have been strained recently, but a historical overview shows it was not always so.
Canada–Russia relations have ranged from amiable to openly hostile. For a country supposedly keen on its role as an international peacekeeper, Canada has failed to impress the world with its recent position on Ukraine.
A brief history lesson will show that Canada can play an intermediary role in de-escalating East–West tensions and has done so before; but instead, the Harper administration has chosen to follow NATO’s lead and refused to work towards any peaceful resolution to recent conflicts.
So, in this context, I’ve decided to recap some of Canada’s historical relations with its far-far northern neighbor: from the good, to the bad and the ugly.
- Canadian lend-lease aid to Soviet Union during WWII: a total of 125 vessels left the port of Vancouver for Russia, carrying 126,000 tons of flour and wheat along with industrial equipment worth just over $23 million.
- In the early 1980s Prime Minister Trudeau moved to ease nuclear tensions between the United States and the USSR through a variety of diplomatic trips. Eventually East–West relations eased and opposing leaders of the U.S. and USSR released a joint statement similar to Trudeau’s suggestions: “Nuclear wars can never be won and therefore must never be fought.”
- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien played a key role in Russia’s integration into the G7 summit. Chretien was later awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2014 for his friendly engagement with the Russian Federation.
- In 2013 Russia imports are at a historic low point for Canada.Imports stood at $864 million, while exports also continued to fall.
- On 17 March 2014 Canada begun a series of sanctions against Russia.The list includes 37 travel bans and 17 economic sanctions on Russian/Ukrainian individuals and entities.
- In August 2014, Russia places food import bans on Canadian goods, in response to sanctions. Bans gave Russian farmers a chance to compete with Western goods for market share.
- September 1945: Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko defected from Soviet Union to Canada. Gouzenko managed to take with him 109 documents detailing covert espionage activity in the West by USSR agents.
- April 2014: Canada joined NATO military posturing in Eastern Europe with Operation Reassurance. The operation includes an air, maritime and land taskforce presence.
- November 2014: in the midst of a G20 Summit PM Harper made sophomoric move and confronted Putin, telling him to “get out of Ukraine.” Putin’s response: “That’s impossible, because we’re not there.”
- Dec 2014: HMSC Toronto departed for Black Sea to participate in NATO exercises. The warship had a close encounter with Russian frigates while fully equipped and capable for “anything up to full-scale war.”