Thank you very much, committee members, for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today about these issues.
There are many issues on the list of questions that were provided to me and I won't be able to deal with all of them, given the time limitation, but I'm happy to give you further input if you request it.
My own expertise lies in the area of Russian politics and relations between the European Union and Russia, and also in the context of the Ukraine crisis and the EU-Russian shared neighbourhood. I won't be addressing issues related to central Asia specifically today.
Before considering Canadian responses, it's important to understand Russia's main priorities and interests in eastern Europe. I would identify three.
The first are status concerns. Here, Russia seeks to achieve equal status and recognition with other actors that it sees as its point of reference—namely, the European Union and the United States. This has been a recurring theme of Russian foreign policy under Mr. Putin. In relation to the U.S., Russian leaders object to what they call the “unipolar” global power system and to U.S. appropriation of the right to act unilaterally and to violate international law at will. In relation to the EU, Russia has objected to the latter's claim to define the meaning of European values and to establish itself as the source of continental regulatory norms.
Second are security concerns, especially objections to NATO expansion in its neighbourhood, combined with the sense of exclusion from effective influence on European security arrangements.
Third are Russian regional geopolitical objectives—namely, Russia's desire to retain a special sphere of influence in the non-EU, post-Soviet space. Ukraine has been seen by Russia as a very pivotal element of this priority. Russia's actions in 2013 and 2014 in relation to Ukraine and Crimea, in my view, reflected Russia's failure to achieve this objective by other means.
Unfortunately, these Russian priorities have brought Russia into conflict both with the EU and the west more broadly in the context of the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, I believe that Russia would prefer to be integrated into the European security and economic framework if this could be achieved in compatibility with these three objectives.
Given the uncertainty and the unpredictability of the Trump administration's positions on these issues, I believe that Canada should pursue a policy of alignment and co-operation with the EU in its policies toward eastern Europe and Russia. In my view, the EU's long-term objectives are consistent with Canadian interests. These include a path toward reopening dialogue with Russia on issues of shared concern, such as the Arctic, the environment, and shared security concerns, while strongly defending the territorial integrity and the right of countries that lie between the EU and Russia to pursue their own foreign policy preferences, as well as support for democratic governance and rule of law. However, the path to realizing these longer-term objectives, which I think are shared by Canada and the EU, is difficult and unclear.
I would suggest three steps or intermediary priorities. First would be measures to bolster the democratic stability and political reform processes in east European countries, including both EU member states that border Russia—the Baltic states and Poland—and post-Soviet states that are not part of the EU, particularly Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, which have recently signed association and free trade agreements with the EU.
To this end, I would advocate for stronger Canadian engagement in promoting good governance and rule-of-law reforms in these countries, in tandem with the EU. Of particular value to countries such as Ukraine and the Baltic states would be programs to share best practices in realizing accommodation in multi-ethnic societies. Russian population groups in several of these countries may be vulnerable to Russian propaganda. Ukraine in particular is struggling with finding an adequate model for devolving some power to regional authorities to meet the conditions of the Minsk II agreement, which still offers the best avenue for resolving the impasse over Ukraine, weak as this agreement may be. Canada, as a successful federation with a multi-ethnic society, should endeavour to offer assistance and service in addressing this problem. Given the many internal challenges facing the EU at this point in time, leaving such development assistance efforts primarily to the EU would, in my view, be a mistake.
Also, in the Baltic states, Canada should accompany its NATO commitment in Latvia by diplomatic engagement on a civilian basis to assess whether Canada can provide support in other arenas to help bolster the resilience of domestic civil society in the face of potential soft-power influence from Russia.
Second, Canada should continue to take a strong position in support of the inviolability of post-World War II and post-Cold War borders in Europe. While it is difficult to foresee a scenario under which Russia's annexation of Crimea could be reversed, insistence on the territorial sovereignty of European nations should remain a key security commitment of Canada based in our alliance system, and importantly, in recognition that violations of this order can open a Pandora's box of instability, ethnic conflict, and territorial claims.
Third, Canada needs to recognize the dangers of the current escalation of tensions with Russia. Russia and the west face a classic security dilemma. A security dilemma is a dynamic where efforts by one side to ensure security can elicit reactions that further endanger that security. On the other hand, the failure to take those measures is perceived to undermine security. This is the dilemma. A failure to escape this logic may create a paradigm shift where threats of escalation, increasing militarization, brinkmanship, competing spheres of influence, reduced economic and energy interaction, and a broad securitization of the relationship can take on a long-lasting character.
It is not clear or easy how to escape this logic while rejecting Russian revisionism in relation to post-war and post-Soviet borders. In this context, the minimalist objective is to stabilize the situation; that is, to re-establish a geostrategic and security balance and some level of predictability. From there, perhaps the foundation can be laid for efforts to rebuild trust.
To this end, I believe that Canada should support the initiation of a cross-European, transatlantic security dialogue, perhaps in the context of the OSCE, to engage in an open consideration of how the existing security architecture might be revised to take account both of Russia's security concerns, which it feels NATO expansion has undermined, as well as the security and sovereignty concerns of small and medium-sized European countries that feel threatened by Russia. While the U.S. is at the moment an unpredictable and therefore potentially unreliable partner in undertaking such an initiative, I believe that Canada should work with the EU and the OSCE in that direction.
Thank you very much. I'm happy to respond to any questions.