Off to war in Ukraine?

Has Prime Minister Harper placed Canada on the path to war?

On February 6, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Harper is “promising to campaign for NATO membership” for the Ukraine.  This message has come with no public discourse about the possible implications of such actions.  Seemingly unbeknownst to the Prime Minister are the details of the NATO Agreement of which Article 5 is one he should have read and reflected on.

Article 5 stipulates that alliance members must come to the aid of any member subject to armed attack.  This was the basis for Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan when the U.S. invoked the clause.  Similarly, a Ukraine claiming attack by Russia – and the Prime Minister has essentially already said that this is the case – would lead to Canada becoming involved in a likely World War III.

Although there is potential for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine’s territorial conflict with Russia, one probably should not hold one’s breath.  A Ukraine emboldened by NATO membership is unlikely to seek a negotiated outcome.  The internal political dynamics with its mesh of liberal and ultra-right factions will not provide an environment for a realpolitik outcome.

Harper may not realize the significance of his pronouncement.  After all, his statement may be more directed at the Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora than a pronouncement to be noted in the international arena.  That, however, could prove a costly mistake.




Kurt F. Jensen

Adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ottawa where he teaches courses on intelligence in the department of political science, career foreign service officer who specialized in security and intelligence, deputy director of foreign intelligence at the Department of Foreign Affairs, author of Cautious Beginnings: Canadian Foreign Intelligence, 1939-1951 (UBC Press 2008).

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