Turkey and the need to talk to Moscow
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey has pursued what it calls a “balanced approach” to its relations with both countries, including for example a rejection of non-UN sanctions against Russia (in accordance with long-standing Turkish sanctions policy), while at the same time acting as a major supplier of drones and other military equipment to Ukraine.
Writing recently for the European Leadership Network, Tacan Ildem, former NATO Assistant Secretary General and former Permanent Representative of Turkey to NATO and the OSCE describes the benefits of this approach:
Since March of this year, this balanced approach has enabled [Turkish] President Erdoğan to reach out to both Putin and Zelensky in diplomatic efforts to facilitate agreements on different fronts.
These have had some tangible results, such as the grain deal and the agreement on the exchange of prisoners of war, demonstrating the importance of keeping channels of communication with both parties open to bring about concrete results on humanitarian grounds.
It also underlines the need to talk to Moscow….
For the full analysis, including Turkey’s “careful compartmentalisation of strategic interests and divergences” in its relations with Russia — reminiscent of the pragmatic approach of Norway examined in our 7 October 2022 blog post — see A balancing act: Turkey’s misunderstood position on Ukraine (europeanleadershipnetwork.org, 9 November 2022).
Poland, missiles and inadvertent escalation
Early on 15 November 2022 Poland’s Foreign Ministry said that a “Russian-made missile fell in the eastern part of the country near the Ukrainian border, killing two”. Initial reports by both Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in a 16 November press conference, made it clear that
Our preliminary analysis suggests that the incident was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defence missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian missile attacks.
Some media reports in Canada uncritically repeated the initial Polish and Ukrainian allegations even after the NATO clarification.
The potential for misunderstanding and inadvertent escalation is frighteningly clear. We must start focusing on how to end this war, with the increasing ferocity of Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine making such efforts even more necessary and, at the same time, exponentially more difficult.
Inside Story and war termination
On 17 November 2022 near the end of an Aljazeera “Inside Story” expert discussion on the implications of the Polish explosion, Robert Hunter, the former US ambassador to NATO under President Bill Clinton, stated:
The important thing now is for wise people to start thinking about how do you try to bring this to a halt in ways that will meet the minimum objectives of both sides.
The ensuing discussion revealed just how much more difficult it will now be to find a negotiated solution, with Samir Puri, visiting lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London and author of Russia’s Road to War with Ukraine, stating:
Sadly I think we are looking at some form of de facto, if not de jure, partition, the analogy being Cyprus … [which includes] “some diplomatic fudges” around what is or is not sovereign territory.
But he emphasizes that we are a long way from that, as Ukraine is determined to
test the full extent of its de-occupation potential.
The third expert participant, Alexander Titov, lecturer in modern European history at Queen’s University Belfast had the last word, asserting first that Russia had invaded because “Minsk II was never going to be implemented,” the reason being it was simply “too unpopular” in Ukraine.
As for the end of the war, in his view:
We are not anywhere near those negotiations. But the question is where the final frontline will be when the negotiations start probably in a year or couple of years’ time.
Both the timeline projected by Alexander Titov to end the war and Sami Puri’s Cyprus-type partition analogy are hugely alarming. UN monitoring of the “Green Line” buffer zone separating South and North Cyprus since 1964 has been called a peacekeeping success (new outbreaks of fighting having been largely prevented) but a manifest diplomatic peacemaking failure, since a lasting peace settlement has yet to be agreed.
For the full Aljazeera Inside Story video, see Can the risk of spillover from the Ukraine war be contained? (Aljazeera.com, 16 November 2022).
Canada announced its latest tranche of military support for Ukraine at a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) on 16 November 2022. According to a Government of Canada statement, this military aid package responds to urgent priorities identified by Ukraine, including:
- approximately $5 million to continue providing critical satellite imagery to the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU);
- more than $18 million for additional, high-resolution drone cameras; and,
- up to $10 million to provide additional winter gear to support the AFU, including portable heaters, thermal blankets, and sleeping bags sourced from Canadian companies through the Canadian Commercial Corporation.
The problem of diversion
On the risk of Western-supplied weapons to Ukraine ending up on the black market, see a new study by Alexander Kupatadze, “War Can Both Help and Hurt Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Efforts (russiamatters.org, 17 November 2022).
The Israeli election and Canadian values
Entitled Mr. Trudeau, after Israel’s election on November 1, do you still think Canada and Israel have “shared values”? , the 16 November 2022 Canada Talks Israel Palestine blog post by Peter Larson begins:
Prime Minister Trudeau rarely misses an occasion to talk about how Canada and Israel have “shared values”.
But the most recent Israeli election, in which more than 80% of Israelis voted for parties espousing Jewish supremacy, including extreme racist parties, challenges that assertion.
He then asks:
Is it time for Mr. Trudeau to drop that language and face the reality that Israel is a state in which the majority of the population holds views very different from those held by most Canadians?
Larson explains that over 90 out of 120 members in the parliament represent right-wing Zionist parties.
As for Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, which now holds the most seats in the Knesset:
[It] includes open racists like Bezalel Smotrich known for his homophobic, ultra-nationalist and religiously bigoted statements (he said that he was “a proud homophobe”) and Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Jewish Power Party, a convicted Jewish terrorist who is a disciple of the convicted Jewish terrorist rabbi Meir Kahane.
Larson notes that even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a longtime supporter of Israel, has “yielded to the evidence”, lamenting in a recent opinion piece:
The coalition that Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu leads is (…) a rowdy alliance of ultra-Orthodox leaders and ultranationalist politicians, including some outright racist, anti-Arab Jewish extremists once deemed completely outside the norms and boundaries of Israeli politics.
Time to stop pretending
Isn’t it time for Prime Minister Trudeau to stop pretending that Canada and Israel share the values of democracy, human rights and equality, when Israeli society has just massively indicated that they hold no such values?
Others are asking similar questions.
Esther Enkin, board member, and Ben Murane, executive director of the New Israel Fund of Canada have written an article for the paywalled Hill Times entitled Israel’s new government will test Canada’s shared values (16 November 2022).
Canada’s relationship with Israel is likely about to become the most strained it’s ever been.
In their view, Israel has only itself to blame for Canada’s “ongoing re-evaluation”, citing
a decade under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successive governments [which] has seen laws passed demoting Arabs to second-class citizens, incitement against political opponents, attempts to wholesale deport African asylum seekers, and near annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Worse still are the detailed proposals of the extremists with whom Netanyahu is now negotiating, including:
- freeing Netanyahu from his corruption trials,
- legalizing gay “conversion therapy,”
- deporting “disloyal citizens,”
- creating a Ministry of Migration to encourage Arab citizens to self-deport,
- accelerated dispossession of Palestinian land, and
- a litany of judicial reforms aimed at unfettered majoritarian power by the government.
Majoritarianism is a belief that the majority community should be able to rule a country without regard for minorities.
Enkin and Murane assert:
It will become vitally important for the Canadian government to demonstrate clearly that it opposes moves towards unfettered majoritarianism. This can be done in many ways both public and private.
To this end, they make the following recommendations to our government:
- refusing to meet with Israeli politicians who are “unabashed racists,”
- clearly communicating that circumscribing the power of Israel’s judiciary is a “red line for any democracy,” and
- being prepared to support Israeli initiatives that do share Canadian values, particularly in relation to Israel’s most significant civil and human rights groups.
Their article concludes:
Shared values of equality and democracy are the basis of the Israel-Canada relationship. We must be prepared when Israel’s new government tests the strength and depth of those values. For Israelis’ own sake, they must find Canadian democratic values to be unshakable.
We call upon the Government of Canada to demonstrate clearly, and unequivocally, in ways both public and private, that it opposes moves by Israel towards unfettered majoritarianism.
Some great news about protecting civilians from explosive weapons
On 18 November 2022, 80 countries, including 23 NATO states, endorsed a declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
The agreement—the first of its kind—is the culmination of a three-year diplomatic process led by Ireland to negotiate a declaration to ensure both the protection of civilians and stricter implementation of international humanitarian law.
Today’s Political Declaration sets out actions to be taken in military operations to strengthen the protection of civilians.
Its implementation will change how militaries operate in populated areas, including a commitment around restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons, when their use may be expected to cause harm to civilians or civilian objects.
Webinar on the Chasm between Intelligence Analysis and Policy Decisions
Hosted jointly by the Canadian International Council (CIC) Middle East Study Group (MESG) and the Security and Intelligence Study Group (SISG), the webinar will discuss the critical — but fraught — relationship between intelligence analysis and policy creation.
When: Wednesday 30 November 2022 (1700 – 1830 ET)
To register click here.
Korean Peninsula Update: “Crossings” Film Screening
On 10 November 2022 at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, the film Crossings was screened. The film description reads in part:
In a crucial feminist interrogation of inter-Korean politics and U.S. imperialism, Crossings follows international women activists [including Canadians] attempting to cross the 38th parallel [DMZ separating South and North Korea], demanding an end to the ongoing Korean War.
Note that this film can still be seen as a ticketed free online screening from November 14 to November 20, 2022, by clicking here.
Anti-Personnel Landmine Treaty Film Event
For another important film event, see the premiere on 5 December 2022 of the documentary The Treaty, being screened on the 25th Anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty Banning Anti-Personnel Landmines.
To review the exciting event programme — chock full of Ottawa Treaty luminaries — and obtain tickets, click here.
Photo credit: Government of Canada (Operation Unifier)
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