Canadians generally will not follow domestic politics in the Netherlands – even outside the distractions of a federal election – but we would like to note one particular development this past week.
The country’s foreign minister after a no-confidence motion in the Dutch parliament has resigned from his post. reason? The government’s response to the situation in Afghanistan, particularly dealing with the evacuation of Kabul.
Here in Canada, no such calculation has been made on the missteps of our own government in Afghanistan. Certainly no one has resigned and arguably, no one has really been held accountable.
Indeed, the government that mishandled the response in Afghanistan is seeking to be rewarded in the polls in Monday’s federal election.
Despite the focus on Afghanistan in the early days of the campaign, the domestic part of this election has been largely absent from meaningful dialogue on foreign policy issues. This is not unique to the Canadian elections, but the foreign policy challenges awaiting the next government are indeed unique in many ways. In other words, foreign policy may not have any significance before the election, but it will certainly be important the moment it ends.
This past week the surprise announcement of a new Indo-Pacific security partnership between the US, UK and Australia has been made. AUKUS, as the new agreement is called, is a bit strange to the Canadian government.
By all accounts, this is not only a great disgrace to Canada, but a major indictment of our approach to foreign policy. According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian officials were fully closed guard by announcement. We were not consulted about the partnership, which clearly means that there was no consideration of inviting Canada to participate. However it is difficult to know what would be worse: that we would not be invited or that we would be so concerned about offending China that we would decline such an invitation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to downplay the importance of all this by suggesting that the deal was actually about Australia’s interest in buying American and British nuclear submarine technology. however, as Noted by former Vice Admiral Mark Norman – who was in charge of the Navy and deputy chief of defense staff – Trudeau’s assessment is both “wrong” and “misleading”.
Therefore, it is possible that Trudeau’s attempt to save face is actually exacerbating the situation – a situation in which we find ourselves out of step with our most important allies in matters relating to China. It is difficult to think of a more pressing foreign policy challenge awaiting the next government.
The fact that the AUKUS partnership is a product of the Biden administration is particularly embarrassing for Trudeau. for whatever support from Barack Obama And Hillary Clinton deserve, the rebuke from the most important Democrats means a lot. Trudeau has made most of his relationship with President Biden, but it’s hard to see how that friendship has given much in the way of Canada’s results.
It is important that as we deal with these pressing issues relating to China – the two Michaels and Huawei decisions, to name just two – we stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies. If our colleagues don’t think we’ve done it, it all makes the job so much harder.
As security experts Stephanie Carwin and Thomas Juneau As told in an op-ed last weekCanada “dedicates fewer resources to developing relationships with its most important security partners,” and the perception among those partners is that Canada “takes much more than it gives from its security and intelligence partnerships.”
All this will have to change. The extent to which the other major parties have the will and ability to do so is hard to measure. If this election gives our leaders the impression that foreign policy is not a top priority, we should not be surprised if they do not make it their own.
Rob Breckenridge is the host of “Afternoon with Rob Breckenridge” on Granthshala News Radio 770 Calgary and is a commentator for Granthshala News.