Belt and Road InitiativeThe Pomposity of Pompeo - Step Back, You Don’t Own Canada

The Pomposity of Pompeo - Step Back, You Don’t Own Canada

The Pomposity of Pompeo - Step Back, You Don’t Own Canada

In a major speech to the Arctic Council on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Canada's claim over the Northwest Passage is "illegitimate." This provocative and false statement was met with the sound of silence by the neutered and impotent Trudeau government who have accepted the role of being America’s bitch instead of boldly standing up for Canada’s interests as an independent nation. The Arctic and the Northwest Passage is within Canada’s recognized sovereign borders and is not an international corridor to be exploited by outliers. Canada must not allow the Americans and other foreign interests who seek to use this Arctic region for their own economic and strategic purposes to challenge our governance and jurisdiction over an untouched and ecologically sensitive area.

The preposterous claim by Pompeo is all the more insulting given that the United States is apparently our best friend. With friends like that, we don’t need enemies. Pompeo’s obtuse statement was couched in the fear factor vernacular where he sighted things like China's increased Arctic presence as threatening to North American security and something that could be harmful to the environment. For the record, there are no Chinese development projects in Canada’s arctic. In 2017, the Chinese research icebreaker MV Xue Long (Snow Dragon) traversed through Canadian and European Arctic waters supporting scientific research while mapping part of the seafloor to obtain information that may be useful for future cargo shipments. The Chinese sought and were granted permission from the Canadian government to be there, and a Canadian researcher was on board during the excursion. Listening to Pompeo, you would think they are taking over. He also expressed concerns about Russia's military presence on their side of the Arctic and said that Russia’s claims that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway are counter to American security interests. "No one denies Russia has significant Arctic interests. We recognize that Russia is not the only nation making illegitimate claims,” said Pompeo. Bingo, Mike! Take a look in the mirror!

Pompeo’s narrative was a page out of the Trump playbook where you just make something up - a lie, for example - and then present it as fact. He claimed that the “U.S. has a long-contested feud with Canada over sovereign claims through the Northwest Passage." That is poppycock. Canada has no feud with the United States over the passage. It is as much a part of Canada as Alaska is a part of the United States. He ignored resources like real facts, maps, sovereign rights and international law. He completely ignored the 1988 Arctic Cooperation agreement reached by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former president Ronald Reagan which allows the U.S. to designate the Northwest Passage as an international waterway within Canadian sovereign territory.

After Pompeo’s speech, Fen Hampson, the head of the international security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, and an expert on Arctic issues, told CTV news that Pompeo’s comments “underscores the 'upset-every-applecart' approach by the Trump administration to Canada-U.S. relations."

Pompeo and the Americans want access to our North because the melting Arctic sea ice is opening the Northwest Passage up as a viable commercial shipping route.

Not surprisingly, the Trudeau government’s response to Pompeo’s threat came from a bureaucrat. "Canada and the U.S. have differing views regarding the status of the Northwest Passage under international law," said Guillaume Berube, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs. "The situation is well managed, including through the 1988 Arctic Cooperation Agreement, according to which the U.S. government seeks Canada's consent for its icebreakers to navigate the waterways. Canada remains committed to exercising the full extent of its rights and sovereignty over its territory and its Arctic waters, including the various waterways commonly referred to as the Northwest Passage. Those waterways are part of the internal waters of Canada."

The response ignores Pompeo’s assertions and suggests it was business as usual. The Trudeau Liberals took a similar approach when forced into renegotiating NAFTA at great damage to our dairy industry. Then, there are the unilateral, unnecessary, unfair and crippling tariffs the Trump administration   foisted on Canadian steel exports, costing our economy billions. The Trudeau government's response……silence.

If the American government does not recognize the Arctic as part of Canada, then it would only follow that the Americans would have to recognize similar claims if made by other countries - say China or Russia. This of course is preposterous.

Canada's territorial sovereignty over the Arctic and Northwest Passage requires that the U.S. or any other country seek Canada's permission to transit through these straits.  

Hansen says that currently “there is little that Canada can do if the U.S. sends a ship through the passage without prior notification.”

“We can remind them, though, that if they are worried about a growing Chinese and Russian presence in the North and aspirations to create a circumpolar Silk Road, they might want to work more closely with their NORAD partner and refrain from challenging our sovereignty," said Hampson."This isn't the time to be throwing snowballs."

Pompeo's claim that China is trying to build infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic is part of the Trump trade war strategy to further isolate China and present the country as an adversary and enemy of the west, including Canada. The United States also feels threatened by China’s growing global economic influence, especially with regards to the highly successful Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China's signature international, multibillion-dollar infrastructure project. The BRI aims to expand trade by building roads, ports and other facilities to connect Asia through Africa and the Middle East to Europe. It currently spans several continents with more than 90 participant countries.

The United States refuse to participate in the project and claim the Chinese have ulterior motives. They say Beijing is developing critical infrastructure outside China, using Chinese money, Chinese companies, and Chinese workers with the overall goal of establishing a permanent Chinese security presence. The Chinese call the project a win-win for participating countries. Based on the BRI projects already completed, those underway, and the amount of people employed by the initiative (300,000), it appears that the Chinese are winning the argument. The initiative has been a huge success in more than 90 countries.

Pompeo’s line that Chinese are "planning to build infrastructure from Canada, to the Northwest Territories, to Siberia as part of the BRI is also false. While it is true that the Chinese have expressed an interest in the Arctic, the fact is the Chinese are not building anything in Canada’s Arctic but it fits Pompeo’s false narrative to have everyone think they are up to something.

The bottom line is that Trump and Pompeo will use any opening, even if it means screwing Canada in the process, to serve American interests.

A case in point is how Canada is being used in the arrest of Huawei Technologies Vice President Meng Wanzhou, who was detained in Vancouver at the request of U.S. authorities on December 1, 2018, and is currently free on bail. Meng is the company's chief financial officer and daughter of its founder. The Americans have charged her with bank fraud, wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit both. Huawei and Meng vehemently deny the charges and are fighting extradition in the Canadian courts while she remains under house arrest in Vancouver. The Trudeau government could have and should have denied the request. The government can still release Meng.

Immediately following her arrest, U.S. President Donald Trump mused that he may let Meng go if it's in America’s trade interests.

Canada’s detainment of Meng has greatly angered China. The Chinese stopped Canadian canola shipments, crippling a 3 billion dollar industry in Canada and just last week they suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork producers from Quebec, damaging a second industry in Canada. China has also detained two Canadians on charges of spying and continues to vent their anger at Canada for what they see as the very improper treatment of China’s most successful female business executive who has never had any legal issues and leads the world’s most successful telecom company.

Canada has fumbled along and instead of putting an end to these months ago and releasing Meng; we’ve continued to play the role of a pawn in Trump’s game at great economic and reputational cost to our country and government.

The Americans are so confident in our continued acquiescence to their desires whether it is on NAFTA, steel tariffs, Huawei and Meng or other matters, that they are now making a public claim that they actually own part of our Arctic or at least have rights to it.

Canada has become the meat in the sandwich in an ongoing political and trade war between the world’s two largest economic superpowers. Worse, the Trudeau government’s penchant for diplomacy by selfies and vagaries with a scent of moral superiority thrown in has made us a butt joke in global affairs.

Canada needs to stand up to the American bullies and say enough is enough. We should increase our naval and coast guard presence in the Arctic to protect our Arctic security. We should release Meng Wanzhou and work to reset our relationship with China. Finally, we should tell Trump, Pompeo and their administration to stick it where the sun don't shine. We are small, but we are mighty.

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