Accueil - Groupe de recherche sur l'intégration continentale (GRIC) Groupe de recherche sur l'intégration continentale (GRIC) Centre d'études sur l'intégration et la mondialisation (CEIM)
Accueil CEIM / Accueil GRIC / Institut d’études internationales de Montréal (IEIM) / Le Canada et la Russie d’aujourd’hui / Canada and Russia Today

Le Canada et la Russie d’aujourd’hui / Canada and Russia Today

Puce noire 22 mars 2000 , Anne Leahy

Conférence bilingue prononcée par Mme Anne Leahy au Glendon College, York University, Toronto, le 22 mars 2004, en tant que John Holmes Memorial Lecture.

It is a great honour for me to address you today in memory of John W Holmes at Glendon College. John Holmes was an eminent figure in foreign policy half a century ago when Canada was helping to shape new international institutions. He argued for the place of middle powers like Canada in the international order that emerged at the end of the Second World War. Ten years after the disappearance of the bi-polar order over which the Soviet Union co-presided, there is renewed emphasis on the establishment of international institutions suited to a dynamic world environment in which decision-making is no longer the preserve of national capitals nor even of governments.
Ten years ago, in his John Holmes Memorial Lecture, one of my predecessors in Moscow, Geoffrey Pearson, noted : "For Holmes, Canada’s influence and power were to be put at the service of what he called ’our genius for internationalism’." The same remark remains ever so true today. Canadians continue to play a leading role in promoting the rule of law in international affairs, as we have recently witnessed in the development of the International Criminal Court. This has also become one of our important interfaces with Russia.

John Holmes in the USSR

Let me share with you a little of John Holmes’ Soviet background which will give you also a glimpse of his personality.
John Holmes, as many of you know, was no stranger to Russia although it is by accident that he found himself on a ship sailing for St-Petersburg. Hardly three years after Canada had established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, the Gouzenko affair broke out. The defection of this clerk working in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa eventually led to the downgrading of our relations. Holmes who was serving in London at the time was asked, in the words of Professor David Diles, to trade Grosvenor Square for Red Square. As he wrote with characteristic humour in 1978, there was a need to ensure an Embassy presence at the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution. His proximity meant he could make it before the Baltic Sea froze. "I had been sent to this country as an insult - not to deliver an insult, a mission entrusted to senior diplomats, but just by reason of my being well below ambassadorial rank." (Weekend Magazine, March 4, 1978)
Robert Ford with whom he switched places in Moscow had been holding the fort after the ambassador’s recall earlier in 1947. I had the opportunity to serve under him for a few months in his final year in Moscow in 1980. It seems to me that both men understood the duality of their environment and were adept in discerning the thousand-year-old heritage of Russian history and culture beneath the detestable and pervasive Soviet cloak. This is an aptitude that has much to be commended today.


Ma conférence porte sur la Russie de Vladimir Poutine et la politique de ses partenaires occidentaux dont le Canada. Cette année marque le centenaire de nos relations officielles. Elles remontent à mai 1900 lorsque Nicolas Struve débarqua à Montréal pour y établir le premier consulat russe au Canada.
La Russie d’aujourd’hui demeure une puissance nucléaire, membre permanent du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, aux ressources naturelles abondantes et au capital humain élevé. Le Canada et ses partenaires occidentaux se sont engagés politiquement et financièrement à l’appuyer dans sa transition lorsque l’engagement de Mikhail Gorbachov a paru réel. Depuis lors, l’évolution du contexte international et le coût social élevé des réformes ont accentué le défi que doit relever le successeur de Boris Yeltsine. Vladimir Poutine s’est engagé publiquement à demeurer dans la voie du devéloppement démocratique. Le Canada veut bâtir sur les efforts consentis jusqu’à présent et contribuer à ce que la Russie demeure effectivement sur cette voie.

Era of Restoration

Vladimir Putin has publicly committed himself to pursuing the course of democratic development. He is also dedicated to restoring the power of the state. Here are two major concepts, democracy and "statism", that are compatible only in a system of governance where checks on power are in place and its balance is assured by an absolute respect for the rule of law. Success in achieving the two goals will depend on the place that liberal values may come to occupy in Russia. Liberal values are taken here only in the most general sense, the development of the individual in a society that allows for free choices. To my mind, this is the crucial question facing Russia and its partners today. The task presupposes that the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government will be allowed to play their institutional role. It also depends on the emergence of independent political parties and the unfettered activity of free media.
The new President, after his election in a few days, will have to deal with a fragmented economy in which large remnants of the soviet system survive untouched by reforms. He must restore the mechanisms of governance in order for the economy to grow on a sustainable basis and allow Russia to maintain its credibility with the partners it wants and needs to have. It is a given that Russia’s new president will have to mitigate the social damage caused by the flawed implementation of reforms. He can count on popular support when he sets out to reclaim power for the authority of the state ? from the regions, some of which have become fiefdoms out of the reach of federal law, as well as from economic actors which have abused the state’s largesse while escaping any political accountability.
Putin talks in terms of restoring governance of the "vertical", a Soviet term in vogue again, that describes the political chain of command from the center down to the local level. Constitutional reform is as formidable a challenge in Russia as it is in Canada so in the immediate, direct measures such as more intrusive use of the office of presidential representatives in the regions and greater recourse to the constitutional court seem more likely.
Putin has already endorsed greater state intervention in the economy, for the time being. He talks of the necessity of state involvement beyond devising rules and controlling their observance, in "setting the scale and planning mechanisms for the system of state regulation". The scale of exploitation of the system to private ends has been such that any measure that effectively curbs losses to the state for the sake of social solidarity will be welcome by the population.
While Putin justifies his "statist" approach on the historical predilection of Russians for a strong state, he is very much aware of the other side of the relationship. Polling over the last two-three years has consistently shown that most Russians are not willing to subordinate their personal interests to public and state interests.
There is however another interesting phenomenon throughout the country that is rightly highlighted in the UNDP’s 1999 Human Development Report for Russia. It is local government and the growing involvement of citizens in local elections. Local government has historically played a role in Russia where it was encouraged by authorities in periods of social crisis. Today, it is fully provided for in the constitution and federal laws but faces immense obstacles where regional heads view it with hostility. The Kremlin could put to good use the pressures local government exerts from below on regional administrations and concurrently bring those recalcitrant regional heads into line
In the pursuit of his objective to restore the mechanisms of governance, the president’s commitment to democratic reform will be gauged primarily by his ability to enforce the respect of rights and freedoms and for the rule of law.
Good arguments will be put forward for strengthening intervention by the security apparatus in such areas as financial supervision and tax collection. It will be tempting for some in the power ministries to test the strength of their mandate and the extent of their accountability under the law. There does exist however today in Russia a safeguard against the potential for abuse or misinterpretation by security authorities. It is the significant development of civil society over the past years. In many areas, the population has matured in its capacity and determination to defend its rights. Where previously none existed, there is now a grass roots civil society conscious of its ability to protect its hard won rights and freedoms. Nominally, the legal instruments are in place. New powerful tools of internet links and international networking are also available and used.
Centuries of history and a few decades of communism show that the rule of law in Russia is primarily an instrument in the hands of the authorities. Putin recently called for the "dictatorship of the law". This is not a new call. In fact, this expression goes back to the Gorbachov era. What was meant then was that officials should stop resisting the new liberalizing regulations being decreed. It is hoped that what is now meant is the equality of all before the law. Legal reform certainly, and Canada is actively assisting in this, but above all non-interference by authorities in the process of the law will be sure signs that the "dictatorship of the law" is taking hold.
There are prominent liberal Russians who have publicly wondered whether in the new President’s view, the rights of the individual are at least as worthy of respect as those of the state. Decades of communist practice denying this precept have created a powerful mind-set. Recent events such as the intimidation and mistreatment of journalists and control measures such as the requirement that internet providers give the security services access to their accounts, at their own expense, do raise questions and concerns.

Les Valeurs de Vladimir Poutine

Le nouveau président que la Russie élira dans quelques jours sera dans la lignée de son prédecesseur, Boris Yeltsine et de celui qui pourrait être son père spirituel, Iouri Andropov. Les deux objectifs de l’équipe politique ayant réussi la transition du premier au second président de la Fédération de Russie seront atteints : la continuité dans la poursuite des réformes c’est-à-dire, assurer l’héritage politique de Yeltsine et l’orientation vers l’avenir personnifiée par un leader d’une nouvelle génération.
Le nouveau président fera face au même défi que son prédecesseur. Il est de restaurer la crédibilité du pouvoir de l’état à la grandeur du pays, ses vingt-deux républiques ethniques et 67 divers autres sujets de la Fédédration tout en respectant les engagements de la Russie auprès de ses partenaires occidentaux. Il est clair que le pays à la démographie décroissante, sa population a chuté de deux pourcent en huit ans, et au produit interne brut équivalent à celui des Pays-Bas, ne tire pas profit de son potentiel. Il doit gérer une dette extérieure énorme sur la base d’accords délicats avec les membres du Club de Paris. Il est aussi évident au nombre de lois passées dans les régions qui sont en opposition directe à la constitution fédérale et à l’impunité criminelle de certains chefs d’administration locale que le fédéralisme à la russe ne s’impose pas comme il le doit. Le président tiendra donc nécessairement un discours et prendra des mesures fermes pour satisfaire aux exigences internes ; il devra toutefois agir dans le respect des valeurs auquel la Russie s’est engagée en choisissant de s’intégrer aux institutions européennes et qu’exige sa présence à la même table que ses partenaires du G-8.
Dans son allocution de démission du 31 décembre, Boris Yeltsine, s’est conduit comme le Tsar quelques siècles plus tôt. Il a demandé pardon au peuple russe - pour les espoirs déçus des réformes. En reprenant ainsi à son compte les erreurs de la mise en oeuvre des réformes, il visait à épargner à son successeur une bonne part de l’opprobe populaire. Avec une ardoise politique pour ainsi dire vierge, le nouveau président pourra donner les coups de barre nécessaires tout en maintenant le cap de l’ouverture. Il dispose en plus d’un atout que Yeltsine n’a jamais eu, celui d’un parlement docile, élu en décembre 1999.
Peu de gens connaissait Vladimir Poutine avant sa nomination comme premier ministre en août 1999. Un livre « À la première personne. Dialogues avec Vladimir Poutine » paru le 13 mars nous le révèle un peu plus. Son métier d’agent de sécurité de l’état consistait à espionner l’Otan en Allemagne dans les années quatre-vingt. Il ne joue pas au tennis, il est judoka. Toutes ses déclarations nous montrent qu’il s’inscrit dans la tradition patriotique de son institution d’attache. Il affirme que sa toute première préoccupation est de redonner à la Russie ses valeurs morales.
L’importance accordée à ce point peut nous sembler surprenante. Il soustend poutant le débat sur l’évolution politique en Russie. Le vacuum qui s’est ouvert à la disparition de l’idéologie communiste ne s’est pas comblé et s’est même accru grâce à la conduite éhontée des premiers bénéficiaires des réformes. Le patriarcat de Moscou et toute la Russie ne s’est pas imposé comme autorité morale. Bien au contraire, il a fallu une loi sur la liberté de conscience et un paragraphe dans le nouveau Concept de sécurité nationale pour protéger l’orthodoxie russe des influences étrangères. Yeltsine avait bien senti la nécessité de réagir lorsqu’il a lancé le projet de définir "l’idée nationale russe" en 1997. Cette initiative ne pouvait réussir. Au contraire, elle a eu pour effet de mettre en relief le caractère multi-ethnique de la Russie, un autre pays qui est une véritable mosaïque. Une des conséquences de la dé-centralisation du pouvoir encouragée par Yeltsine dès 1991 et de sa réforme ayant permis l’élection des dirigeants régionaux fut de réveiller l’identité culturelle et religieuse et de re-donner voix aux populations non-russes, surtout dans les républiques ethniques.
En proclamant son engagement à restaurer les valeurs des russes, Poutine rejoint directement deux grands courants politiques actuels en Russie. D’une part toute personne ayant étudié le discours soviétique en reconnaîtra une des clés. Il réconforte donc toute une couche de la population qui associe la réforme à la dépravation, la corruption, l’influence supposément pernicieuse de la culture américaine. D’autre part, il répond aussi aux réformateurs de la première heure qui attribuent le manque de succès des réformes à leur absence d’assise morale, fruit du système soviétique qui avait réussi à émasculer ces valeurs morales.
Par ailleurs, puisqu’il est jeune, de St-Pétersbourg et qu’il est associé au groupe des réformateurs économiques, Poutine se présente comme l’homme en qui reposent les espoirs de la jeune classe d’entrepreneurs. Dans ce livre "Dialogues ?", il déclare sans équivoque que le chemin de la Russie est déjà trouvé, inutile d’en chercher un nouveau. C’est celui du développement démocratique. Il place la Russie dans le champ des valeurs de l’Europe de l’ouest. Ce faisant, il rejette les tentatives de trouver une troisième voie. Il ne s’agit pas ici de celle de Tony Blair, mais plutôt de la tentative des intellectuels en fin de régime soviétique de concilier l’irréconciliable. En cela, Poutine se réclame des tsars ayant puisé en Europe certains idées et modèles de fonctionnement de société. Il faut se garder de se méprendre sur ce choix européen comme l’avaient fait de grands intellectuels européens à l’époque de la Grande Catherine. La mise en oeuvre des ces modèles répondera définitivement aux spécificités de la Russie dont celle que privilégie Poutine, un état fort.

A year after his appointment as head of the Federal Security Service in August 1998, Putin was picked by Yeltsin to be the successor on whom he could finally count to ensure his legacy and his welfare. The cover of Russia’s lead newsmagazine featured the new prime minister against the background of Yuri Andropov, long-time head of the KGB who was briefly General-Secretary in 1983-84. It read : " The Kremlin wants to acquire in Putin a new Andropov - Aficionados of Iron Discipline and Drastic Measures". This juxtaposition was meant to resonate favourably, for instance, Andropov is associated with the beginnings of an anti-corruption campaign that Putin has now committed himself to. The stakes are high : restore credibility for reform and the state’s ability to govern thus fulfilling popular expectations while creating some distance from the coalition of interests ? intertwined business and political interests - that brought him where he is.
His spokesmen tell us that the days of the oligarchs are gone ; meaning that big business no longer has a firm grip on the Kremlin. This is an affirmation that requires verification over the coming months, as good corporate behaviour has not been its hallmark. In his first meeting with the Foreign Investment Advisory Committee last month in Moscow, he outlined a programme of further legal reform, the return of flight capital, the fight against corruption and the respect of investors’ rights, in particular of foreign investors for whom the playing field is not always even. Herein lies a challenge that eluded his predecessors. The cost of failure will be higher for Putin who has admitted that time plays against Russia and therefore, that it cannot manage without foreign investment.
From his background in the State Security Committee, we can assume that he has been steeped in the values of this elite body, patriotism and belief in the greatness of Russia. Not too surprisingly, in his first policy statement Putin listed these two values as the most important "traditional values of Russians" to be restored. These were followed by statism and social solidarity ? in praise of the strong state as the "guarantor of order and the initiator and main driving force of change" (Russia At The Turn Of The Millennium, Vladimir Putin, December 31, 1999)
This last statement helps us better understand what is at stake for Putin in the conflict in Chechnya. There are assuredly several dimensions to the persisting troubles in this Caucasian republic. The restoration of a strong state being a sine qua non for Putin, the constitutional dimension, which means here the preservation of state sovereignty over this constituent part of the Russian Republic, is primordial.


In addition to loyalty to the state and its presidential institution, will the acting president also show another professional trait of viewing the world as "us and not us" ? At the end of last year, he advised his former colleagues to be wary of enemies. This was hardly a momentous remark to make to a gathering of spies. Russia is racing to regain a sustainable economic footing and in a highly competitive technological environment, all major players promote their interests first. This statement does however reflect the cumulative impact of events in 1999 that eroded the trust built between Russia and the West.
These events are the entry of three Central European countries into NATO, NATO’s adoption of a new Strategic Concept, its intervention in ex-Yugoslavia and further testing for a National Missile Defense system being pursued by the United States. The USA knows that building such a system would require Russia’s agreement to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the USSR in 1972. This agreement is viewed by Russia, and indeed Canada and the international community, as the foundation of all successive arms control agreements with the USA and the cornerstone of arms control and disarmament.
Taken together, these events have increased the misgivings of Russians, particularly among the General Staff, towards the West. This is reflected in the revised National Security Concept adopted in January. It has a more pessimistic threat assessment than in 1997. Whereas it then stated that the threat of major aggression against Russia was "practically absent", it states today that : "The level and scope of the military threat are growing." It goes on : "A number of states are stepping up efforts to weaken Russia politically, economically, militarily and in other ways." The threshold for use of nuclear weapons is lowered, from a case when the very existence of the state is threatened to the "need to repulse armed aggression, if all other measures of revolving the crisis situation have been exhausted and proven ineffective".
We do well to remember here that foreign policy is very much a presidential constitutional prerogative. Up to his becoming Secretary of the National Security Council in 1998, Putin would not have been directly involved in the complex balancing act of dealing with the exigencies of maintaining good relations with Russia’s partners, above all the United States. Although Russia finds itself in a more difficult context externally and domestically today, one can surmise that the "raison d’état" that dictated Yeltsin’s line of conduct will guide any incumbent in the Kremlin whose goal is the restoration of Russia’s power and its integration in the international economy.
Russia also has an enormous stake in reviving the credibility of the United Nations as the supreme body responsible for decisions of war and peace. The world order as Russia sees it revolves around the pre-eminence of one super-power. Its goal is to foster a "multi-polar world" ; it is actively seeking a " strategic partnership" with China, stronger relations with the European Union and primarily to regain its ascendancy in Central Asia. At the same time, its internal weaknesses make it wary of other forms of internationalism particularly the evolution of international humanitarian law and the rising challenges to formerly incontestable tenets of international relations such as national sovereignty. Other features of our age will also impact increasingly on the conduct of Russia’s internal business, including the use of the internet and the emergence of internationally networked grass-root groups outside the purview of government.
The nineteen-nineties could have been the decade of re-emerging internationalism. With the end of East-West confrontation, it was hoped that the supremacy of the decision-making capacity of the United Nations would prevail. This did not happen. Yet, the recent failings of the UN system and last year’s intervention by regional powers have renewed impetus for the search for stronger instruments to defend our universal values. We are reminded, by Canada for example, that the Charter of the United Nations was issued in the name of "the peoples", not the governments. The UN Secretary-General, for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recalled that : "The principle of international concern for human rights took precedence over the claim of non-interference in internal affairs." The Charter protects the sovereignty of states but not at the expense of the sovereignty of peoples.


The thrust of Russia’s foreign policy in the last decade has been to seek a place in the company of western nations. Integration into western institutions is already underway, for example in the G-8 and the Council of Europe. Such integration carries with it an expectation on the part of its partners that Russia will abide by the principles that they uphold. It also implies that we, Canada and other partners, will hold Russia to these principles. In dealing with the process of restoring peace in Chechnya, the president has had to realize that Chechnya is an issue that transcends the national border. Russian reaction to concern expressed by Canada, the Council of Europe and other partners has evolved over the past months from a refusal to discuss an internal security matter to the acknowledgement that serious violations of human rights are not acceptable and agreement that international observers join the Russian team that will look into the matter on the ground.

Où se situe le Canada dans tout cela ?

Ce n’est qu’une fois libérées de leur cadre Est-Ouest que nos relations bilatérales ont acquis une certaine importance dans nos capitales respectives. Il faut bien constater que nos relations d’avant 1991 étaient celles d’une puissance moyenne avec une super-puissance dans un contexte dominé par la dimension stratégique militaire.
Le début des années quatre-vingt dix a été riche en contacts à haut niveau et en accords et autres intruments fondant nos relations avec la nouvelle Russie. La visite du Premier Ministre à Moscou en 1989 a marqué un tournant. Pour la première fois, un imposant groupe de gens d’affaires était de la partie. A partir de ce moment, nos relations retrouvent une dimension commerciale et économique qui s’ajoute à la dimension géo-stratégique qui dominait nos relations au moins depuis la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale. Il faut toutefois reconnaître que nous n’avons que timidement exploité les avantages que confèrent notre proximité nordique et la complémentarité de nos attributs physiques. Encore aujourd’hui, c’est notre rôle auprès de nos partenaires et notre activisme sur le plan multilatéral qui confèrent une qualité appréciable à nos relations. On peut penser par exemple à notre rôle facilitant l’intégration de la Russie dans le G-8 au Sommet de Halifax en 1995 et à l’Association des économies de l’Asie-Pacifique au Sommet de Vancouver en 1997.
Nos relations officielles avec la Russie remontent à 1900. Avant cette date, notre perception mutuelle se limitait au cadre des relations impériales entre la Grande-Bretagne et la Russie qui ne commencèrent à se réchauffer qu’à la fin du dix-neuvième siècle. L’arrivée au Canada en 1899 d’un groupe de dissidents russes, les Doukhabors, et la saisie de bâteaux de pêche au large de Vancouver sont à peu près les seuls événements marquants relevés avant 1900. C’est l’émigration croissante au Canada qui changea cela.
D’après le recensement de 1871, 607 russes se trouvaient au Canada, y compris les finlandais et les polonais sous domination impériale. En 1881, ils ne sont encore que 1,227. En 1901, sans compter les finlandais et les polonais, on trouve déjà 19,825 russes chez nous.
Motivé par le désir de garder à l’oeil ses sujets venus chercher du travail, le tsar nomme Nicolas Berngartovitch Struve qui débarque à Montréal en 1900 ; d’autres consuls suivirent dans les ports de Halifax et Vancouver. Dans sa correspondance, Struve relate que Sir Wilfrid Laurier note les ressemblances entre les pays, « en particulier sa partie asiatique ? et l’afflux important d’immigrants. » Struve porte à l’attention de son ministère la délicate question politique des relations entre francophones et anglophones.
De notre côté, ce sont les opportunités commerciales qu’offraient le développement des ressources de Sibérie et les ventes de fournitures militaires qui poussèrent le ministre du Commerce à dépêcher en 1916 deux délégués commerciaux canadiens, à Petrograd et à Omsk pour la partie asiatique. Nous avions également prévu deux autres délégués commerciaux à Odessa et à Rostov-sur-le-Don. Suite à la révolution bolchévique et notre participation aux interventions militaires en Sibérie en 1918 et à Vladivostok en 1919, nos relations ne survécurent pas à la naissance de l’URSS. La période d’entre les guerres fut marquée surtout par la méfiance engendrée au pays, en particulier au Québec, par les activités de propagande communiste et les aléas du commerce international sur fond de dépression économique qui nous amenèrent à un imposer un embargo de cinq ans sur le commerce soviétique. Il fut levé en 1936 sous pression de nos compagnies craignant perdre le marché soviétique au profit des américains. Ce n’est qu’en 1942 après l’attaque de l’Allemagne et dix ans après les Etats-Unis, que le Canada reconnaissait diplomatiquement le pays devenu allié militaire.

East-West Era

Canada-Soviet relations, given our NATO membership, were necessarily conditioned by the politics of the super-powers. They also reflected the dynamics of our relations with the United States. It can be said that he warmth of our bilateral relations tracked the Kremlin leadership’s policy towards the United States.
One of the Canadian scholars to have studied Canadian-Soviet relations, and was also a former colleague in Moscow, LeighSarty.He noted that in the early days, Soviet analysts of the Stalin era "dismissed Canada as the ’vassal’ of American imperialism" and how this approach was "well-suited to the chilly climate of the early Cold War". Under Khrushchev, as the atmosphere warmed into one of peaceful co-existence and as Canada became the Soviet Union’s major source of grain supplies, our relations improved. The Trudeau era with the new assertiveness of a Third Option in foreign policy, including the government’s decision to halve our troop commitment to NATO in 1969, caught the Soviet Union’s attention. As did to a very limited extent, the peace mission that Trudeau embarked on at the end of his mandate in 1983-84. Playing to the mood of worried Canadians, he sought to lower tensions following the chill-out in East-West relations going back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the deployment of its SS-20. By the fall of 83, not only was Moscow not in a position to play up this initiative given that the Secretary-General was terminally ill, but Foreign Minister Gromyko put the Canadian emissaries’ mission in its place, bluntly stating that for Moscow, everything was to be seen through the prism of US-Soviet relations.
The following reflection made by John Holmes on his return from a visit to Moscow in 1955 with Foreign Minister Lester Pearson, captured the sentiment that still prevailed among Canadian officials in 1983 as well as the reality of North American politics.
"I was surprised ? to find some serious discussion of Mr. Pearson’s having said we were a bridge between the USSR and the USA. This was really only a rather tired figure of speech knocked about in incessant toasting and not to be taken any more seriously that most metaphors of the kind. Although I had a feeling at times that Molotov was trying to convey to us the idea that we might be an interpreter of the Russians to the Americans, I don’t think they realized how bored Canadian officials are with the suggestion that we should be bridges, or interpreters or lynch-pins." (Russia Revisited, typescript, February 28, 1956)
In terms of Trudeau’s possible influence on Soviet policy, which motivated his peace mission, I would surmise that it is rather to be found in his close relationship with the Soviet ambassador in Ottawa who subsequently became an early and key architect of perestroika after Gorbachov met him on his Canadian tour in 1983 and invited him back to Moscow.
It has been said that Prime Minister Mulroney resumed the role of broker for Canada once he took up the cause of the reforming USSR through such efforts as, for example promoting its accession to the GATT and membership in the G-8. These efforts also had a lot to do with Canada seeking to position itself vis-à-vis its own partners, particularly when the president of the USSR was directly involved in negotiations with the USA and the Big Four on the re-unification of Germany.
When the Canadian government, later than its allies, finally accepted that there was indeed a major transformation underway in the USSR, it set up mechanisms of cooperation designed to support market reforms and the development of civil society. Our projects reflect particular expertise in such areas as the management of federative structures. We participated in various multilateral economic programmes and debt rescheduling agreements of the Paris Club. This substantial economic involvement reflected an unequivocal political decision primarily on the part of G-7 countries to support the President of Russia as he fought for his policies at home and sought to bring his country closer to the West.
Whether specific policies, infusion of funds and projects were timely, appropriate, well designed, had sufficient oversight are valid questions - in the overall context, our leaders estimated that they were needed for political reasons. The instances of misuse of funds should not obscure the concrete benefits of foreign aid and debt relief for reforms on all levels.

Le Canada tient à garder les canaux de communication ouverts avec la Russie pour que nous puissions agir de concert dans des dossiers d’intérêt commun et surtout pour que nos positions respectives soient comprises et respectées lorsque nos approches divergent. Comme exemple du premier cas, on peut citer l’envoi de gardiens de la paix à Haiti et le processus de paix au Moyen-Orient ; du deuxième type de cas, l’intervention de l’OTAN en ex-Yougoslavie.
Ces dossiers d’intérêt commun incluent les grands objectifs de la politique étrangère canadienne de non-prolifération nucléaire et de contrôle des armements de destruction massive. L’évolution des relations américano-russes en matière de contrôle et de désarmement nous concerne tous. Cela est particulièrement vrai de la proposition américaine de se doter d’un Système de défense anti-missile national, puisqu’elle toucherait éventuellement la défense nord-américaine. Le Canada ne peut qu’encourager les Etats-Unis et la Russie à poursuivre leurs discussions en vue de concilier leurs positions et trouver une voie qui respecte leurs engagements en matière de désarmement.
Nous avons à notre disposition les instruments de diplomatie nécessaires pour poursuivre notre dialogue politique et défendre nos intérêts économiques. Les principaux sont les rencontres bilatérales annuelles entre ministres des Affaires étrangères qui se voient en plus en marge de réunions internationales, p.e. à l’ONU, au G-8 ou l’OSCE ; les consultations semi-annuelles entre haut fonctionnaires sur la stabilité et la sécurité ; la Commission économique inter-gouvernementale créée en 1995 et l’Accord de coopération nordique. Notre dialogue se poursuit tout autant dans les fora multilatéraux importants. Un de ceux-ci devrait être le Comité conjoint permanent OTAN-Russie prévu dans l’Acte fondateur signé par les deux parties en 1997. Nous avons intérêt à tirer les leçons du printemps 1999 et faire jouer à ce Comité son rôle tel qu’envisagé au départ.


In closing, it seems to me that its internal social, political and economic pressures and the international context mean that Russia’s best interests lie in the continuation of its policy of cooperation with its western partners. The President’s short-term goal of establishing strong governance from the center can be achieved if he can keep at bay the various economic, regional and military interest groups that have entrenched themselves in the highest reaches of power since 1996. He has already spoken of intended reforms in the economic and financial sectors. Several human rights activists in Russia worry that these intentions may be limited to economic reform only ; that a Pinochet model is upon them. There are reasons to hope that this cannot be the case. One is the experience of Russians who wish to preserve their basic freedoms ; it is reflected in the growing number of citizens involved in local associations and the perseverance of politicians who uphold these values. Another is the tools now at their disposal, fruits of technology and of globalization. Still another is the international environment in which national borders are no longer an iron curtain. It has always been that respect for the rule of law is indivisible ; it cannot be real in the market place if it also doesn’t take place in civil society. In the current multilateral order, where time and space are compressed by technologies, it will become even less feasible to differentiate between economic and political rights.
In achieving his political objectives, the president cannot ignore the expectations of respect for individual rights inherent in Russia’s presence in the councils of western nations whose values he has subscribed to. The crisis in Chechnya is a test of his commitment. It is the responsibility of Russia’s partners to keep her engaged on major international issues ; a policy of support to a leader as long as he is committed to reform at home where the appeal of a retreat into the Soviet past is a dangerously tempting proposition.


Partager sur Facebook  
Groupe de recherche sur l'intégration continentale (GRIC) gric Retour en haut de la page
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)            Institut d'études internationales de Montréal (IEIM)            Fond de recherche sur la société et la culture | Québec            Ressources humaines et Développement des compétences Canada