Baird rules out military response
OTTAWA—The Harper government ramped up its denunciations of Russia yesterday, threatening the potential for more sanctions even as it ruled out western military intervention to force Russian troops out of Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs minister John Baird used some of the toughest language yet—describing Russia’s incursion as “old Soviet-style” aggression and saying President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to justify it are “absurd and ridiculous.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone talking about western military intervention, none of our friends or allies,” Baird noted yesterday in an interview with Global’s West Block.
“What we are doing is working together to say in no uncertain terms that this is completely unacceptable and to condemn [it] in the strongest language possible,” he said.
That message was echoed in a statement issued late yesterday by members of the G7, as well as the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.
They called Russia’s actions a “clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and its 1997 basing agreement with Ukraine.”
All vowed to temporarily boycott preparatory meetings of ministers and officials for the G8 summit, which is supposed to be held in June in Sochi, where the Winter Olympic games just ended.
Canada already had announced its decision to pull out of the meetings on Saturday.
Baird’s own language yesterday was harsh. He dismissed Russian arguments that it needs to protect its Black Sea naval fleet, which is based in Sevastopol on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and the Russian-speaking population in that region.
“There is absolutely no justification whatsoever,” Baird said.
“The claims that President Putin puts forward are absurd and ridiculous,” he added. “He has no right to invade another country; a neighbouring country that’s struggling for freedom and democracy.
“The excuses and the rhetoric that’s coming out of Moscow are unacceptable.
“No one is buying them in the western world and they make President Putin look ridiculous,” Baird added.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada is withdrawing its ambassador from Russia.
“Next month there’s a G8 foreign ministers’ meeting and if [Putin] continues with this provocative action, there’s certainly no way I or Canada would want to have anything to do with Russian world leadership,” Baird vowed.
Whether the G8 leaders’ summit itself goes ahead will be up to Putin, he added, stressing Russia must be made to realize that its actions “will have a major effect on Russia’s relationship, not just with Canada but the entire free and democratic world.”
Baird was returning Saturday from Kyiv, where he led a Canadian government delegation to show support for Ukraine’s new pro-western government.
In his absence, he said his deputy minister called in Russia’s ambassador to Canada, Georgiy Mamedov, and reamed him out “in the strongest terms certainly in my time at Foreign Affairs.”
Baird did not rule out expelling the ambassador.
“We’ll obviously be revisiting this on an hour by hour basis,” he said, adding Canada wants to act “in unison” with its allies.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was briefed by Harper on the situation Saturday, threw his whole-hearted support behind the government’s response to the crisis.
“I think that Canada’s been getting it right in terms of our very strong reaction to what the Russians have done,” he told a news conference in Toronto.