Sometimes I wonder if we are part ostrich because, at times, we do have a penchant to stick our heads in the sand.
In recent days, mainstream and social media have dined out on stories about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau letting his hair down in London before the Queen’s funeral, (something I think she would have approved of), about the Governor General of Canada’s official trip to the Middle East where beef wellington and a good deal of bubbly-pop was consumed along the way, and about the fact that the Ford Government in Ontario posted a surplus last year instead of a previously stated deficit. (Man, the world is upside down when that becomes an issue.)
Meanwhile, in the real world, there are some pretty serious things going on and as we sweat the small stuff, I do wonder how much attention we are paying to really serious, potentially life-threatening issues.
The war in Ukraine took a serious turn this week. The Russians are not winning their unprovoked war there at the moment. Vladimir Putin is like a cornered rat and there is little that is more dangerous than that. And so, he is acting like one, calling up 300,000 more troops, taking personal control of his armed forces, once again threatening a nuclear response, and holding sham referendums in parts of Ukraine he now controls.
The stakes have risen substantively this week. Putin is facing unrest in Russia and a lack of success in Ukraine. When tensions are highest, that is when despots like Putin are most dangerous. They become unhinged. It becomes harder to predict what will happen.
Over the past seven months, most western countries have been cautious in their support of Ukraine against Russia. Provoking Putin into a wider war is something to be avoided if at all possible.
On the other hand, Putin’s aggression, his doubling down, and his scorched earth antics cannot be allowed to escalate without it inevitably leading to that much wider conflict. If he wins in Ukraine, where does he go next? One can hope for a revolt inside Russia and there are early signs of unrest there, but one cannot count on it.
Notwithstanding the risks, countries, including Canada, who understand the historic significance of appeasement and hesitation in the name of caution and in the face of unprovoked aggression, need to up their game in Ukraine, both diplomatically and militarily and they need to do it now.
Bob Rae, Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said it best this week when acknowledging that for him it might be a career-limiting move, he urged Canada to change its current policy and say “Yes” to Ukraine’s latest request for weapons to fight the Russian invasion. I think he is right. In my view, every step that can be taken to stop this war where it is now should be taken.
Many people, especially on this side of the pond, may see the war in Ukraine as something that is not our fight, and therefore something we need not be concerned about. By itself, while not helpful to world order and the balance of power, there may be some truth in that.
However, in addition to Ukraine, there are enough hotspots currently on our planet that like during the Second World War, common interests and common ambitions prevail, alliances form and before you know it, you have a global conflict. There is the threat of further Russian domination in Europe, concerns about China and Taiwan, North and South Korea, conflict in the Middle East, including now the real potential for civil unrest in Iran, and so on.
There is, in my view, a strong argument to be made that we are sitting on a global tinderbox today, greater than anything we have seen since World War Two and with far more serious potential consequences, because of the differences in weaponry and technology between then and now.
The question then becomes, what do we do about this? I wish I had the answer.
What I do know, however, is that we cannot ignore what is happening in the world today, not only the real and potential military conflicts, but also the instability in many nations of the world, including some not too far from home!
An important step I believe is to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. One would think the United Nations could do this but as long as aggressive nations, or for that matter any nation, has a veto over that entire body, then the United Nations is impotent. In terms of world order and world peace, it is a waste of time under those circumstances. United Nations forces should be in Ukraine right now, stopping the Russians. But of course, we know, that is not going to happen.
And so, it will be up to countries like those in the European Union, Great Britain, the United States, and yes Canada, and perhaps with the right strategy, maybe even China, to bring both diplomatic and military resources to bear to force an end to this conflict, and not just watch it linger on until there are catastrophic results.
To me, in Canada and globally, this is a major issue of our time, needing immediate attention before it escalates. Forget the small stuff. This is what is worth sweating about.
I for one don’t give a tinker’s damn about Justin Trudeau making happy in a London Bar. But I do care deeply about this.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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