Thursday, June 21, 2007

Harper supporting missile defence?

Sorry for being away awhile. This is from the G8 summite, but want to make sure it gets on here.

It seems Stephen Harper may be throwing his weight behind George Bush's sorely misguided and dangerous ballistic missile defence plan:

U.S. plans for its anti-missile shield include installing 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic linked to an early warning system, probably based in the Caucasus region.

On Tuesday, Harper said Putin shouldn't be concerned about a U.S.-built missile defence shield because it is not aimed at Russia.

Putin's relations with Washington are at an all-time low after he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Europe in retaliation for the U.S. missile shield plan.

The Harper government, with a minority, has to be careful in its approach, Jack Lyaton has said in response to denials from Harper's communications director:
In Heiligendamm, Germany, site of this year's G-8 summit, Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, told reporters travelling with the Prime Minister yesterday that Canada was not changing its stance on missile defence.

Asked yesterday what Harper meant by his comments in Bush's defence on this issue, Buckler said the Prime Minister was mainly trying to lower the tensions between Russia and other leaders in advance of the G-8 meeting.

"We're trying to make sure that the conversation stays open and the dialogue remains calm."

Buckler said that Canada would only change its position on missile defence if the Americans made a formal request.

"In order for that discussion to be reignited, the Americans would have to ask us, and that has not happened. It's not on our agenda," she said.

Dion said yesterday's he's worried that the only reason U.S. officials haven't asked is because they know Harper leads a minority government and he couldn't get it past Parliament. What Canadians are seeing this week, Dion said, are glimpses of how Harper would move Canada closer to the U.S. on military and environmental issues if it had a majority.

Before he became prime minister, Harper made clear he'd like to revisit Canada's objections to missile defence if he came to power, but he also promised a vote in Parliament.

Dion and Layton said yesterday Harper knows he can't win that vote with the current makeup of the Commons, so he's chosen to send quiet signals of support to Bush instead. Layton said he believes this is part of a larger plan to cosy up generally to the U.S.

"I think he's violating his own principles here, which were that Parliament should be deciding on such incredibly important matters of foreign policy," Layton said.

"This is all a part of Stephen Harper's desire to follow the instructions from the White House and to enter into a deeper and deeper integrated relationship in North America, with the United States. It's not where Canadians want to go, but it's clearly what he's had in his sights for some time."

Dion said that the Bush-Putin dispute presented an ideal opportunity for Canada to act as a bridge and a calming influence – to reassure the Russian leader, for instance, that this country shared concerns about missile defence but it also shared the NATO view that this isn't a threat to Russia.

Instead, Harper has presented himself as an advocate for the U.S. side, Dion said.