Stephen Harper used a brief visit to Ukraine Saturday to signal he wants Russia kicked out of the Group of Eight and to warn that Moscow’s seizure of Crimea could trigger an arms buildup in other parts of the world as countries grow more anxious about the security of their borders.
Mr. Harper, who stopped near Independence Square to lay a wreath to those killed during an uprising against Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, also announced he will restart free trade talks with Kiev, a show of support for the beleaguered country’s government.
He is the first G7 leader to visit Ukraine since its crisis began.
The Canadian Leader, who stood alongside Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to stand up for Kiev in the face of Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, is preparing for an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in The Hague.
Mr. Harper was asked by journalists whether he would like to see Russia permanently excluded from the Group of Eight structure, he strongly hinted where he stands.
“As for the question of Russia’s presence in the G8, that’ a discussion we’re going to have with our [G7] colleagues. I don’t think it’ takes much imagination to figure out what my view is but I will certainly listen to what our partners in the G7 have to say before we arrive at final decisions,” he told a press conference at Kiev’s Cabinet of Ministers building.
The Canadian prime minister has previously cast Russia as a pariah in the G8. “I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is the G7 plus one,” the Canadian Prime Minister said last June.
Mr. Yatsenyuk offered a brief moment of levity when he joked that Ukraine would be happy to replace Russia in the elite club of nations. “If G8 has an empty seat we are ready to take it,” he said
The Ukrainian prime minister also called on the Group of Seven to move beyond economic cooperation and take on a new role in global security. “My message to G7 members: it’s time to build up a new security system, as quickly as possible, and to [answer] those who violate this system with a strong response,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said.
In a public statement delivered beside Mr. Yatsenyuk, Mr. Harper accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of returning international relations to "the law of the jungle" and to warn that Moscow's seizure of Crimea could harm the cause of nuclear disarmament elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Harper charged that Mr. Putin has violated the 1994 Budapest memorandum where Russia agreed to respect Ukraine's borders. Ukraine relinquished its share of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in the 1990s with the understanding it would be afforded protection from aggression.
He said Russia's takeover of Crimea "will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine or even the European continent itself."
He said Putin's move could drive other country's leaders to gird themselves against potential threats.
"By his open repudiation of the Budapest Memorandum, President Putin has undermined international confidence in the protection afforded by such agreements," Mr. Harper said.
"Ukraine relinquished. the nuclear weapons it inherited from the former Soviet Union on the basis of an explicit Russian guarantee of its territorial integrity," the prime minister said.
"By breaching that guarantee, President Putin has provided a rationale for those elsewhere who needed little more encouragement than that already furnished by pride or grievance to arm themselves to the teeth."
Mr. Harper made sure to mention the huge Ukrainian diaspora in Canada at the start of his public statement.
"Prime Minister, I bring you greetings from all Canadians including, but certainly not limited to more than one million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage," Mr. Harper said. "The third largest Ukrainian population in the entire world."
He told Ukrainians that Canada holds their cause dear.
"In the name of all of Canada, I can tell you we are carrying your country in our thoughts and prayers."
Standing on Russia's doorstep, Mr. Harper praised Ukraine for standing up to its former pro-Russian president.
It is an honour to stand here with you here in Kiev," Mr. Harper said.
"In recent months, the whole world has witnessed the courage of the Ukrainian people," he said.
"You pushed back a regime that pointed its guns at its own population and who killed yours people," Mr. Harper said.
Through such dark days, you have provided inspiration and a new chapter in humanity’s ongoing story of the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice."
Mr. Harper promised Ukraine that Canada will stand with it in the face of Crimea's annexation by Russia.
"Now, you face an even-greater test," Mr. Harper said. "To help the Ukrainian people peacefully secure a bright future of freedom, we shall spare no effort," the prime minister said.
"This courageous people deserves no less."
Mr. Harper ended his statement by saying "Glory to the Ukraine," a rallying cry used by protestors in Kiev as they demonstrated against the government of now ousted president Victor Yanukovych.
Canada, which has already unveiled $220-million in assistance for Ukraine, also announced it would contribute $775,000 to help fund a political and security monitoring mission to Ukraine led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The government said this mission will "assist the OSCE to report on the security situation in Ukraine, foster peace and stability, encourage respect for human rights, and enable an environment for inclusive political dialogue in Ukraine."