Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning Canadian companies that do business with Russia of possible blowback as he prepares for an emergency meeting where leaders are expected to decide on suspending the Russians from the G8 and cancelling a summit in Sochi.
“We will not shape our foreign policy to commercial interests and when it becomes a global security crisis like the Ukraine-Russia situation. Business people have to be aware there may be risks to them and the government will take those risks because at those points in time the government’s foreign and security policy priorities become paramount,” Mr. Harper told a Dutch-Canadian business forum Monday morning in The Hague.
The Prime Minister heads into an emergency G7 meeting later Monday, organized by U.S. President Barack Obama, where leading industrial powers are discussing next steps to censure Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
Mr. Harper says he doesn’t like to jeopardize trade links but said Canada’s national interest in cases such as Crimea outweigh commercial concerns.
“We don’t like seeing disruption to investment or to markets or to trade but the fact of the matter is when you are looking at it from the standpoint of a greater national interest … when you have something like a military occupation of a country by another – this is not something we can subordinate to economic interests,” Mr. Harper said. “These have very serious long-term implications for all of us.”
Canada is pushing for all G7 countries to move in concert on further sanctions against Russia, seeking to avoid a situation where some go further than others on punitive actions and are then singled out for retaliation by Moscow. The alternative would mean some G7 economies feel the brunt of counter-sanctions by Russia while others bear no further cost.
The Prime Minister arrives at the G7 conference on the sidelines of a long-scheduled nuclear security summit at The Hague, as the only Group of Seven leader to visit Ukraine since the crisis there began. He will offer G7 counterparts a first-hand report of his conversations with Kiev decision-makers when the leaders meet early Monday evening.
Mr. Harper met Saturday with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, acting prime minister of Ukraine – a country humiliated and angered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea but also eager for signs that the international community is prepared to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a highly symbolic gesture this past weekend, the Canadian Prime Minister stood shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Yatsenyuk and forcefully rebuked Mr. Putin, whose forces are on Ukraine’s doorstep and, Kiev fears, prepared to claim even more territory.
Mr. Harper accused Mr. Putin of returning international relations to the “law of the jungle” and warned that Moscow’s seizure of Crimea would trigger an arms buildup around the world and frustrate efforts at nuclear disarmament.
Mr. Harper, who has previously cast Moscow as a pariah by calling the Group of Eight the “G7 plus one,” left no doubt where he stands on the future of Russia’s membership Saturday.
“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.”