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Prime Minister Stephen Harper gestures while participating in a moderated question and answer session with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday March 12, 2014.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gestures while participating in a moderated question and answer session with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday March 12, 2014.
(DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The most Harper can do is push allies to punish Russia

The big blue-and-yellow flag unfurled when Stephen Harper hosted the Ukrainian ambassador on Monday was a signal that there are no caveats in Canada’s public criticism of Vladimir Putin.

For Mr. Harper’s government, domestic politics, principles and even a personality clash between leaders all align to make Canada a vocal critic of Russia’s actions in Crimea. But in the cold world of international power politics, Mr. Harper’s real role is to be a gadfly, to nudge allies with a lot more to lose into measures to pressure Russia.