Will Canadians pay higher price for gas to support Ukraine?

How deep is our support for Ukraine? Are Canadians willing to pay a even more for gasoline at the pumps or is it all talk?

Vancouver gas price: image: reddit

Germany has made its choice clear. They will pay much more for natural gas after by refusing certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas line from Russia.

It’s a sacrifice that Germans are willing to make. Germany’s Foreign Minister said: “For us as the German government, it was important to show that for a free and democratic Ukraine, we are willing also to accept consequences for our national economy. Peace and freedom in Europe don’t have a price tag.”

As of now, Canadian support is tepid. In a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute, the pollster characterizes Canadian’s support for Ukraine as being at an “arms length.”

Two thirds of respondents to the poll said they would be willing to send humanitarian aid (medicine, food, medical personnel) but only 13 per cent would see Canadian troops fighting alongside Ukrainians.

A disappointing twenty per cent want nothing to do with the invasion; they want to stay out of it completely. They have obviously forgotten how quickly a megalomaniac’s conquests can come close to home.

Now, as in the beginning of the Second World War, the conflict is seen as “over there.” Older Canadians understand how toxic that attitude can be as Hitler marched into country after to country.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent oil prices above US$100 a barrel for the first time in almost eight years.

Russia produces around 17 per cent of the world’s oil, and 13 per cent of its natural gas.

Oil was already in short supply before the invasion as we recovered from the pandemic-induced slowdowns. Rising oil prices have fueled inflation to multi-decade highs.

That’s a far cry from the early COVID-19 lockdowns in March and April of 2020. As cars and planes were parked, demand for fuel plummeted. At one point, West Texas Intermediate oil futures went negative.

With inventories tight, oil and gas sanctions of 4.3 million barrels a day from the third-largest producing country would exact a toll on everyone. But the toll of doing nothing to stop naked aggression would be greater.

Oil and gas exports account for nearly 60 per cent of Russian exports, so pinching off energy shipments would inflict the more damage to Russia than the West.

If Canada supported sanctions against Russian oil, inflation will increase: everything will cost more. Every US$10 increase in oil prices pushes up inflation by around 0.4 percentage points according to Bank of Montreal economists.

Canada has cut off Russian oil but that’s largely symbolic because imports from Russia only amount to 2.5 per cent of our total imports.

What will hurt the Russian warmongers the most is if all global supplies from Russia are cut off. Regrettably that will push the cost of gasoline even higher.

On the positive side, it would help wean us away from fossil fuels.

Canadians are willing to show support for Ukraine but how deep is that support for our fellow Canadians –Canada has the largest number of citizens of Ukrainian origin in the world, outside Russia.

Would support include a hit to the pocketbook or are we just talk?

U.S challenges Canada’s Northwest Passage

President Trump plans to send ships into our Northwest Passage without Canada’s permission. Why he would want to provoke Canada -America’s closest ally and trading partner- is a mystery. If he succeeds, not only will he strain relations with Canada further but invite unintended consequences: If the Northwest Passage is international water as he claims, the same waterway is open to his perceived enemies as well.

image: Foreign Policy News

Despite our differing opinions regarding the Northwest Passage, the U.S. and Canada came to an amicable solution in the past. The Americans maintain that the Northwest Passage is an international strait and while Canada argues it is internal waters. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney agreed to disagree: the U.S. would ask Canada’s permission to send ships through the Northwest Passage and Canada would automatically agree. In this simple agreement between friends, neither concedes their position.

That friendship has been strained lately on a number of fronts by an egotistic U.S. president. He is preparing for a “freedom of navigation operation” through the Northwest Passage without asking us.

Belligerence is a defining characteristic of Trump. Professor Robert Huebert of the University of Calgary has a blunt assessment:

“However, due to Mr. Trump’s pathological need to win, the Americans are set to disregard this [1988] solution and win the dispute (Globe and Mail, May 20, 2019).”

What Trump fails to realize is that if the U.S. gets its way and declares the Northwest Passage to be international waters, it also invites Russia and China into the Arctic. What’s good for one is good for all.

“Given that Russia is actively militarizing and China may soon be taking similar action, the United States’ move to attack Canada, its most important ally, while meeting this threat makes no sense. If the Americans are really concerned about the rise of Russian military strength in the Arctic, they need Canada to help meet the threat,” says Professor Huebert.

President Trump seems unaware of how much the U.S. relies on cooperation with Canada in the defense of North America. Bilateral defense agreements go back to 1940. Established in 1958, NORAD provides warning of threats by air or sea. Traditionally, the Deputy Commander of NORAD has been a senior Canadian Armed Forces officer. In 2008, a joint agreement provided for the military from one nation to aid the other during an emergency such as a natural disaster.

If the U.S. wants to counter the Russian threat to the Arctic, they will need Canada’s cooperation.

Meanwhile, it’s in Canada’s best interests to cooperate with China in the Arctic; even when cooperation is not mutual. Despite China’s single-minded determination to punish Canada for arresting a Huawei executive in Vancouver, Canada is siding with China over the U.S. in China’s goal to expand its influence in the Arctic.

Former parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, Andrew Leslie, said in China:

“Let’s focus on the positive that comes through international co-operation, and not so much on the sabre-rattling.”

At least China isn’t planning an invasion of Canada.

If Trump sends ships to our Northwest Passage and they fail to navigate the ice-clogged and uncharted waters, it will support Canada’s position that these waters are unique and are not a functioning international strait.

 

Trump takes on the Military-Industrial Complex

 

U.S. President Trump’s goal of pulling troops from the Middle East threatens the established order that has dominated the American economy and foreign policy since the end of the Second World War.

image: cartoonstock

The term “military-industrial complex” was first used by another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He warned that government policy was being dictated by the war industry, euphemistically called the “defense industry.”  In his farewell address in 1961, Eisenhower cautioned that the United States must “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.”

Eisenhower believed that the military-industrial complex was subverting national interests and promoting participation in the nuclear arms race.

The last time that the military-industrial complex was threatened was after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. General Colin Powell worried about running out of enemies: “Think hard about it. I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villains.”  He was wondering out loud whether the U.S. needed such a large army after the fall of Soviet Russia. What’s the point of having the world’s greatest military power and no dark forces to fight?

Powell worried needlessly. America managed to find new enemies.

Like many of President Trump’s moves, this one is poorly thought out. He is both pushing and pulling U.S. military supremacy. He wants to pull troops out of the Middle East while at the same time promoting U.S.-manufactured goods.

Manufacture creates jobs at home and the U.S. military provides a base for corporate colonization of the world.

Ten per cent of the American economy is directed at making weapons –most of which are sold to the military. The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. In comparison, Britain, France and Russia, have 30 foreign bases combined.

The trouble with the business model is not the jobs it creates, it’s the endless war that America must fight in order to make sense of the manufacture of weapons for the “Defense” Department. If the weapons weren’t made to be used, what would be the point in making them?

The rationale of the military-industrial complex is wearing thin and withdrawal of troops has some sympathy. Public Affairs columnist Lawrence Martin says:

“It’s a timely reminder of the debacle created by Mr. Trump’s Republican predecessors. The Iraq disaster and its collateral calamities; American military intervention and nation building that proved futile; the never-ending war in Afghanistan; hundreds of billions spent and tens of thousands of deaths. For what? (Globe and Mail January 2, 2018).”

Derailing the military-industrial complex has long been a dream of global peace-lovers. But there is going to be a lot of push-back from American Generals who want to keep their jobs.

Perhaps President Trump’s next big idea will be to convert U.S.-made weapons into steel to build his Mexican wall. He’s already hinted at a new role for the military in his television address Tuesday to defend against the threat that bedraggled families from Central America pose. “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” he tweeted earlier.

President Trump’s quixotic tilt at military-industrial complex is likely to fail but in the meantime, peace-lovers can hope.