Prime Minister Stephen Harper take part in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that despite international efforts to make him a partner, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be a rival to the West.
Harper joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a news conference Thursday in condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Putin “does not desire to be a partner — he desires to be a rival,” Harper said during his address.
Harper painted Putin as a lone wolf, isolated even within his own country.
“It’s always been the view of most of us that the Russian people long-term, especially the younger generation, share our values and do want to be partners," he said.
Harper continued by evoking the possibility that those Russians "will have someday common interests and the projection of common values in the international scene" with those of Western nations.
Both Harper and Merkel dismissed the idea of military intervention in the Ukraine, though Harper said the issue “does have NATO’s attention,” particularly among eastern European members.
Merkel said if Russia doesn’t meet demands to de-escalate the situation, it will face further sanctions from the international community. The German leader said she hopes Putin makes the “right decisions” to avoid further sanctions, as they will harm not only Russia's economy, but Europe's as well.
Sanctions on the Russian energy sector, one of Moscow’s biggest revenue sources, could hurt European countries like Germany that rely on imported Russian oil and gas.
Potential risk to global stability
When asked how much pain Germany would endure to enforce energy sanctions, Merkel focused on the possibility of sanctions risking global stability.
"There is global inter-linkage these days," Merkel said.
"We we all of us need to wish for a prosperous development for our own country, obviously, but if you want that for your country, you also have to pursue a global trade, sensible global trade links; otherwise you will not be able to do that," she said.
"The same is true for Russia, they too can lose quite a lot in all this."
Acknowledging these possibilities, Merkel concluded she wasn't worried things would escalate that far.
“I am quite relaxed, let’s put it that way,” she said.
Harper said that G7 countries "should proceed cautiously."
The prime minister said that while "the Russian economy is also fragile," when a major power violates "fundamental concepts of its own borders and international law, the risk to the global economy in such further behaviour are very significant in the longer term."
"And I think we all understand that," he said.
When reporters raised questions about Canada possibly supplying natural gas and oil to Europe, amid such energy concerns, Harper avoided answering in the affirmative.
"Independent of this particular crisis with Russia and Ukraine, it's our desire as Canadians to diversify our energy exports, in any case," he said. "We have huge resources, energy resources, and are a large global producer of virtually every type of energy but at the present time we largely sell to ourselves."
Cold war terms
Harper said questions of diversification, especially in the context of Russia and Ukraine, "are much longer term."
Earlier this week the pair — the two longest-serving leaders of G7 countries — signed onto a declaration calling on Russia to begin discussions with Ukraine's interim government.
Russia was not part of the talks in The Hague, as they were effectively removed from the G8.
“I don’t see any way of a return of Mr. Putin to the table unless Russia fundamentally changes its course,” he said.
During a Wednesday speech in Munich, Harper told an audience: “It's increasingly apparent to me that the Cold War has never left Vladimir Putin's mind; I think he still thinks in those terms."
"We simply, as a world, cannot afford the risk of Europe going back to being a continent where people seize territory, where they make claims on neighbouring countries, where the bigger military powers are prepared to invade their neighbours or carve off pieces."
Harper and Merkel said they also discussed details surrounding the free-trade deal organized between Canada and the EU during their meeting.