Weekend Reads Liberals mastering the craft of delicate Trump diplomacy: Harper

02:55  09 june  2017
02:55  09 june  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

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Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump are never going to be fast friends but the bilateral file has not sunk to previous depths.

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trudeau and trump: <span style=That it is almost impossible to see a real warmth developing between Trudeau and Trump, despite all the work from Trudeau’s inner circle, is hardly a historical precedent." src="/upload/images/real/2017/06/09/trudeau-and-trump-span-style-font-size-13px-that-it-is-almost-impossible-to-see-a-real-warmth-develo_980740_.jpg" /> © Provided by Business Insider That it is almost impossible to see a real warmth developing between Trudeau and Trump, despite all the work from Trudeau’s inner circle, is hardly a historical precedent.

It would be tempting to analyze the Chrystia Freeland-Harjit Sajjan two-step this week as a bit of a shell game, a break from Donald Trump’s world vision a day before Ottawa amped up defence spending to please our neighbour.

After all, the first question directed at Sajjan after the defence minister outlined the government’s ambitious $62-billion injection of funding for our armed forces was how it squared with Trump’s demand that all NATO nations spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence.

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Then U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis issued a statement saying how “heartened” he was by “Canada’s marked increase in investment in their military.”

But, in reality, Freeland’s foreign policy manifesto, while diplomatic and eloquent, was certainly tepid in its repudiation of the Trump world view, a polite statement of the obvious, one already heard in European capitals such as Berlin and Paris.

She even gave her U.S. counterpart, Rex Tillerson, a courtesy briefing before she rose in the Commons to deliver the speech.

And the Liberals cannot have been primarily worried about Trump’s NATO edict in outlining a defence plan that stretches over two decades. You can question whether the back-end loaded spending will ever actually happen and, if it does, you can certainly question where the money is coming from. But it is hard to see this as a document aimed at mollifying Trump during this temporary abdication of American global leadership.

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Of course, if you’re president of the United States and your former FBI director is calling you a “liar’’ in a Senate committee room before a global television audience — as James Comey did Thursday — you’ve got much more on your plate than a Canadian declaration of independence from the foreign minister.

In fact, there was something strange in the air when it came to Canada-U.S. relations this week.

On the same day Freeland distanced this country from the Trump administration, Justin Trudeau dined with Barack Obama in Montreal, where the former president had spoken earlier.

On the same night, Stephen Harper was breaking bread with George W. Bush in Texas.

Both were reminders of the personal dynamics in the Canada-U.S. relationship and how affinity between the leaders is usually the prime driver of maintaining good terms and keeping problems in a box.

That it is almost impossible to see a real warmth developing between Trudeau and Trump, despite all the work from Trudeau’s inner circle, is hardly a historical precedent.

Ottawa’s foreign policy pivot began before Liberals took office, documents show

  Ottawa’s foreign policy pivot began before Liberals took office, documents show OTTAWA—When Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined the Liberal government’s new vision for foreign policy, it was received both as a shift in Ottawa’s approach to international relations and as a direct response to the political climate in the United States.Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Freeland reaffirmed the Canadian government’s commitment to multilateral institutions and to free trade and delivered the Liberals’ most direct words on U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to date.“Many of the voters in last year’s presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership.

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Before Jean Chrétien broke with Bush over the Iraq War, a senior Chrétien aide was overheard in a media room in Prague calling the U.S. president a “moron.”

Similar sentiments were offered by at least one caucus member and a Chrétien cabinet minister called Bush a failed statesman.

Bush cancelled a planned trip to Canada in response. In contrast, Trump broke unwritten tradition in not making his first foreign visit to his northern neighbour and this country shrugged.

Paul Martin, as prime minister, rejected Bush’s continental missile defence scheme after the president made a public appeal — breaking a promise to remain mute on the subject brokered by aides on both sides — when he finally did visit Ottawa.

Richard Nixon, we learned from his private tapes, had referred to Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau as “an a--hole” and, after referring to him as a “pompous egghead,’’ ordered a senior aide to plant a false, negative story about Trudeau with a prominent Washington columnist.

In his book, The Presidents and the Prime Ministers, author and columnist Lawrence Martin describes Lyndon Johnson’s treatment of Lester Pearson in a private Camp David meeting this way: “LBJ grabbed Pearson by the shirt collar, lifted the prime minister off the floor and shouted, ‘You pissed on my rug!’ ”

Pearson, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, had, the night before, told an audience at Philadelphia’s Temple University that it was time for the U.S. to temporarily halt the bombing of North Vietnam, and Johnson wanted to tell him what he thought about the Canadian coming into his house with that message.

It may be years before we learn of any private personal views of each other held by Trump or Trudeau, but the prime minister and his caucus have been exemplary in their restraint when asked about the circus to the south, during the entire protracted presidential campaign and the months after Trump’s inauguration.

Such efforts may be for naught. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of biting one’s tongue. Freeland is merely the latest.

Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com , Twitter: @nutgraf1

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