Canada and Poland Stand Together

This op-ed was published in the Polish-language Gazeta Wyborcza on April 25, 2014.

Through difficult times, and times of peace and prosperity, Canada and Poland have stood side-by-side as friends, partners and allies. Today, in the face of Russia’s cynical aggression, Canada and Poland again stand shoulder-to-shoulder in defence of sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom.

After Poles bravely overcame communist tyranny 25 years ago, Canada supported the courageous economic reforms they undertook and which have transformed Poland into one of the great success stories of Europe. We are also proud to have been the first country to ratify Poland's membership in NATO.

We did this because our two nations share deep roots. More than one million Canadians are proud to claim Polish heritage. We share a core commitment to the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We do this because we know that freedom, peace and prosperity are at the heart of the world which we seek to shape.

Now, in the twenty-first century, Canada and Poland again stand shoulder-to-shoulder against aggression. To the east, the Kremlin is once again deploying Soviet-style methods to carve up Ukraine, a peaceful state that voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, in good faith, and in exchange for a commitment from the Russian Federation to respect its territorial integrity and sovereignty. What started in Crimea now risks spreading through Eastern Ukraine. President Putin continues to use tactics of deception and propaganda to justify what the entire international community sees as an illegal invasion, annexation and occupation of a peaceful democratic neighbour. This can never be allowed to stand.

Through NATO's reach, Canada and Poland must be voices of moral clarity.

This historic alliance cannot be underestimated in its ability to assure the principles that have guaranteed peace since the fall of Soviet empire. The old and familiar threat that rises once again is sure to find itself mired in the failure that its ancestors have marked before. We jointly call on Russia to follow through on its commitments last week in Geneva to de-escalate the crisis, to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and to cease its interference in a sovereign state.

Yesterday, I met with Foreign Minister Sikorski in Warsaw. There we signed a statement of principles on coordinating our support for Ukraine’s future as a sovereign, unified and prosperous European state, free from Russian interference and threats. Canada and Poland will explore ways to strengthen civil society in Ukraine, because we know how important its role is in any democracy. We will work with our Ukrainian partners to seek solutions to their energy needs and to strengthen Ukraine’s expertise in peace-support operations overseas.

Canada and Poland will also work closely to help Ukraine overcome the sad legacy of seven decades of Soviet economic mismanagement. With IMF support and billions of dollars in additional Western aid, the new Ukrainian government is positioned to take important steps to reform its economy, tackle corruption and create a transparent and rules-based market system that is better equipped to integrate with the EU and global economies. Canada and Poland will continue to be friends and vocal supporters of a sovereign, peaceful and prosperous Ukraine.

Twenty-five years ago, Poland itself was embarking on that journey. Today we see the extraordinary results. Poland’s dynamic economy, like Canada’s, continues to thrive despite the recent global recession. For Canada and Poland, the new opportunities offered by the Canada-EU Trade Agreement will build on existing major two-way investments in energy and mining.

But despite our shared achievements, the plight of Ukraine shows that this is no time for complacency. The world is facing one of the gravest threats to international peace and security since the end of the Cold War. Poland and Canada will not accept Russia’s attempt to impose a “new world disorder” and re-write the boundaries of Europe. We have pushed for and imposed tough sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian officials responsible for the crisis. And we are prepared to take further actions.

Poland and Canada will continue to be champions of moral clarity over economic interests or political expediency. We do so because we know freedom's promise, its sacrifice and its inheritance. And we know that this force of human history cannot be conquered.