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Canada, allies face ‘irrational’ Putin as Trudeau heads to Europe, says Joly

Trudeau kicks off whirlwind trip with address to European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau smiles as he listens to a speaker at an event in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The prime minister will address the European Parliament in Brussels this week before meeting with counterparts from the NATO military alliance to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Confronting an irrational Vladimir Putin will be a key task for Justin Trudeau and his European allies as the prime minister heads to Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday.

Trudeau will kick off a whirlwind trip with an address to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, where he will stress the importance of both continents working together to defend democracy in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau gave a similar speech in Berlin two weeks ago, and Joly said the prime minister will reaffirm Canada’s solidarity with a continent facing its biggest security challenge since the Second World War.

“There is a level of irrationality in the way President Putin is taking decisions. And in that sense, we have to be ready. We need to adapt to challenging times. And I think that also our military needs to be better equipped,” Joly said.

Trudeau will join other NATO leaders on Thursday to co-ordinate the military alliance’s response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and will meet with fellow G7 leaders before returning to Canada on Friday.

Trudeau toured Europe two weeks ago, where he held meetings in London, Berlin, Warsaw and Poland, and visited Canadian troops leading a NATO multinational battlegroup in Latvia.

Trudeau will face pressure to boost Canada’s defence budget, which according to NATO estimates stands at 1.39 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2021.

Joly, who has crisscrossed Europe herself in recent weeks, noted again on Tuesday that Germany has made a historic commitment to increase its defence spending to the NATO target of two per cent of GDP. The spending commitment marked a radical shift in German military and foreign policy.

“Times have changed; the world has changed since February 24, the date of the invasion by Russia of Ukraine. Germany decided to take a very important decision by increasing their military spending. And we take stock of that,” Joly said.

Two weeks ago in Berlin, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland hinted there might be more money for the military in the coming federal budget.

Trudeau remained non-committal Tuesday when asked about the possibility of more military spending.

But Joly made it clear on Tuesday that Canada will also have to provide more military aid to Ukraine to help it stave off the Russian attacks, and to give Kyiv more leverage in any future ceasefire talks with the Kremlin.

“We will continue to announce more sanctions. We will make sure also to send more weapons to Ukraine because it is the best way to put maximum pressure on Russia, but also to make sure that Ukrainians are able to defend themselves on the ground,” Joly said.

“Because at the end of the day, diplomacy is continuing, negotiations are happening. And it is important for Ukraine to be in a position of strength at the negotiation table.”

Trudeau spoke Tuesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy before his planned departure later in the evening for Brussels. They talked about “further international assistance ahead of the upcoming NATO and G7 meetings,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.

“Both leaders called on Russia to stop targeting civilians, to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine, and to engage in diplomacy with Ukraine.”

—Mike Blanchfield and Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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