Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making a plea to European leaders to come together as democracies in the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and tackle rising uncertainties citizens have about the future.
Speaking to European parliamentarians Wednesday, the prime minister said those economic uncertainties have percolated for years, but are now stoked by rising global inflation.
Trudeau said economic frustrations are threatening the stability of the world and driving a deep uncertainty about the future and distrust of government.
He also said democracies face a new threat from Russian President Valdimir Putin and his attack on Ukraine, which Trudeau called a violation of international law with the targeting and killing of civilians in hospitals and residential buildings.
Trudeau said the war in Ukraine poses a security threat not only to Europe, but to western democracies and the world.
“Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on the values that form the pillars of all democracies. We have a responsibility to make the case to people about why these values matter so much – not just to Ukrainians but to us all,” Trudeau said in his remarks.
“We must recommit ourselves to the work of strengthening our democracies, and demonstrate the principled leadership people are looking for.”
The speech comes on the first day of a whirlwind trip to Brussels and Trudeau’s second visit to the continent this month.
It was Trudeau’s second time addressing European parliamentarians, following a 2017 speech that was meant as a shot in the arm for a continent reeling from Britain’s vote a year earlier to leave the European Union amid the election of Donald Trump in the United States.
Trudeau referenced that five-year-old speech on Wednesday, noting at the time everyone in the room could see something lurking on the horizon that threatened the international order.
He looked no further in his speech than the protesters who clogged the streets around Parliament Hill last month, saying that organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy used people’s anxieties to turn citizens against a democratic system that Trudeau said was best-suited to allay their concerns.
He argued that governments can and should play a positive role in people’s lives.
Two weeks ago, Trudeau developed a similar theme in a speech to an international audience at the Munich Security Conference, where he called for a renewed commitment to democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism.
The speech was a sequel of sorts to the 2017 address the prime minister gave in Hamburg, Germany, that outlined his foreign-policy vision and his often professed faith in the rules-based international order.
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 told European leaders on Wednesday that western countries must collectively provide more humanitarian aid for families affected by the war, send military equipment and lethal aid to Ukraine, and further tighten economic sanctions on Putin and his enablers in Russia and Belarus.
“We must ensure that the decision to invade a sovereign, independent country is understood to be a strategic failure that carries with it ruinous costs for Putin and Russia,” Trudeau said to applause.
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.
“Ukraine is helping to make spending on defence more palatable for Canadians,” said Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba.
“I think we need ground-based, anti-aircraft defence capabilities desperately and a replacement for the (CF-18 fighter jets).”
Prior to leaving Ottawa on Tuesday, Trudeau spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about “further international assistance ahead of the upcoming NATO and G7 meetings,” the Prime Minister’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.”
In a tweet, Zelenskyy said he specifically spoke about the “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in the besieged city of Mariupol, and “the importance of effective security guarantees” for Ukraine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2022.