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Canada–Soviet Union relations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Canada-Soviet Union relations
Map indicating locations of Canada and Soviet Union


Soviet Union

Canada–Soviet Union relations were the relations between Canada and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union).

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From the end of World War II, the United States and its Western European allies were involved in a nearly half-century long, titanic struggle with the Soviet Union known as “the Cold War.” It was cold only in the sense that the Russians and the Americans never came to direct blows. But it was certainly not cold for the Cubans, Koreans, Vietnamese, and others who got caught up in the Communists' relentless drive to destabilize the free, democratic, capitalist world. There were, to be sure, many morally complex moments during this long struggle, but the Cold War was, at its core, as clear a conflict of good versus evil as World War II had been. Just like that war, the Cold War was a death match between the forces representing freedom and the forces representing totalitarianism. Because hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—died in it, the Cold War can, with good reason, be described as 'the Third World War.' The instigator of this war was Josef Stalin, the mass-murdering dictator of Russia and of the many non-Russian peoples he had incorporated into what was known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union for short. Stalin knew that his Soviet armed forces could not take on the might of the free West. Instead, he decided to wage this fight through the use of proxies, and by a massive use of disinformation and misinformation. His initial prey was Eastern Europe: the Baltic States—Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia—as well as Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Stalin had troops in all these countries at the end of the war. Despite what he promised American President Franklin Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference, the Soviet leader had no intention of removing them. And gaining control over their governments proved to be quite easy. In March 1946, Winston Churchill famously declared that “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” When Stalin threatened both Greece and Turkey, President Harry Truman finally had enough. The so-called Truman Doctrine was born. The United States and its allies would not permit any further expansion of the communist empire. The Cold War was on. For the next five decades, and across four continents—Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America—the US and the Soviet Union battled for influence—sometimes overtly, like in Korea and Vietnam; and sometimes covertly, through their various spy agencies. But the moral lines of this battle never changed: the freedom of the West versus the communist tyranny of the Soviet East. There are, nonetheless, as there were even at the time, those who argue that the Cold War was an over-reaction by the West: that the ambitions and strength of the Soviet bloc were greatly exaggerated; and that America, with its massive defense build-up, was just as responsible for the Cold War as was the Soviet Union. But this simply isn't true—as an immense amount of archival evidence from Russia, not available until after the Cold War ended, now proves. Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin's successor, stated Soviet intentions plainly in 1956: “We will bury you!” he told the West. Nor would any amount of negotiation—"détente,” as it was called then—have led to a just conclusion of the war. The American diplomat George Kennan rightly warned that, short of becoming a Communist country, there was nothing the United States could do to gain the Kremlin's trust. The Soviets could not be appeased; only contained. But even containment was an inadequate strategy. Yes, the Soviet Union could not have beaten the US in a head-to-head confrontation, but it didn't have to. Victory in the Cold War would have allowed it—through intimidation and subversion—to dominate the globe, making Communism, rather than democracy and capitalism, the preeminent ideology. There were many times during the five decades of the war that it seemed like this would be the case. But thanks primarily to the strong leadership shown by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, the Cold War ended not with a bang, but a whimper. The Soviet Union was, at the close of the 1980s, to use historian Paul Johnson's description, “a bewildered giant”—economically bereft, militarily exhausted, no longer able or willing to enforce its will. Communism had failed in every possible way—economically, politically, morally. It had tried to create a Utopia on earth and instead created hell for all of the nations that came under its sway. Yes, the forces of liberty eventually won the Cold War. But this triumph offers little consolation to millions who died or suffered needlessly, through no fault of their own, for a never-viable and now badly discredited cause. I'm Andrew Roberts for Prager University.


Diplomatic history

Diplomatic relations did not begin until 1941 after the German invasion of the Soviet Union forced the Soviets and the Western Allies to work together. The Soviet Union's first ambassador to Canada was Georgy Zarubin.[1]

Prior to that date, relations had been hostile. Canada had participated in the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, and in general mirrored the hostility towards the Soviet Union demonstrated from Washington and London. Canadian authorities suspected Soviet involvement in Canadian labour disturbances such as the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 and the Regina Riot of 1935, while Canada was the subject of unflattering propaganda in the Soviet Union, and subject to the popular front policy. Besides this, Canada had limited powers over her own foreign affairs until the Statute of Westminster 1931.

During the Second World War, aid and arms were relayed through Canada and Alaska to the Soviets, and relations were improved. However, the wartime relationship ended abruptly with the Gouzenko Affair in 1945 and 46. Igor Gouzenko was a clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa who defected to Canada with evidence of Soviet spying in the West. This was combined with the general East-West tension leading up to the early Cold War, led Canada back to an anti-Soviet stance. By 1947 Canadian foreign policy analysts were advocating the creation of a Western Alliance outside of the United Nations. Soon after in 1949, Canada joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance against the Soviet bloc. In 1950 Canada joined with the United Nations forces in the Korean War against the Soviet-allied North. Once the Soviet Union acquired the nuclear bomb, it became obvious that any Soviet attack on the US would go through Canadian airspace. This led to the construction of a series of linked radar stations across Canada, including the Distant Early Warning Line, and Canada's entry in the North American Aerospace Defense agreement (NORAD) with the US.

After the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Canada hoped tensions would ease, and then Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester Pearson traveled to the Soviet Union for talks with Nikita Khrushchev in 1955, the first NATO foreign minister to do so. However, tension arose again over the Hungarian Revolution and Suez Crisis in 1956. In 1962 the Tory Prime Minister John Diefenbaker caused a crisis of his own by refusing to put Canadian forces on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and by agreeing to acquire nuclear-equipped interceptor aircraft and Bomarc missiles from the US to use against Soviet bombers.

After Pierre Trudeau came to power in Canada, Canadian policy changed dramatically. Trudeau was more sympathetic to communist nations than other heads of government. Trudeau wanted to lessen Canada's reliance on the United States by forging closer ties with other countries and breaking out of the Cold War straitjacket. During a trip to the Soviet Union in 1971 he identified the United States as a bigger threat to Canada than the remote Soviet Union. The Americans, he said, are "a danger to our national identity from a cultural, economic and perhaps even military point of view." Near the end of his tenure, when he believed that tension between the US and Soviet Union were on the rise, he launched a peace mission to Moscow which the Americans did not approve of. Tensions between the US and the Soviet Union eased soon afterwards.

The government of Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney cast a much more critical eye on the Soviet Union, despite the changes produced in that country by Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost reforms. As late as January 1989, foreign minister Joe Clark still identified the Soviets as a threat to the West, by May however, he spoke approvingly of Gorbachev's reforms. Canada's changed position was fully shown in November 1989, when Prime Minister Mulroney visited the Soviet Union, accompanied by more than 200 representatives of Canadian business. Numerous agreements were signed during the visit, the most important of which was a Political Declaration calling for Canadian-Soviet cooperation in such areas as the environment, the Arctic, terrorism, and the drug trade. Canadian-Soviet relations were now on friendly terms, until January 1991, when Gorbachev cracked down on independence-seeking Lithuania and Latvia, prompting Canada to suspend credit and technical aid to the Soviet Union. During the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt new foreign affairs minister Barbara McDougall, evoked much criticism by indicating that Canada could work with the plotters, a position that was particularly embarrassing when Gorbachev was quickly returned to office.

As the Soviet Union fell apart, Canada moved speedily to establish full relations with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It acted even before the United States, and in December 1991, Canada was the first Western country to recognize the independence of Ukraine, due to its large population of Ukrainian immigrants. With Gorbachev's resignation that month, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, prompting Canada to recognize Russia as an independent state.

Cultural relations

Both countries competed in the sport of ice hockey such as the 1972 Summit Series and its sequel in 1974. The Soviet Union competed in the Rendez-vous '87 against the NHL All-star team only to win Game 2 5-3. The Punch-up in Piestany was a bench-clearing brawl between the Canadian and Soviet national junior teams during the final game of the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Piešťany, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), on January 4, 1987.

See also


This page was last edited on 10 October 2019, at 20:34
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