Europe's dependency on Russian energy bolsters case for Canadian pipelines: Baird
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 27, 2014 7:09AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:52PM EDT
In light of the crisis in Ukraine’s Crimea region, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says European nations’ dependency on Russian energy imports is another reason why Canada needs to move ahead with construction of oil and gas pipelines.
"This crisis in eastern Europe, casting its shadow over all of Europe, reminds us that Canada is one of the only countries with substantial oil reserves that is both an open economy governed by the rule of law and a stable liberal democracy," Baird said in Ottawa on Thursday.
Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, Baird added.
"What does that do to their sovereignty? What kind of power does that give a regime to think it’s acceptable to rewrite the boundaries of the borders in the 21rst century?" Baird said. "So if anything, it underlines the importance of moving ahead responsibly on the export of not just our oil but natural gas. And it’s a reminder, it’s an important reminder, that not all opportunities are exclusively south of the border, or in the Asia-Pacific region, but also to our traditional allies in Europe."
Baird said Canada is concerned about the sovereignty of other nations in eastern Europe as well, including Georgia and Moldova. He said he hopes to travel to Moldova next week to show Canada’s support.
Putin’s moves 'a clear and unacceptable violation'
Baird’s comments came shortly after Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke at a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, where the two leaders met to talk about trade relations and the situation in Ukraine.
Merkel, when asked if Germany is interested in importing Canadian energy to end its dependency on Russian natural gas, said Canada currently lacks the infrastructure to get its energy overseas, adding that Canadian energy imports are a long-term project for Germany. About 35 per cent of Germany’s natural gas imports come from Russia.
Harper, meanwhile, continued his hardline approach, telling reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea "are a clear and unacceptable violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Harper has warned that Putin is exercising a Cold War mentality.
"President Putin’s actions are in contravention of Russia’s obligations under the UN charter and under its own agreement to respect Ukraine’s borders," Harper said at a joint news conference, adding that Canada and Germany are united in their views on Russia’s actions.
Earlier in the week, Harper and other world leaders booted Russia out of the G8 group of industrialized nations, stopping just short of formally ending the country’s membership.
Canada, the U.S. and other world leaders also warned that if Russia escalated the situation in eastern Ukraine, it would "intensify actions" including co-ordinated sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.
Harper has continued to prove his willingness to condemn Putin’s actions in Ukraine, which saw the country’s eastern Crimea region annexed by Russia following what many in the international community have called an "illegal" referendum.
"He (Putin) has not desired to be a partner, he's desired to be a rival, and that's just the reality that we have to come to terms with," Harper said.
And while Harper said that "no one is seeking a military escalation," Russian aggression "has the attention" of NATO, particularly its partners in eastern Europe, he said.
A NATO meeting on the crisis is scheduled for next week in Brussels.
With files from The Canadian Press