PM Harper cautions Putin is trapped in 'Cold War' mentality
MUNICH, Germany -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Germans about Russia on Wednesday, reminding them of the danger posed by a leader with a Cold War mentality who has brazenly seized territory from a neighbour.
"As unfortunate as it sounds, it's increasingly apparent to me that the Cold War has never left Vladimir Putin's mind; I think he still thinks in those terms," Harper said during a question-and-answer session with the Bavarian Business Association in southern Germany.
"We simply, as a world, cannot afford the risk of Europe going back to being a continent where people seize territory, where they make claims on neighbouring countries, where the bigger military powers are prepared to invade their neighbours or carve off pieces."
On the eve of his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Harper suggested Germans know this better than anyone.
"This is a world we cannot go back to -- I know the feeling about that in Germany particularly. We cannot go back to this. It represents an enormous long-term threat to peace and security."
The prime minister met German business leaders to extol Canada's economic virtues, but even in a corporate setting, the ominous events of eastern Europe were a key topic of discussion.
Harper was asked about the G7's effective removal of Russia from the G8 earlier this week and what it would mean for the global economy.
Some European nations, including Germany, have been hesitant to level strong economic sanctions against Russia given their close ties to Moscow and the fragility of their economies following the 2008 global economic meltdown.
But in recent weeks, Merkel has been open to much tougher sanctions. She was reportedly infuriated by the false assurances Putin gave her about having no designs on Crimea.
Harper is slated to meet Merkel in Berlin on Thursday. The two leaders are the most senior in the G7 and have a close relationship.
Russia formally annexed the strategic Black Sea peninsula last week, shortly after Ukraine's government was overthrown following months of pro-Western protests in Kyiv. The uprising has resulted in the biggest crisis in eastern Europe since the Cold War era.
Harper's events in Germany on Wednesday focused on promoting Canada to the European powerhouse. The two countries did nearly $19 billion in trade last year.
The prime minister was asked about the energy sector at Wednesday's business event. He expressed skepticism that Germany would be able to meet its goal of phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear while having a scant supply of hydro power.
"I do not know an economy in the world that does not rely heavily on at least one of those, so this is a brave new world you're attempting; we wish you well with that," he said to seemingly nervous laughter from the crowd.
He said it would be very challenging for Germany not to rely on some combination of fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro, but said Canada was ready to help.
"What I tell audiences at home and abroad: Whatever the energy mix of the future is, Canada will be a major producer," Harper said, adding the country's current challenge is its overwhelming dependence on the Canadian and American markets.
"We're looking for ways to take that business, obviously, global."