On April 5, 2023, I participated in a panel discussion at the Valdai Club in Moscow. In our discussion, which was focused on de-dollarization, I was joined by Professor Radhika Desai of the University of Manitoba and three economic experts from the Russian Federation, Dmitry Birichevsky, Alexander Losev and Nathalia Ziaser. Our discussion was moderated by Oleg Barabanov, Program Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. This is the text of my presentation.
Good morning. It is with great pleasure that I join you today at this esteemed institution.
What makes this experience all the more special for me is that I am joined today by my dear friends, Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman.
When I ran to be the leader of the Green Party of Canada in 2020, Radhika and Alan played central roles on my campaign team. We very nearly won, and almost changed the face of Canadian politics.
Sadly, since that time, Canadian politics have deteriorated, and have done so in ways that are frightening. I will have more to say about that in a moment.
Two days after the special military operation began in February of last year, I authored an article entitled “The art of peace requires us to see the world through the eyes of our enemies.”
In my article, I questioned whether the special military operation could be reconciled with the United Nations Charter, but I also argued that Western governments bore considerable responsibility for the conflict and suffering in Ukraine.
I maintained, and I continue to believe today, that the Ukraine war is an existentially dangerous one in which Western governments are playing an extremely dangerous part. By now it should be clear to all that the war is escalating. If it continues to do so, a nuclear exchange may well occur, with catastrophic consequences for all of humanity.
We witnessed just how dangerous this war is when, several months ago, a Ukrainian air defence missile landed on Polish soil, killing two Polish farmers. The Zelensky government immediately claimed that Russia had attacked Poland, a NATO member. Zelensky continued to press this false claim even after the Polish and U.S. governments confirmed that the missile had been fired by Ukrainian forces.
This experience ought to concern us all deeply. We are now one errant missile away from World War III. Some go so far as to argue that World War III has already begun. This, indeed, is the view of the highly respected French anthropologist, Emmanuel Todd.
Several days ago, I arrived in Russia for the first time. No one invited me. No one is accompanying me. I came on my own initiative and entirely at my own expense. I have come to this vast and complex country with one overarching purpose: to see the world through the eyes of the West’s supposed enemy.
This does not mean that I will necessarily agree with everything that I hear from my brothers and sisters in Russia. My goal, rather, is to enhance my understanding of the Russian people. Sometimes, understanding leads to agreement, sometimes it doesn’t, but mutual understanding can enhance the prospects for mutual compromise and peace, and never was peace between our nations more needed than it is today.
All indications are that a large majority of the Russian people support their government and their President. Russians may not always agree with the actions of their President, but fundamentally, most Russians seem to support him.
In the West, we almost never hear from these Russians. In our part of the world, the only Russians who are permitted to speak nowadays are those who condemn their government. Of course, the opinions of these Russians matter, but so too do the opinions of the large number of Russians who support their government.
I have come to this country to speak primarily, but not exclusively, to the Russians from whom we never hear. I want to improve my understanding of why so many citizens of this country support their government and their President.
Meanwhile, in Canada, there is a vast divide between the elected representatives and the people whom they are supposed to represent.
An example of this is the question of arming Ukraine.
A poll released in Canada in February of this year found that, although most Canadians want Ukraine to win the war, only 32% support sending more weapons to Ukraine. Imagine how much lower that number would be if Canadians were being told the truth about this war. Despite low support for sending more weapons to Ukraine, I am not aware of a single Parliamentarian who has publicly opposed the delivery of more arms to Ukraine.
In Canada’s Parliament, the voices of peace have been silenced – even though more and more Canadians desire an end to this war and its peaceful resolution.
So suffocating has the Canadian public discourse become that, shortly after I announced my journey to Russia, I was criticized publicly for coming here, including by the Green Party’s leader, Elizabeth May.
The hypocrisy of these attacks is stunning. Canada’s closest ally is the United States. In the post-WWII period, few if any governments have violated international law or human rights as relentlessly as the U.S. government.
At this very moment, U.S. troops are occupying significant tracts of Syria and are confiscating much of its oil – all without the consent of Syria’s internationally recognized government. This is a clear violation of the United Nations Charter.
Yet no one in Canada – including Green Party leader Elizabeth May –argues that it is inappropriate for Canadians to travel to the United States.
In fact, there is no country with which Canada is allied more closely than the United States.
The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner by a wide margin, accounting for more than two-thirds of Canadian trade.
American war criminals – like John Bolton and David Frum, the former speech writer of George W. Bush — are regularly featured on Canadian television.
Despite all of this, when Joe Biden recently visited Canada, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that he intended to “double down” on the U.S. Canada relationship – as if Canada’s existing dependency on its relations with the United States is not enough. Canadian politicians are always looking for ways to make Canada even more dependent on America.
The hypocrisy of Canada’s political elite is ignored, and even actively concealed, by Canada’s corporate media. Moreover, in the mainstream discourse in Canada, one cannot argue that Russia has legitimate complaints about Ukraine without being branded a disseminator of Russian propaganda.
Quite apart from the U.S. government’s contempt for international law, there are powerful reasons for Canada to distance itself from the United States. I’ll mention just two.
First, the days of U.S. dollar hegemony are coming to an end. This will have profound consequences for the American economy, which has profited enormously from the “exorbitant privilege” (as a French leader called it) of controlling the global reserve currency. When the U.S. dollar loses its status as global reserve currency, how will the United States continue to finance its yawning deficit and its enormous national debt?
In addition, the United States is suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. There are more guns than people in the United States. Last year, there were 647 mass shootings in the United States – nearly two per day. This extraordinary level of random and senseless violence points to a collapse in social cohesion.
For these and other reasons, it should be obvious to Canada’s leaders by now that the United States is in rapid decline. Sadly, they seem to be oblivious to this fact. They have hitched Canada’s ship to the American Titanic.
Not only in Canada, but throughout the West, political leaders are failing the electorates they are supposed to represent. Western governments are contemptuous of our interests and subservient to a declining imperialist power. Nothing demonstrated this more than the response of Western governments (or lack thereof) to the Biden administration’s destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines.
Despite all of this, I remain hopeful. I believe that the greatest hope for the West today lies in direct, mutually respectful interactions with the peoples of the non-Western world. More and more Canadians can see the increasing isolation of the West and appreciate the urgent need for Canada to integrate itself into the emerging multi-polar world.
Three such Canadians are sitting before you here today. I assure you that there are many more, and that our numbers are growing.