Sep. 27, 2021

Hostage diplomacy is distasteful to most nations

I suspect the two Michaels (Kovrig and Spavor) were terrified when they were abruptly removed from their cells for the journey home. They had been deprived of information regarding their detention and a good reason to fear the worst.  

Once aboard an outbound aircraft with our ambassador, they were not thinking about receiving a warm embrace from Prime Minister Trudeau. He was not on the list of people they longed to hug.

The whole saga about the arrest and detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition warrant and the subsequent arrests of Kovrig and Spavor in retaliation speak clearly to Canada’s actual role on the international front.

Legally, Canada was required to honour the American warrant. That put us in the unenviable position of being caught in a battle between international superpowers. Whether the American case against Wanzhou was justified is irrelevant. The action and counter-action had been taken.

Diplomatic wars have a life of their own. Once actions have commenced and positions are taken, it becomes a matter of resolving the opening positions without losing reputation and status.

Canada, on its own, lacks the power to persuade either China or the US to settle their dispute.

Fortunately, the international community is against hostage diplomacy, putting their citizens at risk of arbitrary imprisonment. There is much more at play here than the arrests of two Canadian citizens.

Numerous nations spoke out about the horrors of hostage diplomacy and made it clear that China’s action repulsed them. That brought in a new factor in the diplomatic war. China faced international condemnation for the arrests, and that is not in China’s interests.

Roughly three years had elapsed, and the US had not moved to convince a Canadian court to execute the extradition warrant. That weakened the American position.

Without a deal, there was no reasonable end in sight for the Wanzhou affair. Court proceedings could have dragged on for another decade or two.

International diplomats acted as third-party arbitrators in creating a compromise acceptable to the US and China. Third parties could achieve a resolution that direct communication could not.

Notably, the United Nations played no part in finding a resolution in a fight between two of its Security Council members, confirming it is a useless shell of an international organization. 

Trudeau’s photo opportunity at the Calgary airport was embarrassing. He failed to acknowledge the hard work of diplomats from other nations who resolved the US-China standoff. That is disgusting. Trudeau’s habit of seizing every opportunity to take the spotlight has a price; he takes accountability for all failures and errors of his minions.

A thoughtful Prime Minister would have allowed Kovrig and Spavor to go to their homes and loved ones as speedily as possible, catch up on sleep and decompress from their ordeal. Instead, he added an unneeded layer of stress to their release.

A later meeting to acknowledge their fortitude in dealing with a horrific intrusion on their lives and thanking the nations that helped resolve the dispute would have had a significant impact.

We are fortunate to have allies that follow principle and overlook Trudeau’s lack of compassion, decency and diplomatic skills.