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Home truths: Canadian diplomacy gets to grips

Diplomacy blog merkel and hollande
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande at EU summit in Brussels in May. Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images

 Who says Canada isn’t a world leader in international relations?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s rating of Russia as a minus one on the G8 scale was refreshing. After all, since Moscow elbowed its way into the hallowed hallways of developed, and supposedly like-minded G7 nations in 1997, nobody had dared to say the unsayable – that it was maybe a titch premature.

As for Iran, leader-elect Hassan Rowhani hadn’t even warmed up the presidential chair before Foreign Minister John Baird was declaring him a “puppet” and the whole election thing a sham. Turns out the Ayatollah Khamenei is still in charge. And – why pussyfoot -- everyone knows it.

So much for Canada’s bland-and-boring image. A new era of exciting bare-knuckle diplomacy, Ottawa-style, is long overdue, and as fresh as a splash of whatever fills Lake Ontario these days.

Take German President Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.  A match made in the European Union but definitely not in heaven.

Merkel: Ach!  So there you are, you little socialist salamander, ready to hand out more of the taxpayer’s euros to those lazy, quiche-nibbling slackers and running the economy into the ground so decent hard-working Germans can pick up the tab…

Hollande: Enough with your arrogant Teutonic lectures. Je m’en fous. Take some time off, mon ange. Spend a weekend at a spa in Vichy. There’s a special on fiscal relaxation.

The next meeting between President Barack Obama and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai could be more down to earth and candid too.

Karzai: welcome to our country. Not your country. That place next to Pakistan, which we don’t like very much either. And when you reach the door just leave the cheque on the table.

Obama: so you can hand it out to your relatives?  I don’t think so. We’ve spent at least $1 trillion on this country and we want results.  How much more do we have to put out to get freedom and democracy around here? Cough up or we’re putting the Taliban on the payroll.

Why should the southern hemisphere preserve the niceties of old-fashioned diplomacy?  It’s no secret that South African President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe are not best friends, in spite of old freedom-fighting ties.

Zuma: another year, another election fraud. Didn’t I tell you to get those political reforms in order before you ordered the poll? You may have had a lot of surgery, but let’s face it, you’re 89. How long do you expect to go on here?

Mugabe:  as long as the botox holds out, sweetie. And if I were you I wouldn’t go strutting around telling the neighbors what to do. You’re just another white man in a black man’s skin. And frankly, it doesn’t look so good on you. I can give you a number of someone to  fix that.

All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means.
- Zhou Enlai.

Olivia Ward has covered conflict, politics and international diplomacy at the UN, the former Soviet Union, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia, winning national and international awards.


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