Justin Trudeau’s plane landed at sunset in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he will meet from Thursday with the heads of government of the other 53 Commonwealth countries for the first time since 2018.
The initial meeting, scheduled for 2020, was, like so many others, postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains an inevitable backdrop for the talks.
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, who is attending the summit with the Prime Minister, announced that Canada will establish a permanent embassy in Kigali and appoint an ambassador to this position.
Canada will also appoint a new ambassador to the African Union, based in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Ms. Joly pointed out that the Russian and even Chinese influence was increasingly felt on the African continent.
We can’t be naive, we need to make sure we have diplomats on the ground with eyes and ears who are listening to what’s going on to make sure we can play a positive role with Rwanda and the whole regionshe added.
Food consequences of the war
The consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began last February 24, have been felt around the world, especially in some of the smaller countries whose leaders will meet in Kigali.
The conflict has triggered a huge refugee crisis. It has also restricted other countries’ access to wheat from Ukraine, a country often referred to as the breadbasket of Europe because of its enormous food production.
African countries, 19 of which are members of the Commonwealth, have thus been subject to particularly serious food insecurity. The United Nations World Food Program has warned that millions of people in developing countries and in conflict zones are at risk of starvation.
Before the war, Russia and Ukraine produced around 30% of the cereals exported in the world. The closure of key Black Sea ports has made it difficult to ship these goods to countries that need them.
Canada will work in several areas to alleviate the food crisis triggered by the war, said government officials, who provided media with a pre-trip briefing on the condition that they not be named.
Canada has already provided humanitarian support to Ukraine and elsewhere, officials added, and can draw on Canadian farmers’ expertise in storing and shipping crops in difficult situations to help grain Ukrainian to reach those in need.
They also pointed out that Canada grows a considerable amount of grain.
Reluctance to condemn Russia
Justin Trudeau spoke about potential measures in a phone call last week with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Canada will also promote support for Ukraine among Commonwealth members and try to convince any leaders who may be reluctant to condemn Russia.
When the United Nations voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council in April, 58 countries abstained in the vote. Of these, 29 were Commonwealth countries.
In Kigali, the Prime Minister of Canada will participate in meetings with Commonwealth leaders and roundtables on the climate economy. Prince Charles and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are also expected to attend the rally. The Queen attended the 2018 Commonwealth Summit, which took place at Buckingham Palace.
Justin Trudeau is also expected to pay his respects on Thursday at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, built in memory of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi people.
G7 then NATO
Justin Trudeau will then depart for Schloss Elmau, a resort town in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, for the G7 leaders’ summit on Saturday before heading to a NATO meeting in Madrid next week. He will also meet Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has said it expects the prime minister to urge other leaders to act when he is in Germany and Spain.
Congress President Ihor Michalchyshyn said he spoke to Ukrainian defense officials on a recent trip to Kyiv, who highlighted the dire situation they are facing with dwindling military equipment.
They don’t have enough guns. In fact, they said they were going to run out of ammo in the weeks and months to come.said Ihor Michalchyshyn.
If there is nothing substantial announced and implemented there, it will be empty rhetoric.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address the G7 and NATO summits, where the conversation will largely focus on economic and military support for the beleaguered country.
Last week in Brussels, Defense Minister Anita Anand, who will join Justin Trudeau at the NATO summit, announced that Canada would deliver 10 replacement artillery guns, worth nine million dollars , in support of the already supplied M777 artillery howitzers.
Several world leaders have met Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of the series of summits, including Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Kyiv last week.
The British Prime Minister has promised more British military training for Ukrainian troops, a path that Canada could also follow, according to Ihor Michalchyshyn.
Justin Trudeau made his own unannounced trip to Ukraine last month.
By the end of January, 33,346 candidates for the Ukrainian Security Forces had taken part in Canada’s training program, called Operation Unifier, since September 2015.
Operation Unifier has been one of Canada’s most significant defense contributions to Ukraine in recent years.recalled Ihor Michalchyshyn.
Canada should, at this point, follow the example and work in the areas where we are strongest.
During his visit to Canada last month, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins urged Trudeau to institute a more permanent military presence in the Baltics to counter any Russian perception of NATO’s weakness in the region.
Canada currently has close to 700 soldiers leading a NATO battle group in Latvia, one of many such battle groups in the region.
During a joint press conference with Krisjanis Karins in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau announced that a general and six staff officers from the Canadian Armed Forces would be deployed to NATO headquarters in Adazi, near Riga, the Latvian capital, but postponed any major decision to the NATO talks.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has drawn more countries to the upcoming NATO meeting in Madrid, including Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. He is the first Japanese leader to join a summit meeting of the North Atlantic military alliance.
Sweden and Finland, which have applied to join NATO, are sending delegations. South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk-yeol has also signaled his intention to attend.
Justin Trudeau is expected to return to Ottawa on June 30, in time for Canada Day celebrations.