The war in Ukraine will cast a shadow over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Commonwealth national leaders when they arrive Wednesday in Kigali, Rwanda, for their first meeting since the start of the pandemic.
Food security, especially in Africa, is expected to be the main theme of the leaders’ conference. As well as the fact that several major countries abstained from a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of its Eastern European neighbor at the UN earlier this year.
In an interview with The House on CBC Radio, Trudeau said the challenge facing Ukraine’s allies is to engage “in a very, very real and sustainable way” with leaders who are skeptical of sanctions so that they “understand that Russia is trying to destabilize the world.” and set democracy and the rule of law back decades.”
“It is important for everyone, not just European countries, that we resist this attempt to reshape the world order,” he added.
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Ten members of the Commonwealth – Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe – officially abstained from last March’s UN vote condemning Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
While UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they do have political implications.
Trudeau said an argument needed to be made to convince India and South Africa, which he said are “very proud of the principles of democracy, the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, of a people capable of determining their own future,” to push against Russia’s war on Ukraine.
It remains to be seen how effective these arguments will be. India, for example, is increasingly buying Russian oil and coal at a discount.
India is the world’s third largest oil consumer and over 80 percent of it is imported. Before the invasion, Moscow was not a major supplier of oil to India. In January and February of this year, India did not import oil from Russia at all.
Today Russia is the second largest source of oil in India.
The Commonwealth meeting, Trudeau said, will be an opportunity to remind countries that “they shouldn’t put up with Russia” and highlight the fact that Moscow is “the instigator of all this instability” around the world, especially with regard to food. safety.
Ukraine and (to a lesser extent) Russia are among the largest suppliers of grain to Africa, where food prices are now skyrocketing.
Russia tried to blame Western sanctions for these price hikes. Trudeau pointed out that the sanctions against Russia do not affect the supply of food and grain.
Much of Ukrainian grain for export is still stuck in the country because its ports have been blocked by a Russian naval blockade.
Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and foreign policy expert at the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs, said the Commonwealth meeting presents Trudeau with a “real opportunity” given that some other leaders may be absent and Australia’s newly elected prime minister is just getting back on his feet. wet on the international stage.
Robertson said he expects to see more substantive discussion at the G7 leaders’ meeting in Germany, which will take place immediately after the summit in Rwanda.
The Commonwealth, he says, “is a useful forum, but perhaps less useful than before.”
Trudeau spoke with Rwandan President Paul Kagame ahead of the meeting last week. A senior government official, speaking in the background, said the prime minister would have more talks with other leaders ahead of the summit.
Trudeau flies to Rwanda as the country’s human rights situation is once again being called into question.
Human rights groups expressed concern last week over the jailing and beating of Rwandan dissidents. The British government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda added another factor to these concerns.