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In the Anglosphere, Diversity Is Strength

Walter Russell Mead

Without ever mentioning the name of Donald Trump, Canada has defined a new foreign policy agenda in stark opposition to the American President’s priorities. The Wall Street Journal:

In a speech to the legislature on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took the unusual step of expressing Canadian government discontent with the U.S., citing concerns about America’s growing protectionism, its withdrawal from the Paris climate-change agreement and the desire by its voters to “shrug off the burden of leadership” globally.

Canada plans to strengthen its military presence in the most dangerous parts of the world, Ms. Freeland said, and will on Wednesday release details on spending plans for a new defense policy. […]

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “Such a dependence would not be in Canada’s interest.…The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Ms. Freeland said.

The WSJ hyperbolically claims that Freeland’s speech marks a “historic” shift away from Washington. But the announcement that Canada will not align its policy with Trump and will pursue its own global goals should hardly be a surprise. Justin Trudeau is a media and soft-Left darling whose political appeal is almost the opposite of Trump’s. And this kind of thing is not unusual in U.S.-Canada or U.S.-UK relations. The political rhythms of the English-speaking countries don’t always move in sync, and Canada may step left while the U.S. steps right, or, more rarely, vice versa.

One of the things that makes the relationship among the great English-speaking democracies so unusual is that it isn’t institutionalized like so many international organizations. There is no Anglosphere Council, no English-Speaking Union. Yet in the absence of formal institutional structures, a common language, common culture, and common interests bring the English-speaking world together more often and more effectively than many of the complicated and creaky international bureaucracies.

The last time one English-speaking country tried to impose its views on another was when the British tried to squelch the American Revolution. That didn’t go well, and since then the British have learned to let Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders chart their own course.

But as Canada and the United States agree to disagree on a number of international issues, it is likely that the trade and business links between the countries will continue to deepen, and a serious threat to one will have strong repercussions for the other. If the Russians try to pressure Canada in the Arctic, or if the turmoil in Venezuela continues to worsen until it becomes a serious hemispheric problem, it’s more than likely that Canadian and U.S. policy will realign.

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