U.S. pressures Canada to succeed in the promised peacekeeping force of 200 soldiers

Ottawa — The United States pressures Canada to put medical units and drones on UN missions at the Peacekeeping Summit in South Korea next week to devise a powerful army of 200 people, first promised four years ago. I’m calling.

The request was made in a letter from the United States to Global Affairs Canada on the eve of the high-level meeting in Seoul. There, he hopes that US President Joe Biden’s administration will renew its commitment to peacekeeping to its allies.

This includes Canada. In Canada, the Liberal government has been criticized for failing to uphold promises and rhetoric in favor of the United Nations in an equivalent manner.

The November 8 diplomatic document begins with appreciation for Canada’s history of providing troops and police officers for peacekeeping, including its recent deployment in Mali. Canada praises increasing the number of women sent to UN missions.

It also reveals that Washington expects more from Canada.

“We demand that Canada promise to provide medical units and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS) for UN peacekeeping operations,” said a letter obtained by the Canadian press.

“In addition, we recognize that Canada has promised to provide a quick reaction force for Vancouver’s UN peacekeeping operations. We urge Canada to fulfill this promise.”

Canada hosted a high-profile peacekeeping summit, similar to next week’s conference in Seoul in Vancouver in November 2017. There, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised 200 soldiers, along with military helicopters and transport planes.

It followed a two-year lofty promise from the Trudeau Liberal Party that Canada would return to peacekeeping in a big way after years of declining involvement under the previous government.

The helicopter will eventually be deployed in Mali for a year, and the transport will occasionally carry out support missions from Uganda. However, a quick reaction force has not yet been realized.

Meanwhile, Canada’s total contribution to the United Nations has sunk to a historic low.

According to the United Nations, 57 soldiers and police officers were participating in peacekeeping missions in Canada at the end of September. It rose from a record low of 34 in August 2020, but was still less than half the number when the Liberal Party came to power in 2015.

Richard Gowan, a UN director of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization, said he had long been dissatisfied with the pace of Canada’s contribution at UN headquarters, especially after losing a bid for a Security Council seat. ..

“Canada made a lot of very big oaths and then started walking slowly,” he said.

“There was always a bit of a sense that this was a rhetoric for the Security Council campaign. You probably didn’t expect the Trudeau administration to remind you of these promises, but the United States has clearly forgotten. not.”

The fact that Washington is calling now could make the promise a real boot on the ground, said Walter Dorn, one of Canada’s top experts in peacekeeping at Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“Political will on this issue is very weak, and pushes from the United States can make a big difference,” he said.

Still, Gowan also admits that the United States has its own path, as it had only 31 blue helmets at the end of September, despite being the largest financial contributor to peacekeeping. rice field. Canada is in 9th place.

Defense Minister Anita Anand and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who will represent Canada at the Seoul summit, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Liberal Party government had previously stated that it had promised to fulfill all three promises of helicopters, transport aircraft and quick reaction forces until November 2022 (five years after the Vancouver Summit).

Earlier this month, Global Affairs Canada acknowledged the importance of UN peacekeeping operations, but said in a statement: “Since this pledge was made, the dynamics of the world and the needs of the United Nations have changed and continue to evolve.”

“The opportunity for quick reaction forces to contribute to Canada has not yet been determined,” he added.

Observers were previously wondering why Canada would take so long to launch an army or register it in the United Nations Peacekeeping Pledge Database.

The United Nations lists quick reaction forces as one of several “important” requirements for peacekeeping missions around the world and states that they are needed to protect civilians and facilitate the provision of aid. increase.

Such units have been deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic in recent years and have clashed with various armed groups as the United Nations seeks to provide security and stability.

In a regular report on the need for peacekeeping, the United Nations said in September that eight quick reaction forces were needed, but only three were pledged and registered in the database.

One of the reasons the Biden administration is putting pressure on its Western allies to do more is because China has promised potentially thousands of troops for future UN peace operations, Gowan said. Stated.

“U.S. officials are nervous that Beijing may want to be more influential in UN peacekeeping operations and abuse UN peacekeeping operations, especially to raise interest in Africa,” he said. Stated.

“The Biden administration actually wants friends such as Canada and more US allies to take the lead in UN peacekeeping operations rather than leaving it to China.”

At the end of September, China deployed more than 2,200 peacekeepers to UN missions, making it the tenth largest military contributor. It is also the second largest financial contributor after the United States.

NS Lee Berthiaume

Canadian press