Ten years in NATO — thanks, Canada
This year abounds in notable historical anniversaries. Seventy years ago,
Hitler's invasion of Poland triggered the Second World War. When it ended,
tens of millions of people lay dead, while half of Europe succumbed to a new
totalitarianism. At the onset of the Cold War, just as during previous
global conflagrations, Canada stepped in to safeguard peace and defend
democracy. It joined the United States and 10 West European countries in
signing the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.
Were it not for the
four-decade-long determination of NATO to contain Soviet ambitions for
dominance, it is doubtful whether the people of Poland, the Czech Republic
and Hungary would have been able to shake off tyranny when they finally did
in 1989. And who knows whether the subsequent transformation toward
democracy and free markets would have succeeded had these countries not laid
anchor in the Atlantic community.
Fortunately, time and again, Canada assumed leadership. It pushed for the
admission of Central Europeans into the alliance, becoming the first member
to ratify the Protocols of Accession. In 1999, Ottawa's decision inaugurated
the first post-Cold War enlargement of NATO. Canada also helped newcomers
integrate into the alliance, providing officer training and passing on
lessons in civil-military relations.
Now, 20 years after the fall of communism and 10 years into our
membership in NATO, we recall these milestones to express gratitude to
Canada for its invaluable contribution to the well-being of Europe.
We could argue that our nations never parted from the North Atlantic
community. Back in 1948, Lester Pearson, as minister of external affairs, had
the foresight to call it a “real commonwealth of nations.” As documents show,
Canada stressed during the negotiations in Washington that the parties of the
agreement “should be bound together not merely by their common opposition to
totalitarian communist aggression, but by a common belief in the values and
virtues of … democracy and a positive love of it and their fellow men.”
The inclusion of a “love” for democracy and humankind in an internal
government document poignantly conveys the normative intent of the project;
Canada, historians agree, sought in NATO not just a military alliance but a
blueprint for Western unity. Article 2, which envisages non-military relations
between member states, became known as “the Canada clause.”
The people of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, albeit behind the Iron
Curtain, never ceased to share these values. The Hungarian uprising, the Prague
Spring and the Solidarity revolution exemplified the same love for democracy. A
Hungarian intellectual, Gyorgy Konrad, coined the phrase “antipolitics” to
denote the strategy for “self-limiting revolutions” that eventually toppled
Communist regimes. The Central European opposition movements – especially the
Solidarity free-trade union and the Charter 77 human-rights movement – rejected
an outright seizure of power. Instead, they endeavoured to strengthen the “power
of the powerless” by “living the truth,” as expressed by Vaclav Havel, in
contrast to “living within the lie.”
A collective memory is said to engender a feeling of solidarity and a shared
responsibility. Indeed, reunited today with Canada and other NATO allies, we
shoulder a burden to further security and democratic stability. The deployment
of Hungarian, Polish and Czech troops in Afghanistan shows we have worked hard
to establish a reputation for being providers of security, as opposed to merely
NATO ministers who met in Krakow last month and Brussels this week are
tackling a number of issues: the International Security Assistance Force in
Afghanistan, energy security, cyber threats, the fallout from global warming,
and relations with Russia. However burdening, these challenges will be addressed
successfully as long as we maintain the same spirit of resolve and respect for
our common values that spurred NATO's birth.
While a defence alliance at its core, NATO has always been more than that. It
has served to give the West – only physically separated by the Atlantic Ocean –
secure foundations to foster democracy worldwide. Because of our experience, the
Poles, Czechs and Hungarians do not take this model for granted. We are
confident that Canada will likewise never tire of nourishing transatlantic
solidarity living by the values our dear friends put to good use 60 years ago
and have abided by ever since.
Piotr Ogrodzinski is Poland's ambassador to Canada, Karel Zebrakovsky the
ambassador of the Czech Republic and Pal Vastagh the ambassador of Hungary.
Amazing how the Globe and Mail is limiting comments to stories. One article
about a judge had comments closed 20 minutes after appearing on its web site.
Almost every news story that had any sort of controversy attached did not have
any comments permitted by the Globe and Mail.
This is a trend by the Globe and Mail to avoid discussion on any item that
literally begs public comment. Often the commentary in the Globe contains
information and explanations that are not in the article.
When we can't comment in Canada's news papers, its a sign of the trend that we
face in the future where anyone with power can abuse that power and everyone
else is too gutless or lives in fear of litigation by the those in power.
Welcome to Canada with a corrupt society for which we can thank our judiciary
for destroying the rule of law.