Free­land brings in­sight on u.s., Putin to new post

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - OPINION -

Chrys­tia Free­land’s el­e­va­tion to the most in­flu­en­tial job in the fed­eral cab­i­net, short of Fi­nance and the prime min­is­ter­ship, raises in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about Canada’s fu­ture re­la­tion­ships with the united states, rus­sia and China.

Free­land is a har­vard grad and rhodes scholar who speaks rus­sian, ukrainian, French and ital­ian and has lived and worked in Moscow, new york and lon­don. That and her suc­cess as trade min­is­ter — specif­i­cally her land­ing of the euro­pean free trade deal last fall, af­ter hav­ing aban­doned talks at the 11th hour — made her an ob­vi­ous can­di­date for pro­mo­tion to foreign af­fairs min­is­ter in a shuf­fle that has the feel of an all-hands-on-deck, ahead of the Trump pres­i­dency.

What’s more in­trigu­ing, how­ever, is how Free­land’s back­ground as an au­thor and jour­nal­ist give her a twosided per­spec­tive on forces now driv­ing rus­sian and amer­i­can politics. she has writ­ten books on the as­cent of the rus­sian oli­garchs, and the ex­plo­sion of in­come inequal­ity that pre­saged the rise of Trump­ist na­tivism in the united states.

Free­land’s po­si­tion vis-à-vis ukraine, rus­sia and dic­ta­tor Vladimir Putin could not be more clear: in a Brook­ings es­say in 2015, she wrote of her ukrainian roots, ex­co­ri­ated Putin’s in­va­sion of Crimea and was un­apolo­getic about hav­ing been banned from rus­sia in 2014, along with other Cana­dian crit­ics of Putin.

like rex Tiller­son, the Putin­friendly, globe-trot­ting oil­man whom Trump has picked to be his sec­re­tary of state, Free­land knows the cur­rent rus­sian con­text well and has met Putin per­son­ally. she in­ter­viewed him in 2000, she re­counts in the Brook­ings piece. But un­like Tiller­son, Free­land has a long his­tory of crit­i­ciz­ing and prod­ding the Krem­lin, dat­ing back to her cov­er­age of the rus­sian crack­down in Chech­nya in the 1990s.

First ques­tion: how does an avowed Cana­dian critic of Putin and cham­pion of ukraine han­dle relations with au­thor­i­tar­ian rus­sia, when the u.s. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion it­self has been com­pro­mised by rus­sian hack­ing, ac­cord­ing to amer­ica’s own in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, and the pres­i­dent-elect seems de­ter­mined to view Putin as his friend and ally re­gard­less?

Fend off rus­sian ad­vances in the arc­tic, up­hold democ­racy in ukraine and else­where in eastern europe, and foster new trade ties with China, it­self a dic­ta­tor­ship — all while shoring up a Canada-u.s. cross­bor­der re­la­tion­ship that faces un­cer­tainty due to pro­tec­tion­ism, and Trump’s vow to rip up the north amer­i­can Free Trade agree­ment.

The con­so­la­tion is Trudeau’s team un­der­stands Trump­ism — and they have Free­land for that to thank, too. her 2012 book Plu­to­crats: The Rise of the New Global Su­per-rich and the Fall of Ev­ery­one Else is a primer on in­come inequal­ity around the world, but es­pe­cially in the united states.

Free­land’s book ex­plores in­come stag­na­tion in the u.s. rust belt — the very states that handed Trump the pres­i­dency in the novem­ber elec­tion — and posits that, bar­ring re­form in how glob­al­ized cap­i­tal­ism ap­por­tions its booty, dis­en­fran­chised work­ing peo­ple would even­tu­ally re­ject that sys­tem. That is what oc­curred in 2016, in the uk with the Brexit and the u.s. with the Trump­ist re­volt.

Free­land’s the­sis in Plu­to­crats in­fused Trudeau’s 2015 elec­tion cam­paign. The spine of the lib­er­als’ plan of gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially the mid­dle-class tax cut, re­formed child ben­e­fit and tax in­crease for the wealthy, was de­signed to pre­vent inequal­ity from mov­ing north.

so, to the ex­tent Trump, in his chaotic post-par­ti­san-ness, ex­plores shoring up work­ing-class and mid­dle­class liv­ing stan­dards, he will find the new Cana­dian foreign min­is­ter has been there ahead of him. no small won­der, all told, Free­land got his job. Twit­­tandt

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