Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale reaches across a table to shake hands with Kirstjen Nielsen, United States Secretary of Homeland Security during a G7 Foreign and Security Ministers meeting in Toronto on Monday, April 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

‘Enough is enough’: G7 ministers agree to call Russia out

‘Enough is enough’: G7 ministers agree to call Russia out on ‘malign’ behaviour

Canada and its G7 partners are saying “enough is enough” to attacks by Russia and other authoritarian countries in their democratic institutions, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday.

Freeland concluded talks with her G7 counterparts by affirming an organized effort to respond to foreign meddling and the spreading of false information — mainly by Russia. Exactly what that means is a work in progress, but Freeland said the ministers will give their leaders recommendations on how to respond in a forceful, co-ordinated manner when they meet in Charlevoix, Que. in June.

There is a concern in the G7 countries that “authoritarian states are actively working to undermine the democratic systems in our countries and elsewhere,” she said.

“Today we said, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Freeland said there was unanimity among G7 ministers for a concerted effort to tackle Russian disinformation and meddling in the world’s democracies.

Related: G7 warned of Russian threats to western democracy

While she and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson displayed enthusiasm for the G7 effort to take Russia to task for what they are calling a broad range of “malign” behaviour, their American counterpart sounded a less effusive note.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan didn’t bother mentioning the initiative in his closing public remarks.

Sullivan was pinch-hitting for U.S. President Donald Trump’s new pick for secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who faces strong opposition to his confirmation, and could not represent his country during the overlapping meeting of G7 foreign and interior ministers, which continues Tuesday.

Sullivan opted instead to highlight the North Korea nuclear crisis in his closing summit remarks, following Pompeo’s secret mission to the Hermit Kingdom two weeks ago to pave the way for a Trump meeting with its leader, Kim Jong Un.

Freeland pushed Russia to the top of a packed agenda that included North Korea, Iran, the ongoing Syrian crisis, and the Venezuela and Rohingya Muslim unrest.

Russia is, of course, a politically charged issue for Trump, with special counsel Robert Mueller investigating allegations of possible collusion between Russia and the campaign that brought the president to power in 2016.

The G7 ministers agreed in their Sunday discussion about the need to address the disruptive influence of Russia, including its interference in foreign elections and its dissemination of fake news.

“What we decided … was that we were going to set up a G7 group that would look at Russian malign behaviour in all its manifestations, whether it’s cyberwar, whether it’s disinformation, assassination attempts, whatever it happens to be and collectively try and call it out,” Johnson said.

“Russia is so unbelievably clever at kind of sowing doubt and confusion and spreading all this fake news and trying to muddy the waters. We think there’s a role for the G7 in just trying to provide some clarity.”

Freeland said she and her fellow ministers talked about “democracy being under attack, and in particular about Russian efforts to destabilize some democracies.”

Sullivan didn’t mention the Russia initiative in his summary of the talks or single out the Kremlin’s use disinformation, but he said the U.S. remains committed to the G7’s endeavour.

He called on Russia to be a “constructive partner” in Syria, where it continues to back the regime of Bashar Assad. He blasted it for the chemical weapon attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury. And he called on the Kremlin to give Crimea back to Ukraine and get out of its eastern region.

Sullivan also said co-operation with Russia on a variety of topics is necessary, including fighting terrorism “but that will not prevent us from standing up and confronting and taking action against Russian behaviour that’s contrary to international norms and all that we stand for in the G7.”

Afterwards, a senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, added additional comment: “The U.S. will support its allies to combat state sponsored disinformation from Russia and other countries. This remains a priority.”

Freeland has framed the clash between democracy and authoritarianism as a defining theme of our time, with Russia as the West’s main foe on that front.

She said all citizens in democratic countries, as well as their governments have a duty to be vigilant against the disruption. She said one of her fellow ministers “pointed out that making the case for democracy can be hard sometimes … because facts can be very boring” and don’t always lead to an interesting narrative.

“Lurid conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are lurid, and exciting. Part of our job, I think, is a collective one of being aware of that fact.”

Related: Trudeau ends 3-country tour with global reputation, alliances intact

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Spawning salmon returning to North Delta’s Cougar Creek

It’s early in the season, but the streamkeepers are hopeful it could be a good year for returns

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Giants serve up major defeat to Pats at Langley Events Centre

On the ice, Vancouver G-Men wrap up home stand with a 10-4 win over Regina Friday night.

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Most Read