With war raging and food prices soaring, Trudeau attends the Commonwealth Summit in Rwanda

The war in Ukraine will cast a shadow over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations as they arrive in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday for their first meeting since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Food security – especially in Africa – is expected to be a major topic at the Leaders Conference. So is the fact that several major countries abstained from a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of its eastern European neighbor at the United Nations earlier this year.

In an interview with CBC Radio The House, Trudeau said the challenge for Ukraine’s allies is to engage “in a very real and sustainable way” with skeptical leaders about sanctions to make them “understand that Russia is trying to destabilize the world and set back democracy and the rule of law by decades.”

“It is important for everyone, not just European countries, to stand up to this attempt to redraw the world order,” he added.

Ten Commonwealth members – Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe – formally abstained from a vote at the United Nations last March that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Although UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they carry political weight.

Trudeau said there is an argument to be made to persuade India and South Africa — of which he said “take great pride in the principles of democracy, the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and the ability of the people to determine their own future” — to push once again against Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greet each other before their meeting in New Delhi, India on December 6, 2021. (Manish Swaroop/The Associated Press)

It remains to be seen how effective these arguments will be. India, for example, buys Russian oil and coal at a discount.

India is the third largest consumer of oil in the world and more than 80 percent of it is imported. Moscow was not a major supplier of oil to India prior to the invasion. In January and February of this year, India did not import any ore from Russia at all.

Today, Russia is India’s second largest oil exporter.

Trudeau said the Commonwealth meeting would be an opportunity to remind countries that they “do not have to be nice to Russia” and to underscore the fact that Moscow is the “instigator of all this instability” around the world, especially on food. Safety.

Ukraine and Russia (to a lesser extent) are among the largest suppliers of grain to Africa, where food prices are now rising.

A Ukrainian soldier walks past burning grain from a silo bombed by Russian forces in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 31, 2022. (Serhiy Nozhenko/Reuters)

Russia has tried to blame Western sanctions for those price increases. Trudeau noted that sanctions against Russia do not affect shipments of food and grain.

A lot of Ukrainian grain destined for export is still stuck in the country because its ports have been closed due to a Russian naval blockade.

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and foreign policy expert at the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs, said the Commonwealth meeting presents Trudeau “a real opportunity”, given that some other leaders may be absent and the newly elected Australian prime minister is just getting started. Wet on the international stage.

Robertson said he expects to see more substantive discussions at the G7 leaders meeting in Germany, which will take place immediately after the summit in Rwanda.

He said the Commonwealth was “a useful forum, but perhaps less useful than it used to be”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Saturday, February 3. 8, 2020. (Shawn Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Last week, in anticipation of the meeting, Trudeau spoke with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. A senior government official, speaking in the background, said the prime minister would hold further talks with other leaders ahead of the summit.

Trudeau travels to Rwanda, where the country’s human rights record is once again called into question.

Last week, human rights groups expressed concern about the imprisonment and beatings of Rwandan opponents. The British government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda added another factor to these concerns.

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