Saturday, February 28, 2009

Peter MacKay, Russian bombers and the top NATO job

About Peter MacKay's chatting up yesterday of the Russian bomber "incident" on the eve of Obama's visit, that turns out to have been not much of an incident at all, the timing of MacKay's disclosure was noted as strange:
It's not clear why Canada chose yesterday to draw attention to what is a fairly common occurrence.
Why publicize a routine incident that happened over a week ago? There are a few reasons offered for the disclosure by MacKay in the Star today:

A senior government official said highlighting the mid-air meeting was a good way to show the worth and relevance of NORAD while its commander, U.S. Gen. VictorRenuart, was visiting Ottawa.

It's also a good way to "get some ink" for Canada's contribution to continental security, the official said.

In addition, it's a diplomatic rebuff to Russian officials who have complained in the last week about nations "militarizing" the Arctic to bolster claims to valuable energy and mineral resources beneath the thawing tundra and the seabed.

Any of which might be true and meant MacKay could let the cat out of the bag and garner significant attention. As a convenient byproduct, MacKay gains some publicity in order to assist him in his bid to be the new NATO secretary general, a position for which he's been described as a "long shot" and which is being chosen in April. Craig Oliver was heard stating this week that MacKay might actually have a chance due to Canada's profile in Afghanistan and in spite of the post traditionally going to a European. MacKay's Cold War tale managed to attract a lot of international attention relatively quickly. How often does MacKay get his name in the New York Times, after all, unless he's having coffee with Condi. Although if Dave's account (first link above) is the real impression created in NATO circles, one of an irresponsible and uninformed minister saber rattling for the sake of some attention, it could just as easily have harmed his chances.

Make of it what you will. It all seemed a little too enthusiastically done by MacKay to not raise a few questions.