Burnishing his reputation for being the West’s most stalwart defender of freedom, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper won major plaudits both at home and around the world for his refusal to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s outstretched hand before Sunday’s G20 summit meeting in Australia.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald, told Australia’s Business Insider newspaper that Prime Minister Harper was speaking to a group of G20 leaders at the retreat when the Russian President approached and extended his hand. Harper, according to the report, pointedly withheld his hand before responding in English, “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”
The Business Insider beamed that Harper showed Australia’s own anti-Putin conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott “how to shirtfront the Russian president”–shirtfront being an Australian term similar to “smackdown.”
Harper earned a permanent place in the hearts and minds of Israelis earlier this summer for his staunch and unapologetic defense of the beleaguered Jewish state’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas terrorism. Not only did Harper condemn Hamas in the harshest terms of any Western leader, he also accused the Obama administration of abetting future terrorism against Israel by its refusal to unequivocally condemn Hamas.
Harper’s strong defense of Israel and his very public rebuke to Russia’s President puts him in the position typically held by the leader of the West’s largest and biggest power, the United States. That Canada is not as big or as powerful as the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, or Italy makes Stephen Harper’s insistence on moral clarity all the more impressive–and, says U.S. military historian Max Boot, “politically brave.”
Even more remarkable is that Harper appears to stand alone among leaders of Western non-front line democracies unafraid to speak clearly and directly about the threats facing the West. Boot argues that the dearth of Western leadership only encourages renegades like Putin and terror groups like Hamas. “Because of this deficit of leadership,” he writes, “criminals like Putin can show up at international meetings and be treated as respected statesmen instead of the rogues that they actually are.”
Last month, just hours after a terrorist murdered an unarmed serviceman providing ceremonial guard at Canada’s iconic National War Memorial just a few hundred feet from the Prime Minister’s office, Stephen Harper went on national television to call out the act as terrorism and to proclaim that “Canada will never be intimidated.”
The terrorist was shot by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, after firing more than 30 rounds inside Canada’s Parliament building. Harper’s statement was widely regarded as the finest and most important of his nearly six-year premiership.