Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Iceland to meet with Nordic leaders, with the annual meetings likely to be overshadowed by Russia’s internal chaos and the war in Ukraine.
The prime minister’s office had said prior to the trip that Trudeau would look to discuss major issues like the environment and clean energy, as well as security.
But that last issue is likely to be front and centre given the recent rebellion in Russia by the mercenary Wagner Group, which was only resolved with a deal involving the exile of leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Trudeau will meet over the course of two days with the leaders of major Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — in his role as a guest at an annual meeting of leaders. Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands are also represented.
The meetings come two weeks before a NATO summit in Lithuania, a particularly important moment given the war in Ukraine and the recent expansion of NATO to include Finland and, pending support from Turkey and Hungary, Sweden.
On Sunday, the PMO said Trudeau would look to advance Canadian interests around supporting multilateralism, human rights and democratic strength.
Trudeau may also be asked why Canada has yet to take major steps to reduce Russia’s diplomatic presence in Canada, or Canada’s own footprint in Moscow. Iceland recently announced it would shut down its embassy in Moscow, and Norway expelled 15 Russian diplomats accused of espionage earlier this year.
“I suppose the big question for Canada is if Iceland can do it, why are we really sitting on our hands in terms of taking a stronger line against Russia on the diplomatic representation side?” Wesley Wark, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said in an interview with CBC.
Nordic countries also have to grapple with their relationship with Russia on another major issue: the Arctic. Russia has been frozen out of the Arctic Council since its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
Roland Paris, a former senior adviser to Trudeau and director of the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, told The Canadian Press that co-operation with Russiia is still a major question mark.
“The Arctic has become a strategically more important part of the world as the ice melts,” he said.
“Each of these northern countries has a very clear interest in ensuring the security and sovereignty of their territory.”
Lack of co-operation there has meant decreased monitoring of the effects of climate change, for instance, Observatory for Arctic Policy and Security director Mathieu Landriault told The Canadian Press.