Harper vs. Putin: PM’s jabs have little effect on Russia’s Syria stance

ABOVE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday in a statement that the government would contribute $45 million in further help for Syria. Global News’ Jacques Bourbeau reports.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – At this G20 summit a lot of attention is focused on the tense relationship between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Obama is at this summit trying to win support for his plans to launch a military strike against Syria, while Putin is doing everything he can to block that plan of action.

READ MORE: Russia to keep helping Syria if it’s attacked

But, there are other countries bashing Russia for its support of the Assad regime and Canada has been leading the charge.

At this summit and the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the Harper government did not been mincing words when it comes to Russia’s role in the Syria crisis.

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The latest outburst came on Wednesday.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was travelling with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the government Airbus, on their way to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Baird made the trip to meet with his counterparts, on the sidelines of this summit, to discuss the situation in Syria and what should be done about it.

When Baird agreed to talk to reporters on the plane, near the end of his scrum, he didn’t hide his frustration at Russia’s support for the Assad regime.

“This is the great issue we’re tackling is Russia’s intractability to work with others on this issue. That’s in some respects the heart of the problem”.

WATCH: Foreign affairs minister John Baird discusses Russia’s ongoing support of Syria

Harsh words, but Baird is simply following in the footsteps of his boss.

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READ MORE: Canada, others to put up more aid for Syria

When he headed to the G8 summit in June, Harper spoke to the media in Dublin.

Harper was asked how G8 leaders could engage Putin on the subject of Syria and made headlines for his bluntness, blasting Putin for supporting “the thugs of the Assad regime”.

Harper went further by suggesting Putin is the odd man out when he sits at the table with the other G8 leaders. “I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is the G7 plus one. Let’s be blunt, that’s what this is — the G7 plus one.”

Harper seems to have a knack for getting under Putin’s skin.

At an APEC summit last year in Vladivostok, sources say Putin called Harper a “Trotskyite”.

So what lies behind this undiplomatic language?

If I were to hazard a guess, it’s simple frustration with the fact that as the crisis in Syria worsens, the Russians do not appear to be budging from their unflinching opposition to any kind of punitive measures against the Assad regime.

When the G8 summit concluded, Prime Minister Harper took a more conciliatory tone with Russia.

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Saying that all G8 countries — including Russia — were “all on the same page now,” after they agreed to call for a resumption of peace talks, a move to a new transitional government and an end to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Of course, none of that has come to pass.

The frustrating conclusion for Harper is that no matter whether his rhetoric towards Russia is angry or amicable, it doesn’t appear to have any influence on Russia’s actions.

To view our ongoing coverage of the crisis in Syria, click here

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