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Global response to Russia’s invasion should give China ‘pause’ over Taiwan: defence intel chief

Click to play video: 'Situation in Ukraine could get ‘much, much worse:’ UN chief'
Situation in Ukraine could get ‘much, much worse:’ UN chief
WATCH: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told media on Wednesday that Russia must stop its war on Ukraine as the situation could get “much, much worse.” – Mar 2, 2022

The fierce global response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine should give China “pause” over any plans to do the same with Taiwan, says the Canadian military’s defence intelligence chief.

Maj.-Gen. Michael Wright appeared before the House of Commons defence committee on Wednesday as part of that committee’s study into the threats facing Canadian security interests.

He was asked by the NDP’s Lindsay Mathyssen whether he believed that the West’s reaction — which have targeted Russian oligarchs and key institutions like its central bank — have “given China pause.”

“I would say that prior to a week ago, we were very concerned about China and in fact wondering if China would take the opportunity to accelerate their plans for greater control of their near abroad, specifically Taiwan,” said Wright, who is also the commander of Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.

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“I would hope that with the reaction of the international community, and specifically NATO and the West, that China would have pause for any of their authoritarian plans in the future.”

Click to play video: 'How Russia’s military strategy is shaping how the West reacts'
How Russia’s military strategy is shaping how the West reacts

Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign democracy, on Feb. 24.

In the six days since Western nations from Europe and North America have imposed successive rounds of increasingly more severe sanctions.

Those have targeted dozens of Russian oligarchs, as well as President Vladimir Putin’s personal wealth, in addition to bans on dealings with key Russian banks, cutting Russia off from the SWIFT financial transaction system, prohibiting imports of Russian crude oil and arming Ukrainian defence forces.

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and others have emphasized the stakes for Canadians and all citizens of countries that benefit from the rules-based international order — a term frequently used for the global institutions set up in the aftermath of the Second World War.

“The West and, indeed, countries around the world are united in standing up for Ukraine — not just for Ukraine, but for the principles of democracy and the rule of law that led to tremendous prosperity and stability in our world over the past 75 years,” she said on Tuesday.

Effectively, as Western leaders have said, Russian leaders cannot profit from the institutions set up to provide security, stability and prosperity if they attack those principles by invading a sovereign state.

Click to play video: 'Liberals, Conservatives find solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russia'
Liberals, Conservatives find solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russia

Wright’s comments came a little over an hour after The New York Times published a report citing senior Biden administration officials and a European official who said a Western intelligence report indicated Chinese officials had told senior Russian officials not to invade until after the Beijing Olympics ended.

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That article said the intelligence report was passed around between top levels of the American government and with allied governments in discussions about when Putin might invade.

Wright was not asked about the report and it is not clear whether Canadian officials were included in those reported conversations referenced by The New York Times.

But both Wright’s appearance and the report come amid what another senior defence official billed as a shifting geopolitical and security environment where Russia and China are attempting to expand their spheres of influence, including into the Arctic as well as the Caribbean region.

“Now we’re seeing strategic competitors move into that region as well. Both Russia and China, using different methods, are working to establish themselves in the region. We saw this in Africa 10 years ago, and that same playbook is unfolding before our eyes in our own hemisphere,” said Vice-Adm. Bob Auchterlonie, commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.

“The Canadian Armed Forces must be prepared to respond to challenges against the longstanding norms and international law.”

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Auchterlonie also cited the Canadian military’s involvement in allied freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, which China claims as its exclusive territory, but did not specifically mention Taiwan.

The island democracy has worked for years to gain recognition of its sovereignty on the world stage.

Click to play video: 'Taiwan president vows to uphold ‘democracy and freedom’'
Taiwan president vows to uphold ‘democracy and freedom’

China claims the territory as a breakaway province, and has long threatened retaliation against any countries or businesses that recognize Taiwanese sovereignty. The threat of a Chinese invasion has loomed large over the island democracy for years, but concerns have grown since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and again with the invasion of Ukraine as a whole.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, warned in an interview that strong action needed to be taken by Western nations after the invasion of Ukraine to try to deter similar plans by others.

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“If we’re not able to stop (the Ukraine invasion) in its tracks, I think we know what will happen. It will simply be a license for others to do the same,” he told Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block.

“So what’s at stake here — it’s not just Ukraine.”

Rae also noted that China seems to be taking a “very careful” approach to how it has voted at the United Nations, pointing to a Security Council vote to deplore the invasion, from which China abstained rather than vote in lockstep with Russia to veto the resolution.

“China deciding not to vote with Russia on this question is important,” he said. “It does send a signal.”

Click to play video: 'UN General Assembly passes vote to isolate Russia over war in Ukraine'
UN General Assembly passes vote to isolate Russia over war in Ukraine

Again on Wednesday, China abstained from a UN General Assembly vote to similarly condemn Russia.

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That vote passed with overwhelming support from 141 countries.

Just five voted with Russia against it.

– with a file from Global News’ Eric Stober

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