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Canada frustrated by ‘radical environmentalists’’ control over Washington

Canada is upset that Washington special-interest groups are thwarting the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told The Cable, forcing the country to move forward to find other customers for its oil. "There’s a great deal of frustration, less with the administration and more that the future prosperity of our country could lie ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Canada is upset that Washington special-interest groups are thwarting the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told The Cable, forcing the country to move forward to find other customers for its oil.

"There's a great deal of frustration, less with the administration and more that the future prosperity of our country could lie in the hands of some radical environmentalists and special interests," Baird said in a Thursday interview in Washington. "That causes us great concern, so we want to look to diversify our markets, whether that be with Japan, Korea, or China, which has expressed a great interest."

Canada is upset that Washington special-interest groups are thwarting the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told The Cable, forcing the country to move forward to find other customers for its oil.

"There’s a great deal of frustration, less with the administration and more that the future prosperity of our country could lie in the hands of some radical environmentalists and special interests," Baird said in a Thursday interview in Washington. "That causes us great concern, so we want to look to diversify our markets, whether that be with Japan, Korea, or China, which has expressed a great interest."

U.S. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s permit application to build the pipeline in January after being compelled to issue a quick decision on the application by congressional legislation. He had received pressure from environmental groups, which had organized protests around the country opposing the construction of the pipeline.

No decision is expected on the pipeline this year, although Obama did announce last month that he intends to approve the southern piece of the pipeline soon. On Wednesday, Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill to re-launch a review of the pipeline route.

But Ottawa isn’t waiting around for the United States to make a decision. The Canadia government is proceeding to build its "Northern Gateway" pipeline that would end in British Columbia, where the oil could be shipped directly to East Asia.

"It was certainly driven home to the energy sector in Canada that being captive to a special interest can have huge consequences on the future prosperity of our country. That’s certainly known and accepted in a way that it wasn’t last fall," Baird said.

Canada also knows how to deal with environmental groups, said Baird. The Canadian government has eliminated environmental impact studies for 90 percent of projects and has sped up the approval process, he said.

According to Baird, the United States is losing jobs due to the delay of the pipeline approval in Washington. But in a way, Canada stands to benefit from the impasse.

"Oil sands oil currently sells at a discount because we are a captive market, and if we could diversify that market, that discount could end," said Baird.

"If you look at all the oil around the world, there’s precious little of it that is found in stable economies and stable democracies, and we want to share that resource with our closest partner," he said. "We’re going to work hard to see the project approved, hopefully early next year."

Baird came to Washington for the G-8 foreign minister’s meeting, which focused on the crises in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Canada supports humanitarian and medical aid to the Syrian people but not arms for the Syrian opposition, Baird said. He also said there’s no talk right now within NATO about establishing buffer zones inside Syria using NATO assets.

After Syrian troops fired over the Turkish border this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Turkey might invoke NATO Article 5, which provides for common defense of any threatened NATO country. Baird said the red line was if Syrian troops actually enter Turkey.

"There will be strong international support for Turkey if Syrian forces cross the border," he said.  "Canada is a member of NATO, and if Syria wants to conduct military operations in a NATO country, they will get a strong reaction."

He didn’t clarify what that strong reaction might entail.

Baird also shared news of a bet he made Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the NHL playoff series between the Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers. If the Senators win, Clinton must wear their jersey. If the Rangers win, Baird will sport a Rangers sweater.

"After the Ottawa Senators win, she’ll look great in red," he said, noting that in Canada, unlike in the United States, red is the liberal color.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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