Evan Solomon: In conversation with Howard Drake

The U.K. High Commissioner to Canada discusses calls to increase defence spending and the Alexander Litvinenko report
Evan Solomon speaks with Howard Drake, British High Commissioner to Canada, at Third Floor York in Ottawa January 22, 2016. Photo / Video by Blair Gable for Maclean’s Magazine

A report linking the murder of a Russian whistle-blower in London to orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to reawaken Cold War-style tensions between the U.K. and Russia.

In 2006, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko drank a cup of tea laced with radioactive polonium while meeting with two former Russian security officials. He died a painful death, which made for sensational headlines. Now, after a massive investigation, British judge Sir Robert Owen has concluded that the murder was “probably” approved of by Vladimir Putin. To some, the act sounds “on brand.”

The case has further stoked tensions between Russia and Turkey, another NATO ally in Syria—in November, Turkey shot down a Russian jet, claiming it had violated Turkish air space—and to the ongoing violence in Ukraine.

This has led to strong words from the U.K. to all its NATO allies, urging them to meet their commitment to spending 2 per cent of its GDP on military defence. Canada is a laggard on defence spending, and has been criticized for planning to pull its CF-18 jets out of the Iraq and Syria mission. Next month, defence ministers from 27 countries will meet about fighting the Islamic State, and the pressure will be heavy on Canada to come up with a plan of action.

Evan Solomon spoke the U.K. High Commissioner to Canada, Howard Drake, about the poisoning case, NATO and that ever-elusive European Free Trade deal. Watch their conversation below: