Guide Best Frenemies

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That an agreement should come now, after a decade of haggling, is no accident.

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It is proof that Mr Putin has allies when he seeks to blunt Western sanctions over Ukraine. Both Russia and China want to assert themselves as regional powers. Both have increasingly strained relations with America, which they accuse of holding them back. That is surely the impression Mr Putin wants to create. From the Chinese side, Xi Jinping chose Russia as the first country he visited on becoming president in Commercial ties are growing.

Even before the gas deal, the two sides hoped to double that by If Western banks become more reluctant to extend new loans, financing from China could help Russia fill the gap. China badly needs the natural resources which Russia has in abundance. The two have also made common cause in geopolitics. China abstained from a UN security council vote in March that would have rejected a referendum that Russia backed in Crimea before it annexed it.

China has also joined Russia in vetoing UN attempts to sanction the regime of Bashar Assad fighting a civil war in Syria. China and Russia share a strong sense of their own historical greatness, now thwarted, as they see it, by American bullying. Both want the freedom to do as they please in their own back yards. But the West should not panic. Despite all this, Russia and China will struggle to overcome some fundamental differences. Start with the evidence of the gas deal itself: the fact that it took ten years to do, and that the deal was announced at the last minute, suggests how hard it was to reach agreement.

The Chinese were rumoured to have driven a hard bargain, knowing that Mr Putin was desperate to have something to show from his trip.

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In this deal, as elsewhere in the relationship, China has the upper hand. Other supplies of gas are coming online in Australia and Central Asia. The Chinese government will expect the Kremlin to recognise this historic shift—a recipe for Chinese impatience and Russian resentment. Although the two countries are united against America, they also need it for its market and as a stabilising influence. And they are tussling for influence in Central Asia. Their vast common border is a constant source of mistrust—the Russian side sparsely populated and stuffed with commodities, the Chinese side full of people.

In the long run, Russia and China are just as likely to fall out as to form a firm alliance. Nevertheless, despite their growing numbers, Hispanics do not occupy anywhere near as large a place in the US political landscape as French Canadians do in Canada, nor have they been as influential. He argues that these differences go back to the strategies the British and the French used to colonize North America.

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The three types of colonies differed in the way they allotted land to settlers, but in all cases, the presumption was that Europeans could claim the land without compensating or even consulting the Indigenous population. Its colonial policy was different from that of the British.

Seigneuries—land grants given out to quasi-noble individuals—were divided into long, thin plots, fronting on a river or later, as the land began to fill up, along a roadway. Flying into Montreal today, you can see the pattern from the air, in marked contrast to the rectangular farms to the west, in Ontario and beyond.

The result is long, thin blocks aligned not on compass headings but several degrees off. Economics was the reason that New France was established. The French hoped to find gold and silver, as the Spanish had in South America, but that never happened under their watch. But from the beginning, the French were able to capitalize on another major resource, furs, particularly beaver pelts.


Early French settlement and trading took place against a background of war among various Indigenous tribes. Explorer Samuel de Champlain earned the enmity of the Iroquois in on his first trip up the Richelieu River and south on Lake Champlain when two Iroquois warriors were killed by the French and their escort of sixty Algonquin. Iroquois raids on French settlements in the Saint Lawrence Valley followed over the next thirty years.

But, by the end of the century, it became clear that coexistence among the various Indigenous nations and the French would be mutually advantageous. The Great Peace of Montreal was negotiated and signed in by forty representatives of various tribes and the French establishment. In —only three years after the Great Peace—a joint French and Indigenous force raided the village outpost of Deerfield in the Massachusetts colony.

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It was just one of many such incidents on the New England frontier that was matched by conflict between English settlers moving into Indigenous lands farther south in the Appalachians. Kaufman says this continuing state of armed uncertainty left a lasting mark on the American psyche.

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A direct result of the violent relations between settlers and Indigenous people on the frontier is that persons who claim Indigenous heritage today make up a considerably smaller proportion of the US population than they do in Canada. In , the figure was 4. Whole groups were effectively exterminated, while others, particularly in New England and the West, were chased north across the Medicine Line. Today, suicide and disease rates in First Nations communities are much higher than elsewhere, and charges of systemic racism against the Indigenous population are entering the public discourse more frequently.

The Canadian federal government is responsible, under the Indian Act, for education, health care, and much more, but far too frequently, it has failed to keep its promises. The role of residential schools, to which Indigenous children were sent for more than years, has come under intense scrutiny.

The intent was to assimilate Indigenous children, and cultural genocide is what resulted. Horrific stories of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by those who ran the schools have become commonplace. But the United States has another race problem that takes up an enormous amount space in its history: that of the enslavement of people imported from Africa and their descendants. Slavery was the economic foundation of many of the thirteen colonies, it was the reason for the Civil War, and, although Americans elected an African American president twice, tension between black and white people in the States remains high.

Even though Canada was a safer haven for slaves in the years before the American Civil War, because slavery was outlawed in British North America in , the number who followed the Underground Railroad north only totalled between 30, and 40, But, still, the black population is proportionately much larger in the United States than in Canada: W hile slavery left deep scars in the United States, Kaufman insists that it was constant and early confrontation with the Indigenous population on the frontier that established a pattern of violence in American society.

Militias to fight Indigenous people were among the first community organizations formed by Americans, he points out.

More a grimace than a smile

Even though Canadians aided the United States in setting up the National Rifle Association and a militia system shortly after Confederation, and they still own a lot of guns, attitudes toward firearms are considerably different in Canada. Gun culture in general has far more political clout in the United States than it does in Canada, with the American NRA successfully blocking nearly all attempts to regulate firearms in the United States.

Even the string of mass shootings—some by politically motivated terrorists, some by racists—that has marked the last few decades has not prompted enough reaction to get gun regulations passed by the US Congress. It existed for more than twenty years until it was abolished by the government of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper against the advice of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Liberals under Lester Pearson won election as a minority government in , and while missiles might possibly have been acquired then, Pearson veered away from that path.