Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the leaders of Nordic countries on Monday in a statement to increase co-operation as like-minded partners, and to affirm their support for Ukraine.
The leaders also expressed concern over the potential effects of this weekend’s short-lived uprising in Russia, though Trudeau said it is too early to tell what it could mean for the war.
“I think everyone has a lot of questions about what this actually means, but we don’t yet have a lot of answers. And too much speculation right now I think could probably be extremely counterproductive,” Trudeau said in a joint news conference with Nordic prime ministers in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, where he was a special guest at their annual meeting.
“What we are doing, as we always will, is discussing possible challenges and possible consequences for our own security, for our people’s security, for global stability. That is our highest preoccupation.”
A brief armed revolt in Russia over the weekend by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the mercenary paramilitary organization called the Wagner Group, has loomed large over the two-day gathering in Iceland, pushing security to the top of the agenda for the countries.
Trudeau and the other leaders maintained that the conflict was an internal matter for Russia to address, while reaffirming their support for Ukraine.
“It is obviously an internal issue for Russia to work through. But we need to stand, continuing to be strong, in support of Ukraine, in support of the rules-based order,” Trudeau said.
Prigozhin, who is feuding with Russia’s top military leaders, had led his troops through several Russian cities on his way to Moscow on Saturday, but changed his mind, following an alleged deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that saw him exiled to Belarus.
Russian state media reported Monday about a video released of Sergei Shoigu, the country’s defence minister, whom Prigozhin’s rebellion had targeted, showing him inspecting troops in Ukraine. It was the first time he had been seen on video since the revolt.
The meeting is also taking place ahead of the annual NATO leaders’ summit scheduled for mid-July in Lithuania. Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance, which Canada supports, was also the subject of discussions in Iceland.
Trudeau met privately with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the sidelines of the annual Nordic leaders’ summit on Monday.
“Ulf, it is a point of pride for Canadians that we were the first to ratify your accession to NATO. There’s still a lot of work to be done. We need to make sure that we get you in by Vilnius in a couple of weeks,” Trudeau told Kristersson.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday he will call an urgent meeting in the coming days to try to overcome Turkish objections to Sweden joining the military organization.
NATO requires the unanimous approval of all members to expand. Turkey accuses Sweden of being too lenient toward groups that Ankara says pose a security threat, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.
The Nordic leaders met in Iceland around the theme of “societal resilience” at the site of a 1973 volcanic eruption.
Leaders have said that sentiment remains amid the current geopolitical tumult and challenge of protecting the environment from the damages of climate change.
Scientists say the Arctic is experiencing some of the most acute effects of a warming planet, with defence experts adding the melting ice opens up new access to the region while aggressive powers such as Russia and China take note.
After his day of meetings and a so-called “family photo” of the participating leaders, Trudeau was set to tour a geothermal plant and visit a carbon capture and storage company, Carbfix, alongside Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s prime minister.
Canada is looking to boost its capacity for carbon capture and storage technology, particularly in Western Canada, as a way to slash emissions from its oil and gas region.