Last week, Canada and Russia engaged in a terse diplomatic back-and-forth through an unlikely medium: cartography. With tensions over Ukraine reaching a fever pitch in these final days of summer, Canada’s NATO delegation saw fit to say what we in the west were all thinking. Its official twitter account posted the following cheeky reminder to Russian troops who keep “accidentally” finding themselves in parts of Ukraine:
— Canada at NATO (@CanadaNATO) August 27, 2014
Much has already been written on what a brilliant, ballsy move this was for Canada, typically the more polite of the western powers. Russia has denied sending soldiers to join separatists in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, even though it’s quite obvious that’s what it’s doing. In fact, Russia’s defense to these claims is that the border is unclear, and their soldiers just got lost. Canada’s response is clever in putting down Russia’s facetious response while also affirming that Ukraine’s national sovereignty is to be respected. The map is just one simple image, and yet it says so much, breaking down the issue into an unambiguous, core message.
But Russia still took issue with the clear borders above, and its NATO delegation tweeted the following map in response, asserting control over the Crimea, which was “annexed” by them in March:
— Russians at NATO (@natomission_ru) August 28, 2014
Two competing maps, from Canada and Russia, showing competing viewpoints for how the same part of the world is structured. Most of the international community is behind the Canadian viewpoint, but Russia is still not showing signs of backing down, and has been increasing its pressure on Ukraine in recent days, causing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to warn that the two countries were inching toward the “point of no return” for all-out war.
If we put the question to Twitter, though, the consensus is clear. Canada’s tweet has been retweeted over 40,000 times, while Russia’s tweet has been retweeted only 2,000 times. In the court of social media, Canada prevails, and Russian troops need to keep a map on them the next time they go wandering near the border with Ukraine.