By: Laura Payton, CTV News
OTTAWA -- A top Democratic politician says Russian President Vladimir Putin will undoubtedly test U.S. president-elect Donald Trump by moving troops into a former Soviet country - including one where Canadian troops will be operating in 2017.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and former chair of the Democratic National Committee, says Trump talked during the presidential race as if he would undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and warned Putin will try to test him.
"Who knows how, but I think it'll involve troops, it'll involve Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine or even Latvia," Dean said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
That's a significant prediction for Canada, which has 450 Canadian soldiers deploying to Latvia in early 2017 as part of a NATO force. NATO has been beefing up its presence in eastern Europe in response to recent Russian action, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last summer that the Canadian Armed Forces will lead a 1,000-person battle group and supply armoured vehicles for the open-ended mission.
Asked whether those soldiers are in a more dangerous situation now, with Putin likely to test to the U.S. president-elect, Dean warned there's danger any time there's uncertainty in foreign policy.
"We don't know what he's going to do... but I think the foreign policy stuff is really scary because a couple of words out of place, you can give people the impression that they can go ahead and do something that you don't want them to do. That is very frightening," Dean said.
"Is the world more dangerous or less dangerous now that Donald Trump is the president elect?" Solomon asked.
"It's much more dangerous. Because uncertainty breeds danger and Donald Trump is uncertainty," Dean said.
Trump has praised Putin as a strong leader, downplayed the impact of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and threatened to withhold American support for NATO missions if member countries don't meet promised defence spending targets.
A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan didn't answer a question about whether Sajjan agreed with Dean on the potential for increased risk to Canadian soldiers.
"The minister looks forward to a productive working relationship with the new U.S. secretary of defence, whenever he or she is named, just as he enjoys a strong relationship with the current administration and Secretary [Ashton] Carter," Jordan Owens wrote in an email to CTV News.
"Now more than ever Canada remains committed to NATO and to the promises we have made to our NATO allies, and we expect the same principles of solidarity and collective defence will continue to guide NATO into the future."
Trump advisor Steve Bannon 'a Nazi'
Dean said Trump is a complicated person, pointing out he named Republican stalwart Reince Priebus to be chief of staff, but Steve Bannon, CEO of the far-right website Breitbart News, as chief strategist. Dean says Priebus is "a reasonable person," while Bannon is "a Nazi."
"It's a big word and I don't usually use it unless somebody's really anti-Semitic and really misogynist and really anti-Black," Dean said.
"It makes me very nervous. I mean it calls into question Donald Trump's judgement and that's the problem. So we don't know what to expect from Donald Trump," he added.
At the same time, Trump's daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism following her marriage to Jared Kushner, and the couple are raising their children in the Orthodox faith. Dean admits he doesn't understand how Trump "squares the circle," and said minority communities should be fearful.
"When you run a campaign based on hate, which is what he did, you run a terrible risk of somehow liberating people's worst instincts and that's just what's happened," Dean said.