Canada is right to help Ukraine defend itself


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When it comes to supplying Ukraine with military aid, time is of the essence.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/04/2022 (400 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When it comes to supplying Ukraine with military aid, time is of the essence.

Ukrainians are fighting for their country right now, today, and a promise of help isn’t worth much if it arrives too late.

That’s why it’s good news that the Canadian government has followed through quickly on its pledge to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Alexei Alexandrov - AP Servicemen of the militia from the Donetsk People's Republic walk past damaged apartment buildings in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out the stakes quite starkly: “Ukrainians have fought like heroes over the past number of months and they’re not just fighting for Ukraine, they are fighting for the values that underpin so many of our free and democratic societies.”

If that’s the case — and yes, basically, it is — then Canada is right to take its military aid to a higher level. And to make sure it gets there without delay.

There’s doesn’t seem to be any serious opposition to this in the country. Even the NDP, which might have been expected to complain about creeping militarism or Canada being drawn deeper into a foreign conflict, didn’t raise an objection.

That’s quite a change, and not only for the opposition. It was only a few weeks ago that the government’s policy was to send only non-lethal aid to Ukraine, and the NDP was speaking out against supplying military equipment.

What changed isn’t that Canada, and the other countries that are rushing military aid to Ukraine, suddenly fell into the grip of some kind of war fever. Or, as some would have it, are reverting to old Cold War habits of demonizing Russia.

What changed is that, first, Russia’s actions in Ukraine have appalled the world. Aside from the brutality of the invasion itself, the United Nations has detailed what it calls a “horror story” of war crimes carried out by Russian troops, including hundreds of summary executions and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets. And second, Ukrainians have demonstrated that they can and will fight back effectively if they have the right tools for the job.

It’s the facts on the ground that have changed, and made it imperative for decent countries, including Canada, to step up their response to the invasion in ways they weren’t prepared to contemplate only a short time ago.

Canada has already sent $100 million worth of lethal military aid to Ukraine, mostly light-infantry equipment such as shoulder-held anti-tank weapons, mortars and machine guns. The latest pledge includes heavy artillery, a big step up in the level of weaponry this country is prepared to supply.

The Trudeau government also included $500 million for military aid to Ukraine in its recent budget. But who knows how long it will take for that to translate into actual weaponry?

Russian forces have already taken control of much of southern Ukraine, at great cost to themselves and the civilian population. If help is delayed, Ukrainians may not have much of a country left to fight for.

Behind all this are a couple of hard realities. One is that all the sanctions imposed on Russia are having only a limited effect. Partly because they take time to bite, and partly because much of the world (including such major powers as China and India) won’t go along with them.

Another is that even as they condemn and punish Russia, the Europeans are sending far more money to Moscow for oil and gas than they are giving to Ukraine in aid.

Short of abandoning Ukrainians to their fate, the only option is to help them defend themselves. They have shown they can do a very good job of that if they have what they need, and Canada is right to do its part in making sure they do.

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