Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/4/2015 (1990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It is now official that Canada will be deploying 200 military personnel for up to two years to train Ukrainian soldiers. The stated purpose of this commitment is to enhance the Ukrainians' capacity to withstand further "Russian aggression." For the past year, Ukraine has been embroiled in a violent, albeit localized civil war in the volatile eastern provinces.
I firmly believe Canadian soldiers to be among the very best in the world. That said, our record to date of training effective foreign forces remains abysmal.
Following the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency in February 2014, pro-Western Ukrainian lawmakers declared themselves the official interim government in Kyiv. While they were never fully enamored of Yanukovych, the residents of eastern Ukraine remained pro-Russian, particularly as many of those living east of the Dnieper River are actually ethnic Russians. Not trusting the new interim government would protect their minority rights, protestors in eastern Ukraine mimicked the tactics of those rioters in Kyiv who had forced Yanukovych into exile. The pro-Russian demonstrators seized and occupied government buildings in defiance of Kyiv's central authority.
Having assisted the new pro-Western government to seize power, Western nations, of which Canada was one of the most vocal, had denounced Yanukovych's use of force against demonstrators. But they soon turned a blind eye when the new Kyiv regime clamped down on the pro-Russian protestors. Fewer than 80 people had been killed during the Maidan riots in Kyiv, yet the West labelled Yanukovych a bloodthirsty dictator. Kyiv's clumsy attempts to subdue the rebellious territories in the east quickly escalated into a full-scale civil war, which has, to date, left more than 6,000 people dead.
Thus far, the breakaway self-proclaimed Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk have successfully fended off all attacks by Ukrainian military units and their privately owned militia allies. Although referendums were held in both Donetsk and Luhansk, with the majority vote desiring Russian annexation (as occurred in the Crimea), President Vladimir Putin has at least, up until now, steadfastly refused to take such action.
There is no doubt Russia is assisting the pro-Russian rebels with weaponry, volunteers and advisors. This is loudly decried by Western countries as underhanded interference in a Ukrainian Civil War, despite the fact those same countries proudly boast of their own provision of military equipment and advisors to assist the Kyiv regime in that same civil war.
Which brings us back to Canada and its recurrent role in training more young men how to fire yet more weapons to achieve peace in yet another complex conflict. Before continuing, I wish to state my own personal bias, in that I firmly believe Canadian soldiers to be among the very best in the world. That said, our record to date of training effective foreign forces remains abysmal.
We spent more than a dozen years in Afghanistan mentoring and training Afghan Security Forces. Historically, there are probably no fiercer warriors on the planet than the Afghans. But with all of our soldiers' professionalism and patience, we were never able to create anything better than an unreliable third-rate Afghan security force. Without direct NATO supervision, the Afghan police force is despised by the local population for its widespread corruption. Many Afghan Army units considered selling their NATO-supplied ammunition to the Taliban to be part of their basic pay package. The problem was not with the NATO trainers, but rather with the motivation of the Afghan recruits. Those who joined the government security forces did not do so out of a burning desire to prop up the regime of President Hamid Karzai. His regime was widely despised, and rightfully so. No, those Afghans who joined the military and police did so because of the paycheque. With NATO's emphasis placed on security rather than education, an Afghan soldier made nearly three times what an Afghan teacher was paid.
On the flip side, those Afghans who joined the ranks of the Taliban proved themselves all too willing to sacrifice their lives in suicide attacks to drive the foreigners from their country. Applying the motivation factor to our soldiers' current challenge of training Ukrainians, it will all come down to whether the Ukrainian recruits are as willing to die forcing the pro-Russian rebels to submit to the will of the Kyiv government, as the pro-Russians are willing to die to prevent that from happening.
For the record, the current Ukraine government ranks 142 out of 175 countries on the corruption index. Is that really something you want to die defending?
Scott Taylor, a former soldier, is an author and editor of Esprit de Corps magazine.
Updated on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 8:19 AM CDT: Adds photo
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.