Hill Times | 06Oct2014 | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Ukraine therefore needs overt military help

History will not forgive, if Western leaders fail to stand up to terror. Our values, rather than those of a bully, must prevail.

Canada’s support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion “…is not to us just a matter of international law or political principle. This is a matter of kinship, this is a matter of family, this is personal and we will stand by you,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a recent visit to Ottawa by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The president was profoundly thankful for our steadfast friendship but stressed that Ukraine needs “more than blankets” to win against Russia. Canada promised non-lethal military aid -- intelligence, training -- as well as a $200-million-plus loan.

Good, but not enough. A Ukrainian victory -- a democratic future, re-invigorated economy, beaten down corruption -- requires an international strategy involving multi-stakeholder participation. The EU Association Agreement, ratified recently, is the way forward. So is a Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement the two leaders discussed. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin wants none of this and is determined to kill processes aligning Ukraine with the West, be it through war, false cease-fires, or frozen conflict.

We must not let him. He is a terrorist and a criminal. His barbarianism -- failure to respect international law, annexing sovereign states, exiling, abducting, torturing and killing citizens, destroying cities, downing civilian passenger planes -- is identical to the ISIS operating style in the Middle East. Yet few make the link: Omar al-Shishani, born and trained in occupied Chehnya, is reported to be ISIL’s chief commander. Both wars of terror call for commensurate punishment. It has yet to arrive in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Putin makes demands: no NATO for Ukraine, no association agreement, and no sanctions for Russia as if it were the victim rather than the perpetrator. Small wonder that Lithuanian’s President Dalia Grybauskaite asks why, in the light of his atrocities, is the West concerned with Putin’s sensitivities rather than Ukraine’s?

As its aggression increases, so must the punishment and isolation. Some diplomatic steps have been taken. The G-8 is no more; Poland is calling for a limit on Russia’s UN Security Council veto; and the international space program has been halted.

Going forward, Australia’s grief for its citizens downed in the Malaysia flight calls for a ban-Putin-stand at the November G-20 meeting. Disinvite him from the Europe-Asia (ASEM) meeting of some 50 nations in Italy next month. In sports, the Ottawa Jets’ Eugene Melnyk has mounted a boycott of Moscow’s 2018 World Cup. More is needed to crush the rogue.

Canada could lead in developing a full list of political, economic, sport, academia -- all international for an undertaking -- excluding Russia until it chooses to conform to international law and the world order.

It is still scoffing, but economic sanctions are hurting. The pain will increase as sectoral sanctions -- energy, banks -- kick in. However, a united commitment from all signees is needed. Canada can use its close relations with holdout countries like France, Italy, and Japan to ensure a fail-safe front. Germany’s fall cruise into Crimea is a cheap and cheeky endorsement of Russia’s aggression and needs shaming.

Canada must keep faith too. NDP Member of Parliament Peggy Nash asked why two banks and several oligarchs were taken surreptitiously off the sanctions list? Opposition oversight is welcome, as are answers.

Last winter’s Maidan revolution on the streets of Kyiv began as a stand against state corruption. Its elimination continues to be a most pressing need, especially in the defence sector where Russia still has too much control and command. It is heart wrenching to hear about dying or wounded freedom fighters because state-provided arms are issued by corrupt superiors for cash only. Or, that battle re-enforcements fail to materialize because of seditious leadership.

Hence, Poroshenko’s request for military assistance.

Canada has much experience in providing civilian oversight in defence. It is inexpensive and could be part of the military assistance package. More. Our entire federal public service has a reputation of being one of the finest. In the mid-1990s, the then Public Service School of Management held a program for Ukraine’s ministers and deputy ministers on how Canada governs. The intent was to create ongoing relationships between counterparts. Perhaps a revival is timely.

Clearly, there is no shortage of what needs and can be done. However, all will be for naught if the West fails to halt Russia in crippling it into submission from where it can expand its primitive rule. Harper made this clear: “We cannot let Mr. Putin’s dark and dangerous actions stand, for they have global security implications.” Ukraine therefore needs overt military help. This is the United States and NATO’s prerogative but Canada, Ukraine’s friend, nay family, must intervene.

History will not forgive, if Western leaders fail to stand up to terror. Our values, rather than those of a bully, must prevail.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, former president of U*Can Ukraine Canada Relations Inc., a consulting firm specializing in brokering international interests, is an opinion writer.
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