Hill Times | 08Aug2016 | Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

Canada should do more for Ukraine

Dion must stick with Canada’s values instead of muddled messages.

The recent NATO leaders’ summit displayed a united defence for its members and a favourable nod toward helping Ukraine. Good news. But was it enough to restrain Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine and globally?

Yes, NATO growled back -- a little -- in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody terror in Ukraine and elsewhere. Yes, the 28 members reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea and Donbas and committed to further support for the Minsk agreements. This means Russia’s withdrawal of covert and overt troops, the return of political prisoners, and a complete ceasefire.

And yes, recognizing that Ukraine needs military support to deal with Putin’s offensive, NATO made further headway by producing a Comprehensive Assistance Package designed to modernize Ukraine’s security and defence institutions.

According to NATO documents, the package aims to help Ukraine “carry out needed reforms, including in the security and defence sector.” It targets more than 40 areas including cyber security, non-military oversight, and dealing with the Russia’s bloody hybrid war.

A photo of the smiling threesome -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with the leaders of the United States and Britain -- says it all: Ukraine’s efforts to stand up to Russia are remarkable and deserving of greater support.

Yet, despite the smiles, NATO decided to keep Ukraine outside of its protection. Its all-important Article 5 -- which refers to an attack against one member as an attack on all -- was denied Ukraine primarily because Russia dreads having it inside the alliance. NATO membership was extended only to Montenegro, a country of marginal strategic significance. Surprisingly, Ukraine isn’t even in the lineup of countries -- Georgia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina -- singled out for membership readiness.

Ukraine’s exclusion favours Russia and buys it time to attack on its own terms. To this end, it is amassing military hardware on Europe’s borders with rapid regularity. In tandem, its hate and war propaganda attacks NATO and its members, especially the United States.

Summing up, the summit failed to reward sufficiently the key bulwark of its own defence and favoured, instead, Russia’s bark and war. As NATO hesitates, Russia advances systematically seizing the psychological advantage and moving ever more aggressively on Ukraine and elsewhere
Canada’s opposition parties recognized the shortfall. They chided the government for doing less rather than more for Ukraine at the summit.

James Bezan and Peter Kent, Conservative critics for defence and global affairs respectively, stated that Canada not only failed to support a friend, but also lost the opportunity to be a global leader in the fight against Putin. The NDP opposition demanded that sanctions be extended.

Going forward, Canada’s government can and must do more to push back Russia physically and dampen the psychological momentum its brazen lawlessness is breeding.

For starters, Canada must extend training Ukraine’s military into 2017. Next, our politician must stop condoning Putin’s criminal behaviour with words or actions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion was wrong in saying that “It’s terribly unfortunate that Canada has to deploy its forces in Latvia instead of having peacekeeping in Africa or in an area of the world where it’s much more needed.”

He was also wrong to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, following the summit. Both incidents work to neutralize NATO’s efforts. Mr. Dion must stick with Canada’s values instead of muddled messages: support like-minded partners, including Ukraine, not others creating havoc throughout the world.

The longer the wait to push back Putin and his paid lackeys operating in our midst, the worse it will get. Clearly more is needed from NATO members, from all of us, to stop them.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, former public-servant policy adviser in the Canadian government and president of a consulting firm brokering interests between Canada and Ukraine, is a founding member of the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.
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The Hill Times