Canada focused on deterrence as special forces sent to Ukraine: Joly
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Canada is focused on deterrence through the presence of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on the ground in Ukraine, as allies send weaponry in response to Russia’s military build-up at the border.
During a press conference alongside Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv on Tuesday, Joly said Canada remains committed to enhancing the capabilities of Ukraine’s national guard and armed forces to help stave off a potential invasion of Russian troops.
“The goal is to make sure that we can contribute to their increased capacities, capabilities, in light of the Russian threat and also a further invasion from Russia,” said Joly.
“Russia is the aggressor and we need to make sure we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine.”
CTV News confirmed late Monday night that a small group of Canadian special forces has been deployed to Ukraine.
As part of Operation UNIFIER, Canada sends a group of about 200 CAF members to Ukraine every six months. The operation’s focus is to assist with force training in coordination with the U.S. and other countries that provide that level of support.
Joly did not provide details about the duties of the specific group of special forces, only to say that military support is “longstanding” and will “continue in the future.”
Joly travelled to Ukraine in light of the mounting tensions in the region and to underline Canada’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
Ukraine has asked for weaponry assistance from Western allies, along with concrete commitments to sanctions against Russia.
Britain announced it has begun supplying the country with anti-tank weapons for self-defence purposes.
"We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armour defensive weapon systems," British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the U.K. House of Commons, saying the first systems were already delivered on Monday and a small number of British personnel would provide training for a short period of time.
Asked whether Canada would consider the same, Joly said Canada hears “loud and clear” the demands from Ukraine and is “looking at options.”
She added that a decision would be made in a “timely manner.”
Joly reiterated the government’s commitment to “serious consequences,” including “coordinated sanctions” with allies should Russia proceed with an attack.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also set to travel to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Kuleba this week to reinforce Washington’s commitment to Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the State Department announced Tuesday.
He will then meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.
“The Secretary’s travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia’s military build-up and continued aggression against Ukraine,” the readout states.
Back in Canada, some opposition politicians are advocating against a “militarized” approach to cool tensions.
“I'm concerned about any further militarization and so the New Democrats have taken the position that we're not in favour of a militarized approach. We are deeply concerned about what's going on and we want to use all diplomatic channels and tools, economic sanctions…to make it clear that Russia's ongoing attempts of encroaching on Ukraine are completely wrong,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday.
The Conservative Party meanwhile has criticized the Liberals for being weak on Russia and have called on the government to extend and expand Operation UNIFIER and provide Ukraine with defensive weapons.
Aurel Braun, an international relations professor at the University of Toronto, said while a diplomatic solution would be ideal, writing-off the use of military force would give Russia a leg up.
“When people say that we are taking the military option off the table, which Mr. Putin has not taken off the table, we collectively in the West are negotiating with one arm tied behind our back,” he said.
Braun said Canada and its allies must convey to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine is not a “soft target.”
“There has to be a message that across the entire spectrum, the cost to Russia of invading the rest of Ukraine is far greater than any possible benefits that they wold receive,” he told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
“We’ve seen in the past that Mr. Putin will back down. He is not someone who is going to risk an all out conflict with NATO that he would loose.”
With files from Reuters
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