Canada will not send weapons to Ukraine, boosting cyber support and training mission

Click to play video: 'Canada does not approve lethal aid for Ukraine amid escalating Russian aggression'
Canada does not approve lethal aid for Ukraine amid escalating Russian aggression
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that Canada will be extending Operation Unifier by three more years. It will send an additional 60 troops to Ukraine along with non-lethal weapons – but no guns or lethal aid – Jan 26, 2022

The Canadian government will not send small weapons to Ukraine in support of that country’s preparations to deter and potentially defend against the threat of a Russian incursion.

The government is, though, extending Operation Unifier for an additional three years and boosting both intelligence sharing and support to combat Russian cyber attacks, as well as sending “non-lethal equipment.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement in a press conference late Wednesday afternoon following a three-day virtual cabinet retreat where the proposal on whether to send arms was discussed.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s national security chief urges more international military aid'
Ukraine’s national security chief urges more international military aid

Global News had reported earlier in the week that the federal cabinet was weighing whether to send small weapons and ammunition to Ukraine: specifically, firearms like pistols, sniper rifles and machine guns, along with potentially more intelligence sharing and cyber support. The Ukrainian government had specifically asked for weapons from Canada, along with an extension of Operation Unifier.

Story continues below advertisement

A Ukrainian national security official reiterated earlier in the day that the country needed Canada to urgently send it “defensive weapons.”

Trudeau said Canada is deploying 60 additional Canadian Forces members now to join the roughly 200 others already on the ground as part of Canada’s military training mission, and that he is authorizing the potential for another 200 to be deployed in the future.

“Things like body armour, optics and scopes, elements like that,” Trudeau said when asked to explain what non-lethal aid Canada plans to provide and why the decision was made not to send weapons.

He was asked by multiple journalists to provide a clear answer as to why the government has decided not to send weapons to Ukraine. Trudeau repeatedly did not directly answer the questions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Global Affairs Canada will also be launching a task force to “coordinate our efforts across our government.”

“It is a very effective strategy to make sure that we are resisting any further Russian invasion, but also misinformation by the Russian government,” Joly said.

The Canadian government’s decision comes at a time when several Western nations fear a Russian military invasion of the former Soviet state is becoming possible.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s national security chief wants Canada to provide ‘defensive weapons’ amid Russia standoff'
Ukraine’s national security chief wants Canada to provide ‘defensive weapons’ amid Russia standoff

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was blunt in her assessment of the stakes for Canada.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is a direct challenge to the rules-based international order and an attempt to replace it with a world in which might makes right and where the great powers, the nuclear armed powers, have the authority to redraw the borders, dictate the foreign policies, and even rewrite the constitutions of sovereign democracies whose only fault is that they are smaller and their militaries are not as powerful.”

“The world’s dictators are watching to see if our alliance of democracies has the will and the capacity to stand up for the rules-based international order,” she continued. “We must and we will show them that we understand the gravity of this challenge and that we will rise to it.”

Conservatives said in a joint statement from four of their critics that Trudeau had an opportunity to “do the right thing” and that the government “failed to do this.”

“This lack of action by Prime Minister Trudeau calls into question the Liberal government’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Russia’s aggression,” the statement reads. “The time for half measures has long passed. Ukraine needs Canada’s support and today Mr. Trudeau let them down.”

Story continues below advertisement

With no end in sight to the current situation, Ukraine needs to prepare for the worst, said Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, an advisory group that deals with national security and defence issues under the president of Ukraine.

“We are grateful … for all the assistance provided by the Government of Canada and from the people of Canada,” he told Global News’ Crystal Goomansingh in Kyiv on Wednesday.

“If we would like to have more in such times, yes, for sure – and what should this be? It’s defensive weapons, defensive weapons and once more, defensive weapons.”

Secretary of the National security and defence council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov answers AFP journalists’ questions during an interview in his office, in Kyiv on Dec. 24, 2021. Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images
Click to play video: 'U.S. delivers written response to Russia’s demands over Ukraine'
U.S. delivers written response to Russia’s demands over Ukraine

Danilov, who spoke through a Ukrainian translator, added his country is ready to defend itself in the case of a Russian invasion.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is our land, and we will protect it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Russia warned it would retaliate if the United States and its allies reject its security demands around Ukraine.

The West is worried Russia will launch a military invasion of the former Soviet state since it has stationed roughly 100,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders, and started a series of war games in the region.

Moscow has denied it plans to invade its neighbour, but is pushing for the West to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe.

For weeks, Russia has sought guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members, and that the alliance will roll back troop deployments in other former Soviet bloc countries.

Some of these demands, such as a pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO. However, Washington is open to discussing other ideas about arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures, Reuters reports.

“If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

“We won’t allow our proposals to be drowned in endless discussions.”

The Admiral Essen frigate leaves to join a naval exercise of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on Jan. 25. Russian Defence MinistryTASS via Getty Images

Earlier this week, NATO started bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential deployment to Europe. Other western nations have also sent planeloads of weapons to help Ukraine strengthen its defenses.

Canada, meanwhile, is loaning up to $120 million to Ukraine to help bolster its economy which has been crushed by the ongoing crisis.

Ottawa is also warning Russia it will impose further sanctions on Moscow if any military action is taken to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.

In the meantime, the federal government is moving to protect Canadian citizens in the region.

On Tuesday, Ottawa ordered the families of diplomats stationed at the embassy in Ukraine to leave the country. Furthermore, the government said, Canadians in Ukraine should consider whether their presence in the country is essential.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Canada orders families of diplomatic staff to leave Ukraine'
Canada orders families of diplomatic staff to leave Ukraine

Ottawa has also sent a small group of special forces operators to the region to help advise the government in Kyiv and help plan an evacuation of Canadian diplomatic staff in the event of an invasion.

In Ukraine, officials have sought to calm nerves as tensions escalate.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday while the concentration of Russian troops poses a threat, “their number is now insufficient for a large-scale offensive.”

“They are still missing some key military elements and systems to mount a big, full-scale offensive,” Kuleba told reporters, adding causing alarm could be an end in itself.

Russia, he claims, hopes to destabilize Ukraine by “spreading panic, raising pressure on Ukraine’s financial system and launching cyberattacks.”

Click to play video: 'Ukraine president Zelenskiy urges calm amid Russian threat'
Ukraine president Zelenskiy urges calm amid Russian threat

As for Danilov, he wants Russia to deescalate its presence in Ukraine, citing the ongoing conflict involving Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that began after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Story continues below advertisement

“For the war to be stopped, the Russians have to make such a decision because we did not unleash this war,” he said through the translator.

“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin should take away his troops, his tanks, his artillery … and go back home. That’s the only thing we ask and demand.”

— with files from the Associated Press

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s national security chief urges more international military aid'
Ukraine’s national security chief urges more international military aid

Sponsored content