Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for donating a surface-to-air missile system to the country that one former military general describes as a “life or death” capability amid continued assaults.
The announcement that Canada will purchase a U.S.-manufactured National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) for Ukraine came in a readout released from the Prime Minister’s Office earlier Tuesday.
In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, Zelenskyy said Trudeau’s “true leadership in standing for democracy and human rights has been vividly proven again.”
“Thank you for helping us to protect our sky,” Zelenskyy wrote. “NASAMS procured for us by Canada will be a strong shield for our cities and citizens.”
The NASAM is a medium-range ground-based air defence system that protects against drone, missile and aircraft attack with a high success rate, according to a statement from the Department of National Defence.
“Canada’s NASAMS donation will help Ukraine strengthen its air defence systems against destructive air attacks on military sites, civilian critical infrastructure, and population centres,” it reads.
This donation of NASAMS has an approximately $406 million value.
It comes from the $500 million military aid package to Ukraine announced on Nov. 14, 2022.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, had said he had a “very productive conversation” with Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand that the system will “considerably reinforce” Ukraine’s defence capabilities in a tweet on Tuesday.
“Eagerly awaiting an official announcement,” said Renikov. “Thank you Canada for standing by Ukraine.”
Anand said air defence systems are Ukraine’s top priority and this is the first time Canada has donated an air defence system to Ukraine, though other allies have already done so.
“In the face of Russia’s brutal airstrikes on Ukraine, this air defence system will help to protect Ukrainian population centres and critical infrastructure against drone, missile, and aircraft attacks,” Anand said in a tweet.
“With comprehensive military aid, Canada will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they fight against Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion.”
Retired Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, a former Canadian Army commander and former chief government whip for the Trudeau Liberals, told Global News that having an air defence system is “literally a life and death issue” to Ukraine considering Russia’s increasing use of weaponized drones, as well as “very sophisticated ground attack aircraft and helicopter gunships.”
However, Leslie also said Canada has lacks a strong air defence system and could do with similar weaponry.
“The Canadian Army has nothing. We have no air defence capability,” Leslie said, adding that he wishes Canada “would show that energy and enthusiasm to defend their own army.”
“I’m not saying they shouldn’t purchase this system from the Ukraine, but let’s demonstrate some sort of energy and get-it-done approach to buying a similar system for the Canadian Army.”
— with files from Global’s Aaron D’Andrea and Marc-Andre Cossette