In Ukraine, ‘weapons are the way to peace,’ NATO chief says amid tank ask

Click to play video: 'Canada to send Ukraine 200 more armoured vehicles: Anand'
Canada to send Ukraine 200 more armoured vehicles: Anand
WATCH - Canada to send Ukraine 200 more armoured vehicles: Anand – Jan 18, 2023

“Weapons are the way to peace” in Ukraine, NATO’s secretary-general says as Kyiv looks to allies for battle tanks in its nearly year-long fight against a Russian invasion.

Jens Stoltenberg told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday that allies must continue to supply Ukraine with weapons so that Russian President Vladimir Putin “doesn’t win this war.”

“If we want a negotiated, peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine, we need to provide military support to Ukraine. That’s the only way,” he said alongside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland during a panel discussion.

“Weapons are the way to peace, and that may sound like a paradox, but the only way to have a negotiated agreement is to convince President Putin that he will not win on the battlefield. He has to sit down and negotiate.”

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Allies have been wrestling with whether to send tanks to Ukraine this week. Among them is Germany, which is facing pressure to not only send some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, but to allow other countries that operate the same tanks to do the same.

That includes Canada, which has 112 Leopard 2s in several configurations in use by the Canadian Armed Forces. The tanks were acquired from Germany in 2007, during the height of the war in Afghanistan.

Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Wednesday that Finland and Poland had both indicated their plan to send Leopard 2s to Ukraine, and he expressed confidence Berlin would come around when allied defence ministers meet Friday in Germany for a U.S.-led meeting on the war.

National Defence Minsiter Anita Anand, who was in Ukraine Wednesday alongside Reznikov to announce 200 additional armoured vehicles being sent to Ukraine, said in a separate media briefing the issue of the Leopards is top of mind and will be discussed during the Friday meeting.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s calls for aid as Russia renews missile attacks'
Ukraine’s calls for aid as Russia renews missile attacks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not rule out sending Canadian-owned Leopard 2s to Ukraine if Germany agreed to such a move, saying earlier this week that the government “will look at all the requests from Ukraine but we’re not there yet for the Leopard 2 tanks.”

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The Canadian government says it has contributed approximately $1 billion in military assistance since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, with billions more in the form of financial stabilization and humanitarian support.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the crowd in Davos virtually on Wednesday, urging western nations to speed up their aid to his nation.

“The mobilization of the world must outpace the next military mobilization of our joint enemy. The supplying of Ukraine with air defence systems must outpace Russia’s next missile attacks,” he said.

“The supplying of western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks. The restoration of security and peace in Ukraine must outpace Russia’s attacks on security and peace in other countries.”

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s Zelenskyy leads minute of silence for helicopter crash victims'
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy leads minute of silence for helicopter crash victims

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not address the issue during his own address at Davos on Wednesday, but insisted Berlin will be there to support Ukraine,

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“In order for the war to end, Russia’s aggression must fail. That is why we are continuously supplying Ukraine with large quantities of arms in close consultation with our partners. This includes air defence systems … and armoured infantry fighting vehicles, marking a profound turning point in German foreign and security policy,” he said.

The tank issue has reignited worry over potential fractions in western support for Ukraine. With the war nearing its one-year mark, Freeland expressed confidence of unity among the allies.

“Ukraine is teaching all of us again the true strength of democracy, something that in good times it’s easy to not think about that much,” she said.

“This is a fight ultimately about values. We in the West also need to understand that the victory that President Zelenskyy spoke about, and that time, which he said we need to use, it’s not about doing Ukraine favours, supplying Ukraine with weapons and … supplying Ukraine with the money it needs to win the war is ultimately in our own self-interest.”

Putin acknowledges ‘war’ in Ukraine in new claim defending invasion

Putin claimed Wednesday that Moscow’s action in Ukraine was intended to stop a “war” that has raged in the eastern portion of the nation for years.

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Speaking at a meeting with veterans, Putin said Russia had long sought to negotiate a settlement to the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Click to play video: 'Putin: Russia’s ‘special military operation’ is an attempt to stop war'
Putin: Russia’s ‘special military operation’ is an attempt to stop war

“Large-scale combat operations involving heavy weapons, artillery, tanks and aircraft haven’t stopped in Donbas since 2014,” Putin said.

“All that we are doing today as part of the special military operation is an attempt to stop this war. This is the meaning of our operation – protecting people who live on those territories.”

He described Ukraine’s east as Russia’s “historic territories,” adding that Moscow conceded their loss after the 1991 Soviet collapse but had to act to protect Russian speakers there.

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Putin has explained his decision to send troops into Ukraine by the need to protect Russian speakers and conduct “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine to prevent it from posing a threat to Russia – claims rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies as a cover for an unprovoked act of aggression.

Putin attended the meeting with veterans during Wednesday’s visit to St. Petersburg to mark the 80th anniversary of the Red Army breaking the Nazi siege of the city on Jan. 18, 1943.

The siege of the city that was then called Leningrad lasted nearly 900 days and was only fully lifted in January 1944, marking one of the bloodiest pages of the Second World War. About one million people died in Leningrad during the siege, most of them from starvation.

— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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