By Scott Taylor
There was a report out last week that the Canadian government is considering shipping a supply of weapons to Ukraine. This particular cache of pistols, machine guns, carbines and 60mm mortars was originally intended to equip Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq. That plan was hatched while Canadian Special Forces personnel were acting as trainers and mentors to the Kurdish militia in the allied effort to combat Daesh (aka ISIS) in Iraq.
Before we could get the weapons into the hands of the Kurds, Daesh was defeated and it suddenly became clear that the Kurds were likely to turn those guns against the security forces of the Iraqi central government.
Since it is this regime in Baghdad whom Canada officially purports to support, giving weaponry to Kurdish separatists would run completely counter to our stated goal of a unified, post-Daesh Iraq. So the weapons sit.
Now Conservative opposition M.P. James Bezan is lobbying to get these same weapons into the hands of the Ukrainian military. Paving the way for this, last year, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put Ukraine on the ‘Automatic Firearms Country Control List’, which allows Canadian manufacturers to sell a wide range of deadly weaponry to the Ukrainian military.
While this posturing is portrayed as evidence of Canada’s resolve to contain Russian President Vladimir Putin, the truth is that the provision of such a relatively small amount of Canadian weapons to Ukraine makes no sense in terms of military logistics.
As a former Soviet Republic, Ukraine’s Army is equipped with the Kalashnikov family of small arms. To ship them 500 Canadian made carbines would be problematic in the extreme when it comes to ammunition supply (NATO standard rounds are not compatible with former Soviet style assault rifles) and even basic maintenance due to a lack of spare parts and lack of trained armourers. It should be noted that this would have been the same story had we given them to the Kurds, as Iraqi security forces are also primarily equipped with Kalashnikovs.
In Afghanistan, Canada did equip a battalion of Afghan security forces with Canadian made C-8 carbines. Rather than being pleased with these sophisticated assault weapons, the Afghan recruits were extremely disappointed in the fact that they could no longer sell their ammunition to the Taliban as the carbines were incompatible.
Selling ammo to the insurgents was simply considered to be part of their pay package on the part of Afghan soldiers. But I digress.
Stepping back from the minutiae associated with military supply systems, the bigger question begs, when did it become Canadian policy to ship weapons into war zones to equip proxy forces? Does anyone in their right mind think that the solution to the ongoing violent anarchy in Iraq would be to ship in 500 weapons to equip one of the multitude of warring factions?
Hell, we knew so little about the geopolitical situation on the ground in Iraq that we authorized our Canadian military trainers to wear the flag of Kurdish separatists, while officially supporting the central government!
As for Ukraine, I do not think that anyone has said that this bitter civil war would benefit from having better weapons. Ukraine is in fact the 11th largest weapons exporter in the world, and that is after taking care of the domestic weapon demands generated by the war.
Canada prides itself on a history of peacekeeping, and in the past we deployed our troops into hostile battlefields with a mandate to demilitarize the disputed territory.
In the former Yugoslavia from 1992-95, our contingents in Croatia and Bosnia launched dangerous and daring raids to seize weapons caches from belligerents on both sides of the ceasefire lines.
In September 2001, Canadian troops were deployed into Macedonia on a mission dubbed Essential Harvest, to disarm Albanian separatists following the signing of the Ohrid Agreement peace plan.
Now Canada has a ready stash of deadly weapons that we seemingly can’t wait to add to some already lit conflagration.
Regrettably, we preach peacekeeping while practicing the exact opposite.