By Scott Taylor
Last week there were all sorts of rumblings in Ottawa that Canada is considering a proposal to implement a peacekeeping force in Ukraine.
First it was a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stating that the Liberal government “has been at the heart of international efforts to support Ukraine, and we are working hard to ensure any peacekeeping effort guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Then it was the turn of Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, who declared that, if he were prime minister, he would support the peacekeeping proposal from Ukraine’s government. “This mission would allow Ukraine to restore control over its eastern border with Russia, ensuring the Russian military stays within its own country, and out of Ukraine’s,” stated Scheer.
It is clear from Freeland’s and Scheer’s statements that either they know nothing about peacekeeping or they know nothing about the current conflict in Ukraine.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan only added to the collective ignorance when he confirmed Canada is considering a peacekeeping proposal from Kiev, which would “respect Ukraine’s original borders.”
There is no way that the pro-Russian rebels in the breakaway Donbass region of Ukraine are simply going to surrender their hard-fought-for territory to a Canadian soldier in a blue helmet. Similarly, Canada officially recognizes the Crimea to be sovereign Ukraine territory, which would mean somehow expelling the Russian troops that annexed the region in 2014.
Defeating rebels in a civil war and starting a territorial war with Russia is not peacekeeping. Russia’s counterproposal — to have international peacekeeping troops patrol the current ceasefire lines between the rebels and Ukraine government forces in advance of demilitarizing the area and conducting negotiations — seems to fit the traditional model of peacekeeping. Sajjan, however, has rejected this offer for the reason that it would “freeze” the conflict along the current lines.
Unless I missed something, I thought the idea of freezing the bloodshed was the whole rationale behind peacekeeping.
The whole premise is mute as long as Russia has a veto at the United Nations Security Council, and the timing of this discussion comes on the eve of the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in Vancouver on November 14 and 15.
Trudeau’s Liberal government has not kept its 2015 election campaign promise to make Canada a great peacekeeper again, despite an August 2016 announcement of an imminent UN mission to somewhere in Africa.
As that deployment of 600 troops at a budgeted cost of $400-million never materialized, Canada’s current paltry commitment of just a few dozen peacekeepers on UN duty does not meet the minimum entry requirement for the upcoming defence ministers’ meeting.
That’s right folks, if we were not the host nation, we would not be allowed to attend the gathering in Vancouver. Which is what makes this bluster about a Ukraine peacekeeping mission so interesting.
Canada can claim it wants to participate in a robust mission to bring peace to Ukraine, but by adding the proviso that this means restoring all sovereign territory to Kiev’s control ensures a Russian veto. This of course will allow Canada to unleash a new wave of anti-Russian rhetoric while breathing a sigh of relief that we will not have to actually deploy troops.
The Canadian delegation can strut around at the Vancouver conference and look like we are fire-breathing peace activists prepared to put Putin in his place … if only he wouldn’t use his UN veto to thwart our plan.
For the approximately 1.4-million Ukrainian-Canadian voters, the Liberal government’s restated pledge to respect and recognize Ukraine’s original borders will be music to their ears.
For the long-suffering people of Ukraine, however, Canada’s blank-cheque approach to supporting the regime of President Petro Poroshenko must be greeted with incredulity. Under Poroshenko’s corrupt leadership Ukraine’s economy has failed to recover, and the president’s personal approval rating is at a mind-blowing two per cent.
Like Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Poroshenko is a billionaire oligarch and both countries rank 131st out of 176 nations in terms of corruption. That is where the similarity ends as Putin has an 81 per cent personal popularity rating and Russia’s economy — despite the international sanctions — continues to grow.
If Canada truly wanted to assist the Ukrainian people and not the despised regime that runs it, we would focus more on eradicating the rampant corruption in Kiev before trying to force more Ukrainians in a breakaway territory to submit to it.