Canada has vital stake in Ukraine outcome, but ‘no currency or clout’, experts say


“We are not considered a great player, no matter what our government tries to tell us”

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OTTAWA — Canada should not let Washington and Moscow decide Europe’s future alone as the threat of war between Russia and Ukraine escalates, experts say.

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As Vladimir Putin slowly works to break the deadlock on the Ukrainian border, Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University, says Canada must speak out.

“Anytime you have instability, threats to territorial integrity, to prosperity, to harmony, to political stability in Europe, it’s a fundamental threat to Canadian interests,” he said. -he declares.

“Anyone with a sense of strategy in Ottawa understands that how this plays out is absolutely vital to Canada.”

Tensions along the border rose on Monday as the United States put troops on standby as the prospect of a Russian invasion draws closer.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said military assistance to NATO remains on the table, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby adding that 8,500 US troops are now on “high alert.” enhanced”.

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Richard Shimooka, senior researcher at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said if war were to break out, the Canadian military would be far from healthy.

“Everywhere you look, the military either has a personnel crisis or a capability crisis,” he said.

As an example, he points out that Canada is short of about two-thirds of its pilot strength, as well as critical shortages in key positions such as naval radar and sonar operators.

“Our army is in a very bad state because it has been over-deployed,” Shimooka said.

“The issue has never been that Canada has never been able to commit more, it’s about how much Canada is willing to spend on capability.”

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Much of Canada’s equipment — most notably its fleet of largely obsolete CF-18s — is approaching or has already passed its useful life.

“What can Canada do? ” He asked.

“Actually, not much.”

Leuprecht said Canada’s inclusion in the process is vital for local and foreign interests, especially as Putin appears to be pivoting the conflict into a dialogue with the United States to decide the future of Europe. .

The importance of Europe to Canada is also rooted in many of our common values ​​and interests, said Leuprecht, adding that it is important for Canada to ensure it plays a role in preventing total conflict.

“We haven’t been very good at sending a clear message to Washington that the future of Europe will not be decided between Moscow and Washington,” he said.

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“I was terribly disappointed in our government for not saying ‘No, that’s not happening’ to American and Russian diplomats here.”

This bipartisan approach, he said, sends the wrong message to America’s allies.

“To claim that somehow we’re, once again, going to let them carve up Europe without us at the table – that’s a terrible foreign policy mistake by the Biden administration, they don’t should never have sat with the only Russians alone.

Canada’s remoteness from Russia, both geographically and economically, positions us better than others to be that voice of reason.

“We can look out the window much more on this than, say, the Germans or many countries in continental Europe who, at the very least, are hostages to Russian gas exports,” he said. declared.

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And while Canada has less to fear from Russia’s wrath than others, last week’s cyberattack on Global Affairs Canada – which came as Canada’s digital spy agency put in guard against the threat of Russian-backed hackers – is a glimpse into how the 21st century battlefield isn’t always on solid ground.

“They are trying to show that they can play at a high level with the West and NATO member countries,” he said.

Canada must convince Putin that Ukraine is not a worthwhile gamble, especially given the pressure he is under from the more ultra-nationalist elements in his entourage.

“There is no immediate threat to his government, but he still has to try to maintain the balance, and that takes a lot of work,” Shimooka said.

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“When you control the narrative, you can say whatever you want…the public will accept what you say, especially on foreign affairs.”

Shimooka objects to Canada’s positioning as a mediator in the conflict, saying no one sees us as a credible voice of reason.

“There has always been an impulse in Canada to be a constructive, brokering peacemaker, but Canada does not have the currency or the clout to undertake that kind of role,” he said.

“We are not considered a great player, no matter what our government tries to tell us.”

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