By TONY SEED
(March 25) – On March 6, the Trudeau government announced an extension of Canada’s military intervention in the civil war in Ukraine for another two years. Since January 2014, Canada has allocated $700 million in funds for Ukraine, some of which was used to purchase military equipment. The Trudeau Liberals are now adding untold more hundreds of millions to this amount.
The present regime in Ukraine has been waging war against the people of the country’s east and repressing those labelled as communists, “separatists” and “pro-Russia” since it came to power in a U.S.-backed coup in 2014. Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine and its deployment of 200 members of the Canadian Forces was set to expire on March 31. The Poroshenko government has been demanding its renewal at the fastest possible speed.  The Ukrainian government and others also call for Canada’s mission to be expanded to include supplying heavy weaponry. In parallel, Canada has a multi-year program to train Ukraine’s National Police force as well as its Military Police.
The announcement of the mission’s extension was made not by the Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan, but by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. Freeland described the mission as simply providing “military instruction and capacity building” and raised the spectre of Russia as justification for the extension.
The press conference was an exercise in provocation, diversion and camouflage. Freeland presented the Russian Federation as a direct threat to Canada, which no media has challenged. She renewed the accusation that anyone opposed to Canada’s military deployment is a fellow traveler of “Russian disinformation” which she said seeks to derail democratic institutions in Canada and, is, by implication, xenophobic, etc. The idea of a direct threat to Canada by Russia is not even the stated view of the Department of National Defence. These assertions of opinion are passed off as “fact” and are to be believed simply because some ministers say so.
Freeland brazenly stated that there is no alternative to military force and that military intervention is linked to “economic growth.” This means neo-liberal globalization under the NATO bloc, including the privatization and cannibalization of arms production in Ukraine, a leading arms exporter. In that regard, the extension of the mission comes after the House of Commons approved Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine on February 14, while the Ukrainian parliament endorsed the free trade agreement one week after Canada’s military extension, on March 14. Freeland nonetheless presented the fiction of military commitment as a disinterested and bilateral “support,” “military instruction” and “capacity building” “in order to maintain the sovereignty of Ukraine.” According to CBC, “Freeland said that Canada’s mission in Ukraine has seen the forces of both countries work together in a professional way that has helped improve their respective militaries.”
Following the press conference, Defence Minister Sajjan travelled to the Prairies to meet in Saskatoon and Winnipeg with a private Ukrainian organization which champions Canada’s intervention, again raising the spectre of Russia. One cannot recall similar performances following Canada’s military intervention in Haiti or Afghanistan whereby defence ministers held private meetings with Haitian Canadians or Afghan Canadians.
On March 20, a “take note” session was hastily convened in Parliament on Canada’s mission in Ukraine. No MP opposed Canada’s armed forces taking part in the civil war in Ukraine or challenged the view that Russia poses a grave military threat to Canada which must be countered. Freeland stated her confidence that all members would “support Canada’s ongoing efforts to support the people of Ukraine and to help them defend their territory.”
Conservative MP James Bezan during the debate said that Ukraine’s Minister of Defence has been asking, and he is also asking, if Canada will sign a “Canada-Ukraine Defence Co-operation Agreement,” the existence of which was hitherto not acknowledged by the Liberal government. Sajjan responded that all obstacles to the Defence Agreement have been resolved and that it is now a matter of “getting the timing right, with my counterparts, to move ahead with the defence co-operation agreement.” The negotiations for such an agreement as well as what it might contain have been treated as virtual secrets and hidden from Canadians.
Canadian Forces to “Advise” and “Train”
While Ministers Freeland and Sajjan have been camouflaging the actual aims and extent of what Canada is doing in Ukraine, there is a growing awareness among Canadians about what forces Canada is supporting and why. In the face of this, Freeland and Sajjan as well as the media and other cartel parties create false impressions about what is called “bilateral and mutual aid” between two sovereign countries, Canada and Ukraine. All of it is to divert the concern of Canadians about the growing military intervention by Canada and NATO forces in Ukraine and Eastern Europe along the borders with Russia.
Canada only refers to its mission as training “Ukrainian forces,” which includes infantry, navy, air force and the National Guard. The phrase “Ukrainian forces” hides the fact that it is precisely the National Guard which is being trained. This force was hastily formed in the midst of the defection of thousands of professional officers and troops from the Ukrainian army and navy immediately following the 2014 coup. More importantly, it was a means to integrate holus-bolus some 17 death squads, created as private gangs of Ukrainian oligarchs contending for power and attacking “separatists,” under a central authority.
The formation of a new national gendarmerie was the demand of neo-Nazi group Pravi Sektor (Right Sector) headed by Dimitry Yarosh, issued on January 29, 2014 in the midst of the U.S.-backed putsch. This future “National Guard” comprised at that time the “Maidan Self-Defence Forces,” Right Sector and unspecified Cossacks. Despite this, the official integration of these militias into the Armed Forces of Ukraine was presented as a “reform” to pacify concern about the neo-Nazis being given top cabinet positions in the military and police after the coup d’état in February 2014.
The low morale of soldiers of the Ukrainian military and police forces evoked grave concern with the American inspirers of putsches, military adventures and provocations. Faced with large-scale desertions from the Ukrainian armed forces, especially in Crimea where thousands of officers including the admiral of the fleet and seamen defected to the Russian Federation, deterioration of morale in the ranks, and active opposition from local police, the coup government re-established the National Guard on March 13, 2014 as its strike force against the people inhabiting Eastern Ukraine.
The U.S., through its “Ukraine-United States Commission” formed in 2014, is in charge of funnelling military supplies and arms, troops and “trainers” for the National Guard, with the pretext of “reforming” the military and police power. The U.S. also led the creation of a new National Police force in Ukraine in July 2015, presently headed by Vadym Troyan, a prominent member of neo-Nazi organizations such as the “Social-Nationalist Assembly” and “Patriots of Ukraine,” and a former deputy commander of the Azov Battalion.
Canada’s mission was first announced by Stephen Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office and the U.S. Department of Defense in April 2015 and described as Canada joining the latter’s Ukraine National Guard training program. These fascist and neo-Nazi militias now number some 50 in all, originally privately financed by the big oligarchs and continuing to rely on private and foreign sponsors for equipment and supplies. Subsequently, any mention of the National Guard was dropped and the moniker “Ukrainian forces” adopted.
Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) reports that it has trained 3,200 members of the “Ukrainian forces” since August 2015 as if this “training” is a new phenomena. The government and the media are silent on precisely what Canada was doing since the year 1993 when it first became involved in Ukraine and its military as part of the NATO integration process. The quality and quantity of the Canadian Forces “training” from 1993 to 2015 is not some minor matter. Further, DND presents the mission as purely technical in nature; it is said to entail small team training, explosive ordnance disposal, military policing, medical training and logistics system modernisation.
These media reports on what the training is about divert from the fact that there is a deployment of a military force thousands of miles from Canada and on the borders with Russia, the result of 24 years of military, political and economic intervention by Canada, the U.S. and the NATO bloc. They create the impression that it is merely one-on-one coaching like a sports skills camp for youth even though a significant component is on “teaching basic soldier skills, such as how to shoot, move and communicate on the battlefield.” Other reports reveal that training “how to shoot” includes training snipers, presently deployed to assassinate those who are labelled “Russian-backed separatists” in the east of Ukraine.
1.This included Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko conducting interviews with high-profile media outlets calling for the mission to be renewed, and even declaring that Canada is at war with Russia and therefore must take further action. Shevchenko said, “Our clear understanding of this moment is we are at war and we are on the same side. Sooner or later this is the reality we will have to accept and we will have to have very mature, strong and thoughtful conversations about the future. We have got to be together, not just because democracies should stay together, not just because good, right people should stay together. It’s a matter of survival because we are facing a very existential threat.”
2.In testimony given to the National Defence Committee of the House of Commons on March 24, 2014 Jill Sinclair, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, DND, Major-General Christian Rousseau, Chief of Defence Intelligence and Commander of Canadian Armed Forces Intelligence Command, and Arthur Wailczynski, Director General of the International Security and Intelligence Bureau at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, told the Committee “that no state currently poses a military threat to Canada. However, all three witnesses agreed that Canada faces a number of non-military threats to its security, such as terrorism, illicit trafficking of narcotics, and human and weapon smuggling.” (NDDN, Evidence, 2nd Session, 41st Parliament, 27 March 2014 (Major-General Christian Rousseau, Jill Sinclair, and Arthur Wailczynski))
3.The National Guard was originally disbanded in 2000.
4.The coup government of Andrei Yatsenyuk – the chosen man of the United States – appointed on February 23, 2014, appointed as Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh, the admiral and commander of the Ukrainian Navy from 2006 until 2010. Tenyukh was a member of the fascist Svoboda Party and activist in the Maidan insurgency. Tenyukh had been trained by the U.S. Department of Defense. In less than a month after the appointment, Tenyukh resigned amid the Crimean crisis and was replaced by Lieutenant-General Mikhail Koval, another Svoboda member. Right Sector leader Yarosh was subsequently appointed adviser to the chief of Ukraine’s National and Security Council, Andriy Parubiy.
5.The militias, such as the Azov and Aidar brigades, have foreign mercenaries in their ranks and display Nazi symbols; they have carried out untold atrocities and war crimes against the people of eastern Ukraine in the Kiev regime’s attempts to bring these regions under its control. Even Amnesty International issued statements accusing Aidar of “war crimes” (for example, September 8, 2014). Their integration into the National Guard was accelerated by the decision of the U.S. Congress on June 10, 2015 to prohibit training or other support to one of the paramilitary units, the Azov Battalion.
This article was originally published in TML Weekly, March 25, 2017 – No.10. It has been slightly revised.