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Ukrainians in Canada

08.11.2017

OPENING REMARKS FOR THE TESTIMONY OF IHOR KOZAK ON CANADA AND THE CRISIS IN UKRAINE BEFORE THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL DEFENCE

 

 

(18 October 2017, Parliament Hill, Ottawa)

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and the members of the Standing Committee on National Defence, for convening these important hearings and conducting the study on Canada and the Crisis in Ukraine, and for the invitation to appear alongside such an impressive group of renowned experts with whom you have been consulting over the past few weeks.

I can clearly recall how five years ago I appeared before similar hearings convened by the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations and International Development. At those hearings, I emphasized the authoritarian criminal regime of the then President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and Russia as the two major threats to the Euro-Atlantic future of Ukraine as well as security and stability of the West.

While the Yanukovych regime is gone, Russia remains. It remains not only as a threat as before when it sought to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Russia’s invasion and its war - to be clear, armed aggression and military occupation of sovereign Ukrainian land, Crimea and part of the Donbas region - created an unprecedented international crisis. In fact, what gives pause is that the only other similar situation in modern history was when troops of Nazi Germany marched into Sudetenland. Moreover, as we all know, at that time the West’s fainthearted response to that blatant military aggression in the heart of Europe is what spawned World War II.

Russia’s war in the geographic center of Europe is now in its fourth year, with no real sign of ending anytime soon. The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reports that in the last 48 hours, 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 6 were wounded in action. The ceasefire violations by Russian-terrorist forces significantly escalated as they fired on Ukrainian positions 80 times in total, including with heavy weapons. Russian-terrorist forces also shelled residential areas near the village of Zalizne. One civilian was injured.

The consequences are a human tragedy of over 2 million displaced persons, over ten thousand dead, many tens of thousands maimed, and massive destruction of the Donbas infrastructure and thus a large segment of Ukraine’s industrial base. If this was not enough, Russia is also deeply engaged in hybrid warfare aimed to destabilize Ukraine from within. The extent of the Kremlin’s efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government, to aggravate political disagreements in Parliament, to foment social unrest, to create conflicts among ethnic and religious groups, to spread disinformation and to intimidate people through acts of terror is unprecedented in comparison to similar efforts over the course of Ukraine’s 26 years of independence.

I am a retired officer in the Canadian Armed Force. My current occupation is a consultant in the military-industrial sphere. I am engaged with many not-for-profit and charitable projects involving the war zone of eastern Ukraine. I have been many times to the Donbas, including the most forward positions along the line of demarcation. I could elaborate on this topic for a long time and in much detail. Unfortunately, the time allotted to me is very limited.

Suffice it to share one glaring example: There are now almost 500 Russian tanks in the Donbas – a contingent larger than the entire armoured corps of the current German army. Not to mention the offensive battlegroups located on the Russian soil next to Ukraine’s borders.

The Ukrainian Army is at a serious disadvantage, and would be hard pressed to stop a full Russian offensive, especially if modern weapons and technologies are used. This is the reason Ukraine has  been consistently requesting from the West modern defensive weapons.

I am pleased that our government is finally moving forward with the process that would see Ukraine added to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. This tangible action by Canada speaks louder than all the so called “assurances” from many other Euro Atlanticpartners of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government provided Canada and our allies with the list of necessary military equipment, and requested for Canada to recommence provision of military grade satellite imagery. Canada should respond positively to the Ukrainian government requests, and should also encourage our allies to provide further non-lethal as well as lethal defensive weapons. The military aid should include those called for in Anders Rasmussen’s excellent oped two days ago in the Globe and Mail, such as advance night-vision goggles, signaljamming equipment, and counter-battery radars; but also such defensive items as FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles.

I also fully concur with Mr. Rasmussen’s recommendation to confront Vladimir Putin on his United Nations peacekeeping proposal. Canada gave birth to the very concept of peacekeeping and, since 1950s, has participated in more peacekeeping missions than any other country in the world. As such our country is uniquely positioned to lead a peacekeeping mission in the Donbas. For this to work, however, the UN need to be brought into the process of establishing terms and conditions that are fair and equitable and geared to the principle goal of restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including Ukrainian control over the Russian border. The Kremlin should be offered an off-ramp back into Russia for its military forces and surrogates. That is all. There should be no meddling with restoring complete Ukrainian sovereignty for the sake of some sort of face-saving concessions to Putin.

Ukrainians have risen to the challenge on both counts of the Kremlin aggression: a military war in eastern Ukraine and a hybrid war in the rest of the country. Moreover, Ukrainians also have gone forward in reforming their government, economy and society. There is much more that needs to be done. However, more has been achieved in the last 3 years than during the first 23 years of independence: transparent government procurement, mandatory electronic declarations for government officials, western model of police force (with our Canadian help of course), just to name a few. Similarly, education, pension and healthcare reforms are being tackled simultaneously, at a time of war, in dire economic conditions and with Russia’s hybrid methods seeking to manipulate and to represent these efforts to the polity in the most negative ways.

From the very outset of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, Canada responded with understanding and assistance to the Ukrainian people. Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence, so too it was the first to confront the authoritarian practices of the Yanukovych regime and its policies of distancing Ukraine from Europe. Hence, the very first trip by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Ukraine seven years ago this month took place during the very first year of Yanukovych’s tenure. Today, it is Canada once again and its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that not only acknowledge Ukraine’s right to defend itself but also work on finalizing the process of adding Ukraine to the AFCC list. This is in addition to supplying Ukrainian Forces with the much-needed nonlethal military equipment, starting in the summer of 2015 when it was needed most (I am certain that Mr. Bezan, who is present here today, will never forget that flight from CFB Trenton to Kyiv on a Hercules aircraft packed with the first batch of the non-lethal military aid); and the ongoing highly successful military training mission OP UNIFIER (by the way, currently proudly led by my Royal Military College of Canada classmate and friend LCol Kris Reeves). Not to mention Canada’s steadfast support of Ukraine on political and economic fronts.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, the truth is that Ukraine remains the only real force standing between the Russian aggressors and the security and stability of Europe. Western leaders need to find wisdom and strength to adopt a far-sighted strategy for the free world. This, among other things, means doing more, not less, to support Ukraine at this critical time.

The Canadian people and governments have always been there to help the people of Ukraine. Today is no different. I am confident we are ready to answer the call.

Thank you. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

 

 

 

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