Conrad Black: Canada’s support for Ukraine shows we can be a powerful force for good

We must govern ourselves in an original and imaginative way that obviously gives us competitive progress in achieving greater and more equitably distributed prosperity.

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A longtime reader of this column who talks to me about it often, always with insight, wrote to me after last week’s article, in which I criticized a proposal to replace Roman Catholic and other military chaplains. armed by people who meet the most fanciful current standards of inclusivity. “Systemic idiocy,” he wrote, “has hit our military. Just another example of how unserious Canada has become. At the same time that the Ukrainian army is waging an existential war, our leaders are committed to bringing “revival” into our armed forces. It’s a sad state of affairs where our military has become a Mickey Mouse institution with outdated weapons: 50-year-old fighter jets, submarines spending more time repairing than diving, recruitment difficulties and a broken military procurement process. A country that (asks) the Inuit with WWII rifles to patrol and defend our northern shores. An army with so many generals and so few soldiers. We are so lucky that the United States provides us with homeland defense. May God help us if we have to fight an existential war. With a slight allowance for hyperbole, this is all correct.

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That said, and notwithstanding my frequent criticisms of the policy of successive governments of both major parties to allow our military to deteriorate in every respect except the quality of personnel, it is a particular pleasure for me to express my admiration and support for the Trudeau government’s generous assistance to Ukraine. The Canadian Forces conducted extensive training of Ukrainian troops. In February, Canada provided Ukraine with $10 million worth of lethal and non-lethal military equipment and pledged an additional $25 million. In March, the government made a series of announcements, pledging to send more military equipment, as well as $100 million in humanitarian aid, $50 million in specialized equipment, food for the Ukrainian army and $1 million to purchase high-resolution satellite imagery. In April, Canada sent four M-777 howitzers and committed $500 million over the coming year to help Ukraine in the budget. Even more aid was pledged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent visit to the country. This represents a disproportionate response to the contributions of other NATO countries whose populations are much larger than ours.

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Perhaps part of the motivation of the Prime Minister and his colleagues to respond so generously to this crisis has to do with the size of the highly respected segment of the Canadian population of Ukrainian descent (1.36 million people, according to the 2016 census, or about four percent of the population, including Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland), but it would be rude to deny the government credit for seeing and acting on the recognition that the he Russian invasion of Ukraine was not only illegal and outrageous, but posed a very great threat to the credibility of the West and to the momentum of the spread of democratic government, market economy and advancement culture of Western civilization in general. If Russia had succeeded in eradicating and reabsorbing into itself the more than 40 million inhabitants of Ukraine, it would have substantially reversed the great, almost bloodless victory of the West in the Cold War by bringing back to Russia the most of the former Soviet Union outside of Russia itself. This has been the goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Incredibly, some of the most influential American conservative commentators have advocated this course; it is another source of pride that they found little echo in Canada.

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If the West had, as many advocated and still believe to be the best course, taken the position that the Russian action did not directly affect any NATO country and therefore did not concern the Western alliance, let it not It wasn’t for us to decide different states of the great Eurasian landmass of the former Soviet Union made themselves, with the exception of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which are now members of NATO , a catastrophe would have afflicted the credibility and morale of the West. For the first time since the end of World War II, a country striving for stability and prosperity as a democracy, having once been part of a totalitarian state, would have been crushed and forced to return involuntarily to this state. And in this scenario, that NATO has done nothing to demonstrate tangible and effective solidarity with the violated country, the one that we have all recognized as an independent state for 30 years and that has served as our ally in Afghanistan, would have confirmed the accuracy of the endless propaganda of the governments of China, Russia, Iran and others that the West is soft, mushy, ineffective, cowardly and a decaying force in the world .

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I am proud that from the beginning, Canada has been at the forefront of those who opposed such a path. The West suddenly found itself faced with a Manichean choice: turn around while Russia struck and politically exterminated a state of over 40 million people that had made clear its desire to be independent, or help that State to resist illegal and brutal aggression, much of it was aimed at the civilian population, without impetuously entering this conflict as a combatant. The warm and respectful welcome extended to the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues in Ukraine last week was the most significant international recognition of Canada’s importance to the West that we have seen since former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was invited to address a joint session of the United States Congress in recognition of Canada’s immediate and significant support for the widespread international initiative to withdraw Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

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This government, and to a large extent its post-Mulroney predecessors, have, apart from the Harper government’s commendable support for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, have consistently allowed foreign policy, political military and development aid policy are confused in a way that has blurred the distinction between them. Of course, we want to help developing countries that are ruled by regimes that seem to have laudable motives. But if, as all our political parties somewhat smugly claim, we believe that “the world needs more Canada”, the way to get there is not to bow down at the feet of the countries that control access to a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, as the Trudeau government has done. The way to get there is a two-track policy, neither of which is a track that this country has officially followed for many years.

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We should govern ourselves in some original and imaginative way which obviously gives us competitive progress in achieving greater and more equitably distributed prosperity in a civilization richer in all desirable respects, instead of wading through the thickets of an outdated quasi-socialism. And we should rebuild our military, taking advantage of the most productive and technologically accretive economic stimulus that defense spending entails, while making Canada a country of reference within the Western alliance and in the world when collective responses are designed for international crises as they arise. It would show no ambition to dive into conflict, but it would allow us to be taken seriously when advising on conflict prevention and de-escalation at NATO and the United Nations. It would also ensure that we are taken seriously when, as co-founders of NATO and the UN, we propose the comprehensive reform and modernization of these two institutions.

Having secured another 3½ year term, the Liberal-NDP majority might wish to surprise and uplift us all with this prospect. Hope is always justified in Canada, but in this case, holding your breath is not advised.

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  1. FILE PHOTO: An illustration shows U.S. dollar and Russian ruble banknotes in Sarajevo, March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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  2. Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9.

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James C. Tibbs