Canada Should Provide Whatever Weapons Ukraine Needs

Marco Levytsky, National Affairs Editor.

The United States has now confirmed that Javelin anti-tank missiles have been delivered to Ukraine.

“They have already been delivered,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed on April 30 in response to a question on the handover of Javelins, which was made by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Prior to the State Department’s confirmation, two sources who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it — one in Ukraine and the other in the United States — confirmed the Javelin deliveries to RFE/RL.

Neither disclosed was when the missile systems arrived in Ukraine, whether all the promised missiles and launchers had been sent or where they were being stored; or whether Ukraine’s military had begun training on Javelins. But one of the sources added that the Javelins were delivered “on time.”

The State Department provided no details beyond the confirmation of the delivery.

What we do know is that a $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved last year and confirmed in March specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares, for Kyiv.

The FGM-148 Javelin is a portable anti-tank missile which uses an automatic infrared guidance that allows the user to seek cover immediately after launch. Its effectiveness is due both to the its range of up to 4 kilometres and the ability to hit the target from above.

At the outset of the war with Russia (or Russian-backed terrorists, if you prefer), Ukraine possessed only Soviet-era anti-tank missiles, which were no match for the latest generation of Russian tanks.

The fact that the United States has now not only approved the provision of defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine, but actually delivered on that promise, puts more onus upon the Government of Canada to follow suit. This is because the position of both the previous Conservative administration, and the current Liberal one has always been that we have to act in concert with our allies. In the past, this has been used as an excuse not to provide such weapons. But with the U.S. delivery, the situation has changed dramatically, and if the Government of Canada is to remain consistent with its stated policy, it too should deliver whatever weapons we have in our arsenal, or at least provide assistance for Ukraine to obtain them.

Since they went into opposition, the Conservatives have approved a policy that calls for the provision of lethal arms for Ukraine. What’s more is that this policy was approved by the House of Commons Standing Committee of National Defence in a report issued on December 11, 2017 – two-and-a-half months before the United States first announced its intention to provide Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The text is as follows:


That the Government of Canada provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to protect its sovereignty from Russian aggression, provided that Ukraine demonstrate it is actively working to eliminate corruption at all levels of government.”

The provision “that Ukraine demonstrate it is actively working to eliminate corruption at all levels of government”, reflects a concern that such weapons may not actually get into the hands of the soldiers fighting on the battlefield, but get stolen by corrupt officials and high-ranking officers. Any provision therefore, would have to come under the strictest control.

The Government’s response is as follows:

“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting Ukraine in its efforts to maintain its sovereignty, security, and stability, but is not actively considering the provision of lethal assistance to Ukraine in the form of military-to-military donations of lethal weapons. The Government of Canada remains in contact with the Government of Ukraine on its requests for military equipment.”

Now, whether the Government of Canada is working with Ukraine behind the scenes, or whether the official position is actual policy, we have no way of knowing. Therefore, we can only comment upon what is the official position at this point in time.

A key word here is “donations”. It means that Canada is not ready to “donate” any equipment, but Ukraine is free to buy anything allowed by the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL), to which the country was added to in November.

Another thing that is important to note about the House of Commons Committee’s recommendation is that since the Liberals control the majority on all committees, this recommendation could not have been approved without Liberal support. That indicates there is at least some, and quite likely considerable, support for the provision of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine in the Liberal Caucus. We can also assume that the statement that “the Government of Canada remains in contact with the Government of Ukraine on its requests for military equipment” means the door remains open for the possible provision of such weapons in the future. This may not necessarily mean Javelin anti-tank missiles, as those are American-made, but it does mean whatever Canada has in its own arsenal that Ukraine needs. Therefore, our community must continue to press the Government for such assistance.

While Canada has provided much-needed non-lethal and medical assistance as well as performed an exemplary job in helping train the Ukrainian military through Operation Unifier, wars are not won with blankets alone, as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko once put it. Ukraine needs weapons to defend its territory against Russian aggression. It is the one nation that is actively standing up to Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperialist ambitions. And it is these ambitions that constitute the biggest threat to world peace that exists today.