On Wednesday, November 26, Minister of National Defense Rob Nicholson announced a new Canadian program of non-lethal military aid for Ukraine worth $11 million. This assistance is on top of the $5 million in non-lethal military equipment which Canada donated to Ukraine in August this year.
According to CBC, the $11 million program covers the following equipment and training: $5 million in cold-weather gear, including 30,000 coats, 30,000 pairs of pants, 70,000 pairs of Gore-Tex boots and 4,500 pairs of gloves; $3 million in explosive ordinance disposal equipment; $1 million in tactical communications systems; $1 million in night and thermal vision equipment, plus binoculars; and $1 million in medical training and equipment, including tactical medical kits and a mobile field hospital.
The first shipment, which included the cold-weather gear currently much needed by the Ukrainian military on the front lines of the Donbas, was transported by Royal Canadian Air Force CC177 Globemaster from Trenton airbase to Boryspil airport on November 27. The remainder of the equipment will be transported by a separate sealift in early 2015.
According to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defense James Bezan, the first shipment had an equivalent of 3 containers, while the second one will equal 127 containers. Valentyn Buriachenko of the Ukrainian MOD told Hromadske TV in Boryspil that the first shipment contained 3,000 winter coats and pants, and 2,000 winter boots, and was going to be shipped directly to the war zone.
The new aid corresponds to the requests for non-lethal equipment from Ukraine and includes many items that the Ukrainian military now lacks. During the announcement of the aid on November 26, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, said that Ukraine has made requests for lethal equipment through NATO (according to CBC). The heightening tensions in the Donbas which have recently seen intensive albeit localized fighting and artillery bombardments, as well as numerous military convoys from Russia, are whipping up the discussions in the U.S. Administration and Senate about lethal military supplies to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress represented by its National President Paul Grod, eagerly welcomed the new aid package to Ukraine. In his statement on November 27, Mr. Grod attributed the positive outcome to “the continuous efforts of the Ukrainian Canadian community to keep these issues at the forefront, despite media attention on other crises”. He said that “Since the Congress made its request for additional military support, Ukrainians from across the country have attended meet and greet sessions, community events with MPs, visited dozens of MPs in their constituency and Parliament Hill offices asking Canada to help the sons and daughters of Ukraine to have the warm clothing they need to get them through the cold Ukrainian winter…”
Mr. Grod revealed that, at first, the Ukrainian community's requests for large amounts of winter kits were met with reluctance by government civil servants and officials who said that “it was too large and was “unlikely to happen”. But now, said Paul Grod, the naysayers are wrong and thousands of Ukrainian troops will have warm clothing and other Canadian assistance.
According to Mr. Grod, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress National office has been providing daily updates to Canadian politicians and other decision makers which have resulted in experts calling Canadian politicians “the best informed and educated on the situation in Ukraine in the world.”
During the conference call with the media on November 28, MP Bezan responded to the question by Mirko Petriv from the Ukrainian Vancouver about fears that the Canadian aid will be misallocated due to the Ukrainian corruption. Mr. Bezan said that there was an audit team put in place in Ukraine consisting of Ukrainian and Canadian citizen volunteers who have been assigned to work closely with the President Poroshenko to ensure that all of the aid delivered would be utilized to its full potential and would go to the people that need it the most, namely to the troops on the front lines.
To the New Pathway's question during the call about a potential imminent large-scale Russian attack against Ukraine, Mr. Bezan, which was speaking from Kyiv, said that he was extremely concerned about the military convoys from Russia and the build-up of Russian troops along Ukraine's eastern border and in the Transnistria. These developments are in line with Russia's muscle flexing as Russian navy was sent to Australia's shores during the G20 summit and was exercising in the English Channel.
As to the widely debated issue of Ukraine's potential joining of NATO, James Bezan, according to the Ukrainian newswire UNIAN, said during the arrival of the aid shipment in the Boryspil airport, that Canada always supported its partners which wanted to join NATO. “If our partner Ukraine said so (that it wants to join NATO – NP) – we will support them”, said Mr. Bezan (translated by NP from www.unian.ua/politics/1015463-kanada-pidtrimue-vstup-ukrajini-do-nato.html). Minister Nicholson, during the announcement of the aid to Ukraine, said something similar, that Canada is supportive of applications by countries such as Georgia and Montenegro.
These statements differ drastically from the recent statement of the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that the statements from Ukraine about joining NATO did not help. His German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said last week that he sees “a cooperative relationship between Ukraine and NATO, but no membership.”