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Friends, foes and fence-sitters

Oct 26, 2022 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

Russia’s brutal and immoral war on Ukraine has dragged on for eight months now, significantly changing the relatively stable global world order that has existed since the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia’s expectations of a quick and easy “special military operation” that would place Ukraine under its control again has been shattered. Although the fighting has been geographically restricted to the territory of Ukraine, the conflict has now come to involve most of Europe and the rest of the world in one way or another.

Russia’s blatant, unprovoked aggression has forced the free world to take sides, and for the most part, the majority of the world’s countries have chosen to support Ukraine. Earlier this month, 143 of the 193 countries of the United Nations voted to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories. Only Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Nicaragua voted against. Russia has only a handful of disreputable tyrant states on its side. Thirty-five countries abstained, including notably China and India.

Ukraine is being supported with both humanitarian as well as military aid by many free world countries. The largest by far has, of course, been the United States which so far this year has supplied some $25 billion in military aid, and over $50 billion in overall aid. This is more than the rest of the world combined. The EU has provided some $16 billion in total aid, while Canada has supplied approximately $3 billion. Canada is the fifth largest provider of aid to Ukraine among all countries. The largest aid contributor among the European countries has been the U.K., with a total of some $6.7 billion in total aid.

The most disappointing performance has been that of Germany, which despite its economic strength has been slow in coming to Ukraine’s assistance. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has consistently delayed or blocked any significant military aid to Ukraine, resulting in Germany contributing just $1.2 billion in military aid so far. Most people believe this is because of Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas supplies (55% of total supplies). This sacrificing of moral principle to economic expediency is nothing less than shameful.

While absolute dollar amounts are key, it should be noted that there are a large number of smaller countries that are providing far more when you consider aid in proportion to their GDP. By this metric, the top contributing countries are Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. This should not be surprising considering that these are all close neighbours of Russia and have the most to fear from an expansionist and aggressive Putin.

Another interesting case is that of Turkey. Even though it is a NATO member, it has chosen to essentially sit on the fence, refusing to join most of the world’s countries in imposing sanctions on Russia for their genocidal behaviour. While it has blocked the passage of Russian war ships through the Bosporus Strait, Turkey’s President Erdogan maintains a frequent dialogue with President Putin and is constantly trying to broker peace talks to end the war. It’s only success in this arena was to help arrange an agreement to allow grain shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

China is also among the ranks of the fence-sitters. Although it professes friendship with Russia, it has so far refused to sell military equipment or supplies to Russia and has openly declared its support for Ukraine’s right to maintain its territorial integrity. Although they won’t state it publicly, it is obvious that the Chinese leadership disapproves of Putin’s blatant aggression on Ukraine. The Chinese are also acutely aware that their economic success of the past several decades is due to their integration into global markets, particularly in the west, and they have no desire to become the target of western sanctions. I would also hazard a guess that they would secretly love to see Russia fail spectacularly and fragment, thereby making China the dominant power in Asia, with a possibility of eventually taking over some of Russia’s resource-rich Siberian territory.

Closer to home, there may be some potential foes of Ukraine in our midst. Former President Trump continues to be an admirer of Putin and should he or the Republican Party consolidate their power in the U.S., it could spell serious trouble for American support of the Ukrainian cause. Here in Canada, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, ignited major controversy last week when it was revealed that she had recently published statements in the social media deeming Ukraine equally responsible for the war, and that she believed that certain regions in Ukraine had an affinity for Russia and should be allowed to break away. Although she quickly retracted the statements and apologized, the damage was done.

So although it seems that Ukraine has many more friends than foes, there are no guarantees that this will continue indefinitely. It behooves Ukraine to drive the Russians out as quickly as possible.

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Nadia Prokopiw
Federal Provincial Child Care
Serving Ukrainian New Comers in Toronto

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