Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 04.03.2019
Operation UNIFIER is up for renewal. A clear signal from Canada that the mission will continue will be a boost for stability as Ukraine is in an election year and has entered the sixth year of defending the homeland from Russian aggression.
The Canadian Armed Forces have contributed substantially to a NATO training mission to Ukraine, conducted at the Yavoriv base in Lviv region in western Ukraine. Since 2015, Canada has had approximately 200 soldiers deployed as part of Operation UNIFIER. More than 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been trained, contributing to the battle-readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as Ukraine defends itself from Russia's invasion, which began in 2014.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, spoke to The Canadian Press about the importance of Canada recommitting to Operation UNIFIER early. "One of the ideas behind this Operation Unifier from the very beginning was to send a very strong signal to Russia to deter them and to make sure that they understand that Ukraine has very strong support at the international level," he said.
Ambassador Shevchenko continued: ”So the earlier we send this signal and the louder we say this, the stronger the signal should be. That is why we have always encouraged our Canadian partners to go ahead with the announcement of the renewal as quickly as possible."
On February 26 a delegation from the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine began an official visit to Canada. In Ottawa, the Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine for European Integration, Anatolii Petrenko, gave a briefing to the House of Commons Committee on National Defence. Minister Petrenko talked about Ukraine’s defence of the homeland from Russian aggression, reforms in Ukraine’s defence industry, and prospects for Canada-Ukraine cooperation in the area of defence.
Ukraine is on an irreversible path to NATO and the EU. Recent changes have embedded these aspirations in the Constitution of Ukraine. Minister Petrenko held up Operation UNIFIER as an example of training to NATO standards that is an essential part of membership in the alliance.
Closer cooperation with the Armed Forces of Ukraine and with Ukraine’s military-industrial complex serves Canada’s national defence. Canada is a front-line nation to Russian aggression like Ukraine is – in Canada’s case it is in the Arctic. Canada should come out solidly in favour of a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine to join NATO collective security, like the United States has done.
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the trenches of Donbas are not just fighting for their homeland: they’re fighting for Western civilization. Canada is not a disinterested party to this fight because Canada shares the values of Europe-defender Ukraine and its allies in NATO.