Michael MacKay, Radio Lembeg, 10.11.2017
On November 9, both the Government of Canada and the Official Opposition made strong statements in support of Ukraine’s proposal for UN peacekeeping. Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, said: “Our government has been unwavering in its support for the people of Ukraine and Ukraine's territorial integrity. We condemn Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, the ongoing violence and ongoing support to insurgents in eastern Ukraine.” Her statement went on to say that Canada was exploring “the viability and utility of peacekeeping and policing in Ukraine” and that Canada is “working hard to ensure any peacekeeping effort guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer, said that – should he form a government – Canada would “advocate for, and lead, a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine to ensure Ukrainian sovereignty against Russian aggression.” Both sides of the House of Commons in the Parliament of Canada are in favour of robust peacekeeping that has as its mission upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Whether peacekeeping happens under the auspices of the United Nations is up to the Security Council, where aggressor Russia has an illegitimately-obtained permanent seat and veto. Ukraine has proposed a peacekeeping effort that will operate anywhere on the territory of Ukraine, including right up to the Ukraine-Russia international border. Russia has counter-proposed a peacekeeping effort that would operate only at the battlefront where Russian invasion troops face Ukrainian defenders; it would operate only to protect the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. Ukraine’s proposal has widespread support; Russia’s proposal has none. If Putin wants a way out of the quagmire of his war on Ukraine, he will allow Ukraine’s proposal to succeed; if he wants his war to continue he will veto it.
Canada has a “push” to lead peacekeeping in Ukraine. The Liberal Party which won the federal election of 19 October 2015 promised that Canada would “return to UN peacekeeping” in the glorious tradition of Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester B. Pearson and the United Nations Emergency Force he co-created with Dag Hammarskjöld. But the world of the twenty-teens is quite different from the nineteen-fifties when the UNEF operated. The Liberal government is nervous about peacekeeping in Africa – in Mali, for example – because of the poor record of success and dangerous nature of missions there. Canada’s effort to support the anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq has reached a state of chaos in recent weeks. When Iraqi and Kurdish allies turned against each other in Mosul and environs, Canada stopped combat operations of its special forces soldiers in the region. The danger and chaos of peacekeeping or anti-terrorist operations in Africa and the Middle East leaves the Liberal government in Canada looking for opportunities to “return to UN peacekeeping” elsewhere.
The “pull” for Canada to lead peacekeeping in Ukraine comes from relative success in eastern Europe. Canada has contributed substantially to a NATO-led training mission in Ukraine, and has about 200 instructors at any one time in the Yavoriv base in Lviv region. Canadian soldiers are training Ukrainian soldiers in NATO-standard combat operations, and Ukrainian soldiers are teaching Canadian soldiers about the reality of combat against Russian invasion/occupation forces in eastern Ukraine. Operation UNIFIER, as it is known, has popular support in Canada and popular support in Ukraine – a very important consideration for costly and possibly risky military operations. Canada is leading the NATO “forward presence” battlegroup in Latvia, to increase the cost of any potential Russian aggression against the Baltic countries. This NATO deployment has broad support in Canada and in Latvia – something an Africa or a Middle East deployment would be unlikely to have.
To resolve the Russo-Ukrainian War, the United Nations has the example of the United Nations Emergency Force, which resolved the Suez Crisis. Canada’s return to peacekeeping should coincide with the United Nations returning to real, robust Pearsonian peacekeeping. Aggressor Russia can stop the UN cold, by using its illegitimately-obtained veto in the Security Council. But even if Russia does that terrible thing, that should not stop Canada or other friends of Ukraine. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine has had an Anti-Terrorist Operation that has as its mission what everyone (except Russia) says they want: the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Allies of Ukraine should support the ATO in Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, and not stay only in Lviv in western Ukraine. UN mission or no, Canada and all friends of Ukraine must support robust peacekeeping right up to the Ukraine-Russia international border. For peace to return to war-torn Europe, the Russo-Ukrainian War must end with the Ukrainian homeland restored and the Russian invaders out.