Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.12.2017
Ukraine can now buy lethal weapons from Canada. Canadian defence firms are no longer prohibited from selling their goods and services to Ukraine. A change in Canada’s regulations came about on December 13 when the Canadian government added Ukraine to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (the AFCCL). This is an exclusive list of countries for whom the Canadian government will consider granting an export permit for lethal weaponry. A statement issued with the amendment order read in part: “The Government of Canada has determined that Ukraine is an appropriate destination for inclusion on the AFCCL.” With Ukraine added to the list, there are now 40 such countries. Ukraine joins every NATO country, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, and similar friends and allies of Canada as a suitable market for the Canadian defence industry. Russia is decidedly not on Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List.
In 2016, Canada exported $717,714,225.05 of military goods and technology. That’s approximately 560,175,950.78 USD at today’s exchange rate. Of this amount, 87.37% went to Automatic Firearms Country Control List. Ukraine is now on the AFCCL and among the group of 40 nations that are overwhelmingly preferred by Canada as a destination for arms exports. Ukraine should immediately “test the waters” in Canada. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, must approve or disapprove an export permit. She will be under strong pressure to say “yes” because of the many strong statements she and the Canadian government have made in support of Ukraine as it defends Europe from Russia’s invasion in Crimea and Donbas. Also, the Canadian government has faced strong criticism for permitting arms exports to Saudi Arabia (which is also on the AFCCL) despite that country’s appalling record of the violation and abuse of human rights. Canada will be grateful to export weapons to a democracy that is fighting a defensive war on its own territory against a foreign aggressor.
By successfully purchasing lethal weapons from Canada, Ukraine would be placing strong pressure on the United States and other countries to permit similar purchases from their defence industry. A side benefit of Ukraine purchasing goods and services from Canada’s defence industry will be that they will adhere to NATO standards, and the Ukrainian armed forces wants to adopt NATO standards as quickly as possible.
Ukraine got more good news from Canada on December 13. The Standing Committee on National Defence of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada issued a report about Ukraine and the “armed conflict” in Ukraine. The Standing Committee made strong recommendations for Canada to expand and strengthen its support to Ukraine with an aim to putting a stop to Russian aggression and returning Crimea and Donbas to the Ukrainian nation. Recommendation 1 is to expand Canadian Armed Forces training and support through Operation UNIFIER. Recommendation 2 is to strengthen Canada’s existing programs to support Ukrainian military, police, justice, and anti-corruption officials. Recommendation 5 is to “advocate for a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Ukraine that respects its territorial integrity.”
Recommendation 7 of the Standing Committee on National Defence ties in perfectly with the Automatic Firearms Country Control List announcement. It reads: “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.” Recommendation 8 is to add Ukraine to the AFCCL, which was carried out within hours of the report’s release. Recommendation 9 is that Canada “reinstate the practice of providing RADARSAT-2 imagery; and engage in the exchange of intelligence sharing capabilities with Ukraine.” It is inexplicable that Canada abruptly cut off Ukraine from satellite imagery in the first place.
Recommendation 13 is “that the Government of Canada announce a plan to grant visa-free travel to Canada
for Ukrainians.” Now that the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement has come into force and that visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone of the European Union for Ukrainians has been such an overwhelming success, Canada has no excuse not to bring in visa-free reciprocity with Ukraine. Ukraine did its part in 2006 and Canada has waited too long to do its part.
Recommendation 17 is that Canada use it’s new “Magnitsky” law “against those responsible for contributing to the armed conflict in Ukraine.” The current Canadian government has not been rational or consistent in applying sanctions. For example, Canada sanctioned Igor Plotnitsky in 2014 because that was when Russia first invaded Ukraine. But Canada has not sanctioned Igor Kornet or Leonid Pasechnik (two war criminals who have effectively replaced terrorist leader Igor Plotnitsky) because they only came to prominence in 2017.
The report of the Standing Committee on National Defence has a good chance of being favourably considered by the Government of Canada. The Liberal Party holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons, and controls committees. The report on Ukraine would not have said what it did without the approval of the government. Whether the Government of Canada will follow through on the recommendations in a timely way is doubtful, but the recommendations do represent the prevailing sentiments of the governing party.
December 13 was a good day for Canada and Ukraine. Ukraine has been known for adept and wise diplomacy since Russia invaded Crimea and Donbas in 2014. Foreign Minister Klimkin and President Poroshenko will no doubt see the opportunity and the opening that Ukraine being added to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List represents. Ukraine needs advanced, modern weaponry to defend its territory from Russian invasion. Western civilization needs Ukraine to be effective in stopping Russian aggression. After three and three quarter years of war, there’s a chance that Ukrainians will finally get the weapons they need for the good fight they wage as the vanguard of Europe.