Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 14, 2022
Canada’s decision on Russian-owned gas turbine equipment is about helping its German NATO ally
There will be no quick victory in the war in Ukraine. After nearly five months of fighting, the loss of thousands of lives and the devastation of some of the country’s largest cities this is the sickening reality.
Despite capturing vast territory, the Russian army that invaded Ukraine without provocation in February has failed to force its opponent to surrender that land. For its part, the Ukrainian military has neither given up resisting the Russians nor succeeded in driving them out.
Just over a week ago, the Russians triumphantly declared they had captured the entire Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. But on Tuesday, the Ukrainian government announced its forces had carried out a long-range missile strike that hit a Russian ammunition dump and killed 52 Russian soldiers in south Ukraine. More notably, the Ukrainian government said this signalled a counterattack aimed at forcing Putin to abandon the land his soldiers have seized.
And so with these events, the conflict has entered a new phase. This will almost certainly not be a short military adventure for Russia. And there will be no a quick recovery of freedom for brave Ukraine. The pundits who originally predicted it would all be over in weeks were wrong. This is now a long war. It will be an increasingly bitter, brutal war of attrition. It will be fought out over many months. And while it might end when one side or the other is too bloodied and exhausted to go on, it retains the potential of becoming a broader European conflict.
It is essential for the NATO allies — including Canada — who have been supporting Ukraine with the weapons and money it needs to realize all this and act accordingly. There must be no splits in their united front. Of course, sending NATO troops into Ukraine is off the table because that would risk escalating the war beyond Ukraine’s borders. However, there can be no backing off the pledges they have made to help Ukraine keep its independence, preserve its democracy and teach Russian President Vladimir Putin his authoritarian piracy will not prevail in this century.
To a degree, Ukraine’s western allies have already adjusted their tactics and strategy. The European Union recently named Ukraine as a candidate for membership. The G7 countries, including Canada, have strengthened sanctions against Russia. At a recent summit in Madrid, the members of NATO decided to reinforce their presence on the alliance’s eastern borders to deter and, if that’s not possible, defend against further Russian invasions. As part of that initiative, Canada agreed to upgrade the NATO battle group it leads in Latvia to a brigade. While the federal government has not said this means more boots on the ground it proves Canada’s commitment to the region, even at some risk to Canadian lives.
The federal government had struggled with another dilemma before deciding this week to return Russian-owned gas turbine equipment to Germany, which would then hand them over to Russia. And this despite Canada’s economic sanctions against Putin. The Ukrainian government understandably objected to an action it said would benefit Russia and its sales of natural gas to countries such as Germany. Yet because of the disruptions in gas shipments caused by the war, Germany faces an energy crisis. It is bizarre that western countries are trying to defeat Russia with economic sanctions and supporting Ukraine even as much of western Europe still relies on Russian gas. But Canada’s controversial decision was primarily about helping its German NATO ally. And that ally will be more dependable in the coming long war if its citizens are not freezing in the dark this winter.
Though Russia has more soldiers and a bigger arsenal than Ukraine, it has suffered devastating losses in both its human and material resources. If this war drags on long enough and continues to punish both the Russian economy and military, perhaps other Russian leaders will rise up and oust Putin. However, Ukraine is suffering too — with as many as 200 of its troops dying in battle every day.
For now, NATO countries should continue raiding their own military stockpiles and arming Ukraine with weapons superior to what the Russians possess. And above all they must reject any peace proposal on Putin’s part that would allow him to dismember Ukraine and continue to occupy the areas he has stolen. This is now a long war. NATO must back Ukraine for the long haul. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)