Alexey Zakvasin & Elizaveta Komarova
In Kiev, they thanked Ottawa for the “timely decision to support the defense capability” of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “friend” and welcomed the expansion of the Operation Unifier training mission, which will be doubled to 400 people. Canada will also allocate $39.5 million to Ukraine in addition to the promised loan of $95 million. However, these funds are intended not for military needs, but to support the country’s economy. Experts believe that the measures of military assistance to Ukraine announced by Ottawa are symbolic and will not affect the combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the decision to provide military assistance to Kiev, including the extension and expansion of the Operation Unifier training mission.
“Thanks to Canada and my friend Justin Trudeau for the timely decision to support the defense capability of Ukraine. We appreciate the continuation and expansion of the Unifier mission, the provision of non-lethal weapons, the exchange of intelligence information and assistance in protecting against cyber attacks,” Zelensky wrote on his Twitter page.
“Vdyachny and my friend @JustinTrudeau for his decision to support defense . We need to continue that expansion of the #UNIFIER mission , non-lethal attack, exchange of information and help in the defense against cyber attacks.— Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) January 27, 2022.”
The day before, on January 26, during a press conference, Justin Trudeau and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand told reporters that body armor, optical surveillance equipment and sights would be handed over to Ukraine. Also, up to 50 million Canadian dollars ($39.5 million) will be allocated to Kiev in addition to the promised loan of 120 million ($95 million). However, this money will not go to military needs, but to support the Ukrainian economy.
Another decision by Ottawa was to extend Operation Unifier until 2025 and increase the number of instructors deployed in Ukraine from 200 to 400 people. In a few days, 60 Canadian troops will arrive in the country.
Recall that Operation Unifier was launched in 2015 in order to support Ottawa’s security forces in Ukraine. As stated on the website of the Government of Canada, the mission participants coordinate their actions through a multinational commission, which, in addition to Canada and Ukraine, includes the United States, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and Poland.
Initially, the mission headquarters was based in Yavoriv (Lviv region), where the military training ground is located. In May 2021, he was relocated to the Ukrainian capital. Canadian military personnel are present in Ukraine on a rotational basis – every six months, the composition of Unifier completely changes.
Senior partner support
According to Justin Trudeau, the next three years of Operation Unifier will cost the country’s bud-get 340 million Canadian dollars ($268.5 million). However, the Prime Mini-ster of Canada believes that the extension and expansion of the mission is an adequate measure.
“Against the backdrop of rising tensions and unjustified Russian aggression, Canada will be ready to provide continued support to Ukraine so that it can defend itself,” Trudeau said.
Earlier, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Wayne Eyre said that any new military support for Kiev could aggravate the situation, and therefore it is not worth increasing the number of foreign troops in Ukraine. However, in January, Ottawa’s position changed.
The Ukrainian authorities made no secret of the fact that they were counting on the extension of Operation Unifier and an increase in the number of Canadian troops. So, in December, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov advocated that Ottawa send an additional 500 instructors to the country.
Experts tend to view the military aid announced by Trudeau and Anand as a symbolic set of measures to show support for Kiev in the face of the allegedly imminent “Russian invasion” that Western politicians, media and authorities in Kiev have been constantly talking about since the end of last year.
However, as military expert Alexander Khrolenko noted in an interview with RT, despite the massive Russophobic hysteria, Canada did not send lethal weapons to Kiev, as the United States and Great Britain did .
“The gratitude with which Zelensky scatters in relation to the next senior partner is nothing more than a figure of speech that has nothing to do with reality. The so-called military assistance of Canada has only propaganda and demonstration value,” Khrolenko said.
According to the Government of Canada, as of January 1, 2022, 32.8 thousand people were trained in Operation Unifier, including military personnel of the army and the National Guard of Ukraine. The Government of Canada does not disclose the full program of courses. From the meager official information, it follows that overseas instructors share their knowledge in the field of logistics and engineering with colleagues.
According to Ukrainian sources, Canadian military personnel conduct training in tactical maneuvering at sea, leadership courses for non-commissioned officers, provide training in tactical medicine, reconnaissance, automatic and sniper fire.
Also, Canadians transfer their skills in managing units, teach tactics of combat operations in the offensive, defense in open areas and in settlements. In addition, Canadian instructors help Ukrainians to master educational and methodological materials for training military personnel in accordance with NATO standards.
However, according to Khrolenko, it is difficult to perceive Unifier as a truly serious combat training course for the military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Guard. One of the reasons is the lack of real combat experience among the Canadian instructors themselves.
The expert noted that after the Second World War, Canadian troops participated in almost all NATO missions abroad, but in hot spots they acted under the cover of the American army and very rarely clashed with the enemy.
“With Unifier, a paradoxical situation has developed when Canadians, who have negligible combat experience and have not distinguished themselves in any battle over the past decades, act as instructors, give “valuable” advice and recommendations. The same Armed Forces of Ukraine have objectively more combat experience, albeit a sad one. It’s hard for me to imagine what kind of knowledge and skills Canadians can transfer to the Ukrainian security forces,” says Khrolenko.
According to the analyst, foreign training missions of NATO member countries, in principle, often end in failure. As an example, the RT interlocutor cited the efforts being made by the United States, Canada and their allies to prepare the armies of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recall that during the offensive of the “Islamic State” in 2014, the Iraqi army was unable to provide worthy resistance to the militants. Fleeing, soldiers often abandoned foreign equipment and weapons. The Iraqi Armed Forces did not act too successfully du-ring the storming of Mosul in 2016-2017, although the operation was carried out with the direct military support of the West.
The almost 20-year-old efforts of the North Atlantic Alliance to form a combat-ready armed forces of the government of Afghanistan turned into a complete collapse . As soon as the US and its allies began to withdraw their troops, the regular army of Kabul began to suffer major defeats from the Taliban. In August 2021, they seized power in Afghanistan, forcing Western countries, including Canada, to evacuate their citizens in a hurry.
“The troops of Iraq and Afghanistan were defeated by rebel groups, although they were trained and massively armed for more than one year. This allows us to conclude that the training program for military personnel, which the West extends to third world countries, and Ukraine still belongs to this category, has extremely low efficiency, ”Khrolenko emphasized.
“According to the expert, the strategic goal of the military training mission of Canada and other NATO countries is to promote their own values and support Russophobic sentiments.”
“The United States and its allies have an understandable cynical calculation, which is to keep the conflict close to Russian borders for a long time. It is beneficial for them that the Ukrainian troops remain in the conviction of an imminent “attack” by Russia and sit in the trenches as long as possible, participating, when necessary for the West, in the escalation of tension,” Khrolenko believes.
“Polygon of NATO troops”
In a conversation with RT, associate professor at Moscow State University, political scientist Boris Mezhuev expressed the opinion that by providing military assistance to Ukraine, Canada not only demonstrates the notorious “transatlantic unity”, but also pursues a number of its own political goals.
“Of course, Ottawa seeks in this way to correspond to the course of NATO and the Anglo-Saxon countries – it has always been in close coordination with the US and Great Britain. However, it seems to me that by getting involved in the Ukrainian conflict and pursuing an anti-Russian policy, Canada is also striving to increase its significance for Europe and is looking for itself as a kind of bridge between the US and the UK, ”Mezhuev believes.
Also, according to the political scientist, a fairly large Ukrainian diaspora has a certain influence on the actions of the official Ottawa. However, according to Mezhuev, in essence, the Canadian government is indifferent to the fate of Ukraine.
“Canadian military assistance is unlikely to affect the combat capability of the Ukrainian army. Yes, Russia is not happy about this, but mainly because of the presence of foreign military personnel and the increased risk of provocations in the Donbass. Ottawa is participating in the process of bringing Kiev into the orbit of NATO, in turning Ukraine into a training ground for NATO troops. However, like the rest of the bloc, Canada will not fight for Ukraine,” Mezhuev concluded.