Rivers: Which is it - Blaming the Victims or Passing the Buck

 By Ray Rivers

January 28th, 2022


“This is a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. This is a direct challenge to the rules-based international order and an attempt to replace it with a world in which might makes right, and where the great powers, the nuclear-armed powers, have the authority to redraw the borders, dictate the foreign policies, and even rewrite the constitutions of sovereign democracies whose only fault is that they are smaller and their militaries are not as powerful.” (Remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister about Canada’s support for Ukraine, Jan 26, 2022)

 One would think that Prime Minister Trudeau would be trying to appeal to people living in the western provinces, rather than deliberately offending them.   Winding down the oil and gas sector to achieve net neutral carbon levels is bad enough.  But Trudeau has no choice.  It was clear from the last two elections that Canadians are demanding action to combat climate change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

So why would he then decide to offend Canadians of Ukrainian heritage, two thirds of whom also live in the west?  That is what he has done by thumbing his nose at a plea by the Ukrainian government to provide them with defensive weapons.  We know there is a multi-million dollar cache of anti-tank and small weapons, which had originally been destined for the Kurds in Iraq, just sitting in a warehouse taking up space.

That supply would be ever so welcome and it would cost Canadian taxpayers nothing, since we’d already paid for them back in 2014.  Some training might be needed, but Canada has 200 trainers already in place, and more coming, for exactly that purpose.  Ukraine is outgunned by its larger aggressive neighbour who has previously invaded and annexed part of the country and has now amassed over a hundred thousand troops on the border as it threatens to do more of the same.

And this isn’t Ukraine’s first rodeo with Canada when it comes to weapons supply.  Shortly after the 2014 Russian invasion, while Stephen Harper was PM and Jason Kenny Minister of National Defence, a large quantity of surplus defensive weapons were being considered for shipment to Ukraine.  However, the Harper government decided in the end to destroy the weapons instead.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland.

Trudeau’s deputy PM and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, a westerner, has some Ukrainian heritage.  As a strong advocate for Ukraine she was actually banned from visiting Russia several years ago.  One would expect her, of all people, to respect the wishes of the majority of Canadians, let alone those of Ukrainian heritage, and send the darn weapons they need and are asking for.

But in the end the Canadian government just said no.  Canada is proud to send more of those night goggles, a big loan and, probably, body bags for the inevitable casualties if and when the Russians do invade.  Freeland said “Ukraine is on the front lines of that struggle and that is why Canada is standing with Ukraine.”  But this Canadian government is actually leaving them on the front line to face death alone and unarmed.

Perhaps this is a moral issue for the PM.  Like the German government, perhaps Mr. Trudeau doesn’t believe in sending weapons into conflict zones.  So he refuses to send defensive weapons which would enable a democratic nation to fend off an autocratic aggressor. But somehow it is OK for Canada to send armoured vehicles and sniper rifles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a brutal autocratic monarchy, which has killed over a quarter million folks including it’s own people.

In 1939 Russia attacked Finland with the goal of annexing it.  They sent over 21 divisions totalling 450,000 troops and tanks, and they bombed the cities.  Finland was totally unprepared.  Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov told the international community that they were just dropping food baskets – Molotov food baskets.   So the Finns developed their own weapons made from Finnish alcohol with a flaming wick and called them Molotov cocktails.

The Finns lost some land (10%) which became part of Russia but they beat the Russians back with a highly successful insurgent warfare and against all odds.  That is what Ukraine would have to do should Russia decide to invade again, given the imbalance in lethal weapons.  To that end some fellow eastern European nations, the UK and USA are sending anti-tank weapons — but not Canada.

Vladimir Putin, as a former KGB agent,

Russian tanks – probably the biggest tank force in the world

Vladimir Putin, as a former KGB agent, is a student of history.  Perhaps the only reason he hasn’t yet invaded Ukraine is because he fears the same kind of response which Stalin faced in Finland; and Hitler and Napoleon in Russia; and every occupier since the beginning of time in Afghanistan.  Even if Russia’s military broke through to Kyiv, Putin knows his chances of holding it would be limited, given how unpopular he has become among the local populace.

Defensive weapons would make it harder to invade and occupy Ukraine.  And that would minimize casualties.   But Mr. Trudeau is talking in abstract terms about imposing some kind of as yet undefined sanctions once Russia invades.   But someone should have told him that sanctions have only rarely worked, and never with Russia.  Russia still occupies Crimea and still is fighting Ukrainians through its proxies in Donbas, despite sanctions.

Mr. Trudeau is calling for a peaceful solution – a diplomatic solution.  That is almost exactly what Neville Chamberlain told the British people.  Peace in our time – we just need to let Putin have Ukraine, I guess.   Mr. Trudeau hasn’t said that in those words but he must understand that Putin has no intention of stopping.

If Russia invades, as the Americans and Brits expect it will, and we have failed to provide arms to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, there will be political blood on the floor in Ottawa, as well as real human blood on the streets of Kyiv. And nobody should expect any self-respecting Ukrainian Canadian to ever vote Liberal again.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Freeland remarks –    Delusions –    Arms Cache

Finland’s Winter War –    LAVs Killing Saudi

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4 comments to Rivers: Which is it – Blaming the Victims or Passing the Buck

  • Marshall

    Probably, Trudeau is incapable of analyzing anything as complex as the present problems in Ukraine. Possibly, his Laurentian Elite handlers have little interest and don’t care about Western votes and won’t stimulate him into action.

  • Carol Victor

    Gary, they don’t vote for him anyway….they live in the Conservative west. As an aside however,
    I am of Ukrainian heritage and will continue to vote Liberal.

  • Well done. And, accurate. It seems highly unlikely that Putin will withdraw his forces; the movement into the staging area and the period of keeping them there is costing a fortune. When the ground freezes enough to support the heavy equipment and vehicles they will make their move. Too bad we can’t localize global warming. and sink them all into the mud.

  • Gary

    “And nobody should expect any self-respecting Ukrainian Canadian to ever vote Liberal again.”

    As Monty Python says: “Always look on the bright side of life.”