Canada considers boosting military aid to Ukraine as Russia amasses troops at the border

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Russian military vehicles prepare to be loaded onto an aircraft for aerial exercises during maneuvers in Crimea on April 22.The Associated Press

Canada is considering increasing its military mission in Ukraine, amid debate over whether additional NATO forces will deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggression against his country’s neighbour.

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Newly appointed Defense Minister Anita Anand is looking at deploying hundreds of additional troops to support Canadian troops already in Ukraine on a training mission, two sources familiar with the discussions said. Other options being considered include moving a warship to the Black Sea, or redeploying some of the CF-18 fighter jets currently based in Romania.

Any reinforcements would come in the form of a message to Mr Putin, who has raised the alarm for the second time this year by gathering troops and equipment near his country’s borders with Ukraine. Videos posted online show thousands of battlefield weapons – including tanks, armored personnel carriers and multiple-launch rocket systems – being moved towards Ukraine from their regular bases in other parts of Russia.

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By some estimates, there are now just shy of 100,000 Russian troops within a short drive of Ukraine – a country that Mr Putin has never seen as a full sovereign state, and is likely to join the US-led North Atlantic Treaty. determined to avoid. Organization.

How to respond to Russia’s renewed pressure on Ukraine is Ms Anand’s first major international test since she was appointed defense minister last month, replacing Harjit Sajjan. He and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to examine whether another display of Canada’s support for Ukraine will help discourage Mr Putin – or prompt him to act.

The Russian leader, who has warned for more than a decade against any move to invite Ukraine to NATO, recently announced that any expansion of existing NATO infrastructure in Ukraine would cross a “red line”. and will provoke an unspecified reaction. Russia.

Explainer: is Russia going to invade Ukraine?

‘The war is already here’: on the Russian border, Ukrainian troops await Putin’s big push

Canada currently has some 200 troops based in the far west of the country – more than 1,000 kilometers from the Russian border – on a mission to train their Ukrainian counterparts. Two sources, whom The Granthshala is not naming because they were not authorized to discuss the deliberations publicly, said that despite arguments from the Ukrainian delegation at the recent Halifax Security Forum for Canada and NATO, No decision has been taken yet on whether to deploy additional forces. Do more.

“It is still the status quo. There is no change in our posture,” Lieutenant-Commander Julie McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Canadian military, said on Wednesday. “We are closely monitoring the situation with our partner partners.”

While Ukraine is concerned about the prospect of a large-scale invasion, others see the Russian buildup as a bargaining ploy – backed by Mr. Putin’s proven willingness to use military force to achieve his goals. .

Russian and Western defense experts agree that Mr Putin is at least giving himself the option of ordering a broader attack on Ukraine, a country that has already parted ways with Russian military action. (Russia annexed and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 following a pro-Western revolution in Kiev. A Russian-backed militia has also controlled large parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since that time, in a conflict with Ukrainian forces. battling that has killed more than 14,000 people.)

According to a situation map published by the Ukrainian military, Russia now has 94,000 troops – some 1,200 tanks and 330 warplanes as well as other equipment – stationed along its borders with Ukraine. Most experts agree that this is too great a force for the Ukrainian military, though to resist prolonging the Seven Years’ War.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst based in Moscow, said there was no immediate threat of a sudden Russian attack on Ukraine – as the ground in eastern Ukraine is currently too soft for tank operations – there are signs Mr Putin could at least You can consider an invasive in late December or early new year when the terrain is frozen.

“Russia is certainly planning a big campaign. That doesn’t mean they will do it,” Mr. Felgenhauer said in an interview. He said any major attack would be aimed at “destroying the entirety of Ukraine” by defeating the country’s military and provoking the collapse of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.

Russia drew international condemnation after assembling a similar-sized force near Ukraine’s borders in April, only after Mr Putin secured a one-on-one summit with US President Joe Biden, only to return troops to the barracks. Those talks ended without a major deal, and Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported earlier this month that the two leaders are expected to hold a one-on-one video meeting before the end of 2021.

Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Mr Putin was disappointed that his June meeting with Biden had not made any concessions regarding Ukraine. Russia wants to force the Ukrainian government to grant autonomous status to the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Such a constitutional change would give pro-Russian forces a veto over any future attempts by Ukraine to join the European Union or NATO.

“Putin is really ready to do something to shock the world and demonstrate that he will not tolerate the status quo any more…. He is ready to go much further than before,” Ms. Stanovaya said. “it’s not about [gaining more] Area. The idea is to seriously and without doubt stop any Ukrainian ambition to one day join NATO.”

He pointed to a rare and alarming statement issued this week by Russia’s SVR military intelligence service. The SVR compared the situation in southeastern Ukraine with the 2008 standoff over the detached Georgian region of South Ossetia. Georgia also harbored NATO ambitions at the time, and South Ossetia – such as Donetsk and Lugansk – was under the control of pro-Russian “separatists”. A sudden escalation in fighting around South Ossetia in 2008 was followed by a widespread Russian invasion of Georgia.

The current crisis comes as border tensions between Russia’s close ally Belarus and NATO member Poland remain high. Poland recently moved 15,000 troops to the edge of the border after Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko invited thousands of refugees from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere into his country, and then moved them west towards Poland and the European Union. Sent with the clear intention to create. Fresh migration crisis inside the bloc.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba warned last week that the standoff on the Belarus-Poland border and Russian construction around Ukraine were two fronts in a “hybrid war” that Mr Putin was waging against the West. The Kremlin has denied any role in the refugee crisis, and says it is NATO that is fueling tensions by conducting repeated military exercises in the Black Sea region.

Mr Felgenhauer said the risk of a military conflict between Russia and the West would increase as both Russia and NATO stepped up troops. “The concern is that we are seeing more and more places where [a conflict] Could explode,” he said. “If there are some skirmishes on the Belarus border – which is already NATO territory – there will be more pressure to push the forces. And when you start moving forces, you get into a situation where Both sides really can’t stop.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. ,

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