Fostering Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogues

June 8, 2015 - by Derek Fraser, University of Victoria

Our EUCAnet expert, Derek Fraser, former ambassador to Ukraine, just published a comment on the situation in Ukraine and the importance of Canada's support for Ukraine:

"Lately there have been voices raised questioning Canada’s support for Ukraine, which highlights the need for an examination of what Russia’s aims are in the conflict and why the West, including Canada, has to remain engaged.

Ruslan Pukhov, an analyst close to the Ministry of Defence and author of an authoritative study of the new Russian Military Doctrine, declared in August 2013 that under the Russian National Strategy, Russia’s renaissance as a great power required the restoration of its dominance over the other former Soviet Republics. Furthermore, it could, if necessary, use force.

The chief instrument for achieving this dominance is the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The EEU is eventually supposed to grow into a political and security union. For Russia, Ukrainian membership in the EEU was essential to its success and by signing the EU Association Agreement, Ukraine would exclude membership in the EEU. In September 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman had warned Ukraine that if it signed the Association Agreement, Russia would institute a trade boycott and might support secessionist movements in Ukraine.  

The overthrow of President Yanukovych of Ukraine in February 2014, and the decision of the new government to sign the EU Association Agreement and to apply for membership in NATO, launched President Putin on his campaign to subjugate Ukraine.

To achieve this subjugation, Russia launched its war of attrition to transform Ukraine into a weak confederation under its tutelage, with Moscow-controlled secessionist areas possessing a veto over the policies of the central government.

Sergey Karaganov, the honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, and a Kremlin adviser, stated in April 2014, that such an arrangement would “ensure Russia’s de facto dominance in east and southeast Ukraine and semi-autonomy for the country’s west.”

Because of the war of attrition, without Western sanctions on Russia, and economic, political and certain forms of military support for Ukraine, we might face the collapse of Ukrainian democracy and the loss of Ukrainian independence, leading to a humanitarian disaster, with Ukrainian refugees streaming into Western Europe.

It might also lead to further Russian adventures. In a speech last October, Putin stated that the Ukrainian civil war was an example of a conflict “at the intersection of major states’ geopolitical interests,” “and I think it will certainly not be the last without a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements” based on Russian security proposals.

The other possible conflicts to which Putin referred could apparently occur in the Baltic Republics, which are members of NATO, or in Moldova.

The Russian security proposals would appear to be those of 2008. Then the Russians had advocated a European Security Treaty that would have:

  • devalued existing security arrangements, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE);
  • prevented NATO from acting independently of Moscow; and
  • established a de facto Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Russia also called for a Union of Europe between Russia and the EU. The Union would have co-ordinated military, political and strategic matters. North America would not have been included.

Russia has already begun to exert military pressure on the Baltic Republics. The Russian political analyst Rostislav Ishchenko, an associate of the Izborsky Club, a nationalist group with deep roots in the Kremlin, has argued, in what other Russian commentators have described as a trial balloon, for the “preventive occupation” of the Baltic States. The British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said Putin poses a “real and present danger” to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

It is in the West’s, and Canada’s, interest to stand by its commitments to Ukraine, not only for Ukraine’s sake, but so as to leave no doubt that NATO will honour its security obligations to the Baltic Republics under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.

Unless the West is seen to be faithful to its commitments, it cannot hope to negotiate eventually an acceptable and durable modus vivendi with the Russians."

See the direct link to the article in the National Post: Derek Fraser: What’s at stake in Ukraine


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