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One day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Australia’s Parliament on March 31, Australia’s prime minister announced it would send armoured troop carriers to help Ukrainians repel Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It’s been a month since Mr. Zelensky spoke to Canada’s Parliament. Where’s the similar announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?
As the Russian invasion continues in its seventh week, stiff resistance from Ukrainians has for now forced the Russian military to withdraw from the area around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. This likely means that the war has entered a protracted phase of uncertain stalemate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue siege warfare of Ukraine’s cities. The result will be continuing and mounting civilian Ukrainian casualties.
To lessen the impact of long-distance bombing and shelling of Ukrainian cities, Mr. Zelensky is pleading for the West to provide offensive weapons. He talks about tanks and airplanes. But armoured troop carriers, such as the Australian Bushmaster, will help as well. Mr. Zelensky specifically mentioned the Bushmasters in his address to Australia’s Parliament, saying they would help substantially Ukraine’s military effort.
The issue for Australia is how can it get these Bushmasters to Ukraine as quickly as possible. Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton says its cargo aircraft can airlift only three or four in a single flight. This is where Canada could contribute militarily in a timely manner. The Canadian Armed Forces does have lift capacity with its five Boeing C-17 Globemasters, the same aircraft Australia will be using. Let’s put them to use helping Australia ferry Bushmasters to Ukraine.
On April 8, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, confirmed that Australia will gift 20 Bushmasters to Ukraine, at a cost of approximately 50 million Australian dollars. Surely, Canada could commit $50 million as well, ‘buy’ another 20 Bushmasters from Australia, and deliver them to the Ukrainian military.
Mr. Morrison’s media release described the Bushmaster as “built in Australia to provide protected mobility transport, safely moving soldiers to a battle area prior to dismounting for close combat. The Bushmaster is well suited to provide protection to the Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers and Ukrainian civilians against mines and improvised explosive devices, shrapnel from artillery and small arms fire.”
Third, the first of 360 armoured combat support vehicles ordered by the Canadian government, rolled out of General Dynamics’ London, Ont., plant last May. Would there not be some available to transfer to Ukraine? How quickly could production be ramped up at this facility?
There is ongoing discussion among 35 allies, including Canada, about how to best support Ukraine’s militarily in a calibrated manner. As the horrible revelations of Russian atrocities in the liberated suburbs outside Kyiv have shown, there is urgency to this discussion. The scales have dropped from our eyes regarding Vlad the Butcher, if not entirely the gloves from our hands. Putin will not be stopped until he is stopped.
As debate continues in the West about how much offensive weaponry should be provided to Ukraine, Canada’s prime minister must be considering how he should channel his inner Talbot Papineau.
Just prior to entering politics in 2007, Justin Trudeau portrayed Papineau, grandson of 1837 Patriote leader, Louis-Joseph Papineau, in a CBC docudrama, The Great War. Talbot Papineau was awarded a military cross for bravery in early 1915. He was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele Oct. 30, 1917. “I don’t know how many characters out there I would identify with to the same degree as I identified with Talbot Papineau,” Trudeau said in a 2007 interview.
What would Talbot Papineau do today? Mr. Trudeau knows the answer.
Ukrainians have decided they are willing to die to have an independent and free nation rather than to live under the yoke of a Putin tyranny. Their fortitude and bravery demand our active support. They have somehow reminded us what freedom means.