(Quebec) Is Canada doing enough to help Ukraine defend its territory against Vladimir Putin’s aggression? After almost two years of war, researchers from UQAM conclude that Ottawa is pursuing above all “an image policy” in Ukraine, where the main objective is to be perceived “as a reliable ally”.
In a collective work to be published next week by Presses de l’Université Laval, a chapter examines Canadian aid to Kyiv. The authors, Justin Massie and Nicolas-François Perron, argue that far from being a leader in the Atlanticist camp, Ottawa is content to follow the positions of its allies and offer “very modest” military support to Ukraine.
“The objective coveted by Canada lies more in being perceived as a reliable ally than any other consideration, including the victory of Ukraine against Russian aggression,” concludes the chapter contained in the collective work Canada in the light of the war in Ukrainewhich appears on February 7.
“Canada pursues an image policy, where brandishing the maple leaf constitutes the main coveted objective,” write the two experts.
To arrive at these conclusions, the authors rely in part on the work of the Kiel Institute, which has done a monk’s job since the start of the conflict to identify and count the aid of the allies to Ukraine.
Canada offered significant financial assistance in the form of loans. But if we take into account overall aid (financial, humanitarian and military) in relation to its GDP, Ottawa finds itself 31e in 39 countries.
In certain chapters, we compare ourselves to Portugal in terms of the military aid we send!
Justin Massie, full professor of political science at UQAM
The authors note that Canada has adopted a “maximalist” discourse, ensuring that it supports its ally “as long as it takes” with “unshakeable” conviction. “How can we explain this gap between words and actions? », they ask themselves.
According to them, this is a continuation of Canada’s “cheap Atlanticism.” Remember that Canada committed in 2014, like its NATO allies, to increase its military budget to 2% of its GDP. This spending reached 1.31% of Canadian GDP at the start of 2023, a situation that Washington continues to deplore.
According to them, Ottawa is doing just enough in Ukraine to be perceived as a “reliable ally”. Justin Massie also notes that the production of 155 mm shells – manufactured in Quebec factories – has not increased in the country since the start of the war, even if the Ukrainians continue to ask their allies for them.
The expert believes there are few political consequences to doing so. “It is not a priority of the Trudeau government, which seems more interested in areas of provincial jurisdiction than in its own, if we look at its record,” says Mr. Massie in an interview.
“And for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, it also looks like the war in Ukraine does not exist. So there is no pressure on the federal government to do more. It’s like we’re living in denial. There is no national political cost. »
A rare book in French on Canada and Ukraine
French speakers interested in military affairs will certainly be delighted to see a book in their language about Canada in the context of the war in Ukraine. “Ukraine gives us the opportunity to shed light on Canada’s security thinking. We think that there are not enough conversations at the moment on these issues,” says André Simonyi, professor of international studies at the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean, in an interview.
Mr. Simonyi co-directed Canada in the light of the war in Ukraine with Frédérick Côté. The latter served for 26 years as an infantry officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is doing a doctorate in international affairs at Laval University.
“The invasion of Ukraine is a break with the trend of the last 30 years,” notes Mr. Côté, who was also sent to Ukraine in 2019.
“In my doctorate, every day, I read texts which say that the war of the future is the war of 4e generation, with actors of variable geometry who do not come under the jurisdiction of States. Could Canada be ready for a war like the one we are seeing? It’s a good question. »
The book covers all kinds of angles, from the geopolitical implications of the Russian invasion for Canada to the state of its reserve force.
Canada in the light of the war in Ukraine: thinking about security and defense in an emerging world
Laval University Press