UARU
How Canada Reacts to Russia's 'Provocations' in Eastern Europe
31 October, 2016
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What You Need To Know:

 

✅  Ukraine was the biggest recipient of Canada’s international assistance between 2014-2015. Official figures suggest this included loans totaling $400 million through ‘Finance Canada’, funds to help promote sustainable economic development and support to overhaul the police and security services. (Source: Global Affairs Canada)

 

✅   Over the past few years, Canada has increased its role in the Europe’s security environment. Canadian forces are leading the multinational NATO battle-ready group in Latvia and an Air Task Force with six CF-18 aircraft conducting air-policing missions in Europe.

 

✅  Hromadske was granted a special interview with Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on the sidelines of The Riga Conference 2016. Topics discussed included future NATO deployments to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, Canada’s military role in the world and strategies to tackle cyber warfare.

 

✅  Harjit Sajjan: “The provocations actually come from the Russians’ actions and we are reacting to their provocation; they’re very serious provocations whether it's Crimea, or Ukraine and their very large-scale exercises that they're doing along the border.”

 
FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
REPORTER:

- So first for all, thank you for joining us. My first question, what has Canada been doing to support Ukraine since the start of the crisis with Russia?

 

HARJIT SAJJAN:

- Since Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Canada has been a very strong partner with that nation. From the military, we've had an infantry company in place doing training (for) the Ukrainian forces for some time now. Plus we have police trainers in the area and we also have great economic ties with the country.

 

REPORTER:

- And with respect to these new battalions, they moving into the Baltic (after a decision made) at the Warsaw Summit. How do you essential shore up defenses in the Baltic without stoking paranoia in the Kremlin? How do you balance between the two and to what to what extent does this sense of not wanting to stoke this paranoia factor into defense decisions in the Baltics?

 

HARJIT SAJJAN:

- I think it's not that we're creating any situation. The provocations actually come from the Russians' actions and we are reacting to their provocation; their very serious provocation, whether it's Crimea, Ukraine and their very large-scale exercises that they're doing along the border. As NATO and the member states, collective defense is extremely important. What we have demonstrated here is part of our Forward Enhanced Presence. The deterrent is four battle groups. In terms of the size itself, (it's) not militarily significant. However, the multinational organization of these battle groups shows that from NATO will not just stand by and allow Russia to take these actions without being noticed. From our decisions as NATO that we've taken, we are four nations that have stepped up (to) take a leading role. Canada is one of them here in Latvia. I'm very proud of that fact. And other nations are contributing to these battle groups. But keep in mind, while we take these actions in a very open and transparent manner, we also want to make sure we keep the dialogue option open and NATO-Russia dialogue is extremely important. But we want to make sure it's much more meaningful as well. But we can not ignore Russia's actions that have been taken and we need to be strong partners with other NATO member states

 

 

REPORTER:

- At the time same, Canada is among the nation's that doesn't meet it's two percent commitment on defense budgetary spending so, to what extent is Canada able to meet these commitments and defend eastern Europe in the event of a Russian attack without meeting that commitment to NATO?

 

HARJIT SAJJAN:

- Well, I think it's not about, for example,...whether it's regardless of percentage of defence spending. Each nation has to decide how much money needs to be spent on defence. Canada will make its commitments on defence. We have the defence policy review. That's almost complete and we will fund our military to the needs of how it fits Canada. NATO is a very important part of our defence needs. Right in my mandate letter, it's been openly expressed by the prime minister. But the output of what Canada does is far more important; at the end of the day, in terms of not so much how much you spend on defence (but) what you do with it. We spend almost 20 percent on capital projects  -we spend our money on modernising. We make sure our troops are well trained. But more importantly, we have committed to missions whether it's part of the coalition to fight Daesh or taking a leadership role here in NATO and here in Latvia. We have done that so it's about what you do, not about what you spend on that. So that's a very important message that people should understand about Canada. We have a very high output rate.

 

REPORTER:

And in the West, we have seen there is a political constituency of people who longer maybe believe that it's in the interests of Americans, Canadians or western Europeans to put troops on the front lines in the Baltic , in Ukraine or wherever against Russia. To what extent do you see that as any internal threat to NATO as an alliance and how do you go about making the case that somebody in Kansas or Manitoba that it's worth putting these troops out very close to Russia in these battalions.

 

HARJIT SAJJAN:

Canadians do understand the importance of Canada's role on the international stage. There is significant support. One thing we openly demonstrate to Canadians is exactly what we are doing with regular announcements to Canadians. More importantly, there was a poll recently out that showed great support for the Canadian military to do more internationally. This is something that Canadians are used to and expect our military to do to help deescalate situations and everything that we are doing here is just about that, trying to work to reduce conflict in the world, whether it's the direct fight against Daesh in Iraq, taking a leading role here in NATO and our eventual announcement for peace operations in Africa. These are all international deployments that are supported by Canadians. What Canadians expect is making sure that one, it's a meaningful contribution that the military is making and two, making sure that the Canadian Armed Forces are well resourced and, at the same time, have the appropriate rules of engagement to be able to do the job they have been sent there to do.

 

REPORTER:

- To what extent is cyber warfare still a vulnerability in the NATO alliance and what can be done to address that issue?

 

HARJIT SAJJAN:

We are very (serious about) the importance of cyber and is an evolving technology and an evolving threat. We have, within NATO member states, and especially here in Canada, we do have significant resources for this but we need to be able to work together between all our different nations and making sure all our capabilities have the right defensive mechanism and, at the same time, be able to take action as well. So first of all, it's a very important field that is going to continue to evolve and we will invest in the right technology to evolve with it.

 

REPORTER:

Thank you for your time.