Canadian arms manufacturers can now apply for the right to export their weapons to Ukraine after the Canadian government has added Ukraine to its Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) on December 13.
This decision is the latest step in ongoing security and defense cooperation between Ukraine and Canada. The two countries signed the Canada-Ukraine Defense Cooperation Arrangement back in April 2017 and Canada also extended Operation UNIFIER — a joint support mission by Canada, the UK, and the US with the aim of providing training and capacity-building to the Ukrainian Armed Forces — to 2019 in March this year.
Speaking to Hromadske several weeks prior to the decision, Canadian Conservative Shadow Minister for National Defense James Bezan explained that Ukraine’s inclusion on the AFCCL would boost Ukraine’s military efforts in the ongoing war against Russia-backed separatists in the occupied eastern regions of the country.
“I think Ukraine should be added on to Canada's Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which would give the legal abilities for companies to sell lethal weapons as well as technology to Ukraine and partner with the industry here in the Defense Industrial Complex to build up domestic production so they can match what's required to deal with the security situations in Donbas and Crimea,” Bezan told Hromadske.
However, Bezan also believes that defense cooperation needs to be extended to cybersecurity to deal with the hybrid nature of the war in Donbas.
According to Bezan, “It's a poker game and we have to call [Putin’s] bluff.”
“So that means matching the information warfare that we have, to be more aggressive on electronic warfare, including cybersecurity,” he said adding that Canada is also in the process of changing its legislation to allow the country to take an offensive stance on cyber warfare, and not just defensive.
In addition to military and cybersecurity, Bezan told Hromadske that financial pressure, and the continuation of sanctions against Russia, would help deter Russian aggression.
“Russia signed on to things like the Geneva convention, the UN Charter, the Budapest Memorandum, the Helsinki Accord and has ignored every single one of those international documents. They do not believe in the rule of law but they understand money; money talks, we've got to take away their cash flow.”
Hromadske sat down with Canadian Conservative Shadow Minister for National Defense James Bezan at the Lviv Security Forum that took place November 30 - December 1, 2017.
My first question is about the Canadian view on what we call the “Ukrainian situation,” the“Ukrainian war.”
Well, we are very supportive of all the efforts Ukraine's taking in improving their security situation and that's why we signed the Canada-Ukraine Defense Cooperation Arrangement, started under the previous conservative government, signed by the current liberal government. But it just shows how broad the support is in Canada to stand united with Ukraine and that's why we have Operation UNIFIER, where we have over 200 Canadian troops here training with Ukrainian soldiers, bringing them up to NORAD standards and developing that middle-management, the non-commissioned officer corps that doesn't exist in Soviet-style militaries but is common within the NATO context. So it is important that we do that. And, as the official opposition, we still think that we can do more to support Ukraine on the security side -- that includes supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons, that includes restoring the supply of Radarsat images of what's happening on Donbas. We have the capabilities with our Radarsat constellation, moving those satellites over top of Ukraine so that we can have 24/7 eyes on the ground on what's happening within Donbas and how much heavy artillery and troops, and ammunition, are coming across from Russia into Donbas. And then, finally, we think Ukraine should be added on to Canada's Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which would give the legal abilities for companies to sell lethal weapons as well as technology to Ukraine and partner with the industry here in the Defense Industrial Complex to build up domestic production so they can match what's required to deal with the security situations in Donbas and Crimea.
The concept of “hybrid war” was very much discussed today and many people are against this definition. This war is not only about military operations, it's also about sanctions, about blacklists, about information – you personally are on the Russian blacklist. Please, could you tell us the story behind this and what are the most efficient ways for you to tackle these hybrid...
Well, as I said during the forum today, this is isn't a chess game — everyone always says that Putin is a master “chess player,” and I'd say he's no Garry Kasparov, that's the best chess player the world has ever seen — but what we're seeing is, first of all, the most important word in “hybrid warfare” is “war.” It's still war. And despite the plausible deniability, which Putin is counting on with “little green men,” with proxy armies and proxy apologists working on behalf of the Kremlin. It's a poker game and we have to call his bluff. So that means matching the information warfare that we have to be more aggressive on electronic warfare, including cybersecurity. And I know within Canada, we're in the process of changing our legislation so we're not just defensive anymore on cybersecurity, but we will be offensive as well, so it's going to be cyber warfare. And we've got to be able to take out the threat on existential manner and so it's no longer sitting back to their attack, you're going to eliminate the threat as quickly as possible. And, as we develop that capability, along with our NATO partners, through the defense arrangements we have with Ukraine, we can share that information — just like Ukraine is sharing with us their experiences in Donbas of fighting Russian electronic warfare, of dealing with the whole problems of cybersecurity, as well as the more modern technologies that Russia has developed in their fighting capabilities. We know that the so-called terrorists within Donbas would never have access to that equipment, access to that type of training, there's only one source of it, it's called the Russian Federation.
According to you, what are Putin chances of winning this game, or whatever you call it?
Well, I don't know if Putin's winning anymore. It's a stalemate and Ukraine has paid significantly with blood and treasure. But I think Putin may welcome an opportunity to get out of this. So we have to, through the United Nations, as well as other international organizations like the OSCE, start putting pressure on Putin to withdraw. But that means we have to continue to stand strong together on sanctions — I think those sanctions should be increased, I know in Canada we have sanctioned now over 300 Russians responsible for the conflict we see in Donbas and Crimea, with the illegal annexation and the illegal occupation. But we have to go further, and if you look at how the Soviet Union finally fell, it wasn't because Gorbachev wanted to kill the Soviet Union, it's because he couldn't afford to keep it anymore. And we need to make it so financially difficult for the Russian Federation to continue on with their adventurism in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Moldova. We need to break apart the alliances that they have with Iran, North Korea, Syria, and really start to apply the rule of law, which Putin has always ignored. Russia signed on to things like the Geneva convention, the UN Charter, the Budapest Memorandum, the Helsinki Accord and has ignored every single one of those international documents. They do not believe in the rule of law but they understand money; money talks, we've got to take away their cash flow.
Apart from Russia, what are the most important threats to global security today?
Well, number one: it's Russia. Still, the jihadist movement that we see, not just in the Middle East anymore, we see it throughout Africa, we're seeing it on our own soil. That type of fanaticism, and militant behavior and international terrorism will continue to be a major focus, I think, for all countries. North Korea is, again, ramping up their testing. I know in Canada, we've held special hearings about ballistic missile defense and why we haven't joined with the United States in protecting the continent of North America. Because if you look at the trajectory from any bomb being fired from Pyongyang and travelling from North Korea, if their target was the United States, it has to come over the top on Canada and I don't trust that the North Koreans have the expertise to actually hit the mark, so they might be shooting New York and hit Toronto, they could be shooting for Seattle but get Vancouver, so it's really important for us to be part of a ballistic missile defense group, yet our government is saying no.
My last question is about the global conclusions of the year, we are approaching Christmas, we're approaching the end of the year. So the question is: what do you think has changed during this year and what are we to expect, to hope maybe, to fear during the next year?
Well, from a defense and security perspective, I think the world hasn't seen a victory. We finally get ISIS out of Iraq and now we've got a civil war going on there between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad. We see a resurgent Iran exercising their form of terrorism as well as promoting their Shia militia, not just in Iran but in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon and expanding their sphere of influence with the support of Russia. And we have a more emboldened hermit kingdom in North Korea that is destabilizing the geopolitics within the South Asian nations. So we have some major security challenges that will take a lot of people much smarter than I in trying to solve. But we need to continue to work together with like-minded nations so that democracy, free people, free speech, liberties and right, especially human rights, are respected around the world.
/Interview by Tetyana Ogarkova
/Text by Sofia Fedeczko