North Atlantic Terrorism Organization
As the situation in Ukraine continues to unfold, it has been difficult to get a clear idea of what’s going on without it being muddled by Western media, which has a general bias towards the West and to war in general. Many different factors affect the crisis, including historical components, the implications and politics of warfare, and tension between the West and Russia – namely, that for many people, the Cold War never really ended.
In October of 2021, satellite images showed Russian troops and military equipment amassing on the border with Ukraine. In subsequent months, additional images were released that showed tens of thousands of soldiers, armoured missiles, and heavy military equipment seemingly lying in wait. Yves Engler, a Canadian foreign policy expert, told the Carillon that a great deal of the tension is due to posturing by Canadian and U.S. forces. “I mean, the big way to look at it is that the Canadian government has basically viewed Ukraine as a proxy to undermine Russian influence. So how I see what’s going on right now is Washington’s leading, but Canada is very much supporting it – and ramping up support and tension among those in Ukraine who allow themselves to be used to get into conflict with Russia.”
Due to the ongoing conflict in the region, governments, journalists, and foreign affairs specialists started speculating on a possible invasion; even though Moscow denied and still denies their intent to move into Ukraine, at this current moment no one truly knows what the Kremlin is planning. NATO countries, specifically western NATO countries including the United States and Canada, are maintaining a narrative that the Russian invasion of Ukraine to some degree is imminent, with United States intelligence officials releasing official statements that they expect to see something happen as early as February. It’s notable that these countries have largely capitulated to the COVID-19 virus and are facing high rates of inflation, deaths from disease, and unrest from workers, all issues that they are keen to divert attention away from.
To understand the current situation, it’s beneficial to know what has been happening in Ukraine since late 2013. In 2013, protests started in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv against President Viktor Yanukovych and his decision to reject a deal that would allow Ukraine greater economic integration within the European Union. A violent crackdown by state security forces led to an even more significant number of protesters, and the conflict escalated to the president fleeing the country in 2014. Later that year, Russia took control of the Crimea region in Ukraine. Crimea historically was a part of the Soviet Union and became part of Ukraine when Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. The majority of the population in Crimea is of Russian descent, or their first language is Russian. Crimea voted in an unofficial referendum to declare independence from Ukraine and was officially annexed by Russia on March 18, 2014. Since the beginning of the conflict, violence between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military has caused over ten thousand deaths.
“To a certain extent, Ukraine is being instrumentalized by Global Affairs Canada, and it’s being instrumentalized to try to weaken Russia.,” said Engler. “This is not a policy that started yesterday. You can go back to the last two decades where the Canadian government has funded groups in Ukraine and supported groups that are anti-Russia. Of course, it’s important to remember that 30 per cent of Ukrainians’ mother tongue is Russian. So it’s a multi-ethnic place, and Canada has been interested in trying to stoke a type of nationalism that’s oriented to being anti-Russian, and there’s a recent history post-collapse of the Soviet Union history, but there’s also a longer tradition that goes all the way back to World War II. This is not good for Ukrainians. I mean, at the end of the day, this is it’s, it’s an easy game for Ottawa, right? We’re far away. If the worst happens, the consequences for Canadians and Canada are pretty minimal. Canada getting whole hog into this and really just getting right behind the American push has utility for Washington in terms of pressuring the German government. Canada is certainly not irrelevant within NATO. How Trudeau deals with this has quite an impact within NATO.”
When Russia initially began moving troops to the border in 2021, the United States released a statement saying that if Russia invaded Ukraine, they would impose severe consequences for Russia, including economic sanctions. Then, in early December of 2021, Moscow released a set of demands that included barring Ukraine from ever joining NATO and that NATO’s involvement in eastern Europe needs to end. The Biden administration rejected these demands flat out because they believe that every country should have the ability to determine their future in regards to alliances and government, unless it interferes with U.S. foreign policy. Attempts to reach a diplomatic solution have been ongoing, and countries such as Canada, The United States, and Britain have been sending aid in military equipment and money (euphemistically called “lethal aid” by the government, a phrase eagerly adopted by many media outlets). Still, as of right now, they are not intending to get directly involved if fighting breaks out.
The threat of economic sanctions from the United States could have many implications, as sanctions are a form of warfare and collective punishment meant to coerce countries into capitulating to the demands of the American state or risk mass starvation and a lack of access to necessary medical and other supplies. It can harm Russia economically, especially if they get removed from the Swiss banking system and have state assets frozen. Situations in which the Nord Stream pipeline gets shut down and Russian energy pulls out of Europe would have severe economic effects for Europe, and it will come down to who can outlast who. There is also a significant chance Russia has been preparing for this for a while and looking for additional markets to sell their energy, such as in China.
A full-scale invasion of Ukraine does not seem likely at the moment. Instead, smaller military action such as Russia supporting and taking control of separatist territories is more likely to occur. However, if a full-scale invasion happened, it would be the first time Europe has seen that level of warfare since World War II, and its implications could be astronomical.
Canada plays many roles in this situation because not only do they have a long history of relations with Ukraine, Canada’s influence within NATO can give sway to how the situation is ultimately handled. “Canada is quite influential within Ukraine because there’s obviously Canadian soldiers and Canadian police training [there],” Engler said. “They have been right at the heart of building up this new police force since 2014. Ukraine is very shockingly poor. So, you know, funding is a key, especially with the recent announcement, but there’s been lots of different funding over the years.”