Ukraine, Canada and Yemen carnage, Aussie AUKUS update and more

UKRAINE UPDATE: latest on Canadian military support

After considerable deliberation, Canada announced modest additional, military support to Ukraine including:

  • Extending its Operation Unifier military training mission for an additional 3 years,
  • Boosting its intelligence sharing and support to strengthen Ukrainian cyber security and cyber operations, and
  • Providing “non-lethal equipment” that could include body armour and “optics and scopes”.

Update: Defence Minister Anand, who arrived in Kiev on Sunday 30 Jan, has left the door slightly ajar to further military contributions from Canada.

For an excellent analysis of what this means for Canada’s approach to the high-stakes military and political stand-off over Ukraine, see the comments by Canadian defence expert Andrew Rasiulis in a recent report by Global News:

Everyone wants to prevent a conflict and the diplomatic path is currently in play, and that is everyone’s preferred option….

It’s deterrence and dialogue, so the dialogue is on the diplomacy side, and deterrence is like Operation Unifier, where we are training Ukrainians to build up their defence force capabilities for self-defence. … Canada has put a very measured response, which puts the emphasis on diplomacy while not ignoring the deterrence side of the equation.

A key aspect of the comments by Rasiulis relates to the alleged importance of “cohesion” in the Alliance response. Arguing that it might be “unrealistic” to think all western nations will be on the same page when it comes to addressing the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Rasiulis added:

It’s actually perhaps preferable for the alliance to have some states like Germany, France and perhaps Canada now who are going to be the frontrunners on the diplomatic stage, and have some of the more hardline countries like the United States and Britain taking very tough stances, but also open and very much advocating diplomacy….

I think a mix is not a bad thing. It shows there are nuances and there’s room to reduce the tension a bit when there’s dialogue taking place and even if there’s a bit of nuance in opinions, it reflects the reality in fact.

In the view of

As we have discussed in the context of the ongoing Alliance review of its strategic doctrine, “groupthink” and blind obeisance to the need for Alliance unity at all costs can become a cudgel used by the hardliners to silence the voices of moderation. We welcome the astute rejection of this thinking by Rasiulis in his analysis.

Despite the media hype diplomacy continues apace

On Wednesday, 26 January, as had been previously agreed, the USA delivered a written response to Russia’s security proposals as well as a list of American concerns. The document, which the US said had been “fully coordinated” with Ukraine, European allies and partners, has not yet been made public.

In the press conference held following the exchange, US Secretary of State Blinken characterized the American response as follows:

All told, it sets out a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it.

On the contents, he stated in part:

The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground.

Secretary Blinken also spoke of the Russia–NATO dialogue track:

Additionally, NATO developed and will deliver to Moscow its own paper with ideas and concerns about collective security in Europe — and that paper fully reinforces ours, and vice versa.

On the two tracks of diplomacy and aggression-deterrence, Blinken added:

We’ve laid out a diplomatic path.  We’ve lined up steep consequences should Russia choose further aggression.

In the question and answer session following his statement, Secretary Blinken also made it clear that the Alliance position on new members had not altered:

Of course, it is for NATO, not the United States unilaterally, to discuss the “Open Door” policy.  These are decisions that NATO makes as an Alliance, not the United States unilaterally.  But from our perspective, I can’t be more clear:  NATO’s door is open, remains open, and that is our commitment.

Russian Foreign Minister also sees glimmer of hope for diplomacy

On the Russian response, Aljazeera English reported on 27 January:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was “no positive response to the main question”, referring to the potential for Ukraine to join the alliance. But “there is a response which gives hope for the start of a serious conversation on secondary questions”.

Likewise, an article in the New York Times entitled Russia might be able to negotiate with the U.S. on some issues, foreign minister says (Liveupdates, 28 January 2022) stated:

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said that the United States’ recent written response to its security demands contained “a kernel of rationality” for a possible compromise on issues like missile deployments and military exercises.

In their own version of carrot and stick diplomacy, Lavrov was further quoted as saying:

If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war…. We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored.

For more perspective on the Russian demands, and the security concerns driving them (a perspective lamentably lacking in most western mainstream coverage), we highly recommend this 2015 video with PowerPoint slides, from one of America’s leading “realists” John Mearsheimer entitled Why is Ukraine the West’s fault?  (YouTube, 2015).  As relevant today as it was in 2015, the professor is currently featuring this video lecture on his personal website. Particularly refreshing is his cogent analysis of why, in his view, Russia does not want to invade Ukraine.

At the 23:42 minute mark of the discussion, Professor Mearsheimer offers his solution to the crisis:

Create a neutral Ukraine, which is a buffer state between NATO and Russia.

Our two most recent blog posts on Ukraine (available here and here) have examined the concept of a neutral Ukraine and how it is addressed in the Minsk peace accords, signed by Russia and Ukraine and recently reaffirmed by all relevant parties, including the USA and NATO, with the relevant language of the Brussels Summit Declaration in Article 14 stating:

We call for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all sides, and support the efforts of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.

Diplomatic talks continue in the Normandy format

Implementation of the Minsk accords has floundered for many reasons, but renewed efforts within the Normandy format — which brings in Germany and France — are now proceeding, with the first round of talks complete and the next round set to proceed in two weeks in Berlin.

In the view of

Implementation of the Minsk peace accords will not address all outstanding issues between Russia and NATO. But it will solve the core issue of the status of Ukraine. Yet, most media coverage rarely even mentions the accords, let alone their central status in peacefully resolving the conflict.

Whither Canada?

We commend the Government of Canada for its balanced approach to both diplomatic and deterrence measures in the Ukraine crisis and reiterate our call for Canada to put its considerable influence in Ukraine squarely behind assisting them in the full implementation of the Minsk accords.

What about the Nord Stream II pipeline connection?

Nord Stream 2 is looming over escalating Russian–Ukraine tensions.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post where we will examine in more detail the role in this conflict of the Russian-owned gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, which is intended to bring natural gas from Russia to Europe without transiting Ukraine, as is the case with Nord Stream 1.

Europe is hugely dependent on Russian natural gas, and the USA sees the pipeline as a potent Russian geopolitical tool to divide Europe and weaken Ukraine. Canadian energy economist John Foster adds another dimension to our upcoming discussion:

the US has become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. It’s become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas. It wants to muscle in on Europe’s huge gas market, displacing Russian gas.


The Project Ploughshares tweet was itself a comment on a 26 January Amnesty International video and tweet as follows:

UN Secretary-General Condemns latest Saudi coalition air strikes

A statement delivered by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on 21 January 2022 begins:

The Secretary-General condemns the airstrikes launched earlier today by the Saudi-led Coalition against a detention center in Saada city.  Initial reports indicate at least 60 deaths and over 100 injured among the inmates.

Referencing “further strikes” elsewhere in Yemen, with reports of deaths and injuries among civilians, including children, and an airstrike on critical civilian telecommunications facilities in Hudaydah, the statement continues:

The Secretary-General reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law… [and] calls for prompt, effective and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability.

The strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on rebel-held parts of Yemen came after a Houthi drone attack on Monday in Abu Dhabi, a leading coalition member, which killed three.

 UN Security Council only condemns Houthi, not Saudi, airstrikes

On Friday, 21 January, Security Council President Mona Juul (Norway) issued a press statement on behalf of the Council, which began:

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, 17 January, as well as in other sites in Saudi Arabia.  The attacks, which were committed and claimed by the Houthis, resulted in three civilian deaths and six other civilians injured.

Friday was the same day as the Saudi coalition reprisal attacks, which killed and injured many more innocent civilians, but to date the Security Council has failed to issue any sort of condemnation.

This shocking one-sidedness is due, of course, to the “unquestioning” American support for the Saudi dictatorship, as MSNBC opinion columnist and Executive Vice-President of the Quincy Institute Trita Parsi writes in a 25 January article. He continues:

Despite the carnage [of the Saudi air strikes], Biden sustained his perfect record of never condemning Saudi Arabia for its devastation of Yemen, let alone calling it terrorism.

While noting that American backing of Saudi Arabia has a long, bipartisan history, he points out that it was Biden himself who created the expectation that his presidency would see “an end to business as usual”, declaring in his first major foreign policy speech that:

war in Yemen must end.

And despite a fleeting cessation of “offensive” arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the administration has just sold  more than $650 million worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite efforts by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to block the deal in the Senate.

As Parsi himself notes, the Biden administration did support efforts between August and December of 2021 to de-escalate the Yemen conflict. But at the same time:

Saudi Arabia more than doubled its air raids on Yemen, from 119 to 250, according to the Yemen Data Project.

While the Houthis also increased their attacks on Saudi Arabia, they pale in comparison to the Saudi numbers.

Parsi succinctly identifies the change in American policy that is really needed, one befitting a veto-wielding Security Council member allegedly interested in resolving the deadly Yemen conflict and the unimaginable humanitarian disaster it has spawned, writing:

A real shift in U.S. policy would be to not take any side in this conflict. The Saudis, the Houthis and the Emiratis have all been accused of committing war crimes. None of them pose a threat to the United States. The only justified American involvement would be to help negotiate an end to the conflict.

For the full article, see Biden is enabling America’s indefensible history with Saudi Arabia (, 25 January 2022).

For a detailed look at what a new American policy in the Middle East should look like, see A New U.S. Paradigm for the Middle East: Ending America’s Misguided Policy of Domination (Pillar, Bacevich, Sheline and Parsi, 17 July 2020).

Whither Canada?

We began this post with a reference to the Deputy Prime Minister’s 26 January statement in the context of Canadian support for Ukraine when she referenced the direct challenge Russia posed to the “rules-based international order”. She further stated:

This is a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

But apparently, as we noted at the outset of this post, her concern — and that of the Government of Canada — is very selective and certainly does not extend to one of the most repressive dictatorships on the planet, Saudi Arabia.

At this point, it is worth quoting from China’s October 2021 statement to the Legal Committee of the UN General Assembly:

a few countries avoid talking about international law and advocate a “rules-based international order”…. There is only one international order, i.e. the international order underpinned by international law. And there is only one set of rules, i.e. the basic norms governing international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter.

Twitter has discussed possible meanings for the Orwellian-sounding “rules-based order” for some time, and we offer up this trenchant definition by Sharmine Narwani, a journalist at Cradle Media:

In accordance with Canada’s legal obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and repeated calls from the UN Expert Group on Yemen, we urge the Government of Canada to forthwith cease arming Saudi Arabia, a leading party to the Yemen conflict.


The United Church of Canada (UCC) and Israel–Palestine

In an ongoing democratic process, the previous update of which was in 2018, the United Church of Canada has finalized a report with three key recommendations:

  1. On the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement
  • It supports the right of partners to endorse and engage in BDS, as well as the rights of individuals and organizations to engage in and promote BDS.
  1. On the use of the word “apartheid”
  • It affirms the accuracy and usefulness of the term apartheid to describe laws and legal procedures of the State of Israel that enshrine one people in a privileged legal position at the expense of another.
  1. On the notion of a “Jewish State”
  • It affirms the right of Israel to exist within internationally-recognized borders according to international law, but would no longer refer to the right of Israel to exist “as a Jewish State”.

For more detail on the process leading up to this report and on the UCC itself, as well as the next steps in consideration and potential adoption of the report, see Canada’s largest protestant church takes another cautious step towards a principled critique of Israeli policy toward Palestinians (, 27 January 2022).

AUKUS Update: the view from Down Under

In June 1987, Canada announced that it intended to build 10 to 12 nuclear-powered submarines, based on a French or UK design and fueled with highly enriched uranium (HEU) possibly of Canadian origin. Faced with insurmountable strategic, political, financial, logistical, and nonproliferation obstacles, the idea sank without trace within two years.

Although the Australian nuclear-powered submarine proposal, announced 34 years later on September 16, is different in several respects, it faces equally strong headwinds that may deliver the same result.

So begins a superb analysis from one of the leading experts on nuclear non-proliferation, Trevor Findlay, now at Melbourne University but previously a Carleton University professor and first holder of the Barton Chair.

See The Australia-UK-U.S. Submarine Deal: Not Necessarily a Sure or a Good Thing (, November 2021).


Recording now available for iAFFAIRS panel on Canada -China Relations

Click HERE for recording.


For more information click here and to register click here.

Photo credit: Mcleod-Stewarton (Centertown United Church)

Tags: apartheid and Israel, Arms Trade Treaty, AUKUS, BDS Movement, Canada and Yemen, Canadian military exports to Saudi Arabia, diplomacy and deterrence, iAffairs and China webinar, international law, Jewish state, Minsk peace accords, neutral Ukraine, Normandy Format, Professor John Meersheimer, rules-based international order, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov, Trevor Findlay, UCC and new Report on Israel - Palestine, Ukraine, United Church of Canada (UCC)