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How NATO — and Canada — could do a lot more to defend Ukraine – CBC News

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It’s become clear to all by now that NATO is not going to risk a Third World War by imposing a no-fly zone in Ukrainian airspace contested by Russian warplanes.

But perhaps the debate over a no-fly zone has distracted attention from other actions that Canada — and what Russian President Vladimir Putin calls “the collective West” — could take to help save Ukraine from Russia.

Canada has given Ukraine a considerable amount of assistance over the years. Since the annexation of Crimea, Canada has launched the Operation Unifier training program for Ukrainian troops and has contributed non-lethal aid — and lately, lethal military materiel — from its own meagre stocks. Canada also has been among the most aggressive countries when it comes to sanctioning Russia.

But there are other things this country, and other NATO allies, could do to help Ukraine.

Operation Distraction

Russia already has poured a significant portion of its combat power into Ukraine — but it still has more in reserve, spread out over its vast territory.

As the Russian offensive has stalled, Russian citizens in Siberian cities like Krasnoyarsk have been recording long trains carrying Russian armour west toward Ukraine.

Could NATO do anything to disrupt or discourage the movement of reinforcements to Ukraine? It could — through distraction.

If NATO were to stage joint exercises with Japan near the disputed Kuril islands off Russia’s Pacific coast, Russia might be much less sanguine about stripping the region of its defences to bolster its forces in Ukraine. 

NATO also could stage manoeuvres in the Baltic region to discourage Russia from transferring forces from its North Military District.

If NATO really felt like pushing the envelope, it could stage exercises in the western part of the Black Sea, off the coasts of NATO members Romania and Bulgaria. That would mean the Russian ships now assembling off Odessa and shelling the coast — apparently in preparation for an amphibious assault — would have to operate with NATO warships and warplanes right at their backs.

Keep them on their toes

“That’s certainly one of the tactics NATO will be looking at,” said Christian Leuprecht of the Royal Military College of Canada.

“The Black Sea is a very serious and genuine option. Romania has every reason to say, ‘The Russians are shelling the Ukrainian coast. What are we doing to defend our coast?'”

Leuprecht said NATO should give Russia short notice of the exercises. “Usually these are announced a year ahead of time,” he said. “That gives them time to draw down their forces.”

A U.S. Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies during the NATO military exercise Crystal Arrow 2022 at the Adazi military range in Latvia on March 11, 2022. (Martins Zilgalvis/AP)

Instead, he said, NATO should make use of the new troops moving to defend the alliance’s eastern flank and be “more sporadic and spontaneous. You want to keep them on their toes.”

“That forces the Russians to keep their forces deployed elsewhere.”

Risky business

This strategy is far from risk-free. It plays on the fact that military exercises can provide cover for an invasion force — a threat Putin understands better than anybody, having just used that same ruse himself. 

But when rival forces are in close proximity at times of heightened tension, there’s always a risk of violence.

That would be especially true in the Black Sea, where Russian naval commanders are already on a hair-trigger setting.

Putin also could choose to interpret any NATO exercises on his frontiers as an attack in order to justify launching a war with NATO. That action might not be rational but there are doubts about how rational Putin’s thinking is now.

“NATO exercises near Russian borders could be used by Russia to respond and escalate” if Putin decides escalation is in his interest, said Ivan Katchanovski, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who has written extensively about conflict in his native Ukraine.

MASH at the border

One strategy less likely to widen the war is to set up Level 3 military hospitals at Ukraine’s borders on alliance territory in Poland, Slovakia and Romania. There, Ukrainian soldiers could be treated and, where possible, returned to the fight, saving lives and relieving a tremendous burden on Ukraine’s army.

Ukrainian soldiers are dying from injuries that could be treated under better conditions.

This action would be essentially humanitarian — and difficult for Russia to portray as a provocation.

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on Sunday, March 13, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre, shakes hands with a wounded soldier during his visit to a hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. (AP)

“You can assume that among the wounded refugees showing up in European hospitals are wounded soldiers,” said Leuprecht. “But it’s currently happening on a very low-level, subversive scale. But NATO could make it much more explicit.”

Such hospitals also would allow NATO’s smallest members, like Albania, to contribute in a tangible way. 

“I suspect that’s going to come. Because we’re going to need to keep Ukrainian soldiers motivated, and that’s an easy piece of support and an easy sales pitch,” said Leuprecht. “There’s enough of these field hospitals around that you could run them at each of Ukraine’s borders.”

Escrow the oil and gas money

A no-fly zone isn’t the only tactic that seems out of reach for Ukraine’s allies right now. Another is Europe halting all purchases of oil and gas from Russia.

European countries have given hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Ukraine since the invasion began on Feb. 24. Over the same period, many of those countries paid Russia, collectively, over $20 billion for fossil fuels.

In a New York Times opinion piece published Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s economic adviser Oleg Ustenko complained that Putin’s “war is paying for itself” and asked for secondary sanctions to go after companies that ship or handle Russian oil and gas.

“In the meantime,” wrote Ustenko, “payments for Russian gas should go into escrow accounts, so that the proceeds cannot be used to buy weapons. This is standard practice when there are sanctions.”

But there is a major problem with this proposal — it risks splitting the western alliance.

Not ready to go cold turkey

Germany and some other EU members have made it clear that they won’t ask their people to freeze in the dark for Ukraine. Even Poland — where the entire population seems to have mobilized to support Ukrainians — continues to buy energy from Russia.

Katchanovski said the Europeans know their position is weak.

“Russia would just stop delivery of natural gas to western Europe and other EU countries like Poland and Slovakia,” he said. “This would lead to very negative consequences for these countries.”

Activists with the environmental organization Greenpeace paint the words ‘Oil fuels war’ on the hull of a ship carrying Russian oil near the German island Fehmarn on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Frank Molter/AP)

“Recently,” he added, “Putin issued a demand for buyers of natural gas from Russia to pay in rubles” in an effort to shore up his country’s plunging currency” — another sign that Putin believes Moscow holds the cards when it comes to energy diplomacy.

(He may yet get a rude surprise. Slovenia’s PM said on Thursday that he doesn’t think “anybody in Europe knows what rubles look like. Nobody will pay in rubles.”)

For now, it appears that weaning Europe off Russian oil and gas is a long-term proposition.

Start collecting for reconstruction now

Like all wars, this one will end someday. Katchanovski said Ukrainians are counting on something like a Marshall Plan for their country — a massive injection of foreign capital to fund the country’s post-war recovery.

But the reconstruction effort doesn’t have to begin and end with national governments. Nor does the collection of reconstruction funds have to wait for the shooting to stop.

Past experience with disasters such as the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake shows that very large amounts of money can be raised outside of government treasuries when governments use imaginative mechanisms such as matching private donations dollar-for-dollar.

Needs assessments will be necessary in certain cases, but some needs don’t require studies before the fundraising starts. Ukrainian towns such as Irpin and Mykolaiv have been forced to blow up their own bridges to stop Russian advances. The solution in such cases is obvious: rebuild the bridge.

Adopt a highway … or a bridge

Two European governments showed one way to do that. Italy has pledged to rebuild the Mariupol theater brutally bombed by Russian warplanes while hundreds of civilians sheltered inside. And Greece has committed to give Mariupol a new maternity hospital to replace the one destroyed by Russian artillery.

Rather than waiting for Ottawa to act, Canadian provinces and municipalities, corporations and unions, associations and groups of individuals could commit to rebuilding a single landmark or piece of infrastructure.

Dr. Anatolii Pavlov takes pictures of a damaged psychiatric hospital after it was hit in a military strike in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on March 22, 2022. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

The model is scalable: it could be as large as an airport or as small as a daycare. The federal government could assist by ensuring that such efforts will be treated as charitable donations for tax purposes.

“It would be very helpful to access private money,” said Katchanovski, pointing to private fundraising efforts that already have raised significant amounts of money, such as the one organized by Ukrainian-American Mila Kunis.

Open the clubhouse doors

This war has made it clear to all, including President Zelensky, that NATO membership for Ukraine is off the table for the foreseeable future.

But Russia’s demands go much further than that, said Katchanovski. 

“Currently the Russian demands include no NATO membership, demilitarization of Ukraine, Russian-language official status, independence of Donbas, recognition of the annexation of Crimea, and a demand for ‘denazification’,” he said.

But the extortionate demands Russia has presented to Ukraine in negotiations do not include ruling out Ukraine’s eventual membership in the European Union, said Katchanovski.

If the war ends through a negotiated ceasefire (as most wars ultimately do), then Ukraine may find itself forced to accept some form of neutrality that would make military alliances impossible. But as the examples of Austria and Finland show, it’s possible to remain outside NATO while still being thoroughly integrated economically into Europe.

“Ukraine could be offered EU membership as part of a peace deal where it agrees to renounce NATO membership and declares itself neutral,” said Katchanovski. “This would present Ukraine with something tangible and generate public support.”

Everything depends on the battlefield

Katchanovski says that the harshness of final peace terms will depend entirely on the progress of the war. 

“If Russia achieves more significant military success, this would lead to Ukraine losing its independence or becoming a Russian client state with some kind of formal union between Russia and Ukraine.”

If Ukrainian forces continue to hold their own, however, its government will be inclined to refuse the outrageous territorial demands Russia has placed upon them, which amount to the loss of a third of their country.

There were signs on Friday that Russia might already be scaling back ambitions. 

It all comes down to whether the Ukrainian armed forces can achieve success on the battlefield and whether Western governments have the stamina to continue to support them.

“This could go on for months; it could go on for years,” said Leuprecht. “Showing that we’re willing to do this for the long term, and that we can co-ordinate ourselves to keep this going the way we did in the Cold War until we get to an end — that’s going to be the most important piece.”

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Canada’s transport minister detects ‘shift’ in U.S. outlook after meetings in D.C.

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WASHINGTON — The latest federal cabinet minister to press Canada’s case with President Joe Biden’s administration says he is detecting a positive “shift” in U.S. thinking when it comes to the question of tax incentives for electric vehicles.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra spent Tuesday in Washington, D.C., for meetings with officials including U.S. counterpart Pete Buttigieg and senior White House adviser Mitch Landrieu.

It was just the latest in a series of cabinet-level visits — Defence Minister Anita Anand, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Trade Minister Mary Ng have been in town in recent weeks — where the ministerial marching orders included voicing opposition to the tax-credit scheme.

Biden’s original vision was a sliding scale of tax incentives, with the richest ones reserved for electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. with union labour — a proposal Ottawa feared would be devastating for Canada’s auto sector.

It died back in December when West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a vital vote in the evenly divided Senate, refused to support Biden’s $2-trillion environmental and social spending package, known as Build Back Better. 

Ever since, Canada has maintained a strict defensive footing against the tax credits coming back to life.

“I don’t know if the old incarnation is going to come back exactly as it was or not. But I can say that what I am sensing today is that there is now a shift in strategic outlook,” Alghabra said.

The war in Ukraine, and the way NATO members and allies have made common cause with each other in pushing back against Russia, is putting a “new frame” around how the U.S. deals with its allies, he noted.

The world, including the U.S., better understands that trustworthy trading partners and consistent, reliable supply chains that are impervious to unexpected geopolitical shocks have long been taken for granted.

“There is, I think, a new frame for the conversations that are taking place in the U.S. And while I don’t know what the future of the previous EV tax credit is, I am hopeful that I think now we’re entering into a new type of discussion.”

The White House has acknowledged that it’s working on a scaled-down version of Build Back Better, but has so far refused to say publicly whether the tax credits would return in their original form.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said discussions are underway for legislation that would resurrect some of the environmental provisions of Build Back Better, including its “energy transition-related elements.”

Canada would welcome and support any effort on the part of the U.S. to fight climate change, she said.

“But we never miss an opportunity to re-emphasize with them that, in so doing, it’s imperative that as the staunchest of environmental allies, we do it together in a way that supports each other and doesn’t make this path that we’re on together harder for either of us,” Hillman said.

“That message is heard loud and clear by lawmakers on the Hill, by the White House, and they have expressed an understanding of our concerns, and more than that, a desire to make sure that it works for us in our partnership.”

Manchin, the mercurial moderate Democrat whose support has become essential for any White House measure on Capitol Hill, recently suggested he would not support any proposal that would harm Canada’s auto industry.

Manchin, who heads the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee, hosted Jason Kenney when the Alberta premier testified in person on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

The pair have become cross-border allies as the U.S. looks for ways to both combat inflation while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels from hostile regimes, while Kenney continues to prod the Biden administration to depend more on Canada for its short-term energy needs.

After the May 17 hearing, Manchin said he expects the White House is still working on some sort of a program to encourage American consumers to buy more electric vehicles and ease U.S. dependence on gasoline.

But he insisted that he wouldn’t support any measure that would hurt automakers north of the border.

“There’s no way in the world that we’re going to put that type of harm and allow that to happen,” Manchin said. “My vote would never support that at all.”

It was not abundantly clear whether Manchin was talking specifically about the tax credits or more broadly about Canada’s own efforts to develop its reserves of critical minerals, a key component in the production of electric vehicles.

That ambiguity is part of why Canada remains so guarded on the subject, Hillman said.

“Until we see what is actually on the table and how it’s going to be implemented, we cannot rest.”

Manchin and Kenney both voiced support for the idea of a more closely integrated Canada-U.S. energy “alliance.” It would focus on the need for traditional energy in the short term, as well as reliable bilateral supply chains for critical minerals.

Alghabra said the role Canada could play in buttressing U.S. supply chains for those minerals is also generating increased interest south of the border.

“We have more of those critical minerals, and some types of the critical minerals that the U.S. doesn’t have,” he said. “There’s a new sense of interest and intrigue about this new frame that I think maybe did not exist last year.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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‘Extremely serious’: Calgary man involved in terrorism activity sentenced to 12 years

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CALGARY — A man who admitted to terrorism-related acts with the militant group Islamic State has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Hussein Borhot, 36, appeared Thursday before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Labrenz for a sentencing hearing in Calgary.

“Quite clearly, you intended to assist or facilitate the activities of a terrorist group. You carried that plan into action,” Labrenz told Borhot as the judge accepted a joint sentencing recommendation from the Crown and the defence.

“This was an extremely serious and grave crime.”

Borhot pleaded guilty last month to one count of participating in terrorism group activity between May 9, 2013, and June 7, 2014, as well as to kidnapping for a terrorist group while in Syria.

The joint submission recommended eight years on the first count and another four years for the kidnapping.

Labrenz also imposed a lifetime firearms ban and ordered Borhot’s DNA be submitted to a national database.

RCMP arrested Borhot in July 2020 after a seven-year investigation.

An agreed statement of facts read in court in April said he travelled to Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State.

The statement said he signed up as a fighter, received substantial training and excelled as a sniper, but did not tell his wife or father before the trip.

Court heard that Borhot revealed much of the information to an undercover officer after he returned to Canada.

Before the judge’s decision, Crown prosecutor Kent Brown said it was important to keep in mind that Borhot participated in acts of terrorism.

“Once he decided to join up with ISIS, virtually all his activities were terrorist activities,” he told Labrenz.

Borhot’s lawyer, Rame Katrib, said he and his client agreed to the sentence after lengthy discussions with the Crown.

“Mr. Borhot has tendered a plea of guilty, when there were a lot of issues that could have been litigated, but he has taken responsibility,” Katrib said.

Twelve years in prison isn’t a lenient sentence, the defence lawyer said.

“He’s been back in Canada since these offences occurred,” he said. “He’s been here many years and in that time period he has built a family, he’s worked, he’s led a quiet life.”

Borhot, he noted, was free on bail with strict conditions that included wearing an ankle-tracking device, complying with all laws and checking in regularly with authorities.

“When he goes to jail, he is leaving behind a family. He has four children.”

Katrib said the prison term not only takes into account a fit sentence but rehabilitation as a possibility.

“Mr. Borhot left the organization of his own volition and returned to Canada,” he said.

“The entirety of the family was never supportive of this type of thing and even now are very ashamed of what’s happened, as is Mr. Borhot.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2022.

 

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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The Gender War amongst Us

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The United Nations define gender-based violence as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and other persons, including threats of acts of violence, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Gender-Based Violence is a global public health problem that challenges and affects the morbidity and mortality of women and the LGBTQ Community. It is estimated that 30% of women and 85% of The LGBTQ have experienced at least one form of GBV in their lifetime since the age of 15. The United Nations study among Women of reproductive age revealed that Intimate Partner Violence(IVP) ranged from 15% in Urban Regions(ie Japan) to 71% in Rural Regions (ie Ethiopia)Evidence reveals that this problem is most prominent in developing nations where socioeconomic status is low and education limited, especially in sub-Saharan Africa countries.
Gender Prejudice and Violence directed towards Women and The LGBTQ Community is globally widespread, even within the well-educated populations of the developed world.

Gender-Based Violence is a common practice in Africa, Asia and developing nations in Latin America. Most African Cultural beliefs and traditions promote men’s hierarchical roles in sexual relationships and especially in marriage. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the African population live in rural settings which increases the difficulty to access basic amenities and communities are isolated from the influence of central governments or the laws that prohibit GBV. Despite legislative advances, GBV remains pervasive and a daily reality for Women, Girls and THE LGBTQ Communities. Within Rwanda, many Women and Girls experience multiple and intersecting forms of violence and oppression including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, early and forced marriages, genital mutilation and human trafficking.

Gender Biased Violence directed towards The LGBTQ Community is high within African society, where their lifestyle may appear as a challenge to other males’ masculinity or gender understanding. Within the Latin Community, such violence exists but is far less felt than in areas within Africa. The Latin Worlds’ understanding of masculinity seems to vary, appearing to be more accepting of “the different”. Many Latin Males have multiple gender partners even within marriage. African attitudes are far more conservative and unyielding.

Gender Politics have shaped our world, moving from ancient acceptance of the power and influence of Womanhood to a place where religion became the excuse to oppress Women and other elements of society like the LGBTQ Community. Humanities’ move toward freedom and self-expression has been squashed by the manipulative, powerful masculinity of Mankind. Impressions of a controlling, protective society show us what we are to believe and how we are to live our lives.

Equality, self-determination and self-expression for Women and the LGBTQ Community still remain important aspects of the developed world’s policymaking and implementation. Within the continents of Africa, Central and Latin America, and some Asian nations government policymakers attempt to legally establish the necessary laws to protect their populations, but cultural, political and societal traditions and prejudices have entangled themselves within these nations’ evolutionary movement towards equal rights and gender democracy. A Gender War remains among us, within us, allowing prejudice, fear and hate to shape our society. Like all wars, there are many casualties, but with education, determination and the hand of justice applied, this war can be won.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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