“We fear an armed conflict in Ukraine”, says Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA — The Canadian government says it is ready to impose new diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia and more support for Ukraine as part of an intensified multilateral effort to deter any Russian incursion into that country.

But in a week of whirlwind global diplomacy in which the United States warned that Russia would pay a severe economic price if it did not back down, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed a pessimistic view of the possibility of avoid hostilities, pointing to 100,000 Russian troops. massed on the border that Ukraine shares with Belarus.

“Yes, we fear an armed conflict in Ukraine,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Russia is looking for excuses or reasons to continue and even intensify its aggression against Ukraine.”

But Trudeau would not say whether his cabinet has made a decision on Ukraine’s request for military assistance, or whether Ottawa would withdraw or fortify about 200 Canadian Forces soldiers in the field to train Ukrainian military personnel.

“We are working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursions into Ukraine are absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said. “We are there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage to make sure that Russia respects the Ukrainian people, respects their choice to choose their governments and their direction.”

Hours later, US President Joe Biden said he was ready to increase the US contribution of $600 million in defensive weapons and warned that if Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the Russian economy would suffer “significant cost and significant harm” from the coordinated international community. punishments.

But Biden, who last month ruled out putting US troops on the ground, appeared to frame his threat, saying the US response “depends” on what Russia does next.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and we end up arguing about what to do and what not to do, etc.,” he said on Wednesday. “But if they actually do what they are capable of doing with the forces massed on the border, it will be a disaster for Russia.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a press conference earlier in Kyiv that the United States, the G7, the European Union and NATO had proposed a “comprehensive sanctions package” including measures financial, economic and export control.

Blinken is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. He said the United States was ready to talk about some of Russia’s demands and concerns about its own security.

While Biden said NATO was not yet ready to admit Ukraine, which needs to make more progress on democratic reforms, as a member of the military alliance, he flatly rejected Russian demands that NATO withdraws its strategic weapons and stops troop rotations through Eastern Europe.

“We’re actually going to increase the presence of Poland, Romania, etc. if he actually moves,” Biden said, “because we have a sacred obligation … to defend those countries. They’re part of the NATO: We don’t have that obligation to Ukraine, although we are very concerned about what is happening to Ukraine.

In Ottawa, Trudeau did not respond directly when asked why Canada had not offered defensive weapons to Ukraine as the United Kingdom did this week. “The decisions we make will be based on what is best for the people of Ukraine and what is best for maintaining peace in the world for as long as possible,” he said.

Professor Jane Boulden, professor of international relations at the Royal Military College and Queen’s University, said that for Canada “the options are limited as to what we can do, and I think we are doing it.

“Canada is clearly and deeply allied with Ukraine, and Russia knows that, so it’s not like the option of being an impartial mediator is even on the table,” Boulden said.

The visit of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to Ukraine, as well as to Paris and Brussels this week to coordinate with European allies, is an important signal to Ukraine and European partners that Canada will stand by their sides, but also to Putin that the West is united, Boulden said.

“As a prelude to a possible war, all these signals matter enormously,” she said.

With the parade of diplomats in Kyiv this week, Putin saw “that NATO is activated”, she said.

“He sees Canada and others making bilateral commitments to Ukraine. He takes all of this into consideration. It might not stop him, but if we didn’t, it certainly wouldn’t stop him.

Maria Popova, who teaches political science at McGill University, said the focus on Ukraine was too narrow and there was unlikely to be an immediate de-escalation or an immediate eruption of hostilities. “It’s not really just about Ukraine, or even mostly about Ukraine,” she said.

Russia is playing a longer game “of whether the West is going to accept Russia reasserting some of its previous dominance over the region,” Popova said, and views the possibility of another invasion of Ukraine “as a threat, but the ultimate goal is to negotiate geopolitical terms with the West.

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