Canada’s Dicey Plan to Build a Munitions Factory in Ukraine

January 10, 2022 Updated: January 10, 2022


Apparently Canada has a solution to the Ukraine crisis after all. Unfortunately it involves being somewhere else when the trigger, to torture a phrase from Orwell, isn’t pulled. Which won’t save our ally or our credibility.

Back in 1994, as it fled the squalid wreckage of the Soviet Union, various nations promised that if Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited, they would ensure that it was never devoured by Russian revanchists. With Russia looking mostly harmless, it seemed like resolve on the cheap. But then along came Vladimir Putin with his characteristically parochial belief that the collapse of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical disaster in history.” So now what?

To retort that the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t even bad, let alone worse than the fall of Rome, Nazism, or communism, seems insufficient. Like NATO’s options now that Putin is moving to save history from itself.

Admittedly Russia holds a strong hand. In addition to flat-out invasion with its massive military, the Kremlin can undermine Ukraine by arming local pro-Russian forces and sending in special forces hard to distinguish from same because there are many Russians in Ukraine for all kinds of reasons, from marrying a local to Stalin sending their ancestors to administer the Holodomor. History is messy and so is geopolitics, including guerrilla wars. But you must play the cards you have, not the ones you wish you had.

Or should have. Many NATO governments, including Canada’s, have long scorned to draw military cards of real value. Believing our superior enlightenment rendered force obsolete, we are now in no position to fight anybody over anything. And the make-believe that can buy time in domestic politics only buys trouble abroad.

Decades of American nagging allies about defence spending have extracted promises impressive only in their insincerity. To my astonishment, France now spends 2.01 percent of its GDP on the military. But the only others over 2 percent not currently breathing fetid bear breath are the United States (duh), Britain (pip pip, though just 2.29) and Greece (3.82, ahead of the Americans’ 3.52). Canada at 1.39 percent lags military giants Italy, Turkey, and Denmark, though we lead Spain (1.02) and Luxembourg (0.57).

Yeah yeah, you say. So where’s this famous Canadian solution? Well, it was apparently hatched in a meeting room, nurtured on stale coffee and desperation, and led blinking into the light of day as a PR strategy so puny and misshapen you wonder why nobody said anything. It’s to help finance a small-arms munition factory in Ukraine.

Their old one, alas, was in a region glommed by “Russian-backed separatists.” And since it’s easier to fight wars, from skirmishes to full-blast battles, if you have bullets, actually building the factory would be some use, though not as much as fielding five divisions.

Don’t laugh. We did it in World War II, with just 11 million people. Now do laugh, because we’re about as ready to deploy that factory as 58 infantry regiments. The Ukrainians have been lobbying for it since 2017, apparently not realizing Canadian governments think it’s reasonable for Access to Information requests to take 80 years and shiny new COVID vaccine plants to lack even a timetable for producing medicine two years into a pandemic. Although now, as the crisis intensifies, we have leaped into committee.

The Jan. 10 National Post says this “initiative is now being planned and involves a number of Ontario companies and the [government] Canadian Commercial Corporation in Ottawa. ‘CCC’S support to Ukraine is currently at the exploratory stage,’ confirmed Mouktar Abdillahi, a spokesperson for the corporation.” Mind you “admitted” might be a better word than “confirmed,” especially as nobody seems sure whether the companies in question are still in business.

The Post adds, “In December 2017, the House of Commons defence committee recommended the Canadian government provide weapons to Ukraine, provided it demonstrated it was working to eliminate corruption at all levels of government.” Which is a classic case of politicians playing a card they haven’t got.

It’s not that the problem isn’t real. On the contrary, it’s so real that waiting until corrupt Ukrainian politicians uproot endemic corruption isn’t a plan. Not even a cynical one.

You might think they’re deliberately stalling with Yes Minister’s four stages of a crisis where first you say “nothing is going to happen.” Then you admit it is “but we should do nothing about it.” Then you go “maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we can do,” and finally “maybe there was something, but it’s too late now.” But at a certain point fatuity isn’t a strategy, it’s a way of life.

So our leaders combine fierce rhetoric about “diplomatic pressure” with a scheme that, even if somehow carried out, wouldn’t arm Ukraine sufficiently to fight off an attack, let alone stand with them in doing so. A very Canadian solution.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”