Sunday, May 22, 2022

Canada’s Foreign Military Training Operations Are Unscrupulous Power Plays


Canada military training imperialism power projection geopolitics Ukraine Nazi NATO

Canada’s pretense of being a champion of peace and mediation conceals the aim of its foreign military training operations. These operations are not instances of bighearted largesse — they are strategic, geopolitical power projections.

US military training has long been controversial. Exhibit A for this controversy is the US military’s School of the Americas, the infamous “counterinsurgency” training site, responsible for instructing Latin American military personnel in the arts of torture and dirty war techniques in the 1980s. After years of protest over its training of death squads and tyrants, the school changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in an attempt to evade public hostility. It is widely understood among peace and anti-imperialist activists that military training is an important part of US global power projection.

In Canada, however, there is little discussion of the politics that shape international military training. The war in Ukraine may change that, specifically Canada’s involvement in Operation Unifier — a connection that directly links Canadian tax payers to violence in the Donbas region.

CTV, the Walrus, the Canadian Press, Le Journal de Montréal, and Radio Canada have all published recent stories on Operation Unifier. A recent front-page Wall Street Journal article, headlined “NATO Training Retooled Ukrainian Army,” focused on the central role played by Canadian military trainers. This increased media scrutiny should be the spear tip of greater public engagement with the issue. Canada presents itself as an avatar of peacekeeping and mediation. Canadian military adventurism — dressed up as obliging training assistance — requires oversight and democratic accountability.

Between April 2015 and Russia’s illegal invasion on February 24 of this year, 200 Canadian troops — rotated every six months — trained 33,346 Ukrainian soldiers as part of Operation Unifier. Canadian taxpayers spent $890 million on a training mission that began after Ukraine’s military largely collapsed amidst the violence unleashed by the ouster of elected president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Ottawa supported the three-months-long protest against Yanukovych — who opposed Ukraine joining NATO — a president who won elections the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called “an impressive display of democracy.” During the uprising, Ottawa adopted new sanctions against the county, Foreign Minister John Baird attended an anti-government rally in Kiev, and activists were given safe haven in the Canadian embassy for a week.

Alongside US and UK troops, Canadian soldiers worked with Ukrainian soldiers on tactics, command structures, explosive-device disposal, and sniper training. In 2019, Yanukovych’s successor, former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, dubbed former Canadian defense minister Jason Kenney “the godfather of the modern Ukrainian army” for his role in instigating Operation Unifier.  (more...)

Canada’s Foreign Military Training Operations Are Unscrupulous Power Plays

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