OTTAWA – Canada joined other Western countries on February 22 in imposing what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau characterized as the “first round” of economic sanctions against Russia a day after that country’s president, Vladimir Putin, formally recognized the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics and announced plans to send “peacekeeping” troops to the two breakaway oblasts.
“Make no mistake, this is a further invasion of a sovereign state and it is completely unacceptable,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters at a February 22 news conference in Ottawa where he was joined by the three of the most senior women in his cabinet. “Russia’s brazen provocations are a threat to security and peace in the world.”
He said that in response Canada will impose sanctions against Russia under special economic measures the Canadian government established in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“We will ban Canadians from all financial dealings with the so-called independent states of Luhansk and Donetsk,” the Canadian prime minister said.
“We will sanction members of the Russian parliament who voted for the illegal decision to recognize these so-called republics. We will ban Canadians from engaging in purchases of Russian sovereign debt, and we will apply additional sanctions on two state-backed Russian banks [the Russia Central Bank and Russia’s National Wealth Fund]and prevent any financial dealings with them,” he said.
“These sanctions are a major step and target those responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and they will remain in place until the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored.”
Canada’s punitive measures against Russia followed those also announced on February 22 from the United States, where President Joe Biden said that two Russian financial institutions and the country’s sovereign debt would be cut off from Western financing, along with the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled sanctions on five Russian banks and three Russian businessmen with ties to the U.K.
Meanwhile in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended the certification process of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline connecting his country to Russia.
Canada will also deploy up to 460 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to Operation Reassurance, Canada’s military contribution to NATO’s deterrence mission in the region.
An artillery battery of about 120 CAF personnel, drawn from bases across Canada, will join Reassurance within 30 days for a six-week deployment, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said at the news conference with Mr. Trudeau.
She said that most of the new contingent of military personnel will be assigned later in March to HMCS Halifax, another frigate Canada is sending to the region, along with some of the 460 CAF members attached to maritime patrol aircraft under NATO command and control.
About 3,400 additional CAF personnel “are authorized to deploy to the NATO Response Force should they be required by NATO,” according to a February 22 news release from Mr. Trudeau’s office.
Ms. Anand also confirmed that Canada has made a second delivery of lethal aid to Ukraine.
On February 14, the Canadian government announced that it would donate about $6 million worth of lethal weapons and “assorted support items” to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Canadian Department of National Defense said in a news release. The equipment includes machine guns, pistols, carbines, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition and sniper rifles.
“NATO, the alliance that has underpinned the rules-based international order that has kept us safe since the end of World War II, is being tested,” said Ms. Anand at the February 22 news conference. “Much to Mr. Putin’s dismay, however, NATO is more unified than ever before.”
At that gathering with journalists, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Ukrainian Canadian who also serves as Canada’s finance minister, said that Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is “an attempt to replace that rules-based international order with a world in which might makes right, where the great powers have the authority to redraw the borders, dictate the foreign policies and control the governments of sovereign democracies whose only fault is that they are smaller and that their militaries are not as powerful.”
“History tells us that we cannot stand by as a great power attempts to redraw borders and conquer its neighbours, and today [this]is a test of our resolve,” she said. “That is why Canada has a clear and present stake in this conflict.”
The deputy prime minister said that Canada’s actions “are only the first step. The measures that Canada and our allies have been preparing will be sustained and they will bite. The economic costs to Russia will be severe. But let me also be very clear, our quarrel is not with the Russian people. It is with President Vladimir Putin and those around him who are making the choice to threaten a sovereign democracy with subjugation.”
Ms. Freeland said that, “if Russia does not pull back, it will be met with a firm, united and sustained response from Canada and our allies.”
“The world’s autocrats are watching today to see if our alliance of democracies has the will and the capacity to stand up for the rules-based international order. Canada and our allies are resolute in our defense of that order and of freedom, human rights and democracy around the world.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly echoed that warning.
“We are at the most dangerous moment for world stability in a generation,” she said at the February 22 news conference. “Russia’s actions represent a direct threat to the peace and security of Ukraine and the world.”
“We have worked extremely hard to prevent this escalation through diplomacy and deterrence,” said Ms. Joly. “But, just as Russia has prepared for this day, so have we. Canada and partners have been clear, the actions of the Russian regime will be met with severe consequences. These reckless and dangerous acts that will endanger the lives of innocent citizens will not go unpunished. Let us be clear, the invasion has started. Our response begins today, and, should Russia escalate, so will the cost imposed by Canada and its allies.”
Mr. Trudeau also acknowledged how the situation in Ukraine is “deeply concerning” to Ukrainian Canadians, who number about 1.4 million people, according to the 2016 Canadian census.
“Your community has made significant contributions to building Canada, and we will stand with you every step of the way,” said the prime minister, who noted that he had spoken to Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress earlier in the day on February 22 and “reaffirmed Canada’s resolute and ongoing support of Ukraine.”