Canadian Soldiers Heading to Ukraine

Canadian soldiers boarding a CC-150 Polaris bound for Ukraine. Picture by Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Section imagerie ValcartierVL01-2016-0001-004
Canadian soldiers boarding a CC-150 Polaris bound for Ukraine. Picture by Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Section imagerie ValcartierVL01-2016-0001-004

More than 200 Canadian soldiers from the 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, headquartered in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Valcartier, have left Canada yesterday to deploy in a non-combat role in Ukraine.

“Starting January 10 and throughout the rest of the month, the first group of approximately 200 Canadian Army (CA) soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG), based in Valcartier, Quebec, will be deploying to Ukraine for Operation (Op) UNIFIER,” the statement said.

Ranging from basic combat skills to explosive ordnance, the Canadian soldiers will provide training to the Ukrainian soldiers in Western Ukraine.

Op UNIFIER is “Canada’s contribution to support Ukrainian forces through capacity building, in coordination with the U.S. and other countries providing similar training assistance. Military assistance is one component of Canada’s support to Ukraine across development, security, democracy, and humanitarian aid.”

Read more on the contribution of the 5 CMBG to Op Unifier here.

Canadian soldiers practice their shooting skills during Operation UNIFIER, Canada's military training mission to Ukraine, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi, Ukraine on December 30, 2015. Photo by: Joint Task Force Ukraine, DND.
Canadian soldiers practice their shooting skills during Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training mission to Ukraine, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi, Ukraine on December 30, 2015. Photo by: Joint Task Force Ukraine, DND.

Canada has been closely supporting Ukraine since Crimea opted through a referendum to rejoin Russia. Classified as illegal by many, Canada voiced its concern and did not recognize the referendum. Since then, Ottawa offers non-lethal equipment and help to the Ukrainian government, including military training by Canadian soldiers.

Even with a government change last October, Ottawa kept its support to the Ukrainian population. In addition to providing non-lethal help to Ukraine, the Canadian Forces have been contributing to NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe to reassure its Baltic and European allies against an alleged Russian aggressive stance. Presently, Canadian soldiers are deployed in Poland under NATO.

The presence of Canadian soldiers in Ukraine comes at a time where new foreign policies are being written after a nine year Conservative government. Under the newly-elected Liberals, Canada’s interventionist policies will likely be reviewed and the Canadian Forces will see its role dramatically change in the next year.

Training missions such as Op UNIFIER will most likely become one of Canada’s priority; a great alternative to combat operations. However, the formation of Ukrainian soldiers against a possible, yet unlikely, Russian invasion is fueling a new Cold War attitude.

The soldiers from CFB Valcartier will likely remain in Ukraine for a period of approximately 6 months.

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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.