The Editorial Board
The Globe and Mail
September 22, 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be in Ottawa on Friday to meet the Governor-General, to hold talks with the Prime Minister and cabinet members, and to address the House of Commons. Ottawa has provided Ukraine with $8-billion in loans, aid and military support for its war with Russia so far, and Mr. Zelensky will in part use his visit to express his thanks.
In fact, Canada, and all Western democracies, should be saying thank you to Ukraine’s president and its people, as the American historian Timothy Snyder said this week in a podcast.
Their courage and sacrifice have already made the world a safer place and struck a blow for democratic principles. But that accomplishment will only prove durable if Ukraine ultimately defeats Russia and takes back all its stolen territory.
And that can only happen if the Western democracies that already owe so much to Ukraine fund and supply it to the bitter end.
Look at what Ukraine has accomplished to date.
Russian commanders famously packed their dress uniforms when they led their troops into the country in February, 2022, believing that they would shortly be leading a victory parade through Kyiv. Instead, Ukraine won the battle for Kyiv, and followed up with other major victories. It has now launched a counteroffensive that is slowly taking territory held by Russian forces.
In doing so, Ukraine has shattered the myth of Russia’s military might and done equal damage to its military assets. That alone has made the world a more secure place.
So, too, has the united response from NATO countries and other allies that have been resolute in their condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion and their support for the people of Ukraine. That show of strength crystalized in April when Finland joined NATO – a momentous blow to Russia.
Just as significantly, as Mr. Snyder says, Ukraine and its allies have refused to give in to Russia’s unsettling threats to use nuclear weapons, demonstrating that nuclear blackmail won’t work if Western countries remain unbowed by it.
But above all, Ukraine has demonstrated the existential importance of defying a bullying authoritarian regime that is determined to undermine the democratic West.
Mr. Zelensky warned in a speech to the United Nations on Tuesday that Russia’s aggression will undoubtedly spread to other countries if it is allowed to take over Ukraine. Worse yet, Russia’s weaponization of food, by blocking Ukraine’s grain exports, its brutal war crimes – including the
kidnapping of 20,000 Ukrainian children – and its manipulation of its oil and gas supplies to pressure other countries would be rewarded should the invasion succeed.
A Russian victory, or even a partial one that resulted in some parts of Ukraine remaining in Russia’s hands in a compromise to end the war sooner, would be a signal to other authoritarian regimes that the West is not willing to go to the wall in defence of a rules-based international order.
It would be open season on smaller countries in Russia’s orbit after that. China, which makes no secret of its intention to annex Taiwan, would be equally emboldened by the democratic West’s weakness.
Which is why Canada and its allies owe such a huge debt of gratitude to Ukraine. The country’s President has ceaselessly laid out the critical stakes for the West, and its people have demonstrated through their courage and sacrifice their willingness to defend those stakes at all costs.
Canada, the United States and Europe must provide adequate and continued support to Ukraine that will keep the Russians on the run – until there is no choice for them but to return home, defeated.
Anything less, even marginally so, will make the world a more dangerous place. The brave Ukrainian people must be our inspiration for making sure that doesn’t happen.
Mr. Zelensky was asked in an interview this week why it was so important that Russia be defeated and that all lands, Crimea included, be returned to Ukraine. He answered by describing his meetings with the parents, spouses and children of soldiers who have died for their country.
“What should I tell them?” he said. “That all of them died so we could say, it’s okay, Russia, you can take it all?”
“All I can give them is victory,” he said.
And that is all, and everything, that the rest of the world must give to Ukraine.