TORONTO - A former colleague of mine, who is of Ukrainian origin, recently expressed his caution, verging on disappointment, regarding Canada’s stated leadership in opposition to the Russia military offensive into Ukraine and the measures “we” have been implementing to demonstrate that leadership.
Without in any way condoning Russia’s actions, our editorial team and researchers have been scouring the reports by government institutions, research institutes and responsible Press to shed some light on what remains a crisis of international significance – especially for Western nations.
Sometimes events move faster than our abilities to present much more than summaries of the most immediate consequences: destruction, displacement of people, deaths, supply chain interruptions, price to consumer consequences and the international political dealings and machinations. It is a maxim that the first casualty of war is ‘truth’.
The recent discussions among leading NATO partners about how and to what extent each of them should respond to Ukraine’s President Zelensky’s continuous, and persistent, requests for military assistance (devil take the rest), prompted our editorial board to review a few of the details from a purely Italian and Canadian perspective.
For example, Zelensky’s request for tanks will have fallen on deaf ears in Italy for the simple reason that it does not have any [to spare]. Canada is not in a much better position. However, it does/did have in stock some (four) aged Leopard 2 tanks held together with duct tape (sarcasm intended). They will not be field-ready for several months.
Italy’s response appears to be in part motivated by a desire to establish alternative petroleum and gas suppliers (Algeria, for one) to the current Russian sources. It must also re-confirm or develop sources for food supplies (cereals and grains). Canada faces no such urgencies.
Zelensky is understandably focused on contributions that may help in a bellicose response to what he [and others] consider an existential threat to Ukraine. His wears his signature military green T-shirt for all public appearances. He has convinced, somehow, the organizers of Italy’s famous San Remo Music Festival that he should make a guest appearance to make his case directly to the Italian people.
Tens of thousands of Italian workers are employed in Russian-owned enterprises. Some of the Russian Naval fleet patrols the eastern and Southern Mediterranean in support of its energy investments and the interests of its clients states in the area. It is a volatile area of the world.
At their own peril, European nations have chosen to ‘take care of first things first’ - the immediate humanitarian and security needs of displaced and unsafe populations as missiles, rockets and other projectiles threaten life and property. Philosophical and ideological debate will wait for another time.
According to Statista Research, first among NATO countries to host, care for and integrate fleeing Ukrainian refugees, at their own expense, is Poland. Its population is roughly the same as that of Canada, 38 million. As of January 22/2023 Poland had absorbed 1,563,386 Ukrainians. No other Western, NATO, country comes even close.
Italy as of the same date, had already landed and absorbed 167,925. During that same period, Italy was dealing with 400,000 “unexpected” (illegal) entrants/refugees from Africa – about 1,100 per day.
In the twelve months since the Russian invasion began, the USA, which had committed to an intake of 100,000, has so far registered 1,978; and in only six of those months has the number of Ukrainian refugees surpassed three digits. The USA still has naval and air defence presence in the Mediterranean, more specifically, in six such bases on the Italian peninsula.
Statista, citing its own verified European government sources, lists the seven countries which comprised the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) as having welcome 73,810 Ukrainians. None of them have tanks to donate to the war effort. The FYR is still adapting to the aftermath of its own war of dismemberment in the 1990s.
Results of Ukrainian refugee intake for Canada are not easily obtained. The Globe and Mail reported in March of 2022 that we had an intake of 3,400, as per Canada Border Services Agency. After that, Government of Canada website speak of “Ukrainian citizens or returning Permanent Residency holders of Ukrainian origin” (149,476).
To conclude, one surprising datum by Statista is that 2,852,395 Ukrainians [sought and] received refugee status in… Russia. Hard to believe unless one looks at a map and reads the history of the area... even then...