Canada and the Ukraine/Russia peace deal, F-35 madness and much more
NEW DETAILS OF UKRAINE PEACE DEAL INCLUDE CANADIAN ROLE
With both sides describing the talks as constructive, the in-person round of negotiations in Istanbul on 29 March has provided more detail on a possible deal including:
- An international treaty on Ukrainian neutrality including pledges not to join any military alliances or to host foreign military bases or military contingents on its territory
- The treaty would be “guaranteed” by several signatory countries, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a number of other countries, including Canada
- Territorial concessions in Luhansk and Donetsk would be discussed at the Presidential level
- Crimea would be the subject of a 15-year consultation, during which time neither side would “engage in hostilities”
- Russia would drop its opposition to Ukraine’s bid for EU membership
- The peace deal would be subject to a referendum in Ukraine
On the issue of popular Ukrainian approval of the deal, commentators note that
the prospect of EU membership — which is hugely popular among Ukrainians — would help get an overall deal approved in the national referendum that the Ukrainian government has promised to approve neutrality with security guarantees.
Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, who brokered the talks, highlighted the
top priority of achieving a ceasefire as soon as possible to pave the way for a permanent political solution.
Significantly, the process now foresees “trickier” issues to be discussed by the Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers with a view, ultimately, to a meeting between Presidents Putin and Zelenksy.
What kind of security guarantees does Ukraine want?
In what can only be considered a gutsy, maximalist demand, Ukraine envisions security guarantees along the lines of the NATO military alliance’s Article 5, its collective defence clause.
Mihailo Podolyuak, top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, explains:
The guarantor countries become, so to speak, the leading armies of the world, including those with a nuclear component, which take on specific legal obligations — to intervene in any conflict on the territory of Ukraine, to immediately supply weapons.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
Although widely interpreted as an obligation to defend the NATO ally that has been attacked, Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty actually leaves it up to each member to take “such action as it deems necessary”.
This means that the Ukrainian proposal would actually go further than NATO’s Article V and obligate the guarantors to “intervene” should Ukraine be attacked.
A paywalled article in the Financial Times, entitled “Ukraine’s demands for security guarantees blindside western allies” (17 March 2022) says Western officials question how it would work and highlight the need for commitments from the guarantors first before such agreements are reached between Moscow and Kyiv. The Financial Times notes in particular:
A senior US defence official said the US was not involved in the negotiations.
The Financial Times article suggests the security guarantee proposal “echoes” the 1994 Budapest Memorandum whereby Ukraine joined the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state after transferring the stockpile of Soviet nuclear weapons stationed on its soil to Russia. The agreement provides “security assurances” of non-attack by the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, including Russia, and assistance through the UN Security Council in the event of an attack by others.
The obligation to come to the defence of Ukraine in the event of an attack thus goes far beyond the earlier security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum.
The Rideau Institute comments:
Ukrainian proposals for security guarantees have been a feature of the peace negotiations since at least mid-March, with the US listed as a possible guarantor from the outset. Why has the American administration not been engaged with Ukraine on finding an acceptable formulation for both countries?
In an article by veteran analyst William Arkin on Russia’s refocusing of its military efforts to concentrate on the Donbas region, he quotes a high-level Defense Intelligence Agency officer on the lack of American support for negotiations:
I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the administration has any war termination policies…. War crimes? Sure. Russian withdrawal? Okay. But something short of this fantasy view?
We just aren’t being helpful in terms of encouraging an end to hostilities. And there’s a lot we could be doing to spur negotiations along.
Having been named as one of the potential security guarantors of a Russia–Ukraine peace deal, there is a clear role for Canada in helping develop a workable, meaningful set of commitments to Ukraine.
We call on the Government of Canada to work with other potential guarantors and the government of Ukraine on a feasible, credible set of security guarantees in relation to a Ukrainian treaty of neutrality.
Sequencing issue hearkens back to Minsk agreements
Implementation of the Minsk agreements was plagued by disagreements over whether Ukraine had to fulfill certain key obligations before or after the removal of foreign forces.
In a reprise of that unresolved argument, Mykhallo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, stated:
Undoubtedly, this treaty on security guarantees may only be signed after a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops to their positions on February 23, 2022.
The Rideau Institute comments:
It is hard to envisage Russia giving up its main military leverage over Ukraine before the signing of a treaty that is at the core of its stated reasons for invading in the first place.
A way forward might well be that the treaty is signed by all parties prior to Russia’s full withdrawal, but will not take effect until — or will become null and void unless — Russia completes its troop withdrawal within a specified time.
We would also underscore that the extreme distrust between the parties means there will need, at a minimum, to be independent international oversight of any ceasefire implementation effort.
Accountability for war crimes
For a cogent examination of the potential tension between reaching a peace deal and holding perpetrators of war crimes accountable, see How Not to Fail on International Criminal Justice for Ukraine (James A. Goldston, justsecurity.org, 21 March 2022). In the author’s view:
Justice processes carry the greatest legitimacy where they apply principles acknowledged to be universal, are sufficiently resourced to do their job well, and meaningfully involve crime victims and other affected persons. Ukraine will test the international community’s ability to meet those standards. We must not fail.
On the issue of Russia’s conduct of the war (as opposed to the invasion itself, which is a clear-cut case of the war crime of aggression, but for which that country cannot be prosecuted under the special rules governing this crime, requiring both the perpetrator and victim to be parties to the Rome Statute), US Secretary of State Blinken has accused the Kremlin of
Indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians.
This was followed on 21 March by a Pentagon briefing where spokesperson John Kirby
accused the Kremlin of carrying out indiscriminate attacks as part of an intentional strategy in the conflict.
Russia denies that it has deliberately targeted civilians.
For a dramatically different view of Russian military strategy in Ukraine from the prevailing Western narrative, see Putin’s Bombers Could Devastate Ukraine But He’s Holding Back. Here’s Why (William M. Arkin, msn.com, 22 March 2022).
The article cites US intelligence experts speaking on background only and includes this statement:
In 24 days of conflict, Russia has flown some 1,400 strike sorties and delivered almost 1,000 missiles (by contrast, the United States flew more sorties and delivered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war).
Whatever the truth of Russian conduct, and that will ultimately be for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to determine, one thing is clear: in circumstances where the overwhelming perception is that war crimes are being committed, the support of the public in Western countries for any deal that might finally be agreed cannot be taken for granted, and government leadership to that end will certainly be needed.
Shamil Idriss, CEO of Search for Common Ground, the largest non-governmental peacebuilding organization in the world, comments:
Global leaders — and the public — should rally behind the terms of any agreement that Ukrainian and Russian leaders may reach to end this war, even if the terms may be antithetical to the hopes of outside observers….
The terms of an agreement to end this war must be determined by those whose people are dying and being driven from their homes by it — the rest of us should apply all our efforts to hasten and support the processes that can get there.
For the full article, see A three-step plan for ending war in Ukraine and averting World War III (thehill.com, 31 March 2022).
Putin’s spokesperson says ‘no one is thinking about’ using nukes against Ukraine
In a welcome clarification of the Russian position, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with PBS on Monday:
We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country….
Let’s keep these two things separate, I mean, existence of the state and special military operation in Ukraine. They have nothing to do with each other.
Open Letter in support of Ukraine peace deal – signatures welcome
Peace and Conflict Resolution scholars and foreign affairs practitioners convened at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School’s Point of View research and retreat facility in Mason Neck, Virginia issued an appeal to the conflicting parties in Ukraine, available here.
The appeal states in part:
We call on the international community to support peace as it emerges, offering humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding support for the long-term process of recovery.
The original signatories to the statement, including RI President Peggy Mason, are listed following the statement, which is now open for general signature.
To be added as a signatory, please provide your information here.
F-35 PROCUREMENT A CATASTROPHIC ERROR
On 28 March, after a long and torturous procurement process, Public Services and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi and Defence Minister Anita Anand announced Canada had chosen the F-35 as its preferred replacement for the aging CF-18 fighter jets.
Minister Tassi stated in part:
This procurement project for the RCAF — the largest in over three decades — will help ensure Canada can continue to defend North America, enhance our Arctic sovereignty and meet our NATO and NORAD obligations in the face of current and emerging threats.
The next step is to open negotiations with Lockheed Martin for the $19-billion contract for 88 of the ultra-modern fighters.
Timing alleged to be related to the Ukraine conflict
Professor Steve Saideman, Director of the Canadian Defence and Security Network, stated that “alliance interoperability” was a key factor in the choice of plane, an issue that has become even more “salient” given the Ukraine conflict.
In the words of Defence Minister Anand, Canada is
facing the greatest threat to our security in generations. We are living in a new reality, and we have to make sure that Canada’s armed forces have the equipment they need to ensure the security of our country on land, at sea and in the air.
F-35 sustainment costs are a problem even for the USA, let alone Canada
A July 2021 article in Defense News, entitled Watchdog group finds F-35 sustainment costs could be headed off affordability cliff, comments on a new report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that
Under current estimates, the U.S. Air Force will reach a tipping point where projected F-35 sustainment costs become too expensive, forcing the service to either cut its planned buy of the Lockheed Martin-made jet or drastically reduce flying hours….
So serious is this problem that Defense News author Valerie Insinna further writes:
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown has already signaled that the service may be willing to cut the F-35A program of record and buy a less expensive “fourth-gen plus” fighter to replace some of its oldest F-16s, which were originally slated to be replaced by the F-35.
So, just to be clear, Canada is on the verge of buying a fighter jet that is increasingly unaffordable for the American Air Force, leading them to actively consider cheaper alternatives.
Recent reports on the USAF 2023 budget indicate a significant reduction in the purchase of F-35s from the number previously approved by Congress.
In the case of Canada, the planes that the F-35 was until recently competing against were considerably more cost-efficient.
Justin Ling, in an article for Politico.com, wrote in August of 2021:
The Boeing F/A-18 costs about half as much as the F-35 — or less — both in upfront cost and cost-per-flight-hour.
In a powerful open letter to the Government of Canada (ministers, senior officials), retired Air Force Colonel Paul Maillet addresses the dire cost implications in graphic terms:
It is very clear that we cannot afford the F35. This is the most expensive US weapons project in their military history, and will consume our defence budget in its mid life years.
The F35 requires a very complex and unaffordable military battle management infrastructure reaching into space, to realize its capabilities, and we will be wholly dependent on US military infrastructure for this. We will be just another squadron or two of the US Air Force and as such dependent on its foreign policy and military predispositions to conflict responses.
The life cycle costs will be astronomical, easily exceeding $40 billion; and outstanding technical deficiencies will plague the aircraft, and defence budget, for decades.
Quite aside from excessive cost, the F-35 is not the plane we need
It is not just the unaffordability of the F-35 that is the problem, it is its unsuitability to Canadian needs. As Maillet explains:
Canadian defence requirements for an aircraft capable of policing Canadian airspace and national sovereignty can be easily met by a far less expensive and less complex aircraft….
The F35 has massively excessive capabilities to our needs.
This aircraft has only one purpose and that is to kill or destroy infrastructure. It is, or will be, a nuclear weapon capable, air-to-air and air-to-ground attack aircraft optimized to war fighting.
This contributes solely to war.
For the full open letter in PDF format, click here.
Also on the issue of unsuitability, see the 2014 Rideau Institute Report One Dead Pilot: Single Engine F-35 a Bad Choice for Canada’s Arctic.
Author Michael Byers commented at the time:
The number of accidents leading to the loss of a pilot and/or aircraft remains significantly higher for single-engine fighter jets than for twin-engine fighter jets.
The risks associated with a single-engine aircraft are compounded by Canada’s challenging geography – including the remote Arctic and the world’s longest coastline…
Defence commentators have argued that Canada needs new fighter jets fast, in light of the potential for open conflict between NATO and Russia over Ukraine. This is a patently absurd statement.
The number of advanced fighter jets that the USA and other Alliance members currently have at their disposal makes it clear that a handful of Canadian planes would be a symbolic gesture at best. And the only reason why there are F-35s readily available is because of the Pentagon’s own reduction in the numbers it wishes to procure in 2023.
More importantly, in the event of open conflict between NATO and Russia over Ukraine, the number of fighter jets available from Canada would be the least of our concerns.
We condemn this procurement decision. It will not make Canada nor Ukraine any safer. And its likely dire effect over the medium term on Canada’s defence spending capacity will impair our ability to make prudent, sustainable, defence choices in future.
YET MORE PROBLEMS WITH IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
US and Iranian officials appear fixated on the costs of JCPOA re-entry, but they’ll pay a far higher price if they fail to get an agreement.
In a new article on yet another roadblock to reinstatement of the Iran nuclear deal, Trita Parsi writes that disagreement over a minor, largely symbolic issue and each side’s fear of the political cost of backing down are obscuring the far greater risk of escalation toward a military confrontation should the talks fail:
[F]ailure to secure the nuclear deal will very likely lead to unpredictable and possibly uncontrollable escalation — and almost certainly skyrocketing oil and gas prices — only months before the midterm elections in November.
The political costs — for both the Biden and Raisi administrations — will be immense.
For the full article, see Without the Iran nuclear deal, war is on the horizon (Trita Parsi, responsible statecraft.org, 31 March 2022).
In our blog post last week we called on the Government of Canada to
Supplement its ministerial platitudes on the importance of equality in education in Afghanistan with concrete assistance to the United Nations to help make that possible.
We are pleased to report that, on 31 March 2022, Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan announced an additional $50 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan:
This assistance will be delivered through UN and other established humanitarian partners with the operational capacity to respond to these needs. With Canada’s support, partners will provide life-saving assistance, such as food and nutrition, emergency health care, clean water and sanitation, and protection services.
Thus, this funding is earmarked for “life-saving assistance,” not education. It reflects a total amount of funding of $143 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan in 2022.
We commend the government of Canada for this additional, urgently needed, funding for basic, life-saving humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
But we find it extremely bizarre to call attention to the need for equality in education but to continue to ignore UN pleas for the funding to help make this possible.
We call on the Minister of Development to specifically earmark additional funding for UN programming in the educational sector in Afghanistan.
AT LAST SOME GOOD NEWS ON YEMEN
This Truce is a first and long overdue step…. All Yemeni women, men and children that have suffered immensely through over seven years of war expect nothing less than an end to this war. The parties must deliver nothing less.
Under the truce, the warring sides have agreed to:
- halt all offensive military operations in Yemen and across its borders;
- allow fuel ships to enter into ports in the Hudaydah region and for some commercial flights to operate from the airport in the capital; and
- meet under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy to open roads in Taiz and other governorates.
The Rideau Institute comments:
This is a war that has killed more than 150,000 people and caused unimaginable suffering, aided and abetted by Canadian weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, a leading party to the conflict. Let us fervently hope that it holds, and paves the way for a permanent ceasefire.
Photo credit: US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (F-35A)