The tragedy of war once again plays out before us on our television screens. Commentators on various western television networks comment on the state of the war, declaring its support for brave Ukrainian fighters and decrying the destruction and loss of Ukrainian lives. One does not have to be an ardent student of modern history to know that wars are disorderly, disruptive, and destructive events in which people, including civilians, are injured or killed. As we watch the war coverage, let us pray for the war to end, and that the loss of Ukrainian and Russian lives ceases.
There is also hypocrisy in war. For example, the United States is supplying arms and supplies to Ukraine but warning The People’s Republic of China not to supply arms or supplies to the Russian Federation, and western politicians and political commentators are lamenting the death of Ukrainian soldiers but not those of Russia.
The NATO democracies, including Canada, are not without fault when it comes to the Russia Federation-Ukraine War, as can be seen from a brief review of defensive arrangements in Europe. After World War II, the nations of western Europe had reasons to become concerned about their physical and internal political security as the Soviet Union held power and influence over many countries in eastern Europe and communist movements elsewhere in Europe. The Americans did not want the western European nations to negotiate with the Soviet Union over matters of security, and therefore suggested an arrangement for collective security. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did not want eastern Europe to have enemy soldiers along its border. During the Cold War and in response to the inclusion of West Germany into NATO, a collective defense treaty was signed in 1955 between the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern Bloc socialist republics of central and eastern Europe creating the Warsaw Pact Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact were defensive arrangements against the perceived threats of aggression by opposing political forces. Several communist (state socialist) governments fell to popular movements in the period 1989-1991, and the Warsaw Pact ended in February 1991. The Soviet Union itself was dissolved in December 1991. Although several of the former Soviet republics initially formed a Collective Security Treaty Organization, the threat to western democracies from a unified Soviet Union and a collection of communist central and eastern European countries had greatly diminished. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact were gone yet NATO remained, and expanded eastward. Instead of guiding Russia towards closer relationship with the west and greater democracy, several western countries maintained a confrontational attitude towards Russia. Russia could only perceive NATO as a military alliance against them. Russia faced a growing threat as several neighbouring Baltic states joined NATO, but the potential addition of Ukraine joining NATO was too great a threat and Russia reacted. If existing NATO members like Canada did not support NATO expansionism to the borders of Russia, perhaps the Russian Federation-Ukraine War could have been avoided.
The Canadian government has clearly sided with Ukraine. However, as citizens in a democracy, we need to question our government’s position and actions. We need to be patriotic but not nationalistic. We should consider how long and to what extent the supply of weapons to the Ukraine and the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia are justifiable. Canada needs to advocate for peace. In the long term, Canada should strive for good relations with both the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.