The Canadian Armed Forces should be better equipped to face new challenges in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Friday.
Speaking at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, Joly said there were new challenges on the world stage after Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to wage war on the ‘Ukraine.
“It’s important that our military be better equipped. It’s important because the world has changed. And we need to be able to deal with new challenges,” she said.
“We take stock of what Germany has done, which has increased its military and defense budget. And in that sense, I think we have to work with the armed forces to make sure that we are ready.”
Joly added that NATO and Canada are ready to deal with any new Russian aggression.
“NATO made sure that we reinforced the eastern flank,” she said. “Canada took the lead in ensuring that we would provide more forces and this is obviously a top priority for the government.”
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has hinted that more money may be flowing to the military in the next federal budget.
Among NATO allies, the goal is to make defense spending equal to 2% of the size of national economies. The latest figures from the alliance put Canada’s defense spending at 1.39% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2021.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has united Western nations like never before and strengthened the NATO alliance, Joly said, adding that “there’s nothing like having one bad guy” against which to unite.
“President (Vladimir) Putin has sought to divide the West and exploit our differences, but we are more united than ever,” she said.
The Canadian Armed Forces need to be better equipped: Minister of Foreign Affairs @melaniejoly. #CDNPoli #CAF
Canada is working with its G7 and NATO allies to send military equipment to Ukraine, Joly said.
“It’s important for…the Ukrainians to be able to defend themselves and to stop the bombing of civilians, but it also has an impact on the diplomatic level, because it is a way for Ukraine to be stronger at the negotiating table,” she added. noted.
Joly reiterated that the federal government is ready to bring in an unlimited number of Ukrainian refugees and that officials are considering possible air bridges from neighboring European countries to bring people to Canada.
Canada is also helping Eastern European countries hosting Ukrainian refugees, including Moldova, Romania and Poland, by funding United Nations agencies that help refugees, Joly said.
“We have provided $200 million in terms of humanitarian aid. We are working with the UN and its various agencies, including UNHCR,” she said. “Special interest and support should be given to Moldova as it is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
More than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine so far during the 23-day Russian invasion.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 18, 2022.