On Feb. 19, 2023, Glenn Michalchuk was a panelist in a webinar entitled “No to War, No to NATO: North American perspectives on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO” hosted by World Beyond War (Canada). Video of the webinar is posted at the end of this article. Following are Glenn’s introductory remarks.
By Glenn Michalchuk
I am participating in today’s panel both as a peace activist and as third generation Ukrainian Canadian. In October of last year I became national President of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians. I am also Chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg.
I want to thank the organizers for today’s panel which will discuss what needs to be done against the escalation of the war and our aim to end it. Escalation of the conflict is making the prospect of peace more difficult and significantly increasing the danger that the war will become larger in scope to include direct confrontation between the United States and Russia.
We know that such confrontation contains the risk of nuclear weapons being used. From the beginning of the conflict – and in the months leading up to it – the official language of Western governments has been alarming — openly touting the possibility of all out war against Russia. It seems each day we move closer to such confrontation. Just the other day a spokesperson for the White House said the U.S. would not interfere in the decision of any NATO country to provide jet fighters to Ukraine. At the Munich Conference Vice President Harris announced that the U.S. has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
With actions such as this the world is moving further away from the possibility to end this conflict. It is imperative that the movement against this war become more effective and determined to end it. Those who see this war as “defending Ukraine” are, in fact, contributing to its destruction. There is a real possibility that Ukraine will suffer the same fate Yugoslavia did as a result of that NATO war.
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is the oldest mass secular organization of Ukrainians who came to Canada to start a new life. It was founded in 1918 as the Ukrainian Labour and Farmer Temple Association. Through its more than 100 years of work it has faced persecution by the Canadian state for its political views including its support for the Ukrainian nation from the 1920’s through the period of the U.S. led Cold War. It has an unbroken record of progressive political, social and cultural activity that has emphasized people to people friendship and striving for peace in the relations between countries. The founding and work of the AUUC pre-dates by almost 50 years the Ukrainian Canadian Congress which self –describes itself “as the representative of all Ukrainian Canadians”.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been the dominant voice in the media when it comes to an “authoritative” voice in response to the Russian invasion. This is not a surprise since its views are in sync with those of the Canadian government and NATO. This alignment of purpose stretches well beyond the war of today, It is based on Cold War antagonisms and the policies these gave rise to.
Thus, the UCC has advocated for a NATO no fly zone at the start of the conflict and the provision of more and more weapons as the war has dragged on. The UCC national president described Canada’s recent provision of Leopard tanks as “a game changer in the fight for the liberation of Ukrainian territories from brutal Russian occupation”.
The stance of the AUUC has been for de-escalation of the conflict, ceasefire and negotiations for peace. It is a position that I am confident will be proven to be on the right side of history and one which really defends the interest of the people of Ukraine. I have said in many interviews that the war could have been averted – the Minsk Agreements provided for a path to end the civil war and reunite the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk with the rest of Ukraine. This path was rejected both by the ‘western allies’ of Ukraine and the Zelensky government – despite the fact that Zelensky was elected on the promise of ending the civil war.
The people of Ukraine did not want war and were deeply divided on plans to join NATO. They were also deeply divided on turning towards the EU for their future.
Once the war became a direct conflict between Russia and Ukraine there was the possibility to end it through diplomacy, ceasefire and peace negotiations. This is what the AUUC urged at the outbreak of the war. These positions are not unique to the AUUC – they are the positions that the majority of the world’s nations have urged as a solution to end the conflict. The Minsk Agreements were ratified by the UN Security Council.
This panel is taking place in the same week that international actions will be held against the war. Our discussion today will be a contribution to developing the resistance to the Canadian and U.S. government’s support for the war and the mainstream media who simply echo the NATO narrative. They have flogged this war as ‘Stand With Ukraine’ to conceal that the war uses Ukraine as the battleground for the geo-political objectives of the U.S. and NATO against Russia. ‘Stand With Ukraine’ for them means wage war through Ukraine.
The war is now being pursued with fanatical fervor by western governments – and as a Canadian of Ukrainian descent — I want to single out the Canadian government for its role in this and Canadian politicians at every level of government who have not questioned what Canada is doing or what this means for the people of Ukraine. Yesterday, Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand proudly tweeted “we’re providing more and more military aid.”
Those who have questioned the war and advocated finding a solution to the conflict have faced persecution and retribution from a section of the Ukrainian Canadian community that has gone all out to fuel the war. They have labeled anyone who stands for peace as Russian propagandists. This was the situation in Ottawa when the Ukrainian Student Club at Carlton University branded a panel discussion titled “The War in Ukraine: What is the path to peace” as a “pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation event”. Their attempts to de-platform the event were unsuccessful.
The fanaticism for war is carried out on the backs of the ordinary Ukrainian people. According to estimates of the Ukrainian government its army has lost at least 100,000 soldiers killed in this conflict. Millions of citizens have been displaced or fled Ukraine itself. This brutal war comes in addition to the eight years of conflict between the Kyiv government and the people of the Donbas region which killed some 14,000 people and displaced over 1 million people who fled either to Ukraine or Russia.
The devastation caused by the civil war in Donbas received scant attention in western media. When it was reported on it was described as inspired by Russian separatists. The actions of the Kyiv government in the Donbas were supported without any reservation by the Canadian government. In fact the Canadian government provided weapons, ammunition and training to the Ukrainian army for it to conduct the civil war.
It was through the 2014 U.S coup in Kyiv and the civil war in the Donbas that the world began to learn of the influence of far right groups in the Ukrainian government and the army. Right wing nationalists roamed the streets of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa attacking anyone who opposed their plans for Ukraine. The most well known of these attacks was on the Trade Union building in Odessa and the burning alive of people who had taken refuge there.
Is this a war in defence of Ukraine or is it a war waged by others for their interests?
It is true that on February 24, 2022 the armed forces of Russia crossed the borders of Ukraine but the reasons for this conflict pre-date February 24, 2022. This is an important point that is obscured by those who want to continue to use Ukraine and its people as their proxy or de-legitimize the calls for de-escalation, ceasefire and negotiations.
Certain facts are being established as this war drags on. The role of NATO and the fact that this war was planned well in advance are two that have become the focus of anti-war opposition. What may be less known is the “cold war ideology” this war embodies.
It is not possible to give a full picture of the influence of the Ukraine right wing in Canadian political decision making in a short space of time. However, its history and role is very well documented by Richard Sanders and I would encourage you to check out his work. Also the Bandera Lobby blog. The main vehicle for political influence on the Canadian government is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The UCC is an organization that arose during the Cold War as the Canadian state took up the politics of the Cold War. Thus, the UCC and the Canadian state share the cold war politics of the past and present. And, of course, of special significance to the influence of the UCC is Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and her links to the UCC.
Not surprisingly then the positions of UCC on Russia and Ukraine have driven Canada’s policy on Ukraine regardless of which party is in power. Its reach extends to include all members of parliament through the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group that, according to the UCC, has a membership of over 100 MPs. During the take note debate of January 2022 in Parliament MPs were heavily lobbied by the UCC for a position of confrontation with Russia on the question of Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland had already described the crisis in Ukraine as a ‘battleground between democracy and autocracy’.
At a critical moment in the rising tensions between Russia-Ukraine and NATO Canada opted for escalation rather than finding a way to avert war.
Positions in support of geo-political confrontation are not new to the UCC and they reinforce International Cold War confrontation.
A UCC 2019 policy paper titled “Strengthening Canada Ukraine Defence and Security Relations” notes “…Ukraine is the front line of our defence against Kremlin aggression” and also called for removal of Russia from the SWIFT payments system and Ukraine’s admission into NATO. The removal of Russia from SWIFT has now happened. The possibility of Ukraine’s admission into NATO remains a central issue in the war.
Internationally, the Ukrainian World Congress, based in Toronto, also has a record of “militancy” on the question of Ukraine. During the civil war in Donbas it provided on its web site a form letter for sending to Members of Parliament. The list of demands includes: providing Ukraine with military support; accelerating NATO and EU membership; increasing sanctions on Russia; stopping Nord Stream 2 from becoming operational. All of these demands have been fulfilled by the war being waged.
Is the war in Ukraine being fought to achieve the interests of others – yes it is.
In conclusion, this war could have been averted and heavy responsibility lies on those who chose to escalate tensions to such a degree that war broke out. The longer the war continues the greater will be the lasting impact on Ukraine from a human, environmental and national perspective. The war mongers in Ottawa and Washington seem to be oblivious to this fact or it justifies their goals. To ‘Stand With Ukraine’ must mean to end the furtherance and continuation of this war. Thank you.