Festival Parade Marshall and former Canadian Army Commander Wynnyck on his background, hybrid warfare and Doomsday Clock

Paul Wynnyk as the Parade Marshall at the Toronto Ukrainian Festival. Photo: Mykola Swarnyk

New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

This year’s Parade Marshall at the Bloor West Village Toronto Ukrainian Festival, Lieutenant General Paul Wynnyk (Retired), was among the most decorated parade marshalls the Festival has ever had. As a culmination of his 38 year long military career, Wynnyk was Commander of the Canadian Army from 2016 to 2018. In July 2019, Wynnyk resigned as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

After the Festival’s parade on September 14, Kontakt Ukrainian Television and New Pathway – Ukrainian News interviewed Wynnyk.

Jurij Klufas (Kontakt Ukrainian Television): How much did your Ukrainian background play in your career, was there any influence?

Paul Wynnyk: I don’t think you ever forget your roots. My father was of Ukrainian descent, my mother wasn’t but I was raised very much in the Ukrainian tradition. My father was part of the first wave of Ukrainian immigration, they came to Canada in 1903. They went from the Lviv area by train to Hamburg where they got on the ship SS Arcadia and sailed to Halifax. There they took the train as far West as they could. They ended up in the area around Smokey Lake north of Edmonton. My father was born there in 1920. A very typical story for Ukrainian immigrants – they cleared the land by hand, raised large families. We went to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edmonton, actually drove in 70 miles, we lived in a small village with no Ukrainian Catholic Church. When the Second World War came along, my oldest uncle and father joined up. My oldest uncle, who was with Royal Canadian Airforce, in Bomber command, was killed in action and my father fought to the Italian campaign. He came back, did an Education degree at the University of Alberta and by the time I came along, he was my high school principal and also the commanding officer at the local army cadet force. My mother was the mayor. So, I got lots of supervision. I’ve always had a passion for the army life, from the very early on in my life, which is unusual. I’ve been a cub scout, a cadet and by the time I finished high school, military college seemed like a great option. I just enjoyed every step of the way. Before I knew, 38.5 years were gone. As far as my military career [and PW’s Ukrainian Canadian background – NP-UN], it really came home to roost with Operation UNIFIER when I as Army Commander at the time was able to oversee and help plan in the deployment of our troops to Ukraine. For me it was a very personally gratifying moment to be able to help Ukrainians defend against the Russian aggressors and in some ways to reconnect with my roots. On my first trip to Ukraine, I had an opportunity to visit the village where my grandfather was born in 1890. It was very emotional for me and very rewarding.

Jurij Klufas: What do you think about the Operation, what benefits are both countries getting from it?

Paul Wynnyk: I don’t speak on behalf of the Government of Canada anymore, I’ve recently retired. But my personal opinion is that both countries are benefiting from this relationship. I think our soldiers are getting an excellent opportunity to mentor and train, but the flip side is true as well. The Ukrainian soldiers are in contact with the Russian aggressors in the East and the tactics, techniques and procedures, which are being used there, are used by Russians in general. And as NATO seeks to deter potential Russian aggression in the Baltic area, where we have troops, we can use that training.

Jurij Klufas: To what extent in this hybrid Russian aggression is IT playing a role?

Paul Wynnyk: It plays a very significant role. Hybrid warfare is anything from the day-to-day operations right up to the warfare. And that murky middle is not quite what we call traditional warfare. It includes information operations, disinformation, economic warfare. IT is fundamental to all that. It’s a new way of waging an unofficial conflict. And I am not sure a traditional war in a classic sense exists anymore.

Jurij Klufas: What does it mean for future military training, how does Canada need to rearrange it?

Paul Wynnyk: You’ve hit a very good point. You have to train for the conflicts of the future, not the past. The armies always have adapted – we didn’t have horses in the WW2, we moved to tanks. I can tell you that the Canadian armed forces are very much adapting to the future and looking for the ways to adapt to the future conflicts.

Yuri Bilinsky (NP-UN): How has Operation UNIFIER progressed?

Paul Wynnyk: The mission has evolved to suit the needs. We started exclusively in the Yavoriv training area but it expanded to a number of satellite locations to look at some specific thematic areas like demining, they are looking at a senior NCO academy now. It’s very flexible and the authorities in Ottawa with every rotation look at the ways of adapting and improving the mission.

Yuri Bilinsky: The Ukrainian army five years ago was more or less a Soviet type of army. Has it evolved since towards the Western standards?

Paul Wynnyk: Canada and its allies are training the Ukrainian army in our NATO standards adapted to the Ukrainian culture and needs. When I had the opportunity to visit several times during the last couple of years and talk to a number of Ukrainian officers, they felt very much that they were learing a lot from us. But conversely, I think, we were learning a lot from the Ukrainian soldiers as well, from their experiences in the East.

Yuri Bilinsky: Was the Soviet army competitive during the Cold War era?

Paul Wynnyk: When I joined the Canadian armed forces, we were squared off against the Soviet block. At the end of the Cold War we realised, perhaps, that the Soviet block’s armies were not quite as well trained or prepared as we thought. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Russians over the last couple of decades have modernized and refined their tactics, procedures and technology, and I think it’s a threat that we should take very seriously.

Yuri Bilinsky: How do you assess the global threat of war? Is war closer or more distant now than in the past, in terms of the Doomsday Clock that ticks back and forth to Midnight?

Paul Wynnyk: I don’t think it’s that simplistic anymore. We are in an era of hybrid warfare where the traditional type of warfare, state on state full-out conflict, I am not sure exists. That potential still exists, it’s at the full end of the spectrum. The hybrid warfare includes kinetic warfare and we have to be prepared for kinetic conflicts but we have to realize that we are now in a different space than we were 20-40 years ago.