Britain has long been considered among Ukraine’s biggest friends in Europe. It has been said many times that had it not been for Britain, Europe would have eased its sanctions against Russia some time ago. And now Britain is exiting (or planning to exit, or at least considering exiting) the EU. Does this mean trouble for Ukraine in its uneven fight against the Russian aggression?
Likely, yes. At least in the short term. First, the European Union is currently in turmoil and its focus is shifted away from Ukraine. If Europe follows George Soros’ prediction and falls apart, one can only imagine what kind of consequences await the countries on Russia’s periphery. Russia would be quick and ruthless to fill the void and tip the balance of power in the region in its favor. And then Donald Trump becomes the US President (although the current polls suggest otherwise), proclaims NATO obsolete and says “Let Europe sort out its own mess.”
This is a doomsday scenario but the Europeans themselves have been entertaining this kind of predictions for some time (refer to the Norwegian TV-series “Occupation”, initiated in 2008, which depict a Russian aggression against Norway after the USA withdraw from NATO). If the EU does not disintegrate, the UK’s departure could anyway deal a serious blow to the ideas to create some kind of European defense mechanism which could protect Europe in the case NATO gets less support from the US.
If the gloomiest scenarios do not materialize, it remains a question whether the EU without Britain would be able to continue with the same kind of policy towards Russia as before. When a healthy and viable organism loses one of its parts, the remaining parts compensate for the loss, but, in most cases, only to a certain extent. An even bigger problem is that it remains unclear at the moment whether the EU actually is a healthy and viable organism.
Even in its current shape, the EU is finding it difficult to maintain its sanctions against Russia. Ambassadors from all 28 EU countries agreed to extend the sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine only about a week ago but Italy is delaying this attempt to extend the sanctions. What will happen if Brexit becomes reality?
In this situation, the role of such global supporters of Ukraine as the US and Canada becomes even bigger. Canada should continue leading the West’s assistance for Ukraine. The Ukrainian Canadian community expects that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be supportive of Ukraine during the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw and his visit to Ukraine in July. It would be great if Canada continued its military cooperation with Ukraine and signed the Canada-Ukraine defense cooperation agreement. It is also worth considering going back to the tone expressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion when he talked in Parliament in February about “the invasion and interference of the Russian government in Ukraine” and dropping euphemisms like “Russia’s … support for insurgents in Eastern Ukraine” which Prime Minister used in his address to the Canada Ukraine Business Forum on June 20.