Canada, NATO unprepared for expanded Russian invasion, warns retired military commander

By Michael Ranger, Cormac Mac Sweeney

A retired senior member of the military and former Liberal MP is warning that Canada and its allies need to be better prepared for the possibility of war.

Retired Lt. General Andrew Leslie tells CityNews that Canada and NATO allies need to move fast to get more troops and planes in place in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin takes his invasion beyond Ukraine.

“This guy is not stopping and we have to create a bulwark along the frontier of Ukraine and the NATO countries,” says Leslie. “Deterrence and strength is the only thing that he’ll respond to.”

“That will give time for NATO to get ready, because frankly, NATO is not ready at this moment to do anything.”

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Leslie commanded NATO land forces and says Canada should have equipment on planes ready to fly. He also thinks the 3,400 troops on standby for a NATO response need to be flown to Latvia instead of waiting around to see if they are needed.

NATO has mobilized thousands of troops backed by aircraft, tanks and heavy equipment and deployed them to member countries that are nervous about Russia’s intentions for their future.

NATO allies, including Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly, refused to police a no-fly zone over Ukraine on Friday despite the country’s demands. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says what is taking place now in Ukraine is horrific but they do not want to provoke a widespread war in Europe.

“We are not part of this conflict,” said Stoltenberg in a news conference. “We have a responsibility to ensure it does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and would cause even more human suffering.”

Leslie says he agrees with NATO’s decision, concurring that policing a no-fly zone would “almost certainly trigger World War III.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he is heading to Europe this weekend to meet with allies over their responses to the Russian invasion. Trudeau will travel to London, Berlin and Latvia, where Canada is leading a multinational NATO battle group, and to Warsaw, Poland.

Joly is meeting with counterparts in Brussels on Friday to co-ordinate continuing efforts to impose costs on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. She said this week that Canada wants the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into Russia for possible crimes against humanity.

Canada delivered $25 million worth of non-lethal military aid to Ukraine this week and Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada would send anti-tank weapons and upgraded ammunition, which amounted to a significant enhancement in lethal military aid.

Russian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear plant, sparking a fire there in the battle for control of the city of Enerhodar. Firefighters could not immediately reach the site because of the Russian onslaught. The Zaporizhzhia plant provides about 25 per cent of Ukraine’s power generation.

Russians recently captured the southern city of Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 280,000. Ukrainian officials confirmed the takeover of the government headquarters there, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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