Canada offers to support U.S. measures to deter Russia in confrontation with Ukraine

·4 min read
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly attend a plenary session of the G7 summit of foreign and development ministers in Liverpool, England, on Dec. 12, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/The Associated Press - image credit)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly attend a plenary session of the G7 summit of foreign and development ministers in Liverpool, England, on Dec. 12, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/The Associated Press - image credit)

Canada has told the U.S. that it's willing to help with possible deterrence measures against Russia — which could include sanctions — to head off a crisis in Ukraine, CBC News has learned.

Canada made the offer during a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Dec. 31, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The source said the message was received well by Blinken.

Bilateral talks between Russia and the U.S. over the nearly eight-year-long war in Ukraine took place in Geneva Monday. Nearly 100,000 Russian troops are stationed near Ukraine's eastern border, prompting concerns from other countries that Russia's President Vladimir Putin intends to invade Ukraine.

Washington is working with allies, including Canada, to deter Russia from doing that. Russian's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said during talks Monday that Moscow has no intention to attack Ukraine. But U.S. officials say the White House believes the threat of invasion is real.

Joly tweeted Thursday that Russia would face "coordinated sanctions" if it invades.

"Canada and our NATO allies are united in our support for Ukraine and its people," tweeted Joly. "Russia must de-escalate and engage in meaningful dialogue — any military incursion into Ukraine will have serious consequences, including co-ordinated sanctions."

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. and its allies are preparing to impose new sanctions on Russia in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. The sanctions could be imposed within hours of Russia invading Ukraine.

The sanctions could include cutting off Russia's largest financial institutions from global transactions, imposing an embargo on some American technology transfers and arming Ukraine's defenders, the newspaper reported.

Ahead of Monday's high-stakes talks, Blinken said the Biden administration has rallied countries beyond Europe and the Kremlin is facing two options.

"There's a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid confrontation," Blinken told CNN Sunday. "The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine."

WATCH | U.S., Russia still poles apart after security talks over Ukraine:

Canada working with allies on new measures

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) says it already has imposed a broad range of economic sanctions on more than 430 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities who facilitated the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty or obstructed the work of international organizations in Ukraine. But Canada is working on other measures with allies as well, the government said.

"Canada continues to work with international allies and partners on additional measures on this matter," GAC spokesperson Jason Kung said in a statement to CBC News.

Joly and senior government officials "remain actively engaged with U.S. and European partners as part of co-ordinated efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and to encourage de-escalation," wrote Kung.

Canada has focused on working with like-minded countries to apply economic and diplomatic pressure to prevent war. But Joly has also said publicly that she would use "all means necessary" to deter the "Russian threat," the National Post reported last month.

GAC said Canada is "judicious in its approach about when it chooses to deploy sanctions," adding that sanctions are just one diplomatic tool. The department said Joly emphasized Canada's full support for Ukraine's sovereignty and independence at NATO's foreign ministers' meeting.

200 Canadian troops in Ukraine

Canada is one of Ukraine's biggest supporters and originally sponsored Ukraine's bid to join NATO.

Russia is demanding new security guarantees from NATO. It wants NATO to deny membership to Ukraine and halt its military deployments in Eastern Europe.

Stephanie Jenzer/CBC
Stephanie Jenzer/CBC

There are about 200 Canadian Armed Forces members in Ukraine — part of an international training mission to help improve Ukrainian soldiers' combat skills.

NATO and the U.S. have said they will not send military members into Ukraine to defend the country if there is an invasion.

Canada has signalled it may be open to extending its operations in Ukraine and the Canadian Armed Forces' contribution to NATO's campaign of deterrence against Russia, according to Defence Minister Anita Anand's mandate letter.

Heading into the talks Monday, Russia's news agencies reported that Ryabkov said he was disappointed by signals he heard from Washington in recent days. Ryabkov also warned that the U.S. had a "lack of understanding" of the Kremlin's security demands.

Following the bilateral meeting in Geneva, representatives from NATO will meet with the Russian delegations in Brussels.

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