The Canucktion: From the Canadian government to the Ukrainian frontlines
Following similar debates in the US and UK, the Canadian government is considering direct military intervention in the Ukraine (1). The peace-loving nation is no stranger to NATO activity in the area which culminated in Operation Reassurance and the deployment of a naval, aerial and land based task force (2). While the country has imposed economic pressure in response to supposed Russian aggression; lawmakers now turn towards a more direct approach.
Canadian aid to the current regime has manifested in $400 million worth of loans and in the form of non-lethal aid to the frontlines (helmets, night-vision goggles, flack jackets, etc.) (3). Defense Minister Jason Kenney says quoting the Prime Minister “… all options are on the table” (4) when it comes to further intervention. When considering the possibility of supplying armaments, he said "We don't have huge stockpiles of equipment to supply, if we were to get into that kind of business it would be by acquiring it from other vendors and then supplying it to Ukrainians” (5). Military intervention is a hot topic among Canadian politicians, and NDP opposition leader Mulcair has his doubts: “any such action would have to be discussed and debated. We saw what happened in Iraq” (6).
While the government pushes for military engagement, the Canadian people would prefer a less direct approach. When a sample group of Canadians was asked in an Angus Reid Global poll what the most appropriate response to the crisis would be: 86% chose an economic and diplomatic approach over a military one (7). Similarly, when 1798 Canadians were asked how to handle relations with Russia: 11% opted for sending armaments to Kiev, 5% for direct intervention, and 20% preferred to do nothing at all (8).
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) is a leading supporter of further military intervention. The UCC is a lobby group that styles itself as representative of the 1.25 million Canadians with Ukrainian heritage (9). This organization has been pressuring the Canadian government to follow in its allies’ footsteps and begin sending armaments. Executive Director Taras Zalusky explained the demands further when he said “We know that Canada doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of lethal weapons, but things like sniper rifles, things like some of the surveillance, some of the anti-tank and anti-aircraft” (10).
This same Taras Zalusky was involved in a delegation sent to monitor Ukrainian elections in 2012. Monitoring agency Canadem came under fire when it was revealed that a disproportionate amount of Canadian Ukrainian’s had been chosen for the mission, many of whom had connections to the UCC. This information sheds doubt on the impartial nature of the delegation and highlights a possible anti-Yanukovich bias at the time (11).
2015 saw a recent shift in federal cabinets to the benefit of the congress. President Paul M. Grod says in an official statement that “[Defense] Minister Jason Kenney has been a longtime friend and supporter” and then goes so far as to label the separatists as a “Russian terrorist aggression” (12). Grod continues to fight to arm the Ukrainian military, many of whom hold ultra-nationalistic views. To the Canadian government this is a non-issue since they’re happy to invite neo-Nazis to the discussion table.
Rob Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Andriy Parubiy, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada
Alongside pressuring the government to adjust foreign policy the UCC also has ties to the frontlines. In an article by the Globe and Mail it is revealed that:
“…a handful [of Canadian Ukrainians] – have taken up arms. While Canadians who have gone to join the fight in Syria have had their passports revoked, at least one Ukrainian-Canadian who joined a pro-government militia and fought in the Lugansk region has returned to Canada to […] recruit other Canadians to the front line”.
Among them is Lenna Koszarny, a head member of the UCC Kiev division and an investment banker who oversees “trailing the delivery trucks into the war zone, taking photographs and ensuring the Canadian aid goes to the units and soldiers it’s intended for” (13). So what exactly is an investment banker doing on the front lines?
Anton Skyba for The Globe and Mail
When Lenna Koszarny is not meddling on a battlefield, she takes the role of co-founder and CEO of Horizon Capital (14). The same Horizon Capital that manages a $150 million WNISEF investment fund for the U.S Agency of International Development (U.S AID) (15). Her counterpart and partner, US citizen Natalie Jaresko is leading the ailing Ukrainian economy towards disaster as the country’s newly minted Finance Minister (16). It is hard to believe that these connections are merely coincidental and not clearly the result of Western cronyism.
Despite being touted as an accomplished and capable financier, Horizon Capital has consistently made a negative return on the WNISEF investment. When her ex-husband and business partner brought to light allegations of impropriety and insider dealing, he was quickly delivered a judicial gag order (17). The reality is that Horizon Capital and Finance Minister Jaresko wouldn’t exist without Washington’s consensus.
It is hard to believe that parliament is unaware of this connection and the doubt it sheds on their foreign policy decisions. The UCC’s involvement in the crisis extends beyond a mere guise of activism and into the higher strata of the Ukrainian financial establishment. Whether Canada will follow through with direct military intervention is still up to debate.
Cosmin Dzsurdzsa is a university student with an interest in Eastern European Literature and International Relations. He has acted as a contributor and editor for a local independent press where he worked to engage students in alternative media. Cosmin was born in Romania and moved to Canada with his family at the age of eight. He has lived in Ontario ever since.
“Canada’s involvement in the struggle for Ukraine is set to deepen, with the revelation by Jason Kenney, the defence minister, that the government is talking to Kiev about a training mission.”
“This announcement brings the total value of Canada’s loan agreements with Ukraine to $400 million.”
“Canada has provided Ukraine with a range of non-lethal security assistance and equipment, as well as training for members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
“We are consulting closely with our allies, and as the Prime Minister has said … all options are on the table.”
“"We don't have huge stockpiles of equipment to supply, if we were to get into that kind of business it would be by acquiring it from other vendors and then supplying it to Ukrainians," Kenney said.”
“Zalusky, who has been involved in two earlier Canadem missions to Ukraine, said 1,500 people applied for the 490 available short- and long-term observer spots. Another 10 are reserved for parliamentarians, chosen by their respective parties.”
“However, the mission has raised eyebrows, even among some observers, with the disproportionate number of Ukrainian Canadians who've been selected — many of whom, including Zalusky himself, are connected to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), an organization that has been highly critical of Ukraine's governing party.”
“Minister Jason Kenney has been a longtime friend and supporter of the Ukrainian Canadian community and we are pleased that he will also continue to serve as Minister of Multiculturalism.”
“Today, Ukraine needs clear and decisive action from Canada and our allies to defend against Russian terrorist aggression. Providing Ukraine with the military equipment needed to defend herself is key to establishing and maintaining peace in Ukraine and throughout the region.”
“And some – a handful – have taken up arms. While Canadians who have gone to join the fight in Syria have had their passports revoked, at least one Ukrainian-Canadian who joined a pro-government militia and fought in the Lugansk region has returned to Canada to help raise money for Army SOS. He hopes to recruit other Canadians to the front line.”
“Ms. Koszarny and a team of volunteers began trailing the delivery trucks into the war zone, taking photographs and ensuring the Canadian aid goes to the units and soldiers it’s intended for. Her recent trip to Konstantynivka took her to four other stops near the front line.”
“She also was cofounder and managing partner of Horizon Capital which managed WNISEF’s investments at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent of committed capital, fees exceeding $1 million in recent years, according to WNISEF’s 2012 annual report.”
“Horizon Capital was founded in 2006 by four founding partners Jeffrey C. Neal, Natalie A. Jaresko, Lenna Koszarny and Mark A. Iwashko. This team began their collaboration with Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), a $150 million focused on Ukraine and Moldova and established in 1994.”
“Prior to taking Ukrainian citizenship and becoming Finance Minister last December, Jaresko was a former U.S. diplomat who served as chief executive officer of the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by Congress in the 1990s and overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) to help jumpstart an investment economy in Ukraine.”
“Beyond the long list of “related party transactions” in the annual report, there also have been vague allegations of improprieties involving Jaresko from one company insider, her ex-husband, Ihor Figlus. But his whistle-blowing was shut down by a court order issued at Jaresko’s insistence.
John Helmer, a longtime foreign correspondent in Russia, disclosed the outlines of this dispute in an article examining Jaresko’s history as a recipient of U.S. AID’s largesse and how it enabled her to become an investment banker via WNISEF, Horizon Capital and Emerging Europe Growth Fund.”