Freeland is silent on tanks for Ukraine but says victory would boost global economy

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OTTAWA — The United States and Germany are taking steps to send main battle tanks to Ukraine, but Canada will not yet say whether it plans to take a similar step to help the war-torn country.

The Associated Press reported that US officials said Washington would authorize the sending of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to help that country fight back against Russia.

Germany has announced that it will grant Poland’s request for the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Berlin requires countries to get permission to re-export German-made tanks.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly declined to say on Tuesday whether the day’s developments had changed anything for Canada.

“What I can tell you is that we will coordinate with our allies,” she told reporters in French.

The Canadian Army has 112 Leopard 2 tanks, but some analysts say Ottawa can only reveal an inconsequential number without undermining its own training and operational needs.

Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland also declined to explain why Canada has not said how it intends to proceed.

Instead, she noted that Canada was one of the largest per capita funders of the Ukrainian war effort, in part because of self-interest.

“This economic battleground is very important,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting in Hamilton, Ontario.

“A clear, strategically viable and stable Ukrainian victory this year would be a big boost for the global economy and a big boost for Canada.”

Conservative defense critic James Bezan said he supports what the Liberals have been sending to Ukraine so far and urged them to consider sending more military equipment to replace it soon.

He said Ottawa should consider sending tanks if it does not undermine the country’s essential needs, noting that reports to Parliament suggest dozens of Canada’s light armored vehicles will soon be replaced.

“We can do more, especially where we have extra equipment,” Bezan said in an interview.

“If we send any of our tanks, we want to make sure that the tanks are bought to replace anything that leaves this country.”

Bezan said Canada has already made a significant contribution with equipment such as armored personnel carriers that move troops through various combat zones.

But he suggested the Liberals might consider sending the light armored vehicles, known as LAVs, if they want to keep pace with allies sending tanks to Ukraine.

“If we want to get the Russian army out of Ukraine, that means we need more combat vehicles, and this is where our LAVs will be instrumental in helping Ukraine win this battle.”

But the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress is urging the government to do more.

“Leopard 2 tanks are crucial for the liberation of all Ukrainian land under Russian occupation,” the group’s president, Alexandra Chyczij, said in a statement.

“UCC urges the Government of Canada to join the growing coalition of nations supplying Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 24, 2023.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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