UW: You live in a neighborhood in Kyiv which has been attacked by missiles and drones in the last weeks. However, earlier such attacks of Kyiv downtown did not seem plausible. As a foreign diplomat what do you feel after experiencing this situation personally?
Having experienced the attacks of the last few weeks personally, I feel I have a much better appreciation for what Ukrainians are going through. I recognize that mine is only a very small taste of the hell millions of people are living through. The fear, terror, anxiety, completely upset life – but I recognize that I am feeling it a little bit compared to Ukrainians. But it helps to understand how Ukrainians are going about their day-to-day life in the midst of war. Last weeks’ attacks were very difficult, but I see that Ukrainians around me (for whom it might had been equally or even more difficult) are getting up and continuing to do work. So, I also get up and continue to do work. As a foreign diplomat I also now have a much better appreciation for the invisible recovery that will have to take place as Ukrainians heal from the trauma and the terror that they are experiencing.
UW: Canada has announced that it will help Ukraine to rebuild its railway infrastructure and has supported the national company “Naftogaz” through the EBRD loan to Ukraine. Could Ukraine get financial support for reconstruction from Canada and Western countries while we are still under attacks?
There are few ways I would like to answer the question.
Firstly, there will not be one moment when the war is over, and reconstruction can suddenly begin. I think there are parts of the country where reconstruction is already possible, there are parts of the country where the recovery is already taking place. As a donor community we are still trying to understand how all the needs will fit together. Different regions of Ukraine are in different situations and need different kinds of assistance. The people who are best placed to know that are the state and local governments, and also civil society organizations. We, as good partners of Ukraine, try to make sure that we understand the requests and needs that are there. Canada has provided significant assistance on the humanitarian track, also on micro financial stability (almost $2 billion were provided to stabilize the economy), and on military equipment. We know that these are the priorities that will ensure that Ukraine wins, that people have what they need to survive, and that state continues to function even as the war rages on. We are also continuing our support for reforms and economic development – elements of recovery and reconstruction that are already taking place.
Secondly, for the longer term, the big money is needed for large scale reconstruction – like the railways and energy infrastructure. Canada is taking part in all the international discussions that are currently underway. There are a few questions about how to best support Ukraine while ensuring strong accountability for how the money is spent. We can learn from previous experience, but the fact is that this situation is unique. We must work together with Ukrainians to design the funding and accountability mechanisms. And we must help ensure that the reconstruction is inclusive and prioritized according to the needs of communities.
UW: Over these two weeks Russia strongly hit critical infrastructure in the country. Now it needs to be reconstructed, so that Ukrainians do not freeze in the next months. Are partners of Ukraine, including Canada, prepared to support such reconstruction if the Ukrainian government requests it?
Every request that the government of Ukraine makes is taken very seriously. Ukraine asked for support to import gas if needed, and Canada has provided over $300M in loans. We understand that because the electrical generation and transmission infrastructure is Soviet-era technology, we in Canada cannot help with things like transformers. Ukrainian officials are very good at knowing which country might be able to provide what kind of equipment, and the relationships that now exist between ministers in our country means that the requests go direct from Kyiv to Ottawa. It ensures a high level of attention and personal engagement of decision makers.
UW: During the Ukraine Recovery conference in Lugano Ukrainian authorities together with allies spoke a lot about ways of reconstruction of the country. One of the sources for such reconstruction are confiscated Russian assets in the Western countries. Canada has already introduced the legislation that will allow its government to seize and sell sanctioned Russian assets. How soon can Ukraine get such money for its development and reconstruction?
That piece of legislation that Canada introduced is groundbreaking. No other country has done this before. The G7 Finance Ministers got together in March and made a commitment to take all available legal steps to find, freeze, seize, confiscate, or forfeit the assets of sanctioned individuals or entities in response to Russia’s invasion, and to target the assets of the key Russian elites and proxies. That was in March. Canada immediately put together the legislation for doing that and it was passed by Parliament at the end of June. Now, we are moving through the steps to implement it. That means identifying the assets and going through the court process. We’ll do this carefully and in compliance with all the principles of due process. This is not as simple as person X is sanctioned, person X owns a billion-dollar company, therefore company is seized, and billion dollars can be transferred to Ukraine. It’s more complex. As the first country doing this, we need to make sure that the first case is solid and that’s what we are working on right now. I think that your readers won’t have any illusion that Russian proxies and elites have huge assets in Canada but proving that confiscation is possible, even with a smaller value asset, would then prove the concept for other countries where larger assets exist. We hope that in doing this small bit, we can lead to much bigger results for Ukraine.
UW: Could we speak about the time when the money be transferred to Ukraine?
At this time, it would be difficult for me to provide a timeline.
UW: Not long ago, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine was applying for a NATO membership. Canadian Minister of foreign affairs Mélanie Joly supported this Ukrainian decision in her comment. President Zelenskyy referred to a fast-track NATO membership, the one that Finland and Sweden were following. Do you believe that this track is possible for Ukraine, or will it still take much more time?
The short answer is that NATO’s doors are open, and Canada fully supports Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Allies must determine how that happens. I think in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion, and certainly in the aftermath of the sham referenda and illegal annexation, it was really important to reaffirm the fact that nothing had changed about Ukraine’s aspirations for NATO membership, or NATO’s openness to new members. Job #1 right now is winning the war, while also preparing for what will need to happen after.
If you look at the track that Ukraine was on before Russia invaded in February, every NATO partnership program was present and active in Ukraine. The largest NATO office was here and that amounted to support to reforms, training, collaboration. NATO was here, and Ukraine was at NATO. As we know, those programs were interrupted by the invasion. But a lot of other things have happened that serve the track of NATO membership. You see deepening of bilateral relationships between Ukraine and various allies, you see strong consensus at NATO, you see all allies working together on countering disinformation, you see them coming together in different formats to ensure that there is really good coordination around the provision of military equipment.
On the ground in Ukraine, we see two important evolutions. First, the switch to NATO-standard ammunition and other NATO-standard equipment. Ukrainian soldiers are showing that they learn incredibly quickly how to operate these new weapons. Second, we have also seen a much quicker dissemination of the Western military leadership concepts. I think the military commanders see that the way NATO-trained leaders are prosecuting this war is netting results now. These two elements – NATO standard equipment and NATO standard leadership if you can say that – are accelerating Ukraine’s transformation and alignment to NATO.
UW: But this NATO membership would probably facilitate some processes, in communication, for example…
I do not think we have ever seen a better communication. Russia’s invasion in February has radically accelerated coordination and collaboration between NATO countries and Ukraine.
UW: Former Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko in an interview to our magazine in 2018 said that Canada can be the country that would lead the process of Ukraine`s accession to NATO. This was before the full-scale invasion that changed everything. But still how could Canada contribute to this process politically?
Andriy Shevchenko is an excellent diplomat and having been posted to Canada he knew very well what he was talking about. NATO membership requires consensus on the part of the allies and Canada is a consensus-building country in the world. I think this is an essence of what he was speaking about. Canada is a middle power that has everything to gain from strong institutions and alliances and a strong rules-based order. Politically and as a diplomatic service we put a lot of time and effort into building a consensus that serves our interests and the interests of other middle-sized countries. When it comes to Ukraine issues in the multilateral sphere, whether it is UN, or NATO, we are particularly active. Why? Because Ukraine is fighting for the very values and principles that Canada and Canadians hold dear. They are standing up – or laying down their lives – to prevent the emergence of a world where might makes right. So, it is first and foremost in Canada’s interest to fight diplomatically for Ukraine, and for any country that wants to uphold the rules based international order. Other countries know that we know Ukraine well and they often come to us for that. We have a long and deep relationship, but also common interests and values – and so we have both motivation and credibility to speak on Ukraine issues (but never on behalf of Ukraine). Politically, I can assure you that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie, and many other members of the Government of Canada routinely discuss the situation in Ukraine with their foreign counterparts – including NATO allies; Canada’s position is to always stand with Ukraine, and to help as many other countries as possible stand with Ukraine too.
UW: Since 2014 Canada has been training Ukrainian military personnel within the Operation UNIFIER. It also supplied heavy weapons to Ukraine after Russia started its full-scale invasion. But Ukraine needs more. Does Canada plan any boost in its military support of Ukraine in the nearest future?
We have just announced our latest package of military support [on October 12 – Ed.], but I think that the firm and general answer to your question is: we will not stop looking for ways to help Ukraine in the military sphere. We have been doing this and we won’t stop. The key here for us is to respond to Ukrainian needs and there are some good mechanisms for doing that. We have good relationships in place, including between Defense Ministers Oleksiy Reznikov and Anita Anand. We are the part of Rammstein format, we talk with the USA and other G7 countries, so we have mechanisms that ensure that we can support Ukraine’s forces effectively together as the Western community. So far Canada has provided $626 million worth of military equipment and that’s everything from heavy artillery to cameras for the Bayraktar. We are also providing ammunition, satellite images, communication services, and replacement parts for the heavy artillery. The other day we announced that Canada will provide 500 thousand pieces of winter gear. We also have 39 combat support vehicles that are on their way to Ukraine. These are armored machines, vehicles that can very safely carry people or supplies through dangerous terrain. It’s key for Ukraine to being able to supply its forces. Ukrainians are already being trained on this piece of equipment and that was in direct response towards what Ukrainian authorities told us they needed.
Speaking about training, Operation UNIFER – which trained 33 thousand troops before the war has already restarted. There are 170 Canadians training Ukrainians in the UK. We are also going to be training engineers in Poland including on such tasks as demining. This is a high priority in Ukraine.
I think being a strong partner to Ukraine in this war means providing what is needed. Canada’s contribution will continue to be in direct response to Ukraine’s specific requests.
UW: Russia violated the UN Charter invading Ukraine. Its membership in the UN Human Rights Council has been suspended so far, and there are lot of discussions, especially in Ukraine, concerning the possibility of suspending its membership in the UN Security Council. Are there such discussions in Canada as well? Do you see that as possible?
Russia’s use of the veto has clearly prevented the Security Council from fulfilling its mandate. This is unacceptable. But removing a permanent member from the Security Council would be a major structural change, and this would require a change to the UN Charter which….must be approved by the Security Council. In short, and realistically speaking, major structural reforms to the Security Council will be very difficult if not impossible. That said, Canada has supported and will continue to support initiatives that limit the use of the veto and increase public scrutiny of its use. Our approach to UNSC reform is rooted in the belief that the Security Council needs to be more inclusive and better suited to address the challenges of the 21st century.
Canada seeks an expanded and empowered Security Council that is more representative, more democratic, and more transparent.
As a member of the Uniting for Consensus Group, we‘d like to see an increase to the number of elected seats on the Council, but one that would not result in an expansion of veto powers.
The war has caused us to take a close look on our institutions, whether these are international financial institutions, alliances, or the security, technical bodies of the UN. We understand that Russia should not play its games in any of those spaces, whether it is with disinformation, manipulation, or corruption. Even as we are watching how Ukraine prosecutes the war on the battlefield, we are also watching to see how institutions are passing the test.
UW: One of the priorities of Ukraine even during the war is to modernize itself and to proceed with reforms, and I know that G7 countries are closely following the process. Do you see the reform process as going on quickly enough taking into consideration the ongoing war?
I was amazed how quickly the government started speaking about the reforms after the invasion. In May, just a couple of months after the start of invasion, the word ‘reforms’ was back. I think there are three key areas where Ukraine cannot slow down and for us, G7 ambassadors, these are also priorities.
Firstly, it is a judicial reform. Last summer Verkhovna Rada passed critically important legislation to break the back of the systemic corruption that exists in the legal system of Ukraine. The implementation started, was briefly interrupted by the Russian invasion, but is now working again. As a priority we must keep up the momentum on rebooting the councils that govern Ukraine’s judiciary. Once this is done, Ukraine will be able to appoint thousands of new judges according to the highest standards of excellence. Why is this priority #1? . First and foremost, Ukrainian people need the judicial system to work for them. They are dying for the cause of justice. The justice must be here for them as this war is over.
Secondly, the courts need to work for investors. Reconstruction of Ukraine will depend in large part on foreign investment, and foreign investors will come to Ukraine if they know their investments can be legally protected. Business needs to know that if there is a dispute, they can count on it being settle fairly and efficiently in Ukrainian courts.
The second reform that is especially important for Ukraine’s recovery is decentralization. Excellent progress was made over the last few years to takes democracy to the people, to give local communities more control over their own governance. Post-invasion you see a tendency to control things centrally. This tendency is natural. It is important that it also be let go at appropriate time and that the work of decentralization and the benefits of this reform started working again. Someone sitting in Kyiv cannot set the priorities for someone in Chernivtsi, Kharkiv or Poltava. The state will always need to look after the strategic assets and interests: gas transmission, electricity generation, highways, major bridges, that big main hospitals, and of course the institutions of defence and security. But at the local level, every community has its own needs. Decentralization allows authorities at the city and hromada levels to set their priorities in a way that best suits their local economy and society.
Corporate governance reform is the third priority. Right now, all the talk about Ukraine reconstruction is what other countries like Canada are supporting. The fact is that the vast amount of money is going to come from the private sector. But private sector investors needs to know that state-owned enterprises and corporate governance works properly – that accountability and integrity are assured. Ukrainians know what those principles are. They know what to do and this is a matter of just continuing with those good practices of implementing the principles of OECD on corporate governance. Unfortunately, those reforms are not yet finished. The Government understands that attracting private sector investment means demonstrating a strong and consistent commitment to corporate governance reform.
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Larisa Galadza is Canadian diplomat who has served as Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine since 2019. She received her BA in Political Science and Ethics at Trinity College at the University of Toronto in 1994, and an MA in International Affairs at Carleton University in 1996. In 1996, she joined the Department of National Defence. Prior her appointment as an ambassador, she had been director general of the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program at Global Affairs Canada for 3 years