HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Canada’s defense minister said Friday Ukraine’s military is winning the war and Russian President Vladimir Putin has only united NATO and renewed its purpose.
Defense Minister Anita Anand made the remarks at the start of the annual Halifax International Security Forum which attracts defense and security officials from Western democracies.
“The spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy continue to inspire us all. Ukraine’s armed forces are driven, disciplined, and better-trained - and they are winning,” Anand said.
Russia is facing mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. Moscow recently pulled troops out of the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power facilities have fueled fears of what the dead of winter will bring.
Anand said Putin wrongly assumed the Russian army would easily override the Ukrainians and that the West would sit back.
“Putin misjudged. Russia’s full-scale and unprovoked invasion has only strengthened NATO’s resolve and unity - and renewed its raison d’être,” she said.
Halifax International Security President Peter Van Praagh also said Ukraine’s fight has given Western allies a unity of purpose.
“Had Ukraine surrendered, as some European leaders urged President Zelenskyy to do, it’s not difficult to imagine where we would be now: a much-weakened Europe, a divided NATO, a humbled America: all confronting an empowered Russia, backed by a smiling Xi Jinping,” Van Praagh said.
“That is not where we are. Quite the opposite.”
In its 14th year, about 300 people gather each year at Halifax International Security Forum an intimate setting at Halifax’s Westin hotel. Van Praagh noted 13 Ukranian refugees now work at the hotel.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Jim Risch, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration are among those in attendance.
Liberation and victory on the battlefield have provided further incentive for Western allies like Canada to keep a steady flow of military aid that directly helps Ukraine’s advances.
Van Praagh said Ukraine has reminded countries that “our democracies are worth fighting for. Our democracies are worth saving.
In a recorded message, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said peace is possible “but for it, we must make Russian aggression impossible.”