HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Canada’s defense minister on Friday said Ukraine’s military was winning the war and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had just unified 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) Zelensky continue to inspire us all. Ukraine’s armed forces are motivated, disciplined and better trained – and they’re winning,” Anand said.
Russia faces mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. Moscow recently withdrew troops from the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine. But Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy and power plants have fueled fears of what the dead of winter will bring.
Anand said Putin wrongly assumed that the Russian army would easily overwhelm the Ukrainians and that the West would sit back.
“Putin miscalculated. Russia’s all-out 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 struggle has given Western allies a unified goal.
“Had Ukraine surrendered, as some European leaders urged President Zelenskyy to do, it is not difficult to imagine where we would be now: a severely weakened Europe, a divided NATO, a humiliated America: all facing an empowered Russia supported by a smile Xi Jinping,” said Van Praagh.
“We’re not there. But on the contrary.”
In its 14th year, approximately 300 people gather each year at the Halifax International Security Forum, an intimate setting at Halifax’s Westin Hotel. Van Praagh noted that 13 Ukrainian refugees are now working at the hotel.
Attendees include US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Jim Risch, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.
Liberation and victory on the battlefield have provided further incentive for Western allies like Canada to maintain a steady stream of military aid directly supporting Ukraine’s advance.
Van Praagh said Ukraine reminded countries that “our democracies are worth fighting for. Our democracies are worth saving.
In a recorded message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said peace is possible, “but for that we must make Russian aggression impossible.”