The war in Ukraine has entered its third year or tenth year, depending on how one looks at it. It has been ten years since the Russian annexation of Crimea and its eastern regions of Donetsk and Donbas and three years since Russia committed its forces to widen its campaign in Ukraine — but it has been a decade. Last year, there was hope that Ukraine’s counteroffensive would bear territory, but Russia’s multi-layered defence and heavily seeded minefields have stalled the West’s hopes for a quick victory.

Ukraine’s defence has been stymied by the prolonged delay of American aid. 60 billion USD worth of aid is now stuck in the US House of Representatives after finally getting through the US Senate.  European countries, and Canada, made pledges. Most of the commitments are long-term.

There have been new immediate commitments as Europe is finding old stockpiles of ammunition and committing new ammunition. The Czech Republic has found “half a million of 155-millimetre shells and 300 thousand shells of 122-millimetre calibre.” The Czech Republic is asking for monetary compensation and Canada and other countries are bankrolling it. Denmark announced at the Munich Security Conference that it would send the entirety of its artillery and artillery ammunition to Ukraine.

Prime Minister Trudeau made a surprise visit to Kyiv and announced 3.02 billion CAD in aid over the next ten years in a security package for Ukraine on the 2nd anniversary of the Russian large-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, there are Ukrainian requests on hold. Ukraine expressed that it wants 83,000 decommissioned CRV-7 rockets that Canada is in the process of fully decommissioning. These 1980s-era air-to-ground rockets were Canadian-built and taken out of service in the early 2000s. It is a sizeable number and one that can be politicized.  The Conservative Party (the official opposition) called on the government to transfer all of the rockets to Ukraine.

It was reported that a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) estimate was that only 8,000 were pristine and viable with intact motors, solid fuel and warheads. But the actual request also has been debated and refuted, by a recent article. According to the article, Ukraine was hoping for viable sold-fuelled rocket motors from the CRV-7s.

It was announced that Canada would donate more than 800  SkyRanger R70 multi-mission Unmanned Aerial Systems to Ukraine – a quadcopter with surveillance equipment. Ukraine is still waiting for the national advanced surface−to−air missile system, known as NASAMS, that Canada pledged and paid 406 million CAD in early 2023.  The Conservatives have not outlined that they will support the new security package but just committed to Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

Canada’s artillery shell stocks are depleting and there has been no agreement to ramp up production, according to the CBC. However, it will take a 400 million CAD investment and the government is debating if there will be a long-term demand to justify the investment.

There is a case for not increasing production of the 155 mm artillery shell. If everyone else in the NATO alliance is doing so, then why should we? The overall production capacity would increase and if we need to draw from it, then we can through our partners. Of course, there are differences between the 155mm shells. Canada did award a $4.8 million contract to IMT Defence to increase production of the M107 shell from 3,000 a month to 5,000 a month. A further $2 million contract was awarded to GDOT to update its production of the more lethal and longer-range M795 variant.

Canada has not reached the NATO goal of 2% defence spending for every member. Canada’s military is in between old frigates and fighter jets and delayed commitments for new ones. It has a personnel retention and recruitment problem. Canada’s role on the world stage is facing irrelevance, according to retired General Rick Hillier, former chief of the defence staff, and he feels sorry for the people who currently are serving in Canada’s military due to procurement issues. Former Liberal foreign minister, and deputy prime minister, stated that Canada has lost its bearings and is no longer useful on the world stage.

There are pressures to increase defence spending. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg wants to know what Canada’s plan is, and when it will meet the 2 percent GDP defence spending commitment. According to the US Ambassador to NATO, Canada is the only country that has not announced its plan to meet that commitment. That is because there are no plans to meet it. There is no announced plan because there is no plan to do so.

With depleted artillery shells, and a military that seems to be in disrepair when it comes to new equipment and supplies, what can Canada do?

Something radical.

If the Canadian government wants to do something, it should be a radical reawakening. Upping the defence budget to 2% is not viable politically, nor it is viable militarily. That sounds ludicrous, but Canada does not know how to spend on its defence, nor does it know how to procure new weapons systems efficiently and effectively.

The simple answer is to donate all of our artillery shells to Ukraine now. Canada cannot hit Russia with them from its territory. Canada should also announce that it will provide logistical support and air-to-air missiles and other systems ahead of the F-16 transfer to Ukraine…whenever that happens. Canada already donated some of its 82 tanks spread across three variants of the Leopard 2s – A4, A4M and the A6M. But Canada cannot replace those variants unless it upgrades to the more modern ones.

In the words of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen: “This is not only a question about production, because we have weapons, we have ammunition, we have air defence that we don’t have to use ourselves at the moment, that we should deliver to Ukraine.”

Ukraine needs equipment, ammunition, logistical supplies as well as the economic and political support we have given them. Most of our allies are clearing out their closets of old equipment and shells that they don’t need. Let’s do the same thing – a Canadian defence fire sale to Ukraine and then replace it with new equipment, new shells and capabilities… it might even up our NATO defence spending in the short-term to get everyone off our back. Trudeau should find his Gary Oldman from Leon The Professional and exclaim: send everything.


Feature Photo: “Canadian Armed Forces members of Dragon Battery”, 7 November 2023, Canadian Forces Combat Camera – 2024

By Stewart Webb

The editor of DefenceReport and Senior Analyst, Stewart Webb holds a MScEcon in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and a BA in Political Science from Acadia University. A frequent guest on defence issues for CTV National News, and other Canadian media outlets, his specialities include commentary on terrorist/insurgent activity and Canadian defence issues. Stewart can be contacted at: [email protected]