Trudeau promises to arm Ukraine with modern military equipment

Ukraine’s long-standing pleas — and prayers — for advanced Western weapons are beginning to be answered as Canada announced Thursday it plans to send dozens of brand-new armoured personnel carriers to the embattled country.

Pledge part of series of historic decisions made during 2-day summit of NATO members

Canada to send drones, armoured vehicles to Ukraine

1 year ago
Duration 2:00
Featured VideoCanada has promised to send new drone cameras and armoured vehicles to Ukraine on the last day of the NATO leaders summit, which also emphasized the need for members to increase defence spending.

Ukraine's long-standing pleas — and prayers — for advanced Western weapons are beginning to be answered as Canada announced Thursday it plans to send dozens of brand-new armoured personnel carriers to the embattled country.

It is part of an overall push by NATO, which has said it will help the eastern European country convert to a modern military kit.

At the conclusion of the NATO leaders summit in Madrid, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada is working on finalizing a deal to provide Ukraine with 39 armoured combat support vehicles (ACSVs). They had been destined for the Canadian Army and were in the process of being delivered, but instead will be diverted.

"The light armoured vehicles we will be sending over will be extremely effective," Trudeau told reporters as the summit ended. "We're just glad to help and we're going to continue to look and respond to things that they need."

A large, green military vehicle with eight tires is parked inside a building near a large door.
A new armoured combat support vehicle (ACSV), constructed by General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada. The Canadian government is giving 39 of the vehicles to Ukraine. (Department of National Defence)

Trudeau pledged the Canadian Army, especially in light of decisions at the NATO summit, will not go without.

"Stocks for the Canadian military will be replenished as quickly as possible," he said. "We need to make sure that the women and men of the Canadian Forces have the equipment they need to continue their mission and step up as necessary. We also recognize that the best use, right now, of things like howitzers and sniper rifles and all of the other equipment we've been sending to Ukraine — the best use for Canadian security, for geopolitical stability — is to put them in the hands of Ukrainians."

In addition, the Ukrainians will get an additional six high-resolution cameras for use on their highly effective, Turkish-built Bayraktar drones, which have become lauded for their accuracy in taking out Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

The deal to provide armoured support vehicles, which are meant exclusively for troop transport, will come with a support, in-service package and be provided by the manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, based in London, Ont. They are different from infantry fighting vehicles, which come equipped with a turret and 25-millimetre cannon.

The Canadian Army had ordered 360 of the armoured support vehicles and a senior government official, speaking on background before the announcement, said there is a commitment to replace what is being taken out of the army's stock.

The source said the vehicles are expected to be in service with Ukrainian troops this summer, after a bit of training.

The latest donation of equipment will effectively exhaust the $500 million the Liberal government set aside for military gear to support Ukraine.

WATCH | Canada will increase the number of its troops in Latvia as NATO boosts its presence in Europe:

Canada to add troops as NATO boosts European presence

1 year ago
Duration 2:02
Featured VideoCanada will increase the number of its troops in Latvia as NATO increases its presence in Europe and the U.S. sends ships to Spain.

The announcement comes a day after it was announced that Canada had signed a deal with Latvia to help bolster the NATO battle group in the Baltic country to bring it up to brigade size, as alliance leaders have mandated.

Trudeau said that decision will mean the commitment of additional Canadian troops.

NATO vows to bolster Ukraine's military supplies

It was part of a series of historic decisions made over a two-day summit of leaders of the Western military alliance in Madrid.

"A strong independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said while briefing the media late Wednesday.

His remarks came after what was a blistering video address to alliance leaders by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, whose country has for more than a dozen years been trying to join NATO.

NATO's Chair of the Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, right, talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the session during the NATO summit on Thursday in Madrid. The alliance has agreed to arm Ukraine with more modern military equipment. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press)

He asked them: Has Ukraine "not paid enough" to join the alliance? His remarks came on the same day as Finland and Sweden were put on the fast track to join the alliance.

"We will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO equipment, boost interoperability and strengthen its defence and security institutions," said Stoltenberg.

Ukraine has lost tanks, armoured personnel carriers

CBC News has learned that NATO planners and U.S. officials are looking at how to switch the Ukrainians to modern battle tanks from the older Soviet-style T-72s and T-80s they've been fighting with.

An older model Russian T-72 tank sits burned out and destroyed in the village of Biskvitne, east of Kharkiv. It was wrecked in fighting with Ukrainian troops, who retook the area in April 2022. (Murray Brewster/CBC)

Although the Ukrainians will not confirm the number, defence experts estimate a little less than half of Ukraine's tank force has been lost in combat, along with two-thirds of their armoured personnel carriers.

There are allies with greater stockpiles of new and used equipment, which could make NATO's job a lot easier and quicker.

"We have several thousand M-1 [Abrams] tanks in storage. We just retired 2,000 Bradley's from the active force," said Phillip Karber of the Washington-based Potomac Foundation, who has been quietly advising senior Ukrainian defence officials.

He said the U.S. could equip a large part of the Ukrainian army out of its stock of recently retired tanks and heavy equipment. There is a drawback, though. It will take money and time to put the equipment back in fighting trim.

"So the American public, American taxpayers, have already paid for this," he said. "The problem is that if you take the stuff that's been — or is being — retired or it's been stored, it's expensive and labour intensive to bring it back up to operation."

Additionally, there have been reports that suggest the U.S. has purchased a modern National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System for Ukraine — similar to the one that already protects the U.S. capital.

It would boost Ukraine's ability to protect its skies from Russian aircraft and cruise missiles.

The country is currently using older Soviet-built systems, such as the S-300 long-range missile batteries.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.