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Trudeau shows up in Kyiv on second surprise visit

Trudeau shows up in Kyiv on second surprise visit

by host

It’s been nearly 16 months since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Progress has been incremental. Canada has pledged more than C$8 billion in financial, humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine to date — and the visit signals there’s more support to come.

Trudeau arrived with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. The unannounced visit to Ukraine is both Trudeau and Freeland’s second since war broke out in the country.

Security concerns dictate the usual practice is to confirm the trip after a leader safely leaves a war zone. Last May, an embargo on his secret Ukrainian trip broke early when photos of him touring Irpin were posted on Telegram.

A 13-point joint declaration released after Trudeau’s trip Saturday reaffirmed that Ukraine can rely on Canada for political, financial, humanitarian and military support. It hedged support for Kyiv’s ascension to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Canada supports Ukraine to become a NATO member as soon as conditions allow for it,” it read.

Trudeau and Zelenskyy speak other every few weeks and last saw each other in person in Hiroshima, Japan. There, the Ukrainian president used the G-7 summit spotlight and the city’s devastating history to renew allies’ support.

Ukraine and Russia have since blamed each other over the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which has engulfed towns and villages in southern Ukraine in water from the reservoir.

The timing of the trip also gives Trudeau a break from domestic politics, which has marred his government in controversy over intelligence leaks revealing Ottawa’s janky handling of foreign interference by China.

The protracted campaign has strained the trans-Atlantic alliance — and put additional pressure on Zelenskyy to lead a successful offensive against Russia.

A win would likely lock in future support from the United States, where new military aid for Ukraine has become a divisive debate within the Republican Party. U.S. President Joe Biden, like Trudeau, has pledged to support Kyiv “for as long as it takes.”

But Trudeau doesn’t have the same domestic issue when it comes to Ukraine because of demographics.

Canada is home to 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent, the world’s second-largest diaspora, making support for Ukraine a rare non-partisan issue.

Russia’s war will be on top of the agenda at next week’s gathering of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, where U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to convene a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The meeting will be a prelude to next month’s NATO leaders’ summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the alliance will again have to confront the issue of Ukraine’s membership bid with an active war within its borders.

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