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Trudeau Visits Ukraine for May G7 Virtual Summit

John Kirton, G7 Research Group
May 9, 2022

On Sunday, May 8, 2022, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau visited Ukraine and its courageous leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky there. The visit was significant in several ways.

Trudeau was the second G7 country leader to visit, following prime minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

Trudeau travelled to Irpin in Ukraine's far east, a city close to the current front lines of the escalating war, and one that the Ukrainians had recently recaptured from the invading Russians. The location highlighted Ukraine's military progress in turning back the retreating Russians and doing so from the site of some of the worst war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

In Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv, Trudeau reopened the Canadian embassy and announced the latest installment of Canada's significant military support for Ukraine, sanctions against Russia for its aggression there and badly needed financing for the World Food Programme and human rights and other civil society groups.

In return Zelensky praised Canada's support for his defiant but embattled country, suggesting that Canada stood second as a supporter, after only the much more powerful United States.

Trudeau took with him to Ukraine his deputy prime minister and finance minister Chrystia Freeland, his foreign minister Melanie Joly and his most senior political staff.

In doing so, he showed his complete confidence in Ukraine's ability to protect him and his closest advisers, Russia's inability to detect and destroy them, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's wise decision not to target and try to kill so many top Canadian leaders so close at hand.

Trudeau's timing of his visit sent several powerful messages too.

It took place on Victory Europe Day, when a defeated Nazi Germany had finally surrendered to the western allies exactly 77 years ago, and which Canadians had then celebrated six long years after declaring war on Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939.

It came the day before May 9, when Russia would celebrate its own anniversary of the shared World War Two victory. On this day Soviet leader Joseph Stalin insisted on creating with a separate Nazi surrender to the Soviet Union in 1945. Division amid unity, and Putin's dispute about whether the western allies or the Soviets had done the most to win the war, appeared again. Trudeau's timing showed that the west was ahead of Putin, who was still well behind the curve.

Trudeau's trip also took place as Canadians celebrated "Mothers' Day," thus highlighting the Russian military's violence against women in Ukraine, and Canada's continuing commitment to its feminist foreign policy, where it has led the world. The visit of US first lady Dr. Jill Biden, on the same day, to meet her counterpart in Ukraine reinforced the broader message about the importance of the rights of women and girls.

Trudeau's visit took place on the same day as the latest G7 summit, which he attended virtually from Kyiv. In a powerful, very visible sign of Canadian and G7 unity with Ukraine, Trudeau participated in the summit together with Zelensky at his side.

The hour-long G7 summit marked another step in the group's unprecedentedly intense summitry and global leadership, along with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, in countering Russia's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine that had started most recently on February 24, 2022.

At the summit's end, the extensive, wide-ranging, four-page G7 Leaders' Statement began and ended with a commemoration of VE day. In a possible olive branch for an embittered Putin, its second sentence stated: "We mourn the millions of victims and offer our respect, especially to all those who paid the ultimate price to defeat the National Socialist regime, including the western Allies and the Soviet Union." Its last sentence poignantly and firmly declared: "We owe it to the memory of all those who fought for freedom in the Second World War, to continue fighting for it today, for the people of Ukraine, Europe and the global community."

In between, G7 leaders made many public commitments, across a broad range of subjects. Focusing on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they produced further promises on military and defence assistance to Ukraine, defence against cyber attacks, and support for information, economic and energy security. Five specific measures stood out: stopping the import of Russian oil, ending key services to Russia, acting again against Russia banks, countering private firms spreading Russian propaganda, and sanctioning Russia's elites and their families. More broadly, they promised to support Ukraine's refugees, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, shipping routes and long-term reconstruction "to help Ukraine rebuild its future."

On climate change, they pledged to accelerate their "reduction of our overall reliance on fossil fuels and our transition to clean energy in accordance with our climate objectives." And they identified several specific new measures to support global food security.

In all, the May 8 G7 summit, backed by Trudeau's visit to Ukraine, provided momentum for success at the G7's long-scheduled, in-person summit at Elmau, Germany, on June 26-28, 2022, and for victory in Putin's unprovoked war against Ukraine.

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