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Ukraine signs security deals with Italy, Canada to boost defenses against Russia

The accords with Italy and Canada follow earlier security partnerships between Ukraine and the UK, Germany, France, and Denmark over the past month.
Trudeau in Kyiv Ukraine Canada security deal
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv after signing the bilateral security deal. Screenshot from video
Ukraine signs security deals with Italy, Canada to boost defenses against Russia

Ukraine has signed significant bilateral security agreements with Italy and Canada, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Saturday, marking nearly a year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country.

The deals are aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s defense capabilities and cementing Western military aid as the war continues. They also signal enduring support from European and North American allies at a crucial juncture.

Both agreements are valid for 10 years and establish a mechanism for a 24-hour emergency response in the event of renewed military aggression against Ukraine, and include guarantees of ongoing military assistance to Ukraine as it struggles to fend off the Russian invasion.

The agreements are bilateral, meaning that Ukraine will also respond in case of a threat to Canada or Italy.

“An important result of today’s [meeting] was the signing of a bilateral security agreement. This document lays a solid foundation for a lasting security partnership between Ukraine and Italy,” Zelenskyy said after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Kyiv.

Italy security guarantees for Ukraine
Italian PM Giorgia Meloni and Ukrainian President in Kyiv while concluding the bilateral security deal between Ukraine and Italy. Credit: president.gov.ua

Meloni said the deal showed Italy’s “firm support” for Ukraine’s independence and defense.

The deal states that Italy intends to continue providing assistance and advice to Ukraine on reforming and developing its future Armed Forces, both bilaterally and alongside partners like the EU and NATO. This includes contributing to the EU’s Advisory Mission in Ukraine and special Military Cooperation Plans aimed at supporting Ukraine’s military development.

Italy also intends to support the professional development of Ukraine’s defense personnel by providing access to Italian military training institutions. 

The leaders also discussed coordinating Ukraine’s reconstruction through the EU and G7, with Italy currently holding the presidency. Zelenskyy thanked Italy for its steadfast backing on all fronts, including defense and rebuilding efforts. Italy has pledged to continue providing military aid through 2024.

Later on Saturday, Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a similar bilateral security agreement in Kyiv.

“Today we signed another security agreement that strengthens the positions of our people, and especially our warriors. This is a powerful and timely decision that makes an important contribution to strengthening our resilience,” Zelenskyy said.

Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s “unwavering support” and said the deal would lay the foundations for defense cooperation “in the years and decades to come.”

The agreement includes over $3 billion Canadian dollars (about $2.15 billion) in financial and defense assistance from Canada to Ukraine in 2024, Zelenskyy added. The full text of the agreement is available here.

“You have been with Ukraine since the first days of the full-scale war. This is very valuable to us,” he told Trudeau.

The accords with Italy and Canada follow earlier security partnerships between Ukraine and the UK, Germany, France, and Denmark over the past month.

The agreements further the Joint Declaration launched by the UK, Ukraine, and other members of the G7 in Vilnius on 12 July 2023, subsequently joined by a further 24 states.

Ukraine hopes to sign similar bilateral deals with some 30 countries in total. The pacts aim to guarantee Western military aid and expand production and purchases of weapons for Ukraine’s armed forces.

String of security agreements with NATO nations

Ukraine has been seeking security guarantees from Western nations as it fights against Russia’s invasion and NATO membership is ruled out before the war ends.

This comes after the failure of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, under which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances from Russia, the US and UK. However, Russia violated that agreement by attacking and occupying Ukrainian territory starting in 2014.

Wary of vague assurances, Ukraine now hopes to sign binding bilateral security deals with over a dozen countries. On 12 January 2024, Ukraine signed the first such pact with the UK. It includes £2.5 billion in military aid for 2024 and a pledge of “rapid and substantial” help if Russia attacks again. While lacking an explicit defense guarantee, the deal sets positive precedents.

The UK-Ukraine pact has more concrete legal undertakings than the Budapest Memorandum. However, questions remain about the West’s long-term commitments. The agreement alone does not provide full guarantees for Ukraine. Its significance depends on what additional support follows from other nations.

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