Rick Hillier, chairman of the Strategic Advisory Council, which will consult UWU on the purchase of protective equipment for the military, shared plans to raise a massive fund and equip 100,000 Ukrainians from the Territorial Defense Forces.
Anna, CBC: Some of the world’s foremost military commanders are joining forces to help Ukraine defend its territory. The non-profit Ukrainian World Congress is putting together a Strategic Advisory Council, as we approach the five months mark of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Retired Canadian General Rick Hillier is leading that effort and joins me live from Campbellton, Newfoundland. I knew you’d keep busy with the Strategic Advisory Council, and you are running it. What’s your plan?
Hillier: Our plan is to help Ukraine, help Ukraine, you know, a democratic nation defend itself against a brutal dictator who’s invading it and destroying its country and killing its people. And so we want to help in our unique way by putting our shoulder behind the Ukrainian World Congress and helping people realize that they should advocate for support Ukraine and donate for support Ukraine. And so that’s what we want to do – help Ukraine.
Anna, CBC: And help – that can take many forms. What’s on your list when it comes to that to-do help list?
Hillier: Well, very practical, because we’re soldiers, after all, all of us who are part of the council. Dave Petraeus, General Wesley Clark, General Dick Lodewijk Berlijn from the Netherlands, and myself. And what we want to do is equip the defenders of Ukraine, specifically, the 100,000 Territorial Defense Force members. As a very recent organization, they are the moms and dads of Ukraine who have joined up to defend their families, defend their villages. They’ve gotten very little training and are absolutely poorly equipped. And we want to help change that by raising money and purchasing and getting to them the equipment they need to protect themselves.
So very simply, a helmet to protect their head, their noggin from shrapnel and shock, ballistic goggles to protect their eyes from the shrapnel of rocks and dust and explosions, flak vests with the plates, knee pads, boots, and medical kits, like, which they can use to save their life or the lives of their battle buddies. And we’re looking at 100,000. You know, $2,500 a soldier so we’re looking at raising a lot of money to outfit those Territorial Defense Force men and women and maybe give them an increased probability, when they go into action, to defend their families against those russians who are so brutal and so vicious, that maybe they’ll have a chance now of surviving that fight, you know, the flak vests with steel plates as much better than a shirt at defeating a 7.62 round fired up?
Anna, CBC: Yeah, but my question would be this, you can have all the protective equipment you want. If I have steel-toed boots, but I don’t know how to use the jackhammer, I’m still gonna get hurt. You know what I mean? So is the equipment the important thing, or is the training to use lethal weapons to protect what’s important?
Hillier: So Anna, no one of these things will stand alone. And you know, I said earlier this morning,at an event we were talking about, if you combine the courage and the willingness to serve and sacrifice of the Ukrainian soldiers and the men and women in Ukraine, which I saw firsthand myself, because recently, and if you combine that with the equipment’s that the Western governments are providing them – not fast enough – but providing them and you combine that with training, which countries like Canada can do superbly. And then private donations to equip individuals like the Territorial Defense Force, then you’ve got a winning equation to defend the country and defeat the russian invaders. You can’t do it with just one of those silos or two. You have to have all four of them together.
Anna, CBC: You know, I’m an optimistic kind of gal. I’m a glass-half-full person. And while you can have all the optimism in your heart, sometimes, and I’ve spoken with other, you know, military leaders like yourself, who say this is going to be a protracted war. So in your heart, is there a chance? And could it be soon?
Hillier: Well, look, I’m an optimist also, Sue. So I’m, after all, I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and I have been all my life. You have to be an optimist to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
Anna: You’re absolutely right.
Hillier: You know, I observe firsthand, I’ll say again, the courage and the willingness to serve and sacrifice up the Ukrainian men and women defending their country. The West are getting the equipment to them. And I commend, I mentioned specifically the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Poland and Estonia. I mean, they have been incredible. And I would challenge every other NATO country to be able to stand up and deliver the kind of material that they have. But if you can’t deliver material, then deliver the training that goes, that’s required to bring all that together into fighting formations. And there’s a place where Canada could stand out because we’ve done it in the past and is desperately needed now. We can do it. So if you get those things to come together, and they can come together in part now, then I’m an optimist that Ukraine can win this fight. And eventually, over the longer term, yes, it will be a protracted struggle, over the longer term to eject the russians from eastern Ukraine and from Ukraine, from their homeland.
Anna, CBC: Yeah, I’ve heard soldiers say failure is not an option. And I can hear that in your voice. Let me ask you this. The four of you, are you working well together. Are you on the same page? And you have, you know, you get four military, you know, leaders together in a room, sometimes there can be some clashing of ideas or you’re working well?
Hillier: You know, superbly. First of all, we’re all battle buddies. Here, you know, and I know David Petraeus from Bosnia, way back when and all. Wes Clarke, of course, from European time and Dick Berlijn was the chief of defense staff in the Netherlands when we were, when I was chief of defense staff. We all work well together. We will have our own opinions. And we’ll come together and discuss those and bring forward the best concerted advice to the Ukrainian World Congress on how they can work best to support Ukraine. And then we will also want to work with the commanders in Ukraine to help them tell us what are their number one needs, and how we can help those needs in terms of priority and how they can go about themselves. We’ll also want to advocate on behalf of Ukraine with Western governments and convince people to go to Unite with Ukraine and donate to help support that non-lethal equipment that we want to buy.
Anna, CBC: I’ll be watching with great interest. I certainly wish you great success and a pleasure as always. you take care, OK, General.
Hillier: Thank you, Sueanna. So I know we’re gonna be successful. It might take a while, but we’re going to be successful.
Anna, CBC: Again, the optimist. Retired General Rick Hillier. He is in Campbellton, Newfoundland.