Canada took the world by surprise when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a 4.5 million-dollar military aid package to be delivered to Ukraine around the same time Russian strongman Vladimir Putin revealed his country’s plan to send in a mysterious “humanitarian aid convoy” consisting of over 250 vehicles that suspiciously look like military trucks painted in white – a detail that drew the ire of the Obama Administration. But while US officials never went further than strong words in their opposition to Russian involvement in Ukraine’s struggle with pro-Russian militants, the Canadian military got involved in a seemingly rear-guard role to help its ally. But there’s more than meets the eye.

At first sight, the deals seems symbolic at best, useless at worst. Canadian military aid to Ukraine mostly consists of delivering “non-lethal” equipment to Ukrainian troops – helmet, ballistic protective eyewear, flak jackets, first aid kits, tents and sleeping bags flown in by the Royal Canadian Air Force’s newly acquired C-130J Hercules transport aircraft. National Defence minister Rob Nicholson declared in a press conference that the Canadian military is responding to a request by the Ukrainian government to support their war effort. But the deal still raises my eyebrows, mainly for two reasons.

Cold War Mentality

While such gear is being described as “non-lethal” by Canadian military and civilian officials, most of it will be used on the battlefield. Flak jackets, helmets and ballistic eyewear will be worn by soldiers in combat, as will first-aid kits. Tents will be pitched in the rear and combat and non-combat soldiers alike will use sleeping bags.

So the “non-lethal” aspect the government insisted on is nothing more than a Public Affairs media line, a snake-charming trick to take attention away from one crucial fact – Canada, by committing such a small but bold move, is now militarily involved in the Ukrainian conflict, same as any other nation that supported another. It became the first G8/NATO country to strongly commit to assisting Ukraine, hence taking a clear side against Russia in this regional dispute. Russia consistently denied involvement, even though some of its soldiers forgot to disable their smartphones’ geotracking feature before taking selfies deep within Ukraine’s borders.