Category Archives: Russia

Does the NDP want a war with Russia?

Heather McPherson

Does the NDP want to go to war with Russia? Unfortunately that is the logic of a recent statement by its deputy foreign affairs critic.

In an interview with Ukrainian-Canadian media outlet New Pathway, Heather McPherson said the government should promote Ukraine joining NATO. Additionally, she wants Ottawa to expand its military presence in the nation. Asked whether the NDP “support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP [Membership Action Plan] program and advocate for this with our NATO allies” and “expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF [Canadian armed forces] personnel within the program?” McPherson responded: “The NDP will continue to strongly support Ukraine’s bid to join the MAP program and we have and will continue to push the government to advocate for this with our NATO allies. That Prime Minister Trudeau and (Foreign Affairs) Minister (Marc) Garneau have been unwilling to explicitly state their support for Ukraine’s bid and their failure to adequately support the bid via advocacy efforts and multi-lateral diplomacy is very disturbing.

“Further, the NDP would expand both the scope of Operation Unifier and number of CAF personnel within the program. In December 2018, the NDP called for an extension of operation UNIFIER after an unprecedented act of aggression by Russia which seized three Ukrainian ships and their 20 crew members off the coast of Crimea. As you know, in March 2019 the operation was renewed. The support needs to be renewed and increased to acknowledge recent increased aggression by Russia.”

McPherson’s position is highly provocative. As part of Operation UNIFIER, 200 Canadian troops “train” Ukrainian forces that have integrated far right militias who use the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praise officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II. When extending the mission in 2018, the Liberals also eased restrictions that required the Canadians to stay in the western half of Ukraine, away from the fighting in the east that has left over 10,000 dead.

Canadian troops also lead a NATO mission in another nation bordering Russia. Alongside 550 Canadian troops in Latvia, Canadian naval vessels have recently patrolled in the Baltic Sea and Canadian fighter jets have been stationed in Romania.

Massing NATO troops on Russia’s border is highly belligerent. It also violates a US, German and French promise to Soviet/Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the reunification of Germany, an important Cold War divide. In 1990 Gorbachev agreed not to obstruct German reunification, to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from the east and for the new Germany to be part of NATO in return for assurances that the alliance wouldn’t expand “one inch eastward”. Now, the alliance includes countries on Russia’s border and North American troops are stationed there.

Officially NATO operates on the idea that an attack against one member is an attack against all members. Currently the government in Kiev claims Russia is backing a secessionist movement in the largely Russian speaking east of the country and illegally occupying Crimea so adding Ukraine to NATO would put the alliance on a war footing with Russia.

Fortunately, there’s push back to McPherson’s reckless position. In retweeting a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute message stating, “Yikes. NDP is criticizing government for not supporting bringing Ukraine into NATO and says it wants to send more Canadians troops there”, former MP and foreign affairs critic Svend Robinson wrote: “NDP shouldbe calling on Canada to withdraw from this discredited Cold War NATO alliance and redirect arms expenditures into fighting real enemies of climate emergency and obscene inequality in Canada and globally. Canada Out Of NATO.”

Employing more strident language, Rabble blogger David Climenhaga added: “Oh FFS! What is it about Canadian progressives that they have to prove they can be warmongering lunatics too? NATO has no business camped on Russia’s doorstep — it’s bad tactics AND bad strategy. What is the Canadian Greens position on this? I may have to change my vote.” Hoping to stir up dissent within NDP ranks, Green MP Elizabeth May retweeted Robinson’s criticism.

My guess is that Climenhaga and Robinson’s position is closer to that of most NDP activists, members and even voters. A resolution calling on the NDP to “actively campaign to get Canada out of NATO” and “remove the NATO nuclear ring around Russian borders” was submitted by two riding associations to the party’s recent convention (it was never debated). At a time when NATO had at least a nominal Cold War justification, NDP members voted to leave the organization. After years of internal debate over NATO party members called on Ottawa to withdraw from the alliance in 1969. But the position was partially reversed by the NDP leadership in the mid-1980s, culminating in a 1987 “security” policy paper that equivocated on the subject.

Whether or not one believes Canada should withdraw from NATO, pushing to expand the alliance in a way that could put Canada on a war footing with Russia is reckless.

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Neo-Nazi’s arrest highlights Ottawa’s support for Ukrainian far right

oYSPOCYhtB0The recent arrest of a Canadian neo-Nazi on the run in the US should embarrass the federal government. As has been reported, it raises important questions about extremists in the Canadian military. Ignored, however, is the link between the arrest and Ottawa’s support for far-right forces in the Ukraine.

A month ago Canadian Forces engineer Patrik Mathews was arrested by the FBI. This week he pled not guilty to gun charges and plotting to poison water supplies, derail trains and kill people to provoke conflict to create a white “ethno-state.” In August Matthews fled southward after he was outed as a recruiter for The Base, a neo-Nazi group that helped him go underground in the US.

Mathews’ case highlights concern about white supremacists in the Canadian Forces. While the issue has received attention recently, it’s not a new problem. Most cite the early 1990s “Somalia Affair” as the time when the concern was made public. But, in fact the issue is as old as the Canadian military. For example, up to the end of World War II Royal Canadian Navy policy required that “candidates must be of pure European descent.” In other words, the problem of racism and racists in the Canadian Forces is structural and longstanding, something that has never been properly acknowledged or dealt with.

But there is another angle to Matthews’ arrest that should concern every Canadian worried about the rise of the far-right. The Base has ties to the best organized neo-Nazis in the world, whom Ottawa has not condemned, but in fact bolstered. A recent Vice headline noted, “Neo-Nazi Terror Group The Base Linked to the War in Ukraine”. One of The Base members arrested alongside Matthews sought to fight in the Ukraine, according to the charges laid against him. Other members and associates of The Base and other like-minded extremist groups have travelled to the Ukraine recently to meet ultra-nationalists there. Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst at the Soufan Center, a non-profit terrorism watchdog, compared the extreme right’s ties to Ukraine to Al Qaeda’s nesting grounds. “The conflict in eastern Ukraine is to the white supremacists what Afghanistan was to the Salafi-jihadists in the 80’s and 90’s,” Saltskog told Vice. “Remember, al-Qaeda, for which the English translation is ‘The Base,’ was born out of the conflict in Afghanistan.”

The far right benefited from the 2014 right-wing nationalist EuroMaidan movement that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. “The emergence of Azov Battalion and Right Sector in Ukraine in 2014 electrified the neo-Nazi movement” in North America and Europe, notes Jordan Green in “The lost boys of Ukraine: How the war abroad attracted American white supremacists.”

Ottawa supported the US-backed coup against a president oscillating between the European Union and Russia. In July 2015 the Canadian Press reported that opposition protesters were camped in the Canadian Embassy for a week during the February 2014 rebellion against Yanukovych. Since the mid-2000s Ottawa has provided significant support to right wing, nationalist opponents of Russia in the Ukraine.

As part of Operation UNIFIER, 200 Canadian troops — rotated every six months — work with Ukrainian forces that have integrated right wing militias. In June 2018 Canada’s military attaché in Kiev, Colonel Brian Irwin, met privately with officers from the Azov battalion, who use the Nazi “Wolfsangel” symbol and praise officials who helped slaughter Jews and Poles during World War II. According to Azov, Canadian military officials concluded the briefing by expressing “their hopes for further fruitful cooperation.”

Alongside the US, Canada funded, equipped and trained the neo-Nazi infiltrated National Police of Ukraine (NPU), which was founded after Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014.

A former deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, Vadim Troyan had a series of senior positions in the NPU, including acting chief. When a policeman was videoed early last year disparaging a far right protester as a supporter of Stepan Bandera, the National Police chief, National Police spokesman, Interior Minister and other officers repudiatedthe constable by publicly professing their admiration for Bandera. During World War II Bandera aligned with the Nazi occupation, carrying out murderous campaigns against Poles and Jews.

Soon after it was set up, Foreign Minister Stephane Dion announced $8.1 million for the NPU, which replaced the former regime’s police. Canada has provided the force with thousands of uniforms and cameras and helped establish the country’s first national police academy. Beginning in June 2016 up to 20 Canadian police were in the Ukraine to support and advise the NPU. In July 2019 that number was increased to 45 and the deployment was extended until at least 2021.

The post-Maiden Ukrainian government included a number of neo-Nazis. During his 2016 trip to Ukraine Trudeau was photographed with Andriy Parubiy, Ukrainian Parliament speaker, who had a background with the far right and was accused of praising Hitler. Liberal and other party politicians in Canada also spoke alongside and marched with members of Ukraine’s Right Sector, which said it was “defending the values of white, Christian Europe against the loss of the nation and deregionalisation.”

While they talk about the danger of the far right, the Liberals have refused to back a number of UN resolutions opposed to glorifying Nazism, neo-Nazism and racial discrimination because they are viewed as targeting the Ukraine. On November 19, 2015, Ottawa voted against a UN General assembly resolution critical of the aforementioned subject supported by 126 states. The US, Palau and Ukraine were the only other countries to vote against the resolution titled “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” In November the Liberals abstained on a similar resolution.

At this point it seems unlikely that far right groups like The Base will gain significant traction in Canada. But, if they do it will be in part blowback from Canadian policy that views the Ukraine as a proxy in Washington’s campaign to weaken Russia. But, don’t expect the Canadian corporate media to report on this angle of Patrik Matthews’ arrest.

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