Category Archives: Latvia

The Russian Minority in the Baltics Live Under “Apartheid” States

It has been nearly three decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite Russia’s reemergence on the world stage as a respected power after market-oriented ‘reforms’ destroyed its economy for the duration of the nineties, the breakup of the USSR is an event regarded by an increasing amount of Russians as a catastrophic tragedy rather than a triumph of ‘freedom and democracy.’ In recent years, there have been numerous polls showing that more than half of Russians not only regret the collapse of the Soviet Union but would even prefer for its return. However, the nostalgia only comes as a surprise to those who have forgotten that not long before the failed August Coup that led to its demise, the first and only referendum in its history was held in March of 1991 which polled citizens if they wished to preserve the Soviet system.

The results were more than three quarters of the population in the entire socialist federation (including Russia) voting a resounding yes with a turnout of 80% in the participating republics. In Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan the outcome was more than 90% voting for renewal. Even the country with the lowest amount of support, the Ukraine, was still 70% in favor. While the measure was officially banned in six republics— Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and the three Baltic states— despite being unrecognized by their local governments the vote was still organized and the outcomes were all over 90%. Ironically, the union dissolved five months later under the pretext of establishing ‘democracy’ in Eastern Europe just as it ignored the very wishes of Soviet citizens. After more than 25 years of suffering at the hands of economic and trade liberalization, gutting of state subsidies and mass privatization of the former state-run industry, is it any wonder that Russians are yearning for a return to socialism?

The consequences of the disintegration are still felt in the relations with the United States today. It planted the seeds for the carefully arranged revival of the Cold War that was hiding in plain sight until it surfaced with ‘color revolutions’, proxy wars and dubious spy poisonings. One source of the strained relations between the West and Russia has been the Baltic states, which burgeoned following their integration into the European Union and enrollment in NATO membership in 2004 during its enlargement. NATO continues its provocations with massive war games bordering Kaliningrad, while Moscow is painted as the aggressor even though the U.S. defense spending increase this year alone surpasses Russia’s entire military budget.

The antagonism between Latvia, Estonia and (to a lesser degree) Lithuania with Moscow stems partly from the cessation of the USSR itself. The conclusion of the Cold War resulted in more than 25 million Russians instantly discovering themselves living abroad in foreign countries. For seventy years, fifteen nations had been fully integrated while Russians migrated and lived within the other republics. The Soviet collapse immediately reignited national conflicts, from the Caucasus to the Baltics. While the majority of the ethnic Russian diaspora live in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, nearly 1 million reside in the post-Soviet Baltics and since 1991 they have been subjected to a campaign of forced assimilation, discrimination and exclusion.

The Baltic republics made nationalism their official state policy while moving away from Russia’s sphere of influence into a closer relationship with the West. Boris Yeltsin’s subservience to Washington eclipsed any concern for the fate of captive Russians as the Soviet Bloc was herded into the EU, but his administration did quarrel with the new Baltic authorities and accused them of creating an anti-Russian ‘apartheid.’ As geopolitical tensions have increased under his successor, Vladimir V. Putin, who has embarrassed Western imperialism in the international arena, so has Moscow’s disapproval of the treatment of its minority held hostage in the Baltic Rim. Is a comparison to South Africa warranted? Even if the similarities are only partial, the three states show evidence of deep ethnocracy.

While less than 10% of Lithuania is ethnically Russian, in Latvia and Estonia the number is much higher at a quarter of their entire populations. The three governments have passed laws promoting their official languages and restored citizenship requirements that existed up until 1940, demanding that their Russian minorities apply or risk losing basic rights and guarantees. Russia has interpreted these measures as a form of slow-motion ethnic cleansing intended to coerce Russians to immigrate elsewhere. When the three states first became independent, in an act of systematic discrimination they distributed non-citizen ‘alien’ passports to ethnic Russians and excluded them from obtaining citizenship automatically, even if they had lived and worked in a Baltic state for their entire life. In fact, citizenship was not immediately granted to anyone whose ancestry arrived after 1940, a policy that specifically targeted ethnic Russians who without naturalization are left stateless.

For example, when Estonia first declared its independence more than 30% of its population (or every third person) did not have citizenship of the country of residence. This inscribed ethnic division into their society and although many Russians have become naturalized over the last two decades, there are still more than 80,000 in Estonia without determined status who are mostly former Soviet citizens and their descendants. In Latvia, segregation runs even deeper where more than 250,000 Russians (15% of the population) remain stateless. Even when they do become citizens, the parliaments have attempted to pass laws banning non-EU immigrants (predominantly Russians) from possessing voting rights on several occasions. Polls also show the prejudice within their societies, with many Balts indicating they would prefer their Russian-speaking neighbors to repatriate. Meanwhile, the Russian population has expressed concern about the reemergence of neo-Nazism. The authorities have nurtured holocaust denial, such as the Latvian government objecting to an UNESCO Holocaust exhibition of the Salaspils concentration camp on the basis it would ‘tarnish the country’s image.’ No kidding.

One criteria for the naturalization exams is based on language where in order to become citizens Russians must become fluent in Latvian and Estonian, even though they are such a large minority that in larger cities they often constitute 50% of the population and Russian may be the most spoken language. Simultaneously, any attempt to make Russian a second official language have been struck down. It is a deliberate effort to assimilate the Russian-speaking minority and erase remnants of Soviet culture. In order to obtain basic entitlements, Russians have to pass the tough naturalization tests which many fail several times (especially the elderly), facing fines and risking losing their employment in the process. The tests are notoriously difficult as Latvian and Estonian languages bear little resemblance to Slavic Russian and are much closer to Finnish. Apart from ethnicity, 40% of Latvia as a whole identifies as Russian-speaking and have been accustomed to schooling in their native tongue where they already have low career prospects and income rates. Rather than inclusion, they have been mandated to adopt the Baltic languages. Beginning in 2019, the Russian language education options in Latvia will be discontinued altogether in higher education at colleges and universities as well as many secondary schools, which has sparked demonstrations in protest.

It should be made clear that what ethnic Russians experience in the Baltics has its own particularities that make it significantly different from the institutionalized racism and violently enforced segregation that existed in South Africa (or what many believe is applicable to the Palestinians under Israeli occupation). The word apartheid itself originates from the Afrikaans word for ‘separateness’ (or apart-hood), but an exact comparison is not the real issue. There are many overlapping characteristics that make an analogy arguable. For instance, the use of an ID system denoting ethnicity and alien status with the inability of Russians to participate in the democratic process or politics. Their reduced standing contributes to a society where ethnic groups often do not intermingle and are concentrated in particular areas with Russians mostly residing in urban cities. Yet even Israel (until July 2018) recognized Arabic as a second official language, while none of three Baltic states do so for Russian. When referendums have been held on whether to adopt Russian as a second language, the non-citizen communities are excluded from voting, ensuring its inability to pass.

The exams also coerce Russians to accept a nationalist and historically revisionist account of the last century where the Soviet Union is said to have “occupied” the Baltics. A history lesson is needed to understand how this is untrue and based on pure Nazi mythology. During the Romanov dynasty, the Baltic states had been part of the Russian Empire but became independent for the first time in centuries following the February Revolution in 1917. Along with Belarus and Finland, the Bolsheviks were unable to regain the three republics during the Russian Civil War. During the 1930s, the three nations were officially sovereign states but under their own brutal nationalist regimes. The Soviet liberation of the Baltics can hardly be seen as a ‘forceful incorporation’ considering what they replaced were not democracies themselves and they were absorbed in order to block Hitlerite expansionism.

Since the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe, the Baltic states have waged a campaign of diminishing and obscuring the Holocaust into a ‘double genocide’ of equal proportions, conflating the Nazis and the Soviets as twin evils. Western ‘democracies’ have helped obfuscate the truth about the widely misunderstood Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the treaty of non-belligerence between Germany and the USSR. The 1939 non-aggression pact has been painted as a ‘secret alliance’ between the Nazis and the Soviets, disregarding that France and Great Britain had done the same with the Germans the previous year with the Munich Agreement. Only the Soviets are said to have ‘conspired’ with Hitler, just as when the West fought the Germans it was for ‘liberal values’ but when the USSR did so it was for competing ‘dominion’ over Europe. In order to mask their own fascist sympathies, the West has falsified the historical reasons for the accord. In reality, there were measures incorporating the Baltic states into the USSR as part of a mutual defense and assistance against German imperialism and their ‘master plan’ for the East.

The truth is that the ruling class in the West feared the spread of communism much more than fascism, and actually viewed the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe as an opportunity to crush the Soviet Union. Leading up to WWII, not only was it Western capital investment which financed the rapid buildup of Germany’s armed forces, but the U.S., Britain and France did everything within their power to encourage Hitler’s aggression toward the USSR. More than once they collectively refused to sign any mutual security alliance with Moscow while appeasing Hitler’s expansionism in Czechoslovakia, with the British in particular guilty of sabotaging negotiations to isolate the Soviets and pit them into a war against Germany.

Stalin was well aware the Nazis planned to expand the Lebensraum further East, but the Soviets were in the midst of a rapid industrialization process that accomplished in a single decade what took the British more than a century. They needed time to guarantee they could defeat an offensive by the Wehrmacht, the most powerful and developed military force in the world at the time. It provided an additional year and ten months of further buildup of Soviet armaments — if not for this move, it is possible the Germans would never have been stopped twenty kilometers short of Moscow and turned the outcome of the war in their favor. The real reason the pact infuriated the West was because it obligated them into having to fight the Germans, something the imperial powers had hoped to avoid altogether.

More disturbingly, the Baltic governments have drawn from the traditions of the far right by whitewashing the local nationalists that sided with Germany during their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 which broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The Nazi collaborators have been restored and normalized as ‘freedom fighters’ who fought solely for Baltic independence. The Estonian parliament has even adopted resolutions honoring the Estonian Legion and 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) without any such equivalent measure for the more than 30,000 Estonians who courageously fought in the Red Army. To most Russians, it is an absolute insult to the 27 million Soviets who died defeating the Nazis, including the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians who did so as well. Today, if they wish to become citizens they must swear an oath of allegiance to this rewriting of history which has been made a precondition for obtaining citizenship. The three states also do not recognize the May 9th Victory Day as a holiday, forcing the Russian minority to celebrate it informally.

The rehabilitation of the local nationalists who fought alongside the Germans has been done under the false premise that the collaboration was a purely strategic alliance. The Soviets are portrayed as equal to or worse than Nazi Germany, a false equivalency between fascism and communism that is a ubiquitous trait among ultra-rightists today. Tens of thousands of Latvians and Estonians volunteered and were conscripted into legions of the SS which participated in the Holocaust, as did Lithuanians in the Nazi-created Territorial Defense Force and their Security Police. They did not simply coordinate on the battlefield with the Germans, but directly participated in the methodical slaughter of Jews, Roma and others because they shared their racism. In Lithuania, for example, quislings welcomed the Wehrmacht as liberators and for the next three years under Nazi occupation helped murder 200,000 Jews, nearly 95% of the country’s Jewish population, a total which exceeded every other European country in terms of percentage of extermination. It is certain that the only thing that prevented Lithuania’s Jews from extinction was the heroism and sacrifice of the Red Army.

During the Cold War, the US and NATO sought to whitewash certain Nazi war criminals when it suited its strategic interests against the Soviets. This went beyond the Germans themselves, whether it was recruiting their spies for espionage, atomic scientists in Operation Paperclip, or making Hans Speidel the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Central Europe. The Nuremberg Trials had ruled the entire Waffen SS as an organization to be guilty of war crimes during the holocaust, but the US chose to make a distinction between the 15th and 19th SS divisions in Latvia (Latvian Legion) and 20th division in Estonia from the German divisions of the SS. In 1950, the US Displaced Persons Commission determined:

The Baltic Waffen SS Units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.

While the displaced persons laws let Jewish refugees into the United States, it also provided cover for the reserved spaces for thousands of Nazi collaborators in an open-door policy providing them safe harbor. Following the end of WWII, many of the former members of the Baltic SS units became anti-Soviet partisans known as the Forest Brothers who carried on a guerilla campaign against the Soviets with the assistance of the CIA and MI6 until it was defeated in mid-50s. Unfortunately, Nikita Khruschev then made one of a series of colossal mistakes by permitting the exiled Baltic nationals to return as part of the de-Stalinisation thaw.

The idea that regiments of the Schutzstaffel were fighting purely for Estonian and Latvian independence is a horrifying fabrication in defiance of the overwhelming evidence documented by holocaust historians. The West has exploited this sanitizing of history that reappeared following the reinstatement of free enterprise in eastern Europe which has proliferated the far right in the EU as a whole. Why? It serves their cynical immediate interests in undermining Moscow. The same manipulations are occurring in the Cold War’s sequel. Last year, NATO even produced a short film and a-historical reenactment entitled Forest Brothers: Fight for the Baltics, glorifying the anti-Soviet partisans as part of its propaganda effort against Russia.

Any crimes that were committed by the Soviet NKVD during the war are dwarfed by the tens of thousands of Jews and Roma which were exterminated on an industrial level by the Nazis and their co-conspirators using the race theory — there is no comparison. Not to mention that the reintroduction of the free market to Eastern Europe killed more people than any period in Soviet history, reducing life expectancy by a decade and undoing seventy years worth of progress. We only ever hear of the faults of socialism and the inflated numbers of losses of life attributed to its failure, never the daily crimes of capitalism or the tens of millions lost in the wars it produces. The Soviet brand of socialism was far from perfect, but nevertheless a model for what humanity can achieve in the face of tremendous adversity without being shackled by the contradictions of capitalism — an industrial society with relative equality in education, wealth, employment and basic necessities. Now that Western capitalism is once again collapsing, it is making friends with nationalists to revise its ugly history and the Russian minority in the Baltics are suffering the consequence. It will continue to apportion blame on the up-and-coming power in Moscow, no longer the quasi-colony of the Yeltsin era, for its soon-to-be expiration. Let us hope it does not start another World War in the midst of it — for all our sake.

Right-wing, Fascist-supporting Tilt among Canada’s NDP

In response to Ukrainian Canadian Congress campaigning, two NDP MLAs recently convinced the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to withdraw a brand of Russian vodka from its stores. Alberta MLAs Deron Bilous and Jessica Littlewood argued that a hammer and sickle logo on a bottle of vodka was “offensive“. Articulating a growing rightist effort to equate communism with Nazism in Eastern Europe, Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta chapter president, Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz, told the Edmonton Journal that the hammer and sickle was akin to “having a swastika on a bottle of cognac.”

This is not the first attempt by a provincial NDP to ban Russian vodka. In response to the 2014 upheaval in the Ukraine, a minister in the NDP government in Manitoba discussed a provincial ban on Russian vodka. At the same time, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo tabled a motion at the Ontario Legislature calling on government-run liquor stores to suspend sales of Russian Standard vodka.

DiNovo was one of the NDP representatives that flirted with Ukraine’s hard right. She attended a Ukrainian parade in Toronto where some marched behind a banner titled “Right Sector Canada”. Its parent organization in the Ukraine said it was “defending the values of white, Christian Europe against the loss of the nation and deregionalisation.” At another Toronto event NDP MP Peggy Nash shared a stage with a speaker from Ukraine’s Right Sector.

Over the past four years, the NDP has backed a coup in Kiev, war in eastern Ukraine and NATO military build-up in Eastern Europe. In 2014 the right-wing nationalist Euro-Maidan movement ousted Viktor Yanukovych who was oscillating between the European Union and Russia. The US-backed coup divided the Ukraine politically, geographically and linguistically (Russian is the mother tongue of 30% of Ukrainians). After Yanukovych’s ouster Russia reinforced its military presence — or “seized” — the southern area of Crimea and then organized a referendum on secession. Home to Moscow’s major Baltic naval base, Crimea had long been part of Russia and the bulk of the population preferred Moscow’s rule to the post-coup right wing nationalist government in Kiev.

The NDP echoed the US/Stephen Harper government position on Ukraine. The day after Yanukovych fled, NDP MP Olivia Chow told a Euro-Maidan Canada rally in Toronto, “we must be vigilant, we must ensure our government, our Canadian government, continues to keep an eye on the Ukraine to make sure that the Russians do not interfere.”

But, the NDP MP wasn’t bothered by Canadian interference in that country. Eighteen months after the coup the Canadian Press reported that opposition protesters were camped in the Canadian Embassy for a week during the February 2014 rebellion against Yanukovych. “Canada’s embassy in Kyiv was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych,” the story noted.

Ottawa played a similar role during the “Orange Revolution” a decade earlier. In a story headlined “Agent Orange: Our secret role in Ukraine,” Globe and Mail reporter Mark MacKinnon detailed how Canada funded a leading civil society opposition group, promised Ukraine’s lead electoral commissioner Canadian citizenship if he did “the right thing” and paid for 500 Canadians of Ukrainian descent to observe the 2004-05 elections. “[Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine, Andrew Robinson] began to organize secret monthly meetings of western ambassadors, presiding over what he called ‘donor coordination’ sessions among 20 countries interested in seeing Mr. [presidential candidate Viktor] Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control. Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovych [winning].”

Indifferent to Canada’s interference in Ukrainian affairs, during the 2015 federal election leaders debate Mulcair said, “with regard to Ukraine, yes, Putin is a danger. We stand firmly with Ukraine against the aggression by Russia.” The NDP leader also reiterated the party’s call for harsher measures against Russian officials, naming two businessmen whom he said should be added to Canada’s list of Russians targeted for sanctions. In March 2014 NDP foreign critic Paul Dewar released a statement calling for “travel bans against certain Russian officials and suspending trade with Russia’s military sector.” Five months later the NDP put out a press release under the headline “Conservatives shield Russian business elite from sanctions: Toothless sanctions are out of step with Canada’s closest allies.” In 2017 NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière applauded a bill modeled after the US Magnitsky Act that would further strain relations between Ottawa and Moscow by sanctioning Russian officials. NDP MPs voted for legislation Laverdière labelled an “important step to support the Global Magnitsky movement.”

In summer 2016 NDP defence critic Randall Garrison expressed support for Canada leading a NATO battle group to Latvia as part of a ratcheting up of tensions with Russia. Four hundred and fifty Canadian troops are currently leading a 1,000-strong NATO force in Latvia while the US, Britain and Germany head missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. As vice-chair of Parliament’s Standing Committee on National Defence, Garrison endorsed a December report titled “Canada’s support to Ukraine in crisis and armed conflict.” It denounced Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine” and lauded Canada’s “support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia.”

Deploying Canadian troops to the Russian border and Alberta MLAs pushing to ban Russian vodka both empower rightists in Eastern Europe. They are part of a troubling game of brinksmanship with Russia.

Is this really in Canada’s interest? And why is the NDP enabling the agenda of extreme right forces?

When Canada Invaded Russia

The corporate media presents Russia as militaristic but ignores Canada’s invasion of that country.

100 years ago today a popular revolt ousted the Russian monarchy. Enraged at Nicholas II’s brutality and the horror of World War I, protests and strikes swept the capital of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg. Within a week the czar abdicated. Later in the year the Bolsheviks rose to power in large part by committing to withdraw from the war.

The English, French and US responded to the Bolshevik’s rise by supporting the Russian monarchists (the whites) in their fight to maintain power. Six thousand Canadian troops also invaded. According to Roy Maclaren in Canadians in Russia, 1918 – 1919, Canadian gunners won “a vicious reputation amongst the Bolsheviks for the calm skill with which they used shrapnel as a short-range weapon against foot soldiers.”

While a Canadian naval vessel supported the White Russians, Canadian pilots stationed near the Black Sea provided air support.

The war against the Bolsheviks was initially justified as a way to reopen World War I’s eastern front (the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany). Canadian troops, however, stayed after World War I ended. In fact, 2,700 Canadian troops arrived in the eastern city of Vladivostok on January 5, 1919, two months after the war’s conclusion. A total of 3,800 Canadian troops, as well as Royal Northwest Mounted Police and 697 horses, went to Siberia, which the Whites continued to control long after losing Moscow, St. Petersburg and most of the western part of the country.

Ottawa maintained its forces in Russia after the conclusion of World War One partly to persuade the British that Canada merited inclusion in the Paris peace conference that would divvy up the spoils of the war. Prime Minister Borden wrote:

We shall stand in an unfortunate position unless we proceed with Siberia expedition. We made definite arrangements with the British government on which they have relied … Canada’s present position and prestige would be singularly impaired by deliberate withdrawal.

Ottawa also feared the rise of anti-capitalism. On December 1, 1918, Borden wrote in his diary that he was “struck with the progress of Bolshevism in European countries.” For their part, Canadian working class groups condemned the invasion of Russia as “for the benefit of the capitalist.”  The president of the BC Federation of Labour Joseph Naylor asked, “is it not high time that the workers of the Western world take action similar to that of the Russian Bolsheviki and dispose of their masters as those brave Russians are now doing?”

The allies invaded Russia to defend the status quo, much to the dismay of many Canadians who welcomed the czar’s demise and found it difficult to understand why Canada would support Russian reactionaries. Opposition to the intervention was widespread even among soldiers. According to the Toronto Globe, 60-70 percent of the men sent to Siberia went unwillingly. One artillery section even refused to obey orders.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s western countries worked to isolate Moscow. Canada (and the US) opposed a treaty to guarantee Russia’s pre-war frontiers, which England had signed with Moscow. Ottawa recognized the Bolshevik government in 1924 but ties were severed after the British cut off relations in mid-1927.  Full diplomatic relations with Moscow would not restart until the late 1930s.

Russophobia has once again gripped the political/media establishment. A number of prominent commentators have defended the grandfather of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland collaborating with the Nazis on the grounds it was either them or the Russians occupying Ukraine during World War II. Freeland herself deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy while Brigadier General Paul Rutherford warned of Russian cyber warfare. More dangerous, Ottawa is ramping up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) to counter “aggression”.

To help clear the thick fog of propaganda it’s useful to remember how Canada responded to the fall of Russia’s monarchy. While Russia has never invaded Canada, we once invaded their country.

Why is the Trudeau Government Escalating its Belligerence Towards Russia?

Yesterday it was confirmed that 200 Canadian troops would remain in the Ukraine for at least two more years. This “training” mission in the Ukraine is on top of two hundred troops in Poland, a naval frigate in the Mediterranean and Black Sea and a half dozen CF-18 fighter jets on their way to locations near Russia’s border. Alongside Britain, Germany and the US, Canada will soon lead a NATO battle group supposed to defend Eastern Europe from Moscow. About 450 Canadian troops are headed to Latvia while the three other NATO countries lead missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.

From the Russian point of view it must certainly look like NATO is massing troops at its border.

Canada’s military buildup in Eastern Europe is the direct outgrowth of a coup in Kiev. In 2014 the right-wing nationalist EuroMaidan movement ousted Viktor Yanukovych who was oscillating between the European Union and Russia. The US-backed coup divided the Ukraine politically, geographically and linguistically (Russian is the mother tongue of 30% of Ukrainians).

While we hear a great deal about Russia’s nefarious influence in the Ukraine, there’s little attention given to Canada’s role in stoking tensions there. 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 Yanukovich. “Canada’s embassy in Kyiv was used as a haven for several days by anti-government protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych,” the story noted.

Since the mid-2000s Ottawa has actively supported opponents of Russia in the Ukraine. Federal government documents from 2007 explain that Ottawa was trying to be “a visible and effective partner of the United States in Russia, Ukraine and zones of instability in Eastern Europe.” During a visit to the Ukraine that year, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said Canada would help provide a “counterbalance” to Russia. “There are outside pressures [on Ukraine], from Russia most notably. … We want to make sure they feel the support that is there for them in the international community.” As part of Canada’s “counterbalance” to Russia, MacKay announced $16 million in aid to support “democratic reform” in the Ukraine.

Ottawa played a part in Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution”. In “Agent Orange: Our secret role in Ukraine” Globe and Mail reporter Mark MacKinnon detailed how Canada funded a leading civil society opposition group and promised Ukraine’s lead electoral commissioner Canadian citizenship if he did “the right thing”. Ottawa also paid for 500 Canadians of Ukrainian descent to observe the 2004-05 elections. “[Canadian ambassador to the Ukraine, Andrew Robinson] began to organize secret monthly meetings of western ambassadors, presiding over what he called ‘donor coordination’ sessions among 20 countries interested in seeing Mr. [presidential candidate Viktor] Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control. Canada also invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich [winning].”

For Washington and Ottawa the Ukraine is a proxy to weaken Russia, which blocked western plans to topple the Assad regime in Syria. As part of this campaign, 1,000 Canadian military personnel, a naval vessel and fighter jets will soon be on Russia’s border.

Where will this lead? A new cold war against a capitalist Russia? Or a much hotter war involving direct confrontation between Canadian and Russian troops?

What would the US response be to Russian troops massed on its border? The last time Russian missiles came within 90 miles of American soil, the world came very close to nuclear war.

Canada is participating in a “game” of brinksmanship that could end very badly.