MICHAEL JABARA CARLEY 16.03.2017
On 10 January 2017 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired his minister of external affairs, Stéphane Dion, and replaced him with Chrystia Freeland, who was then minister of international trade. This cabinet shuffle might not have gotten much public notice except that Dion is a distinguished parliamentarian, former leader of the party and leader of the opposition, and a former key minister in the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. Freeland, on the other hand, is a well-known Ukrainian ultra-nationalist and self-declared Russophobe and hater of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sacking of Dion was also noteworthy because Trudeau had run on an electoral platform in 2015 promising, inter alia, to improve Canadian relations with Russia, spoilt by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. When Dion became minister of external affairs, he confirmed the Liberal commitment to re-establish more constructive Canadian-Russian relations.
He kept to this line even though Prime Minister Trudeau said that Canada would continue its close relations with the government in Kiev including the maintenance of Canadian military advisors in the Ukraine. Essentially, Trudeau said he intended to continue Tory policy on relations with Russia. No one paid much attention to the contradiction between Trudeau’s affirmation of Harper’s policy, and Dion’s periodic statements to the contrary.
Dion could make little or no progress in improving Canadian-Russian relations, most certainly because the prime minister and Minister Freeland were against it. Nothing much was said publically because Trudeau had promised a different policy during the election campaign. Was he just another fork-tongued politician? Perhaps he is, and wanted to divert attention from un-kept electoral promises. Nor would it have been desirable to publicise a policy split inside the government.
When the news broke that Trudeau had replaced Dion with Freeland, Liberal sources whispered that Dion was not really suited to be a diplomat. He was irritable, they said, and had not mastered the diplomacy of using speech to conceal his thoughts. Radio Sputnik contacted me at the time for an interview. I commented that Freeland’s appointment was «a catastrophe» for Canadian-Russian relations, as indeed it is. Some elements of the Mainstream Media (MSM) in Canada picked up on my comments saying that Russian sources had claimed the sacking of Dion was a catastrophe. I rejoined that it was me, a Canadian citizen, who had so characterised the Freeland appointment, and not Russian sources.
Why should Canadians care one way or another whether their government supports the Ukraine and sends arms and advisors there to strengthen Ukrainian military forces? Well, the most important reason is that the present government in Kiev is illegitimate in spite of democratic appearances. It is the spawn of a violent coup d’état in February 2014, brokered and supported by the United States and the European Union, which overthrew the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich. The vanguard of the Kiev coup d’état are neo-Nazi, fascist or ultra nationalist political and paramilitary organisations, notably the political party Svoboda, the paramilitary Pravyi sektor and various other paramilitary forces such as the so-called Azov and Aidar battalions. These paramilitary units were and are used to crush opposition in those parts of the Ukraine controlled by Kiev. Politicians, journalists, anyone speaking against the putsch government in Kiev could be, or were killed, beaten, jailed or forced to flee. The Ukrainian communist party was declared illegal. The governing Party of Regions has disappeared, some of its members being charged with criminal offences for having contacts with Russian counterparts. Others abandoned the party because it was neither safe nor practical to remain as members.
The United States claims that the neo-Nazis are freaks and «a few bad apples». But the signs of fascism can be observed everywhere in the Kiev-controlled Ukraine. Nazi or SS symbols are readily observable. The Nazi swastika can be seen as a frequent tattoo amongst fascist militiamen. Torch light parades redolent of Nazi Germany are often staged in Kiev and other cities to frighten people opposed to the coup d’état. As with Nazism and Italian fascism, violence, force and atavistic masculinity are exalted to intimidate any opposition. Nazi collaborators during World War II are now transformed into national heroes, Stepan Bandera, for example, or the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which perpetrated mass murders amongst Soviet and Polish civilian populations.
Neo-Nazi violence and intimidation worked in many places, but not in others. In the Crimea, the population united almost to the last man and woman, to toss out the putschist authorities and to vote for reunification with Russia. In the east, in the Donbass, the anti-fascist resistance repulsed Kiev punitive forces with heavy losses. These remarkable feats of arms, redolent of so many others in Russian history, were wasted by Moscow, which disregarded a first principle of war that one never lets an enemy withdraw to fight another day. «He who spares the aggressor», Stalin once remarked, «wants another war.» It may shock some people to hear Stalin quoted, but Plutarch, Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz might have said the same thing. Moscow supported the so-called Minsk peace accords which were never respected by the Kiev authorities. Ultra-nationalists even boasted that they had agreed to Minsk solely in order to rest and refit their beaten forces. It was only a ruse de guerre.
These are the forces which the Canadian government now supports with the enthusiastic backing of Minister Freeland. For her, it must be a lifelong dream-come-true. There has been much press comment during the last week or so about Freeland’s Ukrainian grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, a Nazi collaborator during World War II. Freeland claimed that he was only a refugee from Stalinist violence. He might have been, but he also collaborated with Nazi Germany. In many places in Europe, France and Italy, for example, collaborators were summarily shot or imprisoned after the war. In France, more than 5,000 were executed including Pierre Laval, a prominent French politician, who sided with Nazi Germany and vaunted collaboration to oppose the USSR. Another 38,000 French collaborators were jailed. Chomiak was lucky he was not hanged and that he ended up in northern Alberta, to die a well-to-do farmer.
The story about Freeland’s grandfather was first put out by John Helmer, a long-time independent journalist living in Moscow. Freeland claimed a week or so ago that Russia was attempting «to destabilize the Western democracies»; and Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale asserted that poor Ms. Freeland was a victim of «Russian disinformation tactics».
Should Freeland be held responsible for the sins of her grandfather? Obviously not. What is disturbing about Freeland is her intense hatred of Russia and the Russian government, and her confusion about her own national identity. I am, she has written, «one of Ukraine’s democrats.» If this is so, what is she doing as a minister in the Canadian government? Is she first and foremost a Canadian, or is she a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist whose primary objective is to use her ministerial post to defend the putsch government in Kiev and to exacerbate Canadian relations with Russia?
If Freeland should be not be condemned for the sins of her grandfather—although she might not see them as sins—she can be condemned for her own words, publications and deeds. Even by her own proud admission, she has left a long trail of venomous hatred of Russia which can easily be uncovered by internet searching. She defends the putschists in Kiev and overlooks their violence. With more than a hint of Orwellian «newspeak», Freeland asserts that the violent coup d’état in Kiev against the democratically elected president was a defence of «democracy». Is she pursuing the same objectives, twice removed, of dedushka, or Grandpa Chomiak, by supporting the Kiev junta?
That’s the problem with Freeland, who now constitutes a smoking grenade ready to go off at any moment under Canadian-Russian relations. Until now, the virulent, irrational, Russophobia afflicting the United States has not metastasised into Canada. It’s true that the Harper Conservatives were Russophobes, but when they lost power, it was possible to believe that sanity and pragmatism would return to Canadian relations with the Russian Federation. One had only to listen to Dion’s occasional statements on the subject to think that Canada was recovering its common sense. Canadians could breathe a sigh of relief and return the widely held idea that Canada is somehow a more civilised, sensible place to live than the United States.
Unfortunately, Canadian complacency appears premature. On 8 March Macleans, the Canadian equivalent of Time magazine, published a big article as Russophobic and preposterous as any piece of American yellow journalism. The headline reads: «Russia’s Coming Attack on Canada». The subtitle is: «The smear job on Chrystia Freeland is only the start. Why Canada is a logical next target in Moscow’s desperate clandestine war.» The «smear job» is of course the outing of Grandpa Chomiak as a Nazi collaborator. The author spouts one line of rubbish after the next about Russia and then accuses the Russian government of outing Chomiak. In fact, it appears to have been John Helmer, an Australian, who published the first article on Freeland’s forebears.
Further revelations followed from Alex Boykowich, a Ukrainian Canadian, who consulted Chomiak’s personal papers held in the Alberta provincial archives in Edmonton.
«God, why did Grandpa keep those damned papers», Freeland must be thinking: «I should have burned them long ago.» Too late now, Ms. Freeland, the cat’s out of the bag.
«Ravings» (délires), one Montréal journalist called Freeland’s accusations against Russia and Putin. Of course, no one would care about Freeland’s obsessive Russophobia except that she is minister of external affairs. She can encourage the metastasis of Russophobia into Canada, as she indeed has started to do.
The psychosis is spreading, as I discovered the other day in casual conversation with a respected colleague. Putin is another Stalin, he said, he’s crushed democracy in Russia, press freedom is dead, and no one dares to speak against him. Anyone who has spent time in Moscow knows that lots of people complain about Putin. He knows too, and tolerates it.
«Sure he does» my interlocutor replied with a smile.
I understood and changed the subject.
People who voted Liberal in the last election thinking Trudeau fils would be like Trudeau père are now waking up to the reality that the son is nothing like the father. He is just another neoliberal pretty face, exploiting identity politics to pursue policy lines little different than those of his predecessor, the hated Stephen Harper. Trudeau’s neoliberalism is more American than Canadian. Is he part of the movement to sabotage any improvement of US-Russian relations? If so, he’s pursuing a dangerous policy. His external affairs minister is a fanatical Russophobe, hoist upon the petard of her words going back a long way. Is Freeland pursuing grandpa’s old dreams, collaborating with the ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis in Kiev, all the while pretending they don’t exist?
More than 42,000 Canadian soldiers died during World War II to destroy fascism and Nazism. Is Freeland kicking sand on their graves by supporting the Kiev authorities and their celebration of Nazi collaboration? What should Canada’s surviving veterans think about the Liberal government sending Canadian advisors to train Kiev’s armed hooligans? «Against Russian aggression», Freeland would no doubt retort. But even MSM journalists in Canada, not as venal as their American counterparts, have derided such talk as «delusional». The question is will the majority of Canadians fall for Freeland’s dangerous Russophobia?