In Digest, Russia, Ukraine

By David Pugliese, Postmedia News, published in The National Post, March 25, 2015

Conservative cabinet minister Chris Alexander says the situation in Ukraine is the biggest security issue facing the world today, even as his government debates expanding its military actions in the Middle East.

Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, photo by Adrian Wyld, CP

Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, photo by Adrian Wyld, CP

Alexander’s comments, made to Ukrainian Canadians during a speech in Toronto Feb. 22, are being shared on the Internet as the Conservative government prepares to extend its Iraq military mission and expand it into Syria.

The video of the immigration minister’s speech [begins at 9′ mark] has also sparked a Twitter argument between Alexander and the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.

In his speech, Alexander denounced Russia’s Vladimir Putin as behaving like a terrorist and warned the situation in Ukraine affects all countries. “This is the biggest issue facing the world today in my view, I think in the view of our prime minister, and our team,” he told the audience. “Yes there is terrorism. Vladimir Putin is behaving like a terrorist.”

Alexander said that the ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq are serious issues and Canada can’t forget what is going on in those countries. “But the buck stops in Ukraine; there is absolutely no scenario going into the future that leads to peace and security for this world, that leads to prosperity in Europe globally that does not include a full international effort to give Ukraine the tools it needs to drive Russian forces from their borders and to secure its borders for good,” he told the audience.

The Russian Embassy challenged Alexander on Twitter this week, linking to the video of his speech on YouTube: “Sounds like Orwellian ‘five minutes of hate.’ Hardly the artwork of diplomacy,” the embassy tweeted.

Alexander fired back with the response: “Your invasion of Ukraine brought 14 months of death.”

Ukrainians have been fighting each other for more than a year, with government troops battling rebels who want to separate. Russia has provided support to the separatist forces and Canada and NATO have accused Russia of sending troops and equipment to take part in the war. Russia denies that.

Canada has been one of the most vocal nations condemning Russia’s action. Canada has also provided Ukraine with non-lethal military equipment.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also pledged $400 million in loans to help Ukraine’s near-bankrupt government.

Some former Canadian diplomats, however, have suggested the Conservative government’s position on Ukraine is aimed mostly at winning votes from Ukrainian-Canadians in the next federal election.

During his Toronto speech, Alexander also denounced the Russian government and the country’s media for reporting that fascists and Nazi sympathizers are involved in Ukraine’s government and among its supporters.

Extreme right-wing supporters did play a role in the protests, which forced the end to the regime of then-Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych last year, touching off the current crisis in the country.

Some of Ukraine’s most effective fighting units, such as the Azov Battalion, include among their ranks Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites.

Last year, members of the Azov Battalion were shown on German television wearing helmets with Nazi insignia. Some of its members have also made anti-Semitic comments.

Spokesmen for the battalion, which uses a symbol similar to the insignia used by some Nazi SS units, have repeatedly denied Neo-Nazi links. They say the unit is made up Ukrainian nationalists.

In his Toronto speech, Alexander suggested that the situation in Ukraine may have been caused “because of mistakes that the United States and others made with regard to our policy jointly in Syria.” But he did not provide further details on what he meant by that statement.

Asked to comment, his press secretary, Kevin Menard, emailed the statement, “We have nothing further to say at this time.”

Explanatory notes by New Cold
David Pugliese is a columnist at Postmedia’s Ottawa Citizen and a contributor to its ‘Defense Watch’ blog. This article was
published in the Citizen on March 25, 2015 under the title ‘Ukraine world’s top security issue, not Mideast, says Alexander’. This story was also reported on Huffington Post, along with an extensive photo gallery of the war in easern Ukraine.

The story of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s pro-war speech against Russia on February 22 in Toronto and the minister’s association with the extreme right in Ukraine was first reported on New Cold on March 13. What is not reported in ipolitics or Postmedia re Alexander’s Feb. 22 speech is that he was speaking at a fundraising dinner in which the special guest was the extreme right politician and paramilitary leader of Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy. Parubiy was feted the next day in Ottawa, including with meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson and MPs from at least the Conservative and Liberal parties.


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