Canada leads NATO mission in Latvia

Banner in mass actions at Munich Security Conference February 18, 2017: “Peace Instead of NATO – No to War!”

In June, the first of 450 Canadian soldiers will arrive in Latvia to lead a battalion in a large military buildup of NATO countries on Russia’s frontiers. According to reports, the Canadian-led battalion will have troops from Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. Three other battalions of foreign soldiers, led by the U.S., Britain and Germany, respectively, are being placed in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. The result will be thousands of NATO troops indefinitely stationed in two countries bordering Russia (Estonia and Latvia) and two others bordering Belarus (Lithuania and Poland). Canada will also deploy light armoured vehicles (LAVs) and up to six CF-18 warplanes to conduct air patrols.

In addition to the four-battalion NATO deployment, media reported in January that “dozens” of U.S. special forces have been deployed in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to conduct training and intelligence-gathering. Then, in February the U.S. deployed to Latvia 225 soldiers, 15 tanks and six armoured vehicles as part of “Operation Atlantic Resolve.” As part of the same mission, the U.S. deployed four tanks, 15 armoured vehicles and other equipment to Estonia. NATO claims the reason to increase war preparations and its buildup of foreign soldiers on Russia’s borders is due to “aggressive rhetoric, hybrid meddling in neighboring countries and provocative military activities around NATO borders.”

This will be the first permanent Canadian military deployment in Europe since the early 1990s. Two hundred Canadian soldiers are also present in Poland but this deployment will end in June and they will transfer to Latvia.

Some Canadian officials and commentators have described the troop buildup as a “tripwire.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “tripwire” as “A comparatively weak military force employed as a first line of defence, engagement with which will trigger the intervention of stronger forces.” Stephen Saideman, NATO academic at Carleton University’s Norman Patterson School of International Affairs told Maclean’s that the “tripwire” concept means “the response is now wired in via the dead Americans, Canadians, Brits and Germans…” if hostilities broke out.

The fact that the forces which are hell-bent on isolating Russia internationally and threatening it militarily and ensuring that all Russia’s neighbours are under U.S./NATO domination are proposing “tripwires” and discussing war between Russia and NATO members is a development of serious concern to Canadians. It confirms the irresponsibility of not only the U.S. imperialists and NATO but the Liberal government in Canada that would put the country in a position where it could be brought into a devastating world war without permitting any discussion on the matter amongst Canadians. Likewise, decisions to bring thousands of foreign troops into eastern Europe and the Baltic states were taken by the ruling elite of those countries and pose serious dangers to the working people, who stand for peace, sovereignty and mutual respect between peoples.

Disinformation about cyberattacks and fake news

The hype from Canadian military officials and media that Canada will deploy “cyber warriors” to defend against “attacks by Russia” and “fake news” — coinciding with claims that revelations about the foreign minister’s Nazi collaborator are a Russian hoax — are also a serious concern.[1] In particular, Canadians are being warned that any accusations of abuses committed by NATO soldiers in the countries to which they are deployed should be dismissed as “fake news.”

Media report that the Latvian mission is being used as an opportunity to “rapidly build Canada’s cyber and information warfare capabilities to counter threats.” “We definitely have to get it right. We have to go to Latvia with a strong defensive posture,” Brig.-Gen. Paul Rutherford, commander of the newly created Joint Forces Cyber Component told the National Post. “First and foremost, we recognize cyber as a domain of warfare. We are constantly under attack,” Rutherford said. Lt. Col. Richard Perreault said Canadian soldiers would “communicate facts and the truth. […] If we see inaccurate facts, we will take action.”

Canadian media warned that the population of the Baltic states is “particularly susceptible to Russian propaganda and trolls because large Russian minorities there can easily tune in television stations from Moscow.” Military officials cited the fact that a German soldier was recently accused of committing rape in Lithuania, where 500 German troops are stationed, but that the claim turned out to be false and the source unknown.

The head of Canada’s armed forces indicated that any suggestion that Latvians do not want foreign troops in their country or to be embroiled in NATO hostilities with Russia should also be considered “fake news.” Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said that Canadians should expect “efforts to make it appear that Latvia doesn’t want us there. We need to take on a sophisticated information operations campaign to ensure that truth prevails,” he said.

Pro-Nazi stand of Latvian government

In a March 15 article in the Hill Times, military affairs columnist Scott Taylor notes, “The Canadian contingent is set to arrive in Latvia in June, no doubt making things a little easier for the Canadian government’s communications team because members of it won’t have to come up with an inspired way to spin an annual tribute to fascism in Latvia.[2]

“Since Latvia’s independence in the 1990s, every year on March 16 the locals stage a parade in the capital of Riga in commemoration of the Latvian Legion, a force commanded by the German Nazi Waffen SS during the Second World War.

“This is not Russian fake news. The parades to celebrate the SS were officially sanctioned. In 1998, March 16 was declared an official remembrance day in Latvia; however, due to international pressure, in 2000 this date was abolished as an official commemoration day. Riga city council then attempted to ban the march, but that ruling was overturned by an administrative district court. The controversial parades thus continue unabated to this day.”

“A closer look at Latvia’s current parliament reveals that this is not merely a nostalgic commemoration of fallen warriors, as the neo-fascist (ultra nationalist) National Alliance party holds 17 seats and is a member of the ruling coalition.”

Despite the official support for the pro-Nazi commemoration, Latvia’s state broadcaster LSM reported on March 16 that, according to polls, public approval of the day has declined to 33 per cent.

Taylor also points out that hundreds of thousands of residents of Latvia are barred from voting or holding positions in government and civil service due to their ethnic background. Following the end of the Soviet Union, anyone whose family did not reside in Latvia before 1940 was stripped of citizenship, and some were able to regain it via a naturalization process. Nearly 45 per cent of Latvians deemed to be “ethnically Russian” (around 363,988 people) for instance are denied citizenship.

Taylor writes, “We repeatedly are told that we are deploying our military abroad to defend Canadian values. However, Canadians do not celebrate Nazis and we pride ourselves on striving for equal rights for all.”

Notes

1. For information on Freeland’s cover-up of her grandfather’s Nazi collaboration and of crimes today, see the extensive treatment in TML Weekly, March 18, 2017.

2. For more information about the crimes of the Nazis and their collaborators in Latvia and the attempts to glorify it today, see “Tribute to Liberty’s Definition of Victims of Communism,” TML Weekly, March 18, 2017.

(With files from National Post, CBC, Hill Times)

Source: TML Weekly, March 25, 2017 – No. 10

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