How Putin is Undermining the West

Antonina Kumka, Euromaidan Canada

On top of fueling the war in Ukraine and investing in domestic propaganda, President Putin is also working on establishing his influence in the Western world through loyal public groups, organizations and political parties.

In Canada, since the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea by Russian Federation in 2014, at least five new organizations that promote Putin’s agenda have been established, including a branch of “НОД” (National Independence Movement, that claims that in 1991 Russia lost its independence and now needs to gain it back, implying that the Soviet Union has to be restored.

There is an increase in Russian propaganda in the mainstream Canadian media, a lot of it being in the form of opinion pieces written by professors, journalists and anybody else claiming to hold an “alternative point of view”. This point of view has little to do with reality though, presenting the made- up information and memes created by Putin-controlled media.

One example is the most recent article titled “Kenney says Canadian troops won’t be training Nazi sympathizers in Ukraine” by David Pugliese in The Ottawa Citizen, which was republished by The National Post. In the article, the author states that Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney assured that the Canadian troops would not be training “Neo-Nazis and nationalists” in Ukraine. The terminology used here is taken from Putin-controlled media – they call Ukrainian volunteer battalions just that.

At the same time, Minister Kenney never really said that the way the article presents it, he was talking about the “irregular militia”: “We’re not going to be in the business of training ad hoc militias”. As a matter of fact, there are no “militias” left in Ukraine: all the volunteer battalions, which played a significant role in saving Ukraine’s independence in 2014, are now part of the regular Army and Ministry of Interior.

As for the scholars spreading Putin lies, a number of Ottawa University staff members for example openly claim their support for Putin and the occupation of the Ukrainian territories, publishing pieces on how Canada and the rest of the world should not get involved, that everyone should think twice before cornering Mr. Putin because he is a dangerous and a powerful man.

With Russian national Victory Day approaching in May, a huge supply of “St. George” ribbons has been delivered to the Greater Toronto Area and is being distributed for free to everybody who wishes to get one – they are supposed to symbolize the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. What many in Canada may not know though is that this very ribbon today is the symbol of Russian aggression in Ukraine: Russian soldiers during the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula were wearing these ribbons and now the Russian military and terrorists in eastern Ukraine are wearing them, too.

Putin supporters are becoming more and more vocal here in Canada. They are joining local and national anti – Canadian Government groups and through them delivering their message to broader public to plant the seed and convince Canadians that support, which Canada provides for Ukraine in the form of non-lethal aid, political and economic sanctions against Russia and, most recently, the 200 troops to train the Ukrainian military, is wrong and that, on the contrary, Canada should step back and find ways to collaborate with the Russian government. But collaborate with whom? The corrupt group of individuals who own the Russian economy and who do not abide by any international rules, laws or norms?

Vladimir Putin and his circle are trying to weaken and divide the NATO allies by infiltrating institutions and swaying public opinion to cause disagreement, chaos and thus, to change their international policies. The newly formed pro-Putin organizations are certainly doing their best to make sure this happens. In Canada the onus is on Canadians now – will we stand up for our values and principles, protect them and help other countries, like Ukraine, to develop and implement them, or will we let the madman and his cronies fool us?