Syria Ceasefire a Triumph of Diplomacy, But Militarism Still Rules in Ottawa and Other Western Capitals
by Roger Annis - A Socialist in Canada
Feb 28, 2016
On February 26, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a Russia-U.S. proposed resolution endorsing a ceasefire plan for Syria. The text of the UNSC resolution as well as summaries of statements by Security Council-member countries is published here on New Cold War.org.
Warfare has all but ceased in Syria during the first 48 hours of the ceasefire, excepting an assault on the Kurdish town of Tel Abyad by Islamic State forces in eastern Syria that was repulsed by the YPG, the self-defense force of the Syrian Kurdish people.
One might think that the seeming miracle of a ceasefire in Syria would be cause for celebration, but apparently no one in Western governments and media nor in some circles of the international left is cheering. Instead, they continue to flog their warnings about big, bad Russia.
The significance of the Syria ceasefire is being downplayed. Much of Western media reporting is filled with stories of alleged violations as well as doubts that the ceasefire can hold. The reason for the doom and gloom is that the ceasefire is largely thanks to Russian military efforts (with Iran also playing a significant role) and, most importantly, the ceasefire is a blow to the aspirations of the imperialist ‘regime change’ alliance led by the United States that wants the overthrow of Syria’s government and the transformation of Syria into the kind of ‘failed state’ disaster zone created by NATO in Libya.
A Feb 28, 2016 editorial in The Guardian, for example, almost sounds a note of sadness in writing, “The Russians rescued the [Syrian] regime and strengthened it to the point where the idea that it might be toppled became, at most, a very distant prospect.”
A different, forward-looking outlook is voiced by Al-Monitor in its weekly review on February 27:
“Rather than pointing out why the [Syria] agreement might fail, and it might, our starting point is that UN Security Council Resolution 2268 and the US-Russia agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Syria are potential breakthroughs.”
Grim civil war in Turkey
The Turkish government is, for now, begrudgingly, accepting the ceasefire. It has stopped its cross-border shellings of Kurdish Syrians. But the government is sticking to its declared aim of overthrowing the government of Syria, while the grim civil war it is pursuing against the Kurdish people of eastern Turkey is continuing.
That war is receiving little or no reporting in Western media and spotty coverage, at best, in anti-Russia, pseudo left wing media outlets.
There are dozens of journalists in jail in NATO-member Turkey. The country’s criminal code punishes journalists and other citizens for the offense of ‘insulting the president’. Two of the most prominent of those in jail, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul of the print daily Cumhuriyet, won release from prison on February 26. But they are still facing very serious charges of supporting a terror organization, threatening state security and espionage for publishing state secrets.
Last May, Cumhuriyet published evidence of a covert, arms-running operation to right-wing paramilitaries in Syria by Turkey’s national intelligence agency.
So obsessed are Canada’s news editors with anti-Russia crusading, they cannot even bring themselves to defend their journalist colleagues in Turkey. Not a single press outlet in Canada has reported the jailings of dozens of journalists in Turkey, including the cases of the Cumhuriyet editors. New York Times reporting consists of occasional wireservice stories.
Anti-Russia and Russophobic left-wing media also downplay the Syria ceasefire because the ceasefire is a direct consequence of the Russian military intervention undertaken in alliance with the Syrian government and, increasingly, in alliance with Kurdish forces in Syria. The Russian achievement flies in the face of the left-wing presentation of Russia as a predatory ‘imperialist’ country engaged in “global rivalry” with the United States and other NATO countries.
Canadian gov’t welcomes Ukrainian neo-Nazi
In Canada, the newly elected Liberal Party government and mainstream media have responded to events in Syria by stepping up their anti-Russia propaganda, notwithstanding comments one month ago by Canada’s minister of foreign affairs that Canada might undertake dialogue with Russia (though not end Canada’s punishing economic and travel sanctions against Russia and its leaders).
On February 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed to his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa the founder of the modern fascist movement in Ukraine, Andriy Parubiy, an elected member of the Ukrainian Rada (Parliament).
The Ukrainian extremist also met with Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan and other elected members of Parliament of the Liberal and Conservative parties.
Parubiy is the deputy speaker of the Ukrainian Rada. Shortly after the Maidan coup of February 2014, he was appointed to head a key advisory committee of the Ukrainian government, the National Security and Defense Council. He held that post until August 2014. The NSDC was a leading agency in the Maidan coup regime’s launching of civil war in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. (The regime’s war plans for Crimea were frustrated by Crimea’s March 2014 referendum to secede from Ukraine.)
Before visiting Ottawa, Parubiy spoke at a public forum organized by the prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
Anti-Russia crusader Bill Browder
Canadian media is heavily engaged in anti-Russia propaganda on multiple fronts. An American crusader against Vladimir Putin, Bill Browder, visited Canada during the week of February 22. His visit was accorded fawning news coverage by the state broadcaster, CBC, the Globe and Mail national daily and the popular, mainstream iPolitics website, among others.
Browder is waging a crusade for steeper economic sanctions against Russia, saying that someone in the Russian government is responsible for the death in 2006 of a sometime employee of his, Sergei Magnitsky.
Browder was once a leading capitalist investor in Russia but left the country in 2005 as Russian authorities began to investigate him for tax evasion. He has not set foot in Russia since. He is a graduate of business studies at Stanford University. In the early 1990s, he jumped into the world of looting state-owned properties as the Soviet Union and other countries in eastern Europe underwent wrenching transitions to unbridled capitalism. An adoring article by Canadian journalist Bruce Livesey explained in April 2014, “Browder soon got work helping Eastern European governments privatize their economies.”
This was Browder’s second visit to Canada in the past year. In March 2015, he visited the country, again as part of his effort for further sanctions against Russia. His visit back then was timed with the presentation of a resolution in the Canadian Parliament calling for ‘Magnitsky Act’ sanctions on Russia. The resolution passed unanimously on March 26 but did not become legislation. Browder wants the new government in Ottawa to legislate the idea.
Senior Correspondent of CBC News, Terry Milewski, welcomed Browder’s March 2015 visit to Canada with a daft article full of stock references to Russia such as: “Vladimir Putin… little more than a vicious gangster”; “Browder has opened a window on the black heart of Putin’s Russia”; “Now that he’s unmasked as a thug, Putin is increasingly at risk, according to Browder”; “Can one man bring down a nuclear-armed dictator? Well, don’t say Bill Browder’s not trying.”
Moscow rally for Boris Nemtsov
Another event to gain widespread news coverage in Canada is the rally by thousands in Moscow on February 27 to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Boris Nemtsov. The CBC assigned its European correspondent, Susan Ormiston, to attend the rally and report from it.
The Globe and Mail‘s European correspondent Mark MacKinnon also reported on the rally. He captioned one of his photos of demonstrators, ‘The other Russia’. He wrote:
“That so many took to the streets to mark the anniversary of Boris Nemtsov’s murder was a loud rebuke of official inaction [sic] over his death, as well as a reminder that there is a significant number of people – at least in Moscow – who oppose the confrontational direction President Vladimir Putin has set for the country.Ormiston reported:
“The sombre quiet was occasionally broken by chants of “Russia without Putin!” and “Russia will be free!” – two of Mr. Nemtsov’s rallying cries when he was at the head of louder protests against the Kremlin’s authoritarianism.”
“But the thing here, is people believe, many in the opposition believe, that the person who ordered the killing has not been identified and will not be identified. They believe that the orders came from much higher up.”
Five people have been arrested for Nemtsov’s killing in what appears to have been a gangland-style political dispute, but that doesn’t stop mainstream media from speculating that “someone” in the Russian government, possibly the Russian president himself, must have had a hand in the killing.
Nemtsov served as an advisor and high-ranking associate to Russian president Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Those were years of unbridled looting by foreign capitalists, in league with aspiring Russian capitalists, of the former state-owned enterprises of the Soviet Union. After Russians turned their backs on those disastrous years, Nemtsov was unsuccessful in fashioning a new political role for himself.
A militarizing world
One of the tasks that the new Canadian government of Justin Trudeau has set for itself is to sort out the messy legacy of acquisition of military equipment left by the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper. That government botched every acquisition program that it laid its hands upon. The hell-bent crusade of the NATO military alliance against Russia and its regime-change agendas for elsewhere in the world require its Canadian member to boost its armaments. That is what the government is embarked upon doing.
The government has done an about-face on an election promise not to purchase Lockheed-Martin’s very costly, technologically complex F-35 fighter aircraft. The Globe and Mail reported on Feb 24, “The Canadian government intends to make a payment this spring to remain part of the consortium of F-35 Lightning fighter-jet buyers, despite a Liberal election promise to exclude the aircraft when selecting this country’s next warplane.”
In parallel, the government is upping its military intervention in northern Iraq, alongside its U.S. big brother. Many Canadians thought that the Liberal Party’s pledge to withdraw Canada’s six fighter aircraft from bombing missions over Iraq and Syria signaled an intent to help demilitarize the Middle East, but that was wishful thinking on their part.
The government will also continue to promote Canada as an international arms dealer. Despite significant domestic opposition, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion announced on February 19 he will permit General Dynamics corporation to proceed with the sale of $15 billion(!) worth of armoured vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia, a deal approved by the Harper government. Minister Dion says he feels very badly about the sale, but business is business. (Canada’s largest trade union, UNIFOR, supports the deal and it, too, no doubt, feels very badly.)
The arms-to-Saudi-Arabia decision is an uncomfortable one for a government trying to project a progressive image. The decision is made all the more uncomfortable by the vote of the European Parliament (albeit a symbolic vote only) on February 25 to recommend that EU countries cease the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, NATO ally Australia is taking up the cudgel of imperialist military threats against China, joining with the U.S. and its self-declared “pivot to Asia”. The Australian government has announced that it wants to spend $195 billion(!) on new military equipment over the next ten years to counter what it says is the growing threat from China.
Makes sense. Australia, like Canada, is one of the world’s largest per capita climate and natural resource vandals. What better way to deal with the world’s environmental emergency, social inequalities, pressing health care needs and so on than to step up spending on militarization and war?
Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond.
Liberals drone-shopping exercise sets stage for debate over lethal force, by Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, on CBC News, Feb 28, 2016