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A mea culpa
What I got wrong (and right) about Ukraine
I’m out of the prediction business, having spent the better part of the last month ridiculing anyone who thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was going to pull the trigger on Ukraine.
Obviously, I was wrong.
My previous piece on this topic opened with a caution about the fog of war, which in retrospect provided a useful safety net in the event my predictions turned out to be for naught:
It’s difficult to write about geopolitics when events are constantly in flux and the media transmits conflicting reports about developments on the ground, often from people who aren’t there.
Nowhere is this more evident than the standoff on the Russia-Ukraine border, where we’ve been told for the past week that Russian President Vladimir Putin is just days away from launching a full-scale invasion of his westerly neighbour amid contradictory accounts of Russian troop movements.
Nothing controversial here, but there are two paragraphs in the piece where I needlessly predicted the Russians weren’t going to invade by comparing warnings of an impending invasion to a “millenarian cult” and predicted that “doomsday [would] inevitably [be] rescheduled again.”
I confess I underestimated Putin’s ambition to operate as a regional power that is able to invade and attack countries within its sphere of influence to show them who’s in charge, just as the U.S. does across the globe.
This is because, as someone who grew up in the wake of the Iraq War, I saw no reason to take the warnings of U.S. and British intelligence, or pro-war pundits who have engaged in zero self-reflection over the past 20 years, seriously. Why would they be right this time?
Well, in this instance they were, and I was wrong. But I’d rather be wrong in the service of peace and co-operation than right in the name of blowing them all to smithereens.
Beyond those two dismissive paragraphs, I see nothing else in the piece to regret.
In fact, I think my broader point about the foolishness of pouring arms into a conflict zone where known far-right extremist elements operate being a bad idea, has only been strengthened in the past two weeks.
The Russian invasion, and the Western world’s profoundly reactionary response to it, has opened the floodgates for a protracted far-right insurgency.
“It's already been a bloodbath. I think it's going to become more of a bloodbath,” Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said mere days after she was photographed standing behind a black-and-red scarf associated with the anti-Semitic, Nazi-adjacent Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.
Since I last wrote, Canada has given Ukraine:
4,500 M72 rocket launchers and up to 7,500 hand grenades;
$1 million towards the purchase of high-resolution modern satellite imagery;
100 Carl-Gustaf M2 anti-tank weapons system launchers and 2,000 rounds of ammunition;
1,600 fragmentation vests and 400,000 individual meal packs;
$25 million in helmets, body armour, gas masks, and night vision gear; and
Two C-130J tactical airlift aircraft and a team of 40-50 personnel to deliver aid and support.
Nobody in the mainstream press, to my knowledge, has asked the Canadian government what safeguards exist to ensure this weaponry doesn’t get into the hands of the Azov Battalion, which has already received training from Canadian Forces and is officially integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.
“This is more than just a few bad apples. This is the global barrel,” friend of the newsletter Erica Ifill wrote in a fantastic piece in the Hill Times.
Young members of the Ukrainian diaspora are becoming radicalized, and not in a good way, travelling with little military experience to a war zone where far-right groups are recruiting on the ground. This is a recipe for further disaster.
One can’t help being reminded of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when the U.S. and its allies showered military aid onto anyone willing to fight the Russians. We all know how that concluded.
I fear these concerns aren’t going to reach the mainstream until it’s too late.
In other news …
If the National Police Federation has its way, the ongoing inquiry into the April 2020 mass shooting in Portapique, N.S., won’t hear from the 17 RCMP officers who witnessed it to avoid re-traumatizing them, which the families of the 22 victims say is unacceptable.
The partner of shooter Gabrielle Wortman, Lisa Banfield, is also trying to get out of testifying for similar reasons.
“This was traumatic for everyone,” Joshua Bryson, a lawyer for two of the victims said. “To suggest these members be disqualified from testifying because of the nature of this subject matter and their hypothetical experiences is very concerning. In our view, it acts as a bar for this commission to fulfill its mandate, which is to understand what happened.”
The RCMP have been criticized for their slow response to the attack, in which Wortman killed 13 people and then the next morning was able to kill nine more while driving 200 km in a cop car.
According to reporting in Maclean’s, a few weeks before the shooting Wortman withdrew $475,000 in cash from a Brink’s depot, which is how the RCMP pays its agents and “not an option available to private banking customers.” This suggests there may be more to the cops’ unwillingness to testify than trauma.
Edited by Scott Schmidt
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