Murray Dobbin is a left wing ‘activist,’ author and commentator, an advisor, board member and contributor to organizations like rabble.ca and the Rideau Institute, an anti-military ‘think tank.’ He has his own blog and he writes, now and again, for mainstream journals including the Globe and Mail and the Hill Times. An article in the Hill Times caught my eye, yesterday. It’s entitled: “Do we really want a war with Russia?” The short answer, of course, is “No,” and the slightly longer answer is “No, and only a fool or a Putin apologist would suggest such a thing.” I think that in Mr Dobbin’s case the long answer is appropriate.
He writes: “No area of public policy is so shrouded in secrecy, obfuscation and outright deception than foreign policy,” which is, largely, true, but then he adds that “The illegal seizure of the Crimea and the militarization of eastern Ukraine … was exactly what the U.S. wanted: it needs a Russian “threat” to justify the continued existence of the anachronistic military alliance. The U.S., which totally dominates NATO, has used the annexation of Crimea to promote the notion of Russian “aggression” towards its former Warsaw pact allies. Yet despite the rhetoric there is no evidence to suggest that Russia is suddenly going to invade Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, or Poland and then bear the huge burden of occupying them.” No evidence, that is, except for Russian military build-ups in almost every region but especially in its own far West, adjacent to the borders with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.
Putin does not want to fight: he knows that his ramshackle, poorly trained, ill disciplined and badly led army is no match for American, British, Canadian, Dutch, Estonian, French and German troops, but he does want to create turmoil and worry in the hope that some crack will appear in NATO’s solidarity that would allow him, ever the opportunist, to, somehow, seize a land connection to Kaliningrad.
President Putin needs a gang of “useful idiots” (a phrase usually but probably inaccurately attributed to Lenin and/or Stalin) to spread the “party line” (which still seems to emanate from Moscow on a regular basis). Mr Dobbin seems, to me, to be just such a “useful idiot” and his article is the Hill Times smacks of being President Putin’s “party line,” especially when he goes on to explain how America,not innocent Russia, is the world’s premier troublemaker: “A quick reality check on which country—the U.S. or Russia—is expansionist and imperialist seems appropriate. It is the U.S. that has military bases in over 80 countries—and military personnel in 80 more. The U.S. accounts for 95 per cent of all foreign bases in the world and has a quarter of a million troops stationed outside the U.S. Russia has eight foreign bases, all in former Soviet republics with which it shares borders. And it is the U.S. which is establishing an anti-ballistic missile system in Romania, severely destabilizing the nuclear strategic balance that has prevented a nuclear holocaust for more than 60 years. The U.S. is also modernizing its nuclear weapons to make their use more likely. The B61-12 is a mini-bomb and, according to author John Pilger, “General James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has said, ‘Going smaller [makes using this nuclear]weapon more thinkable.’”” I am not an apologist for American foreign or defence policy, both of which I have said, more than once, have been and still are misguided. But to compare American stumbling and Russian opportunistic adventurism and then conclude that America, not Russia, is the aggressor takes a special kind of moral blindness … which mr Dobbin, and his many friends on the anti-military left seem to possess in abundance.
Murray Dobbin concludes that: “Now the U.S. and NATO are suddenly seeking full Canadian membership in the madness. NATO (read the U.S.) is requesting that we join the U.S., Britain, and Germany and commit up to 1,000 to a new, 4,000 troop contingent that would be permanently stationed in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland. Though the number is small, this permanent NATO presence in countries bordering Russia is arguably even more provocative than the recent military exercise … [and] … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces an exceptionally difficult choice between now and the NATO summit on July 8-9. But if he makes the courageous one, and sides with those calling for more dialogue and diplomacy, (which is, after all, Trudeau’s stated objective with Russia) he will in the long run be on the side of the angels.” Mr Dobbin right that Justin Trudeau is caught between Scylla and Charybdis, but he’s dead wrong about the utility, value and morality of his options. The best way to prevent another “illegal seizure” of another state’s sovereign territory is to put a large Canadian battle group in Eastern Europe to demonstrate to Putin’s Russia that NATO will not be pushed around like Ukraine was.
My fear, however, is that Mr Dobbin has far, far more influence in Prime Minister Trudeau’s inner circle than do morally sound political and strategic realists.