The Editor – National Post
Attn: Anne Marie Owens
December 8, 2016
Reference: National Post, December 5, 2016 article “Thanks, but no thanks Canada: Not all Latvians convinced NATO mission is necessary”, by Dylan C. Robertson
It would be an understatement to say that numerous readers in the Latvian and Baltic Communities, some, as loyal readers of the National Post, are perplexed by the recent article of Dylan C. Robertson. Comments received include questions of whether this is a deliberate misrepresentation or naive muddling of facts and fiction with a political agenda. Needless to say, some readers have indicated that they will never again believe what is presented as news, especially in this age of “scandal, smear and fake news”.
Naturally, in hopes of attracting the eye of the reader, the story headings are sensational. In one edition, the title reads, “Thanks, but no thanks Canada: Not all Latvians convinced NATO mission is necessary”, while in the Ottawa Citizen version, it is, “Uncertain fate awaits troops in Latvia”. Another heading: “Bringing NATO soldiers will just upset Russia”.
The issue is swirling around the recent announcements to deploy Canadian and other NATO allied contingents to Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Though more of a symbolic deterrent in face of real and violent threats from the evolving Russian hegemony, the Allies are demonstrating a resolve to reassure their partners that the values of democracy, freedom and rule of law will be defended. Without any doubt, Latvians are grateful to Canada for its support and await Canadians with open arms. During decades of occupation, Canada and the West stood their ground in never recognizing the Russian annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This will never be forgotten by the Baltic peoples and by Canadians of Baltic origin. We are proud of Canada.
To those who actually follow world events, it is clear that a war, both hot and cold, is being waged by a resurgent Russia bent on recovering prestige and territories of the Soviet Empire, and demolishing the influence of what it considers its traditional enemies, NATO, the European Union and America.
Except for a polished outer appearance, there is little to distinguish between the inherent corruption of a modern Russian rogue state, led by a mafia of KGB functionaries, and the corruption of the former elitist Communist structure, led by some of the same faces. Learning from past dictatorships, which imposed internal hardships on their own people, criminal minds divert the attention of their populations, and the world, by initiating distractions, usually with threats to their neighbours, or outright war. In the case of Putin’s Russia, witness the invasions of Georgia, the terrorist-style invasion of Ukraine, the illegal occupation of Crimea, the ensuing murders, disappearances and human rights abuses committed behind closed doors, and of course, the heinous war crimes being committed in Syria. Now, the sabre-rattling is being intensified towards the Baltics.
Hand in hand with such intrinsic criminal activity comes a massive propaganda war financed by billions in state funds. The hybrid and cyber war is a fact. It is being waged ferociously, with subtle and effective use of all media, whether in print, radio, television or internet, and yes, is extremely sophisticated. The West is just waking up to the fact of a major information, or more correctly, disinformation war being waged against it. It takes many forms. The target: foreign media, the Russian Diaspora, the internet and a wide international audience.
In Latvia, the Kremlin dogma is piped in daily through radio and satellite television. The local Russian minority, constantly exposed to the assertion that they are not respected, or in fact, are persecuted, comes to believe that they need to be saved. In the capital city of Riga, the mayor, an ethnic Russian, has had difficulty accepting the fact that there ever was a Soviet occupation of Latvia. (It should be noted that the Harmony Party in the Latvian Parliament, headed by the mayor, has a formal agreement with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party.) Repeating the lie until it sticks, an effective propaganda technique, generations have been taught that Latvia and Latvians voluntarily joined the Soviet Union. History is easily changed, distorted and even erased.
As for language, the younger generation of Latvians, who are no longer forced to learn Russian, as in their parents’ time, find it difficult to get work in Russian controlled businesses. The propaganda machine likes to turn facts inside out and claim it is Russians who are being discriminated against. On the other hand, some Russians refuse to learn the local language, calling Latvian a “dog’s language”.
As the deployment of Canadian and NATO allied forces approaches, aggressive media provocations will increase in intensity. The intent of such misinformation is to drive a wedge between allies, to weaken them….to distract them. We are confident that Canadian forces will be prepared for any attempts to compromise and provoke them while carrying out their mission. Meanwhile, Russia continues with its primitive military threats and bullying tactics…pushing the envelope to achieve its geopolitical and economic goals.
President, Latvian National Federation in Canada
President, Baltic Federation in Canada