THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Russian election-meddling in Canada linked to Arctic ambitions: report

Analyst says Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided

A new University of Calgary study is predicting Russian interference in the federal election campaign to serve what it describes as the Kremlin’s long-term interest of competing against Canada in the Arctic.

The study’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said in an interview that Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided as countries targeted in past elections, including the United States presidential ballot and Britain’s Brexit referendum in 2016, as well as various attacks on Ukraine and the Baltic states.

“The Kremlin has a growing interest in dominating the Arctic, where it sees Russia as in competition with Canada. This means Canada can anticipate escalations in information warfare, particularly from hacktivists fomenting cyber-attacks,” writes Sukhankin, a senior fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think-tank, who is teaching at the University of Calgary.

“Perceived as one of Russia’s chief adversaries in the Arctic region, Canada is a prime target in the information wars, with Russia potentially even meddling in the October 2019 federal election. Ottawa should be ready for a new surge in cyberattacks, disinformation and propaganda levelled against Canada in the near future.”

Sukhankin argues that Moscow’s disinformation efforts are designed primarily for domestic Russian consumption, and are not intended to sway Canadian voters.

It is part of a broader Kremlin effort to show the “ugly side of democracy and liberalism” to a Russian audience, and to portray Canada as being unduly influenced by the United States and the “Ukrainian lobby” in Canada, he writes.

“Russia uses patriotism and this anti-fascist sentiment to convince the domestic audience and Russian-speakers abroad, primarily in Ukraine, Belarus and the three Baltic states, that Russia is the only country to stand against far-right sentiments and nationalism. This is basically used by the Russian side to garner domestic solidarity,” he said in an interview.

ALSO READ: Most Canadians would trade free social media for privacy, government action: survey

Sukhankin’s argument echoes previous warnings about potential Russian interference from the Liberal government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and the country’s intelligence agencies.

The government has appointed a group of five senior public servants to guard against foreign election meddling during the campaign. The public servants will be able to brief members of all political parties about potential threats and will have the power to go public during the campaign to sound the alarm against malign acts of interference that they together deem a fundamental threat.

Canada expelled four Russian diplomats last year in connection with the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain that has been blamed on Moscow. (The Kremlin denies the charge).

At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the diplomats were intelligence agents who were undermining Canadian democracy.

As Sukhankin’s paper notes, Freeland has been a frequent target of Russian propaganda as part of a broader attempt to brand Canada as “russophobic” and having an “affection for fascism,” including a soft-spot for Nazism that dates back to the 1930s.

The goal is to justify Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula — the most serious breach of Europe’s border since the Second World War — which President Vladimir Putin has said was necessary to protect “Russian-speakers in Ukraine against their physical extermination,” writes Sukhankin.

Russia’s disinformation about Canada also focuses on three other areas, according to the report.

These include ridiculing Canada’s military presence in Latvia as part of NATO’s deterrent against Russia, portraying the country as a “useful satellite” of the U.S., and calling it a testing ground for “immoral Western values” because of its support of same-sex marriage and legalizing of cannabis.

ALSO READ: Should voting be mandatory in federal elections?

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Promoting downtown Vernon businesses the focus for 2020: DVA

Downtown Vernon Association holds AGM, plans to support biz move through pandemic

Bear fails to interrupt golfers in Vernon

‘It definitely was hard to putt with a bear that close, but we got it done’

Strong thunderstorms expected for Shuswap, Okanagan this weekend

Environment Canada meterologist also warns of heavy wind, rain and a potential for flooding

Toddler in Enderby airlifted to hospital after suffering serious burns

Vernon’s Advanced Life Support paramedic crew was called to the scene Thursday afternoon

Improper waste disposal in Armstrong leaves worker with serious injury

The city’s waste collection contractor has seen two incidents of improper disposal in as many weeks

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Parts of the TCT through Princeton will open to motorized vehicles Monday

Parts of the KVR trail through Princeton will open for motorized vehicles… Continue reading

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Mother duck and babies rescued from Highway 97 in Lake Country

The mother and nine ducklings were taken to Duck Lake

Chef brings farm-to-table approach to new Shuswap restaurant

Darren Bezanson opening Bistro 1460 at Hilltop Inn

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

EDITORIAL: Revisiting alcohol consumption

A proposal to allow alcohol consumption in some public spaces in Penticton deserves consideration

Most Read