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

Province looking at steps to dissolve Jumbo resort municipality

Disincorporating municipality will likely require a legislative change, according to the province

Students show off performing and artistic talents at GFSS

Grand Forks Secondary students hosted an art show and play last weekend

Grand Forks community centre open house set for Jan. 23 at the aquatic centre

Designers and the development committee will be at the aquatic centre from 4 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 23

Boundary Family Services takes over shelter management in Grand Forks

The organization got Grand Forks city council’s approval on Jan. 15

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Victoria police arrest 12 anti-pipeline protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en

‘We are unarmed, they have guns,’ protesters chanted on Wednesday morning

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

Harry and Meghan should cover their own security costs: NDP heritage critic

The prince, Meghan Markle and their eight-month-old son Archie are reportedly staying at a mansion near Victoria

Theo the 800-pound pig trimmed down and still looking for love on Vancouver Island

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

Most Read