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Diane Francis: Russia is the true global menace

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Photo by MIKHAIL METZEL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images files

The Israel-Gaza and Ukraine-Russia conflicts are not standalone catastrophes. They are linked and part of a world war started by Vladimir Putin in 1999 to restore the Soviet Union’s empire after becoming President of Russia.

His world war operates mostly in the shadows through operatives, non-state players like Hamas and other terrorist organizations as well as through extremist political groups. There is also its mercenary Wagner Group that has played a role in destabilizing Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. These “weapons” provide Russia with plausible deniability and hide a war against the West aimed at destabilization, fomenting unrest and violence, and stoking political polarization.

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Evidence of such skulduggery surfaces piecemeal, but there remains no global consensus that this is Putin’s World War 3 and can only be stopped through a concerted, global effort and change in tactics. For instance, leaders haggle over next moves here and there or, recently, American politicians argue about funding Ukraine as opposed to Israel, as though the same Evil wasn’t behind all conflicts. Only a global alliance stopped the Second World War, and its allies didn’t bicker about allocations to fight Germany as opposed to Japan.

This is another global conflagration orchestrated by Putin and other ruthless leader which means that there is no room for diplomacy, appeasement, neutrality or negotiations, ceasefires, or peace talks. Only eradication of Russia’s network, in all its guises, will win the peace.

Russia’s allies are Iran and North Korea, not China in my opinion, but most destructively it uses thousands of operatives embedded everywhere to cause trouble. All must be identified, tracked, and defeated.

Israel’s current predicament illustrates why the failure to realize Putin’s intentions can be fatal. Its leadership was on good terms with Putin, unaware that Russia was financing and training Hamas as was Iran. The slaughter took place on Oct. 7 (Putin’s birthday) and weeks later, on October 29, a Hamas spokesman admitted publicly that Russia is “our closest friend”.

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Then Israel counter-attacked Hamas by conducting massive bombing raids and a ground invasion of Gaza to destroy the terrorist organization as if it was a static nation-state and not a mobile insurgency.

Israel’s retaliation demolished half of Gaza and killed thousands of Palestinians. This outcome handed Russia an opportunity to weaponize the air waves by amplifying the plight of Palestinian civilians at the hands of Israel. This has roiled world opinion and divided allies.

Not surprisingly, Vladimir Putin granted a rare interview days later with Qatar-owned Al Jazeera where he expressed concern about the “catastrophic increase” in the number of civilians killed in Israel and the Gaza Strip. “The Russian leader also took aim at Washington’s policy in the Middle East which he said had failed by not taking the needs of Palestinians into account,” read the website.

The failure to take a global approach to end Russia’s predations has allowed one ally to be pitted against another or to be taken by surprise. The same naivete led to the Ukrainian war. The West, dating back to Russia’s partial invasion in 2014 and elsewhere, failed to realize that Putin was salami-slicing in a quest to dominate Eastern Europe again. If it had understood, Europe would not have become dependent on Russia for energy and NATO would have incorporated Ukraine and Georgia years ago.

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Russia’s “hybrid” war includes political meddling, something that Canada has experienced involving Chinese intervention in elections.

Interestingly, China has stayed on the sidelines in Russia’s global war. Russia would love nothing better than to convince China to open another front by invading Taiwan, but this is a Kremlin distraction combined with wishful thinking. Since Ukraine’s invasion, China has distanced itself from Russia. Beijing moves toward détente with the United States and Europe out of self-interest to shore up its exports and economy in future. It also fears Russia, as it should. Russia, not China, initiated and backed the only post-war invasions in Asia — Korea and Vietnam.

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For Canadians, the lesson is simple: Elect a Prime Minister who will pull Canada’s weight in a global alliance against Russia. Ottawa must meet NATO obligations and shore up our defenses. Politically, Parliament or CSIS should investigate if there is a Russian Fifth Column at work here to undermine our resources and Arctic. There’s little doubt in my mind it’s here, if only because it’s everywhere else.

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