Ukrainian Canadians Enemy Aliens Again?

By Walter Derzko

The Ukrainian, German and Japanese Diaspora still have a strong community memory from the unjustified internment activities that occurred during first two world wars. These communities solemnly commemorate the memory of these victims with historic plaques, candle-light ceremonies and religious masses, yet very few people are pondering the speculative question: Could it happen again? Many people are surprised to learn that the conditions and circumstances that lead to the forced internment of Ukrainian Canadians are now being recreated today, right around the world.

US House Resolution 1553, tabled in the US Senate earlier this year, is a signal that the US is prepared to go to war against Iran. It states: “Expressing support for the State of Israel’s right to defend Israeli sovereignty, to protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, and to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.” This could include a pre-emptive nuclear strike by Israel on Iran. In August, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted on NBC’s Meet the Press that “military actions have been on the table and remain on the table for curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

On the other side of the globe, Russia announced that all troops in Moscow will be on “full war alert” which is similar to Canada declaring the War Measures Act.  Also, Russia has just ordered an unspecified number of inflatable rubber copies of its planes, tanks and missiles to fool satellite, air reconnaissance and spies on the ground in “future conflicts.” Something is afoot.

So, how does this affect Ukraine or Ukrainian Canadians?

In full disregard for Western (Canadian, US, EU and UN) sanctions against Iran, Ukraine’s government considers Iran its “strategic ally and a key trade partner in the north-south corridor” and is expanding trade, energy and other ties with Iran as Western companies such as General Electric and Caterpillar are pulling out. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko said that there is “great potential for cooperation between Ukraine and Iran in aircraft construction, transportation and energy (oil and gas) extraction - squarely in defiance of UN sanctions.  Should a pre-emptive military strike occur against Iran, Israel would likely co-opt the USA, the UK and Canada into the conflict. Iran could reciprocate by enticing its allies, Russia and Ukraine into the war. Should it escalate beyond a regional conflict, then all bets are off. Ukraine and Ukrainians again end up on the wrong side of the “military line in the sand” just like in the First World War.

Consider a second even more dangerous scenario.

With little fanfare and no mainstream press coverage, the US Senate tabled S.3081 - Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010. This proposed legislation goes beyond the terms “enemy alien” (applied to interned Ukrainian Canadians in World War One) and “enemy combatant”, introducing the phrase “enemy belligerents”. This is defined as any individual, anywhere in the world, suspected of any affiliation with terrorism or supporting hostilities again the USA or its coalition partners. Such suspects must be turned over to military authorities and can be detained at the discretion of the President, without being charged or denied legal representation and held for the duration of hostilities.

The Russian FSB and Ukraine’s SBU must be thanking their lucky stars, for such a blessing and gift from the US Congress in order to silence and neutralize their political critics. Saudi Arabia has been using similar anti-terrorist legislation to arrest and harass opposition groups and individuals, political opponents and reformers and human rights activists since 2004 (Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2010). I suspect that both Russia and Ukraine will find the use of similar tactics too tempting to resist. Recently, Russia greatly expanded the list of groups that it considers as terrorists or extremists. The improvised explosive device (IED) that exploded in a Russian Orthodox Church in Zaporizhia during the visit by Russian Patriarch Kiril right on July 28, 2010 was no accident.  Ukrainian and Russian intelligence could easily resort to classical Soviet “false flag” tactics, planting bombs and fake evidence to incriminate key opposition individuals and groups and tagging them as terrorists. Not only could they become “enemy belligerents” but since intelligence agencies regularly exchange information, they could also end up on the American “no fly list”, further curtailing their movements and liberty.

Reaction by people to these so-far fictitious scenarios has ranged from denial, surprise and shock – “This could never happen again” to “You may have a point here.” This seems plausible to me and maybe the Diaspora should be exploring strategies to mitigate and lessen the potential negative consequences.

Walter (Wolodymyr) Derzko is a Senior Fellow at the Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), and a lecturer in the MA program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University in Toronto.