October 15, 2019 |
DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN
The U.S. should follow Canada's lead in putting far-right extremist groups on its list of outlawed terrorist organizations, a new report on the danger of the white supremacist movement recommends.
There is also a growing trend for white supremacist groups to seek military training and experience in foreign conflicts, particularly in Ukraine, warns the New York-based Soufan Center in its report “White Supremacy Extremism: The Transnational Rise of The Violent White Supremacist Movement.
U.S. government efforts to fight white supremacy extremism (WSE) are lacking despite the increasing danger it poses, the report pointed out. “White supremacy extremism is a transnational challenge — its tentacles reach from Canada to Australia, and the United States to Ukraine – but it has evolved at a different pace in different parts of the world,” noted the report. “To make serious progress, the United States should consider building upon Canada and the United Kingdom's leadership by sanctioning transnational WSE groups as foreign terrorist organizations.”
The report specifically pointed to Canadian efforts against the international neo-Nazi network called Blood & Honor. In June, Canada for the first time added right-wing extremist groups to its list of terrorist organizations. Blood & Honor as well as its armed branch, Combat 18, which has carried out murders and bombings around the world, were both put on the list. Blood & Honor was founded in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s but has supporters in Canada.
By designating white supremacist groups as international terrorists, the U.S. government could hinder the travel of their members and prosecute individuals for providing material support to designated groups. In 2018 white supremacist extremists were connected to 50 murders in the U.S.
The Soufan Center, created by former FBI agent Ali Soufan who was involved in a number of counter-terrorism cases, also warned white nationalists have been traveling to Ukraine to learn combat skills. Such recruits are on both sides of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists and an estimated 17,000 foreigners from 50 countries have gone to fight in that war, it added.
“In Ukraine, the Azov Battalion has recruited foreign fighters motivated by white supremacy and neo-Nazi beliefs, including many from the West, to join its ranks and receive training, indoctrination, and instruction in irregular warfare,” the report outlined.
The Azov Battalion has been formerly incorporated into the Ukrainian military, at least in theory, the report added. But the battalion has cultivated a relationship with members of the Atomwaffen Division, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi terrorist network.
In late September police arrested a U.S. Army soldier in Kansas for allegedly sharing bomb-making instructions online and discussing attacks on the news media, left-leaning activists and former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke. The soldier, Jarrett William Smith, was interested in joining the Azov Battalion in Ukraine, according to the FBI. He was corresponding with another man in Texas who had fought in Ukraine for a right-wing extremist organization.
In June 2018 Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to neo-Nazis
The Canadians were photographed with battalion members, images which were shared on the unit's social media site
In a statement to this newspaper Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said the meeting was planned by Ukrainian authorities and Canadian representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be invited.
“Canada has not, does not, and will not be providing support to Azov and affiliated entities,” Le Bouthillier said. “Canada is strongly opposed to the glorification of Nazism and all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance and extremism.”
The Soufan Center report also noted that Russian neo-Nazis have links with white supremacists in western nations. On the other side of the conflict in Ukraine, Russian groups like the Russian Imperial Movement and its paramilitary unit have also attracted and trained foreign fighters motivated by white supremacy and neo-Nazi beliefs, the report added.