What is Putin’s ultimate goal in Ukraine? Is the West responding appropriately?

On Twitter, @pelzm asked: “What is Putin’s ultimate objective in Ukraine, and is the West responding appropriately?” Doug Saunders, The Globe’s international affairs columnist and editor of Globe Debate, says “that’s the question of the year.” He explains:

Much of our analysis during the last eight-odd months has been devoted to the question of what Vladimir Putin’s “end game” looks like in Ukraine – what his motives are in launching a de facto invasion, and what outcome he is seeking – and therefore what the best response should be from the West.

One school of thought holds that Mr. Putin, by interfering in Crimea, in eastern Ukraine and possibly in Moldova and elsewhere, has launched a full-fledged invasion of the parts of Eastern and Central Europe that formerly belonged to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (and possibly some that are part of the Warsaw Pact).  For example, David Meadows at Dalhousie University argued in Globe Debate that Mr. Putin is pursuing a neo-imperialist strategy intended to resurrect Russia’s former territorial might. Of course, Mr. Putin literally has claimed Crimea as Russian territory, in the wake of a secession referendum he appears to have orchestrated (whose results were not recognized by most of the rest of the world); the question is whether this was a prelude to a larger territorial seizure.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Putin and those who endorse the Russian perspective on these events believe he has not launched an invasion at all and is simply protecting Russian minorities (and, in the case of Crimea, ethnic majorities) across the region and taking their side in civil wars and secession movements that have spontaneously erupted.

But the view among many Russia-watchers is that Mr. Putin is trying to sow chaos and ambiguity in the region, as he did before in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in order to prevent their functioning membership in the European political and economic community, and in order to bolster his strength and popularity at home in Russia.

As I wrote in an analysis earlier this year: “Rather than seeking to divide Ukraine and annex the more Russian part of its territory, in this scenario Mr. Putin is seeking to ensure that Ukraine’s loyalties will remain neutral, out of fear or out of persuasion, and the country’s perpetual divide between east and west will not tilt too far toward Europe.”

Thus, the question as to whether the West is responding appropriately is at least partly prefigured by your answer to the first question. Those who view Mr. Putin’s ambitions as neo-imperialist and based on larger-scale territorial expansion tend to feel that the West’s response has been woefully inadequate and that only hard military action, or the immediate and viable threat of it, will cause Russia to back down. This has been more or less the view of former ambassadors Derek Burney and Fen Hampson, who have repeatedly called for a more overt NATO role in eastern Europe (and Ukrainian membership in that organization).

The tough but targeted program of economic isolation through sanctions that has been applied by Western governments – at first half-heartedly and recently more robustly and successfully – has its critics. Mr. Putin’s supporters feel that they are simply part of a larger and unprovoked Western attack on Russia and “Eurasian” regional interests. And some Western observers worry that that over-aggressive economic penalties could further popularize this view within Russia – that is, they could make Mr. Putin even more popular by seemingly confirming his claim that all Russians are under attack by the West.

As the year has progressed and Mr. Putin has failed to end his interference in Ukraine, Western observers and governments have become tougher in their application of sanctions; a certain line was crossed this autumn when German chancellor Angela Merkel gave up her attempts to win over the Russian president and backed a hardline sanctions policy.

The challenge will be to calibrate economic sanctions so they force Mr. Putin to reverse his course without emboldening him further. In a July analysis titled “Putin’s war of ideas cuts to the heart of Europe,” I wrote (if you’ll forgive me quoting myself again) that we should avoid thinking of this as another Cold War, because, unlike in Soviet times, Mr. Putin is not acting from strength but “out of internal political and economic weakness of a profound degree.” As such, the West’s response needs to be calibrated:

“What needs to be sought is not an amplification of Mr. Putin’s myth of a divided continent, but an end to it. A tough economic response is required, along with a generous democratic response that would bring Ukraine into Europe – alongside a refusal to play along with Mr.Putin’s attempt to manufacture a civilizational showdown. Ukraine and Russia are both European countries, as much as any other; it is time to put aside our old illusions and help both countries get on the path to peace, prosperity and European values.”

Read more from Doug Saunders, and follow The Globe’s coverage of the ongoing situation in Ukraine

What kind of books does The Globe review?

Our latest question comes from Sean Cummings. He asked the following question via Twitter: #asktheglobe Why don’t you review genre fiction? Your books section reviews that which most folks DON’T read.

For the answer we turned to Books Editor Mark Medley, who gives his response.

Hi Sean, I respectfully disagree with the assertion that the Globe doesn’t cover the books that people want to read. Just this past Saturday, for instance, we published a 1500-word profile of Jennifer Robson, who writes popular historical romances as is a fixture on our bestseller list. In fact, looking at this past weekend’s Canadian bestseller lists, we have covered every single book on the fiction list, and half of the books on the non-fiction list. (And the only reason we haven’t covered some of these books is because they are financial guides or self-help books, which we don’t generally review.) As far as genre fiction, Margaret Cannon has long been a fixture in our pages, and we publish six reviews by her (focusing on crime fiction) each month. Marissa Stapley also writes a regular column on commercial fiction, which debuted in early 2015. Shannon Ozirny writes a monthly round-up of the best in YA fiction, as well.

As you can see, The Globe regularly reviews genre fiction. Thanks for the question Sean.

If you have a question that you would like answered, use #AskTheGlobe and we will do our best to search for the answer.

What are the guidelines for how The Globe presents sponsored content?

This question comes from SurlyTorontoConsumer via Twitter: “Does the @globeandmail plan to ever disclose to readers which news articles are ‘sponsored’ by companies mentioned in them? #asktheglobe”

Sean Stanleigh, Managing Editor of Globe Edge Content Studio, responds:

In terms of stories that contain mentions of paying sponsors, we clearly disclose those relationships through use of the label Sponsor Content, highlighted at the top of each page, whether in print or online. These include advertorials and native advertising, in which advertisers have input into story ideation and final approvals on content prior to publication. These stories also use different visual cues, such as fonts and templates, and they live in a separate area of globeandmail.com, which you’ll find here.

Click here for more information about Globe Edge Content Studio.

Hope that helps SurlyTorontoConsumer. If you have a question that you would like answered, use #AskTheGlobe and we will do our best to search for the answer.

What is the difference between a hate crime and a terrorist attack?

“Why are attacks against some considered terrorism, while this is only a ‘hate crime’?” asks Joel Arthurs via Twitter in respect to our story about a Mosque in Peterborough, Ont. that was deliberately set on fire.

Sean Fine, The Globe’s justice writer gave this response:

The reader raises a good question. Terrorism and some hate crimes may overlap. Hate may be linked to a political, religious or ideological purpose – part of the definition of terrorism. And why do people commit hate crimes if not to intimidate? Intimidation is also part of the definition of terrorism.

But the Peterborough mosque example is straightforward. Someone threw a bottle with flammable liquid through a window, causing a reported $100,000 in smoke damage. Under Canada’s 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, property damage qualifies as terrorism only if it is substantial, and likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, or endanger public health or safety. Or if the act “causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system.” A nuclear plant, for instance.

The wording of the terrorism law communicates the largeness of scale of terrorist crimes and motivations, as Parliament views them. The intimidation clause, for instance, includes an intention to compel “a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act. . .”

“Terrorism requires attacks on individuals, not just buildings,” Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas says. “It trivializes the concept of terrorism to use it for property damage.”

What is a hate crime? In Canadian law, it is a crime to advocate or promote genocide, punishable by up to five years in prison. It is also a crime to incite hatred of an identifiable group, if that incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. (Maximum sentence: two years.)

But the term “hate crime” is most commonly used to describe any crime — assault or arson, for instance — in which hate is an aggravating factor. The Criminal Code written by Parliament instructs judges to increase sentences when there is “evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.”

“Hate crimes in Canada are simply a sentencing enhancement and not an independent crime,” University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach says. The penalty for arson would be increased if the court finds the arsonist’s motivation was hate.

But it is not always a simple matter to separate hate crimes from terrorism.
Imagine that a janitor working in the mosque was killed. Murder doesn’t require intent; it is enough that the person throwing the flammable liquid was willfully blind to the possibility. The charge could be murder, with hate as an aggravating factor. (Second degree murder, like that of first degree, carries an automatic penalty of life in prison, but the parole eligibility varies from 10 to 25 years; hate could mean more prison time.) Or the death of a janitor in the mosque could have resulted in a terrorism charge. All the elements — the intent to intimidate, the political motive, the death — are there.

The same goes for Justin Bourque’s killings of three RCMP officers in Moncton, N.B., last year, or Marc Lepine’s massacre of 14 women a École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. Terrorism or murder? That is where a prosecutor’s discretion comes into play.

 Follow Sean Fine on Twitter and if you have a question that you would like answered, use #AskTheGlobe and we will do our best to search for the answer.

Shouldn’t The Globe do away with anonymous commenters?

“Should the Globe require real names be used in your online reader comments sections?” asks Dave Ings in Toronto. “It might elevate and civilize the tone of the discussions and reduce the trolling.”

The Globe’s senior social media editor Melissa Whetstone says that’s a commonly-considered option in the newsroom – but we’re not convinced. “We’ve also wondered whether The Globe should require commenters to use their real names. and whether doing so would improve the level of conversation on our site,” Whestone says. It’s a subject of much debate with no simple answer:

How do you force commenters to use their real names in the first place? It’s easy enough to create a fake profile. You could force users to sign up with one of their social media profiles, but what’s stopping them from setting up a fake account there? Besides, it’s not like Facebook or Twitter is troll-free. People there are often not shy about posting abusive or offensive comments under their real names, right along with that profile photo of them and their smiling kids.

There’s also the argument that not allowing anonymity would stifle discussion around sensitive or controversial topics. Maybe you have a deeply personal story you think would add value to a conversation, but don’t necessarily want your co-workers to come across it. Chances are you wouldn’t bother to share it.

The Globe is aware that our commenting system is not perfect. But we have mechanisms to try and make it a place for valuable discussion and debate. We have options to report for abuse comments and users who break our community guidelines. Moderators review these reports and remove comments or block users when warranted. When covering topics that tend to attract a high number of abusive comments, we set articles to premoderation. This means all comments on that article must be reviewed by a moderator before appearing online.

Some news organizations have removed comments from their site entirely, unable or unwilling to tolerate the troubles any longer. That’s a shame. There’s still value in comments  -whether on our own site or social media. (Take a look at this piece we published last week as one example.) The Coral Project is one group looking at ways to improve community and commenting on news sites through technology. I’m eager to see what they come up with. I’m sure many readers are too.

Follow Melissa Whetstone on Twitter, and read more on the subject: Online anonymity is too precious to give up

 

Why do dogs bark?

“I have a small female dog and she barks often for no apparent reason,” writes Jacques Hache in Gatineau, Quebec. “Can The Globe tell me, why do dogs bark?” The Globe’s resident dog lady and Canada Q&A editor Amberly McAteer has your answer:

Dogs are adorable weirdos: Mine eat my socks, chew on each other’s faces, roll in anything that smells terrible.  But barking for no reason is not a dog trait I’m personally familiar with – so I called in the expert: Jeff Cooke, president and head trainer at Bark Busters Canada, an international company that specializes in dog training and therapy. “Asking why a dog barks is like asking why a child cries. There are a million possible reasons,” Cooke says from his office in Squamish, B.C. Typically, he says, a dog bark is meant to alert the pack. “It most often means there is something strange or alarming going on here, and you should know about it.”

Barking when the doorbell rings is a great example: “Your dog is saying someone is here, and we should decide if we want to let them in.”

Cooke recommends studying your dog’s body language at the time he barks – it’s a much better indication of how he’s feeling at the time. A bark to indicate an alert, or fear, or play all use very different body language.  “If he’s upset, you’ll see hair on the back of their neck, ears go up, look more aggressive and bark in a high shrill,” Cooke says. But it’s completely different body language when he’s playful, and barking a squirrel up a tree.

But in your case – if there are no strange noises,  new people on your doorstep, or any thing that looks like fun prey, Cooke says your dog is likely barking to get some attention. He recommends ignoring the bark until it stops – and then paying attention to your pooch. “Don’t react in the moment –  it’s like a kid in a cereal aisle,” he laughs. “If you cave in the moment, they know they’ve got you.”

“Dogs spend a lot of time studying our actions – they watch us and try to figure out what relationships they can build. So they start to figure out if they do this the focus can be all about me.” Your canine pal LEARNS quite quickly that when he barks, it gets your attention off THE television and onto HIM.  Cooke says he had a client who works from home, and every time she answered the phone, the dog would start barking. “That sounds funny – but if you’re trying to conduct a business, it’s embarrassing.”

It’s best, he says, to bring a dog behaviorist into your home, so you can be sure. “Every case is going to be different, but you’ve got to get the incessant barking under control. Even for dog lovers, that’s going to get annoying quick.”

Give your dog all the love and attention he deserves – but do it on your terms, when he’s silent.  “That way he’s getting your attention, but he’s not in control. Everyone wins.”

Follow Amberly McAteer on Twitter, and for more reading: Dogs are people tooMy rescue dog is perfect – How long will the honeymoon last? and Science confirms it: Your dog’s emotions are written all over its face