Propaganda in the Telegraph

Just so that readers don’t think this paper only identifies propaganda in the Guardian here is a nice example of Western media propaganda in the Daily Telegraph. The story is about a new Russian tank – which the Russians are, admittedly, pretty pleased about.

The article drips with propaganda. Here are a few snippets:

There is growing alarm among military chiefs that a presidential victory for Donald Trump, who has criticised US funding of Nato, could leave the West badly exposed to Vladimir Putin’s aggression, especially in the vulnerable Baltic states

This is an excellent example of how worst case military planning is rapidly translated into the basis for action. Yes; Mr Trump could win the US Presidential election. And it is conceivable, just, that that would see some kind of decrease in US support for NATO. Theoretically. But all this is in reality highly unlikely. Then this unlikely scenario is matched to the faked narrative about “Vladimir Putin’s aggression”. No such ‘aggression’ exists. (Crimea might be cited but that was a rational action with a strong historical basis, validated by a referendum – whose results have been confirmed twice by Western polling organisations. More than 50% of the population of Crimea is ethnically Russian. [1] Crimea was part of Russia – not the USSR, but Russia – until it was transferred by Krushchev to Ukraine in 1954 as an administrative matter. Russia only annexed Crimea after a coup in Kiev swung Ukraine towards the EU and NATO; a move which disenfranchised the people in the East who are much less pro the EU than those in the West and centre of Ukraine. The West may not like it; but there is an abundance of rational reasons for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And so, it doesn’t qualify as the kind of irrational aggression proposed by the narrative about “Russian aggression”). [2] Then we have the fiction about “vulnerable Baltic states”. As if Russia is about to suddenly invade Latvia. As Putin commented “only a madman in his dreams would attack NATO”. [3] What evidence is there that Russia is about to invade the Baltics? Yes; the USSR under Stalin did do this in 1940. But today? Even if Russia wanted to suddenly invade the Baltics as Putin notes it would be madness… “Vulnerable Baltic states” is a piece of fiction invented by the UK’s Defence sector, a fiction, which the lacklustre political class simply go along with. Notice how these narrative lines, about “Putin’s aggression” and “vulnerable Baltic states” are just cited as self-evident truths. This is how it works; rarely will you see in the Western media a serious analytic article explaining why or how “Putin” is “aggressive” or seriously assessing the likelihood of a Russian invasion of the Baltics. They just repeat these lines and hope that by the act of repetition they will be taken as true. In reality this is an exercise in self-hypnosis.

The line about “Putin’s aggression” is the characteristic attempt  to develop the idea that “Putin” is a dictator over-lording it over his tyrannised population who are, in fact, all Western liberals at heart. It is an attempt to deny the democratic reality. Putin is a popular President who has been elected because he (popular touch if you like) has managed to promote a vision which is acceptable, at least, to a lot of Russians.

Analysis for Western military leaders has suggested Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – all Nato member states – would be overrun by Russian tanks within 60 hours of an invasion.

Quite possibly true. But, again, this is a case of worst case military planning being taken as imminent political reality.

The Ukrainian government estimates that Russian-backed separatists in their country have 700 tanks

Ukrainian government claims regarding the conflict in the East and Russian support for the militants should be treated with a degree of caution. The Western media usually takes all statements from Kiev as de facto true.

Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said he was “very concerned” about Russian rearmament. “At the moment, their economy is a war economy,” he said. “They have got the GDP of Italy and they are trying to spend the same on defence as America. What they are doing is unsupportable and when something is unsupportable, then anything could happen.

Lord Spitfire is simply wrong. The Russians are not “trying to spend the same on defence as America”. The US spends around 3.5% of its GDP on defence – a sum of around USD 570 billion. [4] Russia spends around 4.5% [5] (or 5.4%) [4] of its GDP. Out of a GDP of USD 1 – 2 trillion Russia spends perhaps USD 65 billion. [5] The figures for Russia are variable because of the current contraction in the economy and fall of the currency caused by sanctions and the collapse in oil prices. At any event it is not true, not even remotely true, that Russia is “trying to spend the same on defence as America”. For example; the US has 10 or 11 aircraft carriers. Russia has one; a small one.  The US has bases all around the world to maintain. Russia has hardly any bases outside of its own territory. The role of journalists should be to comment on obviously false claims, not repeat them. Furthermore; Russian state media currently report that the Russian defence budget is being cut. [6]

A typical piece of Western hyperbole. Based on quotes from delirious generals and repeating fictions about “Putin’s aggression”. Analysis is entirely absent.


1. Wikipedia article on Crimea with ethnicity figures sourced to Ukrainian census data

2. New Obs on Crimea.

3. RT. June 2015. Putin “only a madman in a dream would attack NATO”

4. Forbes magazine. Arms spending as percentage of GDP.

5. Wikipedia article on comparative defence spending as percentage of GDP.

6. Sputnik. February 2016.


Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer