Seeing it all backwards (On Russia)

This is an article in the Guardian by the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent. It is about “Russian aggression”. The noted sociologist Professor Furedi wrote a piece some time ago in which he said that after looking at the output of Britain’s political-media class he thought that they really believed this line about “Russian aggression”. That is – they believe their own propaganda. I basically agree with him but I think the only way to explain this self-delusion is that it is underpinned by an attitude that they fundamentally don’t care. They don’t care for anyone outside of their bubble; that is, for example, Russians. They certainly also don’t care about ‘truth’ in the sense of telling the truth; which necessarily means objective investigation. They are content to recirculate their own myths and to redefine the truth-test as “is it consistent with our view of the world” rather than “is it consistent with reality”.

The article describes a sinister Russian troop build up near Ukraine. It implies that Russia is either about to attack Ukraine or is using might to threaten Ukraine. As always the narrative falls apart when it is looked at by anyone who is not a believer. Consider:

The European Union has pledged its “unwavering” support for Ukraine’s government amid concerns of a military escalation in the east of the country or a possible new offensive against the Nato ally after recent Russian troop movements.

“New offensive”. Of course there has never been a Russian “offensive” against Ukraine. Russian forces protected Crimea as it re-joined Russia. (The 80% referendum vote has been repeatedly confirmed by major Western polling organisations). There probably was some degree of Russian military support for the rebels in Donbass; support limited to defending Russian-speakers against an onslaught by the nationalist brigades and army of Kiev. But not an “offensive” against Kiev.

Online researchers have identified troops being transferred to Ukraine’s borders from western and central Russia, including artillery from as far away as Siberia.

Really, you have to laugh. “Online researchers”. (Not ‘Bellingcat’ by any chance?) – This makes it all sound like real cloak and dagger stuff – the cold war. But we don’t need these mysterious and wonderous “online researchers”. Head over to Yandex (main news portal/aggregator in Russia) and the front page has plenty of images and videos of armour on the move. But “online researchers have identified” does spice up the story doesn’t it Mr Roth?

On Monday, Ryabkov hinted at what Moscow’s aims may be, saying that the United States should apply greater effort to enforce the Minsk agreements, a 2015 roadmap out of the conflict that many in Kyiv believe is disadvantageous and was forced to sign during a Russian-backed offensive.

This is a very interesting paragraph as Roth indicates that in UK media-political-intelligence circles they are shamelessly trying to slide away from Minsk 2 – the agreements sponsored by France and Germany to broker a solution to the conflict – by offering a degree of autonomy to the Eastern regions of Ukraine.

The rest of the noxious article discusses various conspiracy theories about Russia’s intentions; putting pressure on Ukraine; “projecting power” to “put the Biden administration on notice”? The explanation offered by Russia – that the troop movements are in connection with Russia’s self-defence is neither reported nor considered by Mr Roth. (We do have “The Russian government has denied it is planning a military attack but has not denied the troop movements” – which already twists what they have said). Yet this is far more likely than Russia is risking a confrontation purely for the sake of “projecting power” to Mr Biden. Only in the deluded imaginations of Mr Roth and others of this view does Russia behave like a demented and aggressive monkey projecting power for the sake of it. Frank Furedi’s analysis (linked above) is much more sober – he assesses Russia as a defensive power and a rational actor.

The actual reason for Russian troop build-up is almost certainly because they believe (either by assessing the situation or due to hard intelligence) that certain forces in Kiev may take advantage of the change of administration in Washington to force a conflict with Russia, with a view to dragging America into it. If forces in Kiev could drag Russia into a conflict by, say, restarting the Donbass war and putting the rebels under very significant pressure, or by creating some kind of border incident with Crimea then Biden might well feel he had to get involved; after all he has made a big point of being “tough on Russia”. The purpose of the build-up in this scenario is both to discourage adventurism and to be ready if it happens.

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer