How they distort the narrative on Ukraine

This is an example of how the Western media reports on the news so as to keep the central (NATO/US) narrative on track. The art is not (usually) to tell outright lies but to introduce distortions, change the context, emphasise this, omit that, and coat the already distorted report with an editorial gloss. The article is about the Munich security conference.

Scholz said it was unacceptable that a war in Europe was imminent over Russia’s demand that Ukraine’s path to Nato membership be blocked, when Putin knew such membership was not on the agenda. He also described as ridiculous claims by Putin that a genocide was under way in the Donbas.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/19/russia-johnson-munich-security-conference-putin-ukraine

Let’s look at the background to this.

Scholz is the Chancellor of Germany. Putin has recently commented that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is like “genocide”. Putin also made a comment about genocide following his meeting with Scholz in Moscow last week. It is important (of course) to report accurately. Some outlets manage a reasonable stab at this. For example this Turkish outlet reports:

Speaking about the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine, Scholz said a war in Europe is “unimaginable,” pointing out diplomatic possibilities for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis are not exhausted. Putin opposed him, saying there was a war in Europe, in Yugoslavia, “unleashed by the US and NATO,” but Scholz argued that the situation was different there, there was a threat of genocide. To that Putin said what is happening right now in the east of Ukraine, “discrimination of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, cemented in the country’s legislation” is “genocide” for Russia.

An exact transcript of the press conference remarks is available on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Olaf Scholz: I will emphasise that the situation in Yugoslavia was somewhat different. There was a danger and a threat of genocide, and this ought to have been prevented. I am very glad that everything is going peacefully there and that the Balkan nations have found a future in the European Union. All this is a very good sign.

Vladimir Putin: I will allow myself just to add that, in our view, what is happening in Donbass today is, in fact, genocide.

So. Putin did not spontaneously make a claim about genocide in Eastern Ukraine. Putin had brought up the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999 which took place without a UN Security Council resolution. Scholz then claimed that that was justified because the Kosovo Albanians were threatened with genocide by the Serbs. Putin then replied that “in our view” what is happening in Donbass today is genocide. It is both a mild and intelligent point. He is responding to Scholz’s attempt to differentiate the situation in Serbia/Kosovo in 1998/99 from what is happening now in Ukraine/Donbass. Putin says that from the Russian point of view what is happening in Donbass is like how Scholz characterises what was happening with Serbia and Kosovo in 1998. You can argue about the extent of the atrocities in either case * but it is not unreasonable, since Scholz introduced the topic of Kosovo and genocide, for Putin to say that in our view that is what is happening in Donbass now. The situational contexts are similar; a breakaway region of a larger country with a separate linguistic and cultural (and/or ethnic – it is arguable) makeup is attacked by the larger country. It is of course not widely reported in the West but Ukraine has recently brought in a law requiring service staff to always greet customers in Ukrainian – clearly this is discrimination against the Russian speaking people in the East. [1] But the main point is that Putin was responding to a comment by Scholz about ‘genocide’ and Putin said “in our view”.

Of course the Western media-political apparatus has reported this completely without context as if Putin made an aggressive claim about “genocide”. The State Department has dismissed the claim (which Putin did not make in the way it is being reported) as “false and reprehensible”. [2] The BBC reports it as a “baseless claim”. [2] Of course it is not “baseless” to say “in our view this is genocide”. Furthermore the view itself is not baseless; it is a fact that Kiev has introduced legislation which discriminates against the Russian language – widely used in the East of Ukraine. Putin no doubt also has in mind the 2014 attack on the Trade Union building in Odessa in which dozens of pro-Russian anti-Maidan demonstrators were killed. One can argue of course whether this (and no doubt Putin has other factors in mind as well) reaches a bar to be called ‘genocide’ but to simply dismiss the view (not even presented as a fact) as “baseless” as the BBC does is rather sick. In fact it seems to support the ‘genocide’ argument since those who commit genocide always deny it.

Scholz’s remarks – based on a misrepresentation of the press conference remarks – are then amplified. The narrative is that Putin made a claim about genocide – the context of Kosovo, the fact that he was responding to a claim by the Chancellor of Germany who was trying to legitimize NATO aggression against Serbia, and the qualifier “in our view” is removed. The theatre is to present Putin as making an outlandish claim about “genocide” – which can then be mocked and/or used to claim that Putin spontaneously put it forwards as a pretext for war. As so often the constructed narrative (jointly constructed by the State Department and the ‘free press’) is more or less the opposite of the reality.

* The claims of atrocities and mass graves used to justify the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 were, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, wildly exaggerated. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/pearl123199.htm

Notes

  1. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210401-new-law-stokes-ukraine-language-tensions
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60407010

Too much attachment to “sovereignty” could lead to a bad outcome

The UK’s Defence Secretary managed to behave it seems in a reasonably civilised way while in Moscow. Unfortunately, once safely out of the room he came up with what he presumably thinks is a clever reference to history, saying there is “a whiff of Munich in the air”. He is referring perhaps to Macron’s attempts at diplomacy. (Macron seems to have very slightly broken from the US-UK line of not listening to anything Russia is saying and proceeding by way of threats). Possibly Ben Wallace is unaware how a comparison to the Nazis is likely to go down in Moscow. Or maybe he knows only too well and it is yet further evidence that they really are trying to goad Russia into war – so they can cripple her with sanctions and end Nord Stream 2. (Which would be good for US gas exporters and US and UK arms companies in general). In any event it is obvious they are prepared to sacrifice Ukraine.

The wall to wall propaganda continues in the liberal media. This is the Guardian: “Scholz’s options for offering Putin concessions during his trip to Moscow are limited. The Russian president is demanding “security guarantees” from the west, which would effectively undermine the sovereignty of independent states in east-central Europe and the Baltics”. This line about “sovereignty” seems to be something they can rally behind. One of Russia’s demands is that NATO limit its military exercises in countries bordering Southern Russia (which they would match on their side of the border) and draw down its forces placed in countries since 1997. They have also asked that NATO formally state that Ukraine and Georgia will not be allowed to join the organisation. [1] Since 2014 NATO has been marauding up and down Russia’s borders, and, it seems, they’ve had enough. (The extent to which the forcing of the issue at just this moment is related to Putin’s retirement plans is an interesting political sub-story perhaps). Rational analysis shows that these demands are about what they say they are; securing Russian security and reducing the risk of war. Of course Russia has swallowed up Crimea and implicit in their current demands is that NATO accept that. This may partly explain the strength of the West’s reaction. One imagines that NATO has not accepted that they have “lost” Crimea. To a large extent the current crisis is part 2 of the annexation of Crimea. Unfinished business left over from that.

Continue reading “Too much attachment to “sovereignty” could lead to a bad outcome”

NATO v. Russia war

That would not be fun. It could even turn nuclear.

But the logic of the UK/US position is to allow that as a very real possibility.

“As an alliance we must draw lines in the snow and be clear there are principles upon which we will not compromise,” Johnson said. “That includes the security of every Nato ally and the right of every European democracy to aspire tao Nato membership.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/09/uk-prepares-1000-troops-in-case-of-refugee-crisis-if-ukraine-invaded

(Notice ‘lines in the snow’ instead of ‘lines in the sand’. Even at this juncture he can’t help being an idiot.)

As Putin recently explained the problem is if Ukraine joins NATO someone in Kiev might decide to pick a fight with Russia over Crimea. Russia will of course defend Crimea (as part of Russia) and NATO would be obliged to support Ukraine. A similar problem arises in connection with South Ossetia and Abkhazia – Georgia’s breakaway regions which are supported by Russia. Russia’s concerns are not about “carving out spheres of influence”. They are practical, rational, concerns in everyone’s interest. They just want to avoid war.

As long as the UK/US axis is saying that Ukraine and Georgia can be admitted to NATO they are in effect laying the ground for a future Russia-NATO conflict. Boris Johnson may be parroting the usual stuff about ‘democracy’ but in effect he is calling for a Russia-NATO war over Crimea. Do they know what they are doing?

Of course; one can say that if Russia “gave back” Crimea and gave up support for the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia there would be no problem. Perhaps; though even then either of these countries is perhaps capable of inciting a conflict with Russia if they know they have NATO at their backs. But, in any event, that isn’t going to happen. Right or wrong this means that if the UK is willing to allow Ukraine into NATO it follows that the UK position is that they are willing to go to war with Russia over Crimea. Do the British people actually want this? I very much doubt it. It would be particularily odd since 80% of the population of Crimea voted (and confirmed in subsequent Western run polls) to rejoin Russia. So much for democracy. It would be another imperialist war.

Meanwhile Britain continues to be an embarrasment on the world stage. Instead of diplomacy a constant stream of threats and denunications. Even the patience of the Russian Foreign Ministry has been tested and they have been forced to say: “The British side must be clearly aware that without a clear change in the tone of the speeches of representatives of the British leadership, productive interaction is impossible either in solving bilateral problems or in settling international problems”. [1] Quite. Do Liz Truss and Boris Johnson and Ben Wallace really believe that you can issue threat after threat, insult after insult, and then pop over to Moscow and conduct useful diplomacy? Obviously not. It is just embarrassing.

Meanwhile the media docilely publishes fake news on behalf of the UK Foreign Office such as the idea that it is Russia delaying the implementation of the Minsk agreements. [2] This is provably not true. Once can simply compare the text of the Minsk 2 agreements [3] with recent statements by Ukranian Ministers to see that Kiev is openly refusing to implement Minsk 2.

People talk about the fog of war. The West is not yet at war with Russia but there is a very thick and dense cloud of fog hanging over matters. That fog is the irrational analysis-free narrative lines produced by the State Department (and echoed by the UK Foreign Office) and fed to the population by their partner media agencies (aka. the ‘free press’). It is hard to see how any dialogue can take place in this fog.

But in reality there is scope to calm matters down. The West could make its support for Ukraine contingent on Kiev immediately implementing the Minsk agreements which provide for autonomy for Donbass. There is scope for a new INF treaty. While NATO cannot publically agree to a Russian veto on Ukranian or Georgian membership it would be quite possible to add a clause that NATO would not support Ukraine in a war over Crimea or Georgia in a war over its breakaway Republics. (Unless of course it really is NATO’s position that they are ready to use force to take back Crimea?)

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/feb/09/liz-truss-moscow-toughest-russia-sanctions-plan-doubt
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/feb/09/liz-truss-moscow-toughest-russia-sanctions-plan-doubt
  3. https://www.ft.com/content/21b8f98e-b2a5-11e4-b234-00144feab7de

The level of the apprehension of political reality in the West is dangerous

The most specific danger in the present situation around Ukraine is if Kiev decides to attack Donbass.

There is a background danger. This is the apparent lack of intellectual and diplomatic skills and statesmanship in Western political (and media) circles. An example is their promotion of this idea about how Russia is planning a ‘false flag’ video shoot involving corpses from a mortuary and actors playing weeping relatives.

This is crazy. Firstly; what would such a video look like? It would obviously look like a film set. Russia would completely discredit themselves. Of course Russia is not planning such a move. Secondly; the assumption appears to be that Russia wants to attack Ukraine and is looking for an excuse. Do they really believe this or is it black propaganda? If the former then they are certifiable. Russia must dread a war with Ukraine. It would be costly. They might succeed in annexing Donbass (and some coal mines which they don’t particularly need) but the cost in lives, war materials, economic relations with the West etc. would be massive. (You don’t need to threaten them with sanctions every other minute for them to realise that). A full-on war with Ukraine would not be massively popular in Russia even if people understood that the aim was to protect Donbass. (My impression is that people are ready to protect Donbass but would not relish a long war with a country where a lot of people have relatives and contacts). The Kremlin must dread such a war.

(This is quite fun. This is the State Department trying to present their claim about the above false flag operation as being something which the media should just print without any supporting evidence. As an exercise count the number of lies which the spokesman tells e.g. how he suggests that the only alternative to believing their unsubstantiated claim is to ‘believe Russian misinformation’. Why are they trying to fool AP? Could it be because their information is ‘misinformation’ and they know it? Probably. Probably it is some tittle-tattle picked up by GCHQ or fed to them by Ukrainian intelligence and – as in the Iraq war – they use this kind of dubious material to further their strategic aims *).

I get the impression that Western policy as so often in terms of its relations with Russia is driven entirely by NATO. And then by worst-case scenario briefings from NATO. At the moment it looks like NATO has told the politicos there is a real possibility of an invasion (there are significant Russian forces on the border and from a military point of view it is reasonable to think about the contingencies) and that the best thing to do is to “deter” Russia. This is done with endless threats about sanctions and by sending weapons and forces to the region. This is a military response, not a political or diplomatic one. (Threats of sanctions touted as ‘destroying’ the Russian economy are an attack on the country – its people and military capacities).

Telling the world that Russia is poised to invade and knowing they won’t (unless provoked by a Ukrainian attack on Donbass) which is one interpretation of the West’s game, seems to be designed to humiliate Russia – it will look like they faced down Russia. Is this the game? Perhaps this is the NATO military establishment getting their revenge on Russia for being caught sleeping on Crimea? The obvious danger is it could actually provoke an attack by Russia.

Update 7-2-22

The Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement saying that they believe the above version. The US and UK have drummed up this “Russian invasion” scare in order to be able to claim victory. When Russia doesn’t invade (unless Kiev attacks Donbass) they can claim that they faced down Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry suggests they are trying to recover from their humiliation in Afghanistan. I still think it is the perceived humiliation of the annexation of Crimea which is driving them. I also still think that the ultimate driver is NATO and the network of “think-tanks” and defence contractors around NATO. But I am interested that Russia basically shares this interpretation.

In a healthy world the military men would brief the politicians about the military aspect and the politicians would understand the wider political-historical dynamics and conduct diplomacy, taking account of military factors but not being governed by them. Because the Western political class is so venial – simply self-serving careerists with no actual grasp of or interest in world affairs – they simply base their policy on the worst-case scenarios that NATO and its associated think-tanks feed them. There is a void where informed political analysis and diplomacy could provide a way out. This is quite dangerous.

Political analysis would inform them about historical splits in Ukrainian society and the validity of the claims of people in the East for autonomy. It would tell them that Russia is a rational actor, a regional power, aware of its own limitations and in a defensive not an “expansionist” mode. (There are difficult problems about Russia’s demands to exercise a veto on NATO membership and for a NATO pull-back but if the air could at least be cleared of the delusions about ‘Russian aggression’ there would be scope for some kind of détente at least).

* Scott Ritter War on Iraq. 2002. Ritter described an MI6 operation to use low-grade intelligence to plant stories in the media in various countries where they wanted to influence public opinion in favour of their illegal war.