The New Observer Media Comment Media messaging about peace in Ukraine

Media messaging about peace in Ukraine

I’ve been studying Western (mostly UK) media quite closely for a few years. One of the features of the Western media is that there are two levels of operation. Individual journalists in the field sometimes report what they see and hear. However; at the editorial line there is strict observance of the official line. The official line on foreign affairs is essentially whatever the US State Department is currently saying. As an example; it is possible to find multiple examples from journalists actually in Eastern Ukraine of their meeting people who are, very loosely speaking, “pro-Russian”. However; at the editorial level you will never hear this. The official line is that the conflict in Donbas was entirely the result of Russian agitation and infiltration. So; this is what the editors say. Obviously individual journalists understand that, as in any business, their career will advance faster if they say what the people above them in the management-chain want them to say and so, often, they will frame even field reports to conform to the official line; but, from time time, reality seeps in. (Eastern Ukraine was probably a bit of a special case because Kiev unexpectedly took back a lot of land in late 2022 and journalists following in their wake met a lot of ordinary Ukrainians – and this all happened probably before the editors in London and Bonn could get a handle on the situation).

Editors, of the UK media, are mostly based in London. They are close to politicians and to members of the many “think-tanks” in London. Many of these “think-tanks” are linked to NATO or Western militaries, and the US corporate world, through networks that involve personnel transfers and funding. They belong to the same “set”. They all see the world the same way. They all march in step.

This is why it is significant that, today, the Guardian is running multiple stories about how it might be time to tell Ukraine to seek peace. US officials (unnamed) are briefing that it might be time and that Ukraine has until the end of the year to either do something on the battlefield or seek peace. The Guardian also reports statements of support for Ukraine from the absurd* Ursula von der Leyden of the EU Commission but, the reported at least, statements could be interpreted not to mean military support but support for Ukraine to join the EU and for “Russia to be made to pay”. This could mean that military support is silently being side-lined.

Why now? Obviously the struggles of the US Presidency to get the next tranche of Ukraine aid through Congress is a significant factor. Increasing numbers of Americans are sceptical about endlessly funding Ukraine, and Presidential elections are looming. Another factor is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the one hand this provides excellent cover to quietly slip away from Ukraine. This is what they did in Afghanistan; the US and UK stayed in Afghanistan long after it was clear that their plan to install a Western-style “democracy” had, predictably enough, absolutely failed. But no leader wanted to be the one to order the pull out and take the public flak for the expensive (in lives and money) flop. Eventually, they did it under cover of the pandemic. Right now the Israel-Palestine conflict is pushing Ukraine off the front-pages so it is a good moment to change tack here. The second reason is that probably what happens in the Middle-East is considered more important than Ukraine given the dependency of Western economies on Gulf oil. They, perhaps, want to concentrate on the Middle East.

All this is good news. If the idea now is to seek to settle the conflict; at least to the point of a ceasefire which permits the rump state of Ukraine to join the EU that could at least mean less people die. It may, though, not be quite as simple as they think; as long as the West is still pushing the idea of putting Ukraine, or what is left of it, into NATO Russia has a (legitimate) security concern. Also; one suspects that even if they seek to force Ukraine to seek peace, the EU will try to continue sanctions and even seek reparations in order to save face. This would not look like a peace deal and there is a question as to how Russia would respond to an offer which amounted to some kind of territorial concession by Ukraine without the geopolitical questions resolved. Still; at least this would be a step in the right direction.

* “Good to be back in Kyiv for my 6th war time visit.” Ursula von der Leyden – she seems to love this war; she always beams from ear to ear as she is shown around Kiev.