The New Observer Media Comment What happened to asking questions?

What happened to asking questions?

It is characteristic of mainstream Western media that they (almost?) never ask the people they interview on the Ukraine war any difficult questions. For example; I have never seen anyone ask any of the retired generals and think tank experts that come on the air (I chiefly watch Times Radio but also sometimes DW and US media) ask the basic question: does Russia not have a right to be concerned about Ukraine joining NATO? It is a simple question which would puncture the “Russia launched an aggressive and unprovoked war” narrative, or, at the very least, call it into question.

This is a typical example. It is an interview in the Washington Post with EU Commissioner Ursula von Leyen. The interviewer simply allows Ursula von Leyen to tell the story she wants to tell. It is sycophantic. For example:

[Interviewer] You have reiterated that the E.U. should expand to include Ukraine and Moldova.

[Ursula von Leyen] Yes. As I said, this war changed everything. But I’m convinced that the E.U. is only complete with Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans. The alternative would be that they are on the other side — which is unthinkable.

This would be an excellent point to ask Ursula von Leyen the following question:

“Before the Maidan crisis when the EU was negotiating the Association Agreement and a Free Trade arrangement with Ukraine what steps did the EU take to discuss this development with Russia, given that the development would have directly affected the Russian economy and, given the Lisbon Treaty with its mutual military support clause would have had obvious military implications for Russia? [1]”

What would she say? It is interesting. The truth appears to be that the EU did nothing at all to discuss this development with Russia. For example; Sakwa quotes José Barrosso, then top EU Commissioner saying in 2013: “Russia’s inclusion in the talks on setting up an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is wholly unacceptable.” [2] But – this development would have directly impacted the Russian economy. You can’t say that Russia is a “partner” and then cut them out of discussions on economic developments which affect their economy. If you treat people as a hostile force before they have done anything then you should, perhaps, not be surprised when they turn into one.

This is just one example; a really key and substantive question which would get at the heart of this crisis and it is not asked. The media rule simply appears to be – don’t ask the political class difficult questions, don’t expose them. Thus the mainstream media has abandoned any role it might have in holding the political leadership to account. It simply acts as their PR arm. This is, in essence, because the media and political classes have merged. They form a self-interested elite – united in conning the public. (This is why, of course, they don’t like voices like Russell Brand).


  1. The EU was launched on the path of geopolitical competition, something for which it was neither institutionally nor intellectually ready. Not only was the Association Agreement incompatible with Ukraine’s existing free-trade agreements with Russia, but there was also the Lisbon requirement for Ukraine to align its defence and security policy with the EU. Sakwa, Richard. Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (p. 41). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ibid.