THERES A GUY IN THIS EPISODE OF JONATHAN CREEK AND HE’S GOING ON THESE COMPLICATED SPIELS TRYING TO DEDUCE THINGS AND GETTING THEM WRONG AND THEN BEING SMUG ABOUT IT AND HE’S DRESSED EXACTLY LIKE BBC SHERLOCK I’M LAUGHING
How The Western Press Is Getting It Terribly Wrong In Ukraine
When the pundits talk about Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine, they usually mean troops and tanks, but his greatest weapons are ,in fact, his propaganda machine and the gullible western media.
So far, he has been winning stunning victories without firing a shot. Make no mistake, Vladimir Putin cares deeply what the western public thinks and has an army of PR professionals and lobbyists to wage informational warfare, along with a network of sites including “Russia Today” and a variety of “strategy” blogs.
Amazingly, the western press in its desire to adopt what NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen calls the view from nowhere, has been repeating many of the false assertions that Putin has promoted. Here’s a quick guide to the most egregious errors:
Myth 1: The Interim Ukrainian Government Is Shaky, Illegitimate And Run By Neo Nazis
Ukraine recently ousted its corrupt dictator, so many assume that the interim government is inexperienced and without democratic legitimacy. However, that narrative simply doesn’t fit the facts.
The truth is that Yanukovych’s own party turned against him. The Parliament today is made up of the same members as it was a before the revolution (besides a handful that are now on the run). Interim President Turchynov and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk are both former cabinet ministers and capable, experienced politicians and diplomats.
Three former democratically elected Ukrainian Presidents have issued a joint statement denouncing Russian actions and supporting an EU mission to the country. This represents the entire leadership of Ukraine as an independent country except for Yanukovych, who was impeached by his own parliament. A new presidential election is scheduled for May.
There has also been completely unfounded accusations that Ukraine’s interim government is “Neo-Nazi” and “Ultranationalist.” Timothy Snyder has done a wonderful job debunking these claims. The truth is that much of Ukraine’s present leadership, including Yatsenyuk are Jewish. Jewish community leaders in Ukraine have also refuted Russian accusations.
Only the most twisted mind could conceive of a Jewish led Nazi conspiracy. Are there Neo-Nazis in Ukraine? Sure, just as there are in Chicago and every other major American city. Are some politically active? Yes, as is David Dukein our own country. Do they have any power to shape policy or events? Categorically no.
Myth 2: Ukraine Is A Divided Country
Another widespread misapprehension is that Ukraine is a divided country. There are Russian parts and Ukrainian parts that do not get along. Frequently, maps like this one are shown to illustrate the point:
Anybody who’s watched a recent US election should know that such divisions are common in any true democracy. A vote for Ted Cruz is not in any way a vote for Texas secession. And yes, there are some Ukrainians that would like to return to Russia just as there are Texas secessionists and Confederate loyalists in the US. Every place has its nuts.
Another approach is to look at linguistic differences, which fall upon much the same lines as the political vote. Here again, the divide is real, but vastly overblown. Much of the interim leadership, including Turchynov and Yatsenyuk as well as Yulia Tymoshenko and all of the past presidents are native Russian speakers.
So again, while there is an element of truth in the Russian-backed story, there is an overwhelming abundance of falsehood. Nobody, except the most rabid extremist, wants their own country invaded by a belligerent foreign power.
Myth 3: Ukraine Is No Match For Russia’s Military
Another common narrative is that Ukraine is no match for Russia militarily. The Russian armed forces are far larger and better equipped. These claims are true, but misleading.
First of all, Russia can’t use its entire military. They need significant forces in Chechnya, Georgia and other places. Further, as I noted in an earlier post, Russia’s military is made up of 70% poorly trained conscripts. A military expert speaking to The Washington Post described Russian Forces as competent, but not impressive.
And Ukraine’s forces, while far smaller, are universally described as capable. They would have an advantage defending their own territory and would be receiving assistance, overt and covert, from NATO forces. You don’t have to have boots in the ground or planes in the air to help tip the scales.
The truth is that military experts believe a war in Ukraine would not be a repeat of Russia’s relatively easy victory in Georgia, but a long drawn out battle. That is not something Putin can afford. That doesn’t mean he won’t do it, but it would cost him dearly.
Myth 4: Putin Has The Upper Hand
Many commentators like to describe Putin as a diabolical mastermind, outfoxing Obama at every turn. That is patently absurd. The truth is that Putin is losing, which is precisely why he is embarking on the high-risk gambit he is now.
To get an idea of the poor hand Putin is playing, look at what happened when markets opened on Monday morning. Not only did the stock market fall by about 11%, Russia had to spend $10 billion to prop up the Ruble. Putin has ample reserves of nearly $500 billion, but simple arithmetic reveals at that rate Russia won’t last much more than a month and a half.
And economic sanctions haven’t even started yet. There are already reports of dollar shortages on the streets of Moscow—which, I imagine, invokes a flurry of bad memories—a comprehensive sanctions regime would likely bring back the empty shelves and breadlines of the 90’s.
Finally, Putin desperately needs the support of Russian elites, who have their money in western banks, vacation homes in places like the South of France and Miami Beach and children in western boarding schools. All of that can be easily taken away through sanctions.
Myth 5: Mitt Romney Was Right About Russia
It has somehow become fashionable to drudge up Mitt Romney’s comment about Russia being America’s greatest geopolitical foe. In the minds of the chattering classes, those comments now seem prescient.
How? Russia has no ability whatsoever to threaten us or our allies—militarily, economically or on any other front. The current battle is being fought on its borders, not on ours. Throughout history, there has been a never ending stream of crackpot dictators who have caused us one problem or another. Putin is just the latest.
President Obama has said that we should no longer view the world through the lens of a Cold War chessboard and he’s right. We have already won nearly all of the squares. The people of Ukraine and Georgia have chosen closer relations with us precisely because they want to leave Soviet history in the past. We should too.
Most of all, we should approach the current crises with cool heads. In time, it too will pass. Russia will remain a corrupt kleptocracy, waiting only for the next oil glut to descend once again into chaos. We in the West, and hopefully in Ukraine as well, will be free to pursue our dreams in a global community of like-minded nations.
Update 1: Secretary of State John Kerry was in Kiev today and in his remarks echoed some of the points I made above. You can find the transcript here. Also, The New Republic’s Julia Ioffe’s account of Vladimir Putin’s press conference today supports the worrying claim of Angela Merkel that the Russian President may not be in full control of his faculties.
Update 3: Ukraine’s Jewish leaders have signed an open letter refuting Putin’s claims of anti-Semitism and say that they do not wish to be “defended.” Also, Forbes’s own Kenneth Rapoza and Business Insider both have good pieces up showing how Russia’s natural gas leverage is being overblown. A decade of gas politics has degraded the tactic.
The thing is, and it was pointed out by a legendary Russian musician Andrey Makarevich, if an open war between Ukraine and Russia happens, we Ukrainians will be fighting and dying for our country and our freedom. But what are the Russians going to be dying for? Putin?.. Yanukovich?.. And I think that’s even sadder.
“In all of these ways, the “decadent” West, as Russia’s foreign minister put it, was present. Yes, there were some Jews, and there were some gays, in this revolution. And this was exploited by both the Russian and Ukrainian regimes in their internal propaganda. The Russian press presented the protest as part of a larger gay conspiracy. The Ukrainian regime instructed its riot police that the opposition was led by a larger Jewish conspiracy. Meanwhile, both regimes informed the outside world that the protestors were Nazis. Almost nobody in the West seemed to notice this contradiction.”—Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda by Timothy Snyder | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books (via wanderingmavka)
Just a few small details regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict
1. A few days ago the newly appointed police minister Arsen Avakov issued the order to dismiss the “Berkut” riot police unit. As a response, Russia invited the ex-Berkut to become Russian citizens by a simplified procedure. Yesterday 8 Berkut officers from Crimea (which is now invaded) received Russian citizenship. Now they are going to work in police in Moscow. When the rest of the Crimean Berkut (about 700 people) were asked by the Russians to do the same, they refused. They said that what was before was an internal conflict, and now things are different, and they are going to fight for Ukraine if needed.
2. The Russian media continues to spread lies. Yesterday they were filming some armed men in Crimea (their own men most likely), and some locals saw it and even took pictures. In yesterday’s news reports in Russia they showed that footage, saying that those are armed men walking in the centre of Kyiv. Even some of the Russian viewers didn’t believe it, saying that those people’s outfits looked too cartoonish.
Another lie is that Ukrainian military units in Crimea started to lay down their weapons or/and join the Russian forces. They don’t do that.
3. Some of the cities in the Eastern Ukraine are now filled with Russian “tourists” who organise pro-Russian demonstrations to create an impression that there are more separatists there than in reality. A Russian flag was installed at the top of Kharkiv Oblast State Administration. The man who did that later turned out to be a Moscow resident. The locals compare them to “titushky” - the thugs who had been brought to cities/released from prisons by the previous government to attack people and create unrest. One of the differences is that now the police aren’t on their side.
Putin made a mistake. He has created so many myths about Russians and Ukrainians, about how many Russians there are in Ukraine and how many of them actually support him, that he started to believe it himself. As a result, he’s only making us unite. Plus, a lot of Russians are against this war. Russia has its own problems, and Ukraine is not the biggest one.
On top of that, the Muslim population of Russia are already making threats to Moscow in case any of the Crimean Tatars gets attacked by Russian soldiers.
However, this will still mean blood spill. Right now, only the people of Russia can stop their insane dictator. And they are too scared of doing it.
Do you know the history of Ukrainian independence movement?
Have you seen the protests with your own eyes?
Do you and/or your family members participate in the Ukrainian protests?
Have you and/or your family members put your life in danger because of the protests?
Do you get information about the Ukrainian protests from Ukrainian sources?
Do you get information about the protests from various sourses, considering opinions from both sides of the conflict?
Do you live in Ukraine while also being part of a minority that would be in danger if “fascists” actually came to power?
See, I answered “yes” to all of these questions. That makes me think that my opinion about what goes on in my own country is valid.
If you read one article on the internet and think that makes you an expert and gives you right to call the protesters “neo-nazis” I’m sorry to tell you that you know shit. No, not sorry. You only consume propaganda that Cremlin produces to silence our voices and deprive us of our own country, language and history.
everyone, I repeat - EVERYONEneeds to reevaluate themselves with these questions before they go off spewing bullshit about Ukraine
we’re fucked, Russia officially stated about their troops entering Crimea, because we’ve “seized power in the Crimea by force”. The Federation Committee voted 90 to 0 to allow Russian army to cross Ukrainian border. shit
I love the statement “seized the power by force”. How can we seize the power upon OUR OWN TERRITORY? It’s just like Georgia all over again. I just feel sorry for the people who get into this mess…
What this is is a full invasion and violation of Ukrainian borders and territory. This is a complete outrage and mockery of the international community at large. The fact that only the United States of America has come close to condemning Russia’s actions is absolutely infuriating. Moscow’s politicians, corrupt as ever, repeating the same policies of Ukrainian repression so loved by their predecessors, must be stopped, once and for all.
When the Cossacks revolted from Poland they did not expect to be summarily conquered by the Tsar, despite their grand assurances to respect the territorial integrity and culture of their people. The same thing is happening here; when the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine did not expect for Russia to come back and claim them for their own. But now they’re doing just that.
Ukraine is not Russia; it never has been nor will it ever be.
And Ukrainians will fight and die to keep it that way.
Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes.
A simple but crucial rule of international affairs: NEVER trust Russia.
The Russian Military, for the last 2 days, has been systematically preparing for this invasion, capturing airports, strategic locations, etc. They have disabled ALL telecommunications in Crimea to shut off the flow of information.
Just now they have surrounded most major Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, with their invasion under the false pretext of “Ensuring the safety of Russian Ukrainians” of which there has been no threat.
In fact, there is already a petition with over 40’000 signatures in Crimea effectively stating “Ethnic Russians in Ukraine are not having their rights infringed nor are they in any danger by the new government.”
This is a complete and utter invasion with no reasonable explanation other than trying to reinstate a pro-Russian puppet government, annexing the east, or trying to create a new “South Ossetia” in Crimea.
God save Ukraine, Glory to Heroes, Glory to Ukraine.
When will Putin finally choke on all the blood he makes other people spill? When will Russia stop being this aggressive drunken retarded bear?
I don’t care what laws they take, I’m not going to stick my nose in their inner affairs (unlike Putin is doing all the time), but I also really wonder when Russian people will stop getting arrested for walking outdoors with an opened umbrella (X), or when they will be fed up with being laughed at because their Olympics (the most expensive in the world history) was full of unimaginable fails, allegedly due to corruption of those responsible.
But again, i guess they like it, since they are not trying to change anything. Whatever, none of my business.
What I really care about is their love of creating an outside enemy. Of brainwashing people and creating hate between them.
My country is now being invaded by Russian military troops. Putin has finally officially admitted it. He says that they are going to stay there until the situation in the country gets stabilized. Knowing fully well that it’s HIS efforts that are PREVENTING the situation from stabilizing.
In our eastern regions there are civilains on “pro-Russian” demonstrations. A lot of them are actual Russians who came there on that purpose alone, as evidenced in some social networks.
He wants to provoke a civil war. He’s been manipulating the people’s minds, making them believe that the protesters and the politicians who now run the country are far-right-wing neo-nazis who want to ban the Russian language and so on. ‘How big of a MORON do you need to be to believe it???’, I ask the morons who believe it. Use your fucking brain. He pushes people to get more right-wing and radical, because what can make you hate a country more than when it’s invading yours? He can also get some Islamic extremism, because the Crimean Tatars (the native people of Crimea)… REALLY don’t like Russians, to put it mildly, and they are not going to put up with this long, even though now they are staying relatively calm.
When Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994, a pact was signed with several countries, making them obliged to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and unity. Those countries are USA, UK, France… and Russia. One of them is the aggressor now. The others are unlikely to act. Nobody wants a World War III, and it’s understandable. They are clearly willing to sacrifice Ukraine for that.
So, okay, Putin. I hope the pan you roast on in hell is hot enough.
Oh, and, by the way. The only language that has ever been actually banned in Ukraine is Ukrainian. Severaltimes.