It seems that there are no lengths the Western press will not go to in order to wage their propaganda war against Putin’s Russia. The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, Shaun Walker, is suggesting that Russia’s current economic woes may result in a ‘palace coup’ – as the country’s elites see their fortunes decline. Walker says:
Falling oil prices have combined with western sanctions to create the worst economic crisis of Putin’s 15 years in power. With oil revenues tailing off sharply, on the one hand it will expose how little has been done to diversify the Russian economy during the boom years, while on the other the amount of money to share among the group of billionaires around Putin will shrink dramatically.
Part of the rationale behind western sanctions against people in Putin’s inner circle was to harm them and prompt them to pressure the leader. If the economic situation continues to deteriorate, and the political turmoil continues, one school of thought suggests Putin could be in trouble from within his own inner circle.
Most Russian officials feel the west is to blame for apparently “instigating” the Maidan protests in Kiev, but many are privately uneasy at the way Putin responded. For those in the inner circle, sanctions have in some cases meant losing business, property and travel opportunities in the west. Those affected have been falling over themselves to insist publicly that their personal pain is a small price to pay for the revival of a Great Russia, but what they think in private may be another matter. Even among those ideologically in tandem with Putin, if their vast wealth begins to be threatened their loyalty may waver.
Basically his entire premise is based upon what Russia’s oligarchs *might* be thinking; that while they publicly profess their loyalty to the Kremlin, secretly they may think something completely different. Pretty poor journalism for a Pulitzer Prize winning publication.
Most shameless however, is the continued insistence that ‘the west’ did not instigate the Maidan protests and subsequent coup. It is quite insane, that these so-called journalists act as though the mere idea that the Kiev colour revolution was planned from the American embassy is something to be ridiculed; that such thoughts can only derive from the minds of paranoid conspiracy theorists. So hard are the media trying to push this narrative, that op-eds are published stating that anyone who dares to say otherwise, has to be receiving payment to do so. This editorial by Nick Cohen is a good example:
Vladimir Putin is the world’s corrupt policeman. He finds the seediness in every country and nurtures it. On some occasions, he exploits cynicism and paranoia at once; on others, he banks it for later use. Often he appears to fan corruption for the hell of it because that is all he knows how to do.
The posters appearing on British advertising hoardings promoting his propaganda channel give a notion of the scale of his effort. His underlings have rebranded his Russia Today station “RT” – in the hope that its dumb viewers will not realise that they are watching a channel whose political line follows the Kremlin line with puppyish eagerness.
While reputable news organisations from the BBC to the New York Times fire news reporters who try, however inadequately, to tell the truth, Russia Today has extended its reach. Putin is about to increase its $300m budget by 40%. Its resources will soon compare with Fox News. But while Fox serves the peculiar tastes of the American right, Russia Today has global ambitions. The channel broadcasts in English, Arabic and Spanish and can reach 600 million people. It claims to have surpassed a billion hits on YouTube, and will add German- and French-language channels. For the supposedly pariah leader of a country whose population is collapsing and mafia economy stagnating, Putin has the best publicity money can buy.
Anyone who writes critically about him soon learns the price of lese majeste. BuzzFeed revealed that state-sponsored Russian trolls maintain a Stakhanovite regime of tweeting and commenting on hostile news pieces as they spread the Kremlin’s message across the web. (Hello down there in the comments, by the way. Hope the sanctions aren’t hurting the pay cheques.)
Such pompous commentary reads like an act of frustration, and insulting your readership in this manner will only turn people away. However this is the absurd level that the British press are sinking to, in a desperate attempt to win the information war over Ukraine. Unfortunately, they are tying themselves in knots in the process, as a piece from ten years ago on Kiev’s Orange Revolution could easily be mistaken for a description of the 2013-14 Maidan.
With their websites and stickers, their pranks and slogans aimed at banishing widespread fear of a corrupt regime, the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory – whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev.
Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.
But while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.
Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.
Richard Miles, the US ambassador in Belgrade, played a key role. And by last year, as US ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the trick in Georgia, coaching Mikhail Saakashvili in how to bring down Eduard Shevardnadze.
Ten months after the success in Belgrade, the US ambassador in Minsk, Michael Kozak, a veteran of similar operations in central America, notably in Nicaragua, organised a near identical campaign to try to defeat the Belarus hardman, Alexander Lukashenko.
If the events in Kiev vindicate the US in its strategies for helping other people win elections and take power from anti-democratic regimes, it is certain to try to repeat the exercise elsewhere in the post-Soviet world.
The places to watch are Moldova and the authoritarian countries of central Asia.
Incidentally, Moldova’s pro-Russian party was barred from taking part in the election that took place a few weeks ago, on account of receiving money from a foreign country – a bizarre turn of events considering all the above mentioned US-funded parties in Eastern Europe over the last decade. However this outcome was considered a resounding success for the EU. It is also worth mentioning that the US Congress’s Ukraine Freedom bill includes clauses that essentially threaten to impose sanctions if Russia dares to make closer economic ties with countries in central Asia; these nations are likely to be next in line for a dose of Washington’s regime change.
Returning to the Guardian: the difference in approach between 2004 and 2014 leads one to wonder what exactly has changed in this period, and why the huge cover-up? How does Shawn Walker sleep at night, knowing that he’s complicit in the mass-murder of ethnic Russians by neo-nazi battalions?
* Credit to Tony Cartalucci at Land Destroyer for finding the 2004 article. Read his essay ‘The Impending “Russian Maidan”‘ here.