For months now, Western mass media have been in lockstep with the US State Department and the NATO military alliance, promulgating claims of Russian aggression in Ukraine and towards Europe generally. The mantra-like repetition of these claims, with scant substantiation, resembles the Big Lie technique of Third Reich master propagandist Josef Goebbels. Told often and brazenly enough, the claims acquire normalcy as «accepted facts».
Western news media, from the BBC to the New York Times, uncritically peddle NATO and Washington claims that Moscow has «annexed» Crimea and infiltrated troops into eastern Ukraine to destabilise the pro-Western «government» in Kiev. Last month at the NATO summit in Wales, outgoing secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserted: «So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, [and] to stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine».
Last week, that narrative was debunked by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE has been appointed to monitor the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine. The organisation’s monitoring chief Paul Picard confirmed that since the beginning of its observer mission at the end of July to present, it has not recorded any movement of military equipment or units from Russia into Ukrainian territory.
«The movement of military equipment has not been seen by the OSCE from our border point [of observation]», said Picard during a press conference in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don last week.
The OSCE monitoring chief did say that there was Russian military movement of airplanes, helicopters and drones inside Russian territory along the border, but that there was no cross-border incursion. «We observed their movement, but didn’t see them fly into Ukraine, so they did not cross the border», Picard said.
Tellingly, the OSCE assessment nullifying Washington and NATO claims of Russian invasion and infiltration of Ukraine was given negligible reportage in the Western media, which persists with the anti-Russian narrative that seems to operate on the basis of not letting the facts intrude on a convenient storyline.
However, the OSCE version of reality was surprisingly corroborated by an unlikely source – Radio Free Europe – albeit unintentionally, it would seem.
RFE was set up during the height of the Cold War as a mouthpiece for the American Central Intelligence Agency to broadcast anti-Soviet propaganda across Eastern Europe. As a recent France 24 headline put it: ‘Radio Free Europe back on frontline over Ukraine’ in which the obsequious report said gushingly: «A quarter of a century after it helped topple totalitarian Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is duelling Moscow again, this time in a media war over the Ukraine crisis.»
In any case, in a RFE report last week under the headline ‘He was just a boy’, the American broadcaster told of the anguish of a Russian mother who recently buried her 18-year-old son after he was killed fighting in eastern Ukraine earlier this month. A grief-stricken Zalogina Pushkaryov told RFE how her son, Yevgeny, was shot dead by Kiev military forces after he had volunteered to join anti-Kiev militia. That part of the story is real enough.
But the significant detail is that the report makes clear that young Yevgeny travelled from his hometown of Kronshtadt, near St Petersburg, to eastern Ukraine after he was recruited via the internet social media. He did so surreptitiously without his mother’s knowledge. The RFE report also quotes other Russian «volunteers» who have gone to take up the fight for independence in the Donbass region from Kiev. It noted that these individuals are «ill-equipped and unprepared» for military action and are often «cannon fodder» in the battle against Ukrainian regular army units and self-styled National Guard battalions.
Thus RFE inadvertently spills the beans on the real nature of Russian involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. As Moscow has been consistently saying for several months, it has not sent weapons, troops or commandos into Ukrainian territory to support the pro-independence self-defence militia battling against Kiev forces, since the latter were dispatched in April on a so-called anti-terror operation against the dissenting ethnic Russian population of Donetsk and Luhansk.
To the extent that there is a Russian connection it is mainly on the basis, as the RFE report acknowledges, of young men volunteering unofficially through informal internet channels. These hapless volunteers are driven by personal reasons to defend what they see as a compatriot population under fire from an illegal regime. The RFE reported that these Russian volunteers have to arrange and pay for their own travel to the conflict region. That is obviously the behaviour of private Russian citizens, who are taking it upon themselves to take up arms in eastern Ukraine. It is not the kind of channel that Moscow would be operating if there was any official covert military plan to destabilise Ukraine – as Washington, NATO and the Western media, including RFE, have been claiming ad nauseam without the slightest proof.
The decision to bear arms in Ukraine by Russian individuals cannot be attributed as Russian government policy, in the same way that hundreds of Western private citizens travelling to fight as mercenaries in Syria is not automatically cited as proof of Western government endorsement of that activity.
Together with the latest OSCE assessment of no cross-border military transport, the CIA’s RFE report of «untrained and ill-prepared» Russian youths dying in eastern Ukraine provides an important rebuttal of Western claims against Moscow. Those claims can now be seen for what they are: propaganda in the service of a political agenda from Washington and its NATO allies to mount aggression on Russia.
The West’s specious claims of Russian expansionism in Ukraine serve to distract from the reality that Washington and its European allies are the ones who have in fact destabilised Ukraine by fomenting an illegal regime in Kiev. This regime cannot salvage legitimacy even with the latest farcical parliamentary elections. The regime and its Western sponsors have sought to legitimise the illegal subversion of Ukraine’s sovereignty by turning reality on its head and blaming Russia for the unrest in that country since the CIA-backed coup in February this year.
The baseless claims against Russia’s interference in Ukraine is part and parcel of a bigger picture of similar innuendo against Moscow for jeopardising European-wide security.
Rasmussen’s successor in the top NATO job, former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, has continued in the same vitriolic vein accusing Russia of aggression and having nefarious expansionist ambitions.
On his first official visit, Stoltenberg went to the NATO airbase in Lask, Poland, earlier this month where he declared that increased NATO «policing» fighter jets over the Baltic Sea were «solidarity in action» to deter alleged Russian belligerence.
Last week, Western media reported, as good coin, NATO claims that a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane had breached Estonian airspace. Russia denied that the aircraft had strayed from international airspace.
But the Western media sought to substantiate that claim by merely piling on more unverified NATO claims that there was a threefold increase in «provocative» Russian military flights over recent months.
«I would suggest that the level of this provocative flying is higher than at the height of the Cold War», said a NATO spokesman quoted by US government-sponsored Voice of America. The NATO official added there had been «a threefold increase in the number of NATO intercepts this year than last year in the Baltic region.»
In a Financial Times version of the same report, it was said that there was a «threefold increase in the number of scrambles Nato fighters have had to make since January». If the Western media were really doing its job of independent journalism, it would inquire of the sceptical question: perhaps NATO is just scrambling more aircraft not out of an objective security concern over Russia, but rather to simply produce flight data that appears to support allegations of Russian «provocation»? There is a big difference between scrambling jets and actual territorial breaches.
The Financial Times goes on to report that NATO has spent nearly $200 million already over the past year in upgrading air bases in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to handle what has been a four-fold increase in NATO fighter planes in the region since 2013. Citing expenditure in euro amounts, the FT reports:
«Runways have been extended and resurfaced, new hangars built and larger ammunition and fuel depots installed.
In Estonia, €40m has been spent on Ämari air base. In Latvia, €42m has gone on upgrading Lielvārde – a large fuel dump will be finished there next year. In Lithuania, 29 separate projects costing more than €41m have overhauled the airfield at Šiauliai, and in Poland, €17m has been spent on Malbork.»
It should be obvious that such infrastructure upgrades must have been part of a long-term plan, not as the FT would have us believe, as part of a short-term «response» to Russian «provocation».
In other words, the Washington, Brussels, NATO and Western media narrative of «Russian aggression» in Ukraine is as baseless as the extended theme of «Russian provocation» in the Baltic region. The real narrative is one of US-led NATO aggression and expansion towards Russia under the cover of specious claims against Moscow, which are invoked as a retrospective justification of NATO belligerence.
This is consistent with Washington’s long-term geopolitical agenda of «throwing Russia off balance», as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented in an interview with Itar-Tass last month.
So keen is Washington in pushing its propaganda offensive that the CIA mouthpiece Radio Free Europe seems to have overlooked a few gaping holes in its own Big Lie technique, as shown by its recent report on the Russian mother grieving the loss of her son in Ukraine.
By the way, ironically, in this era of capitalist austerity, it is reported that RFE has endured serious cutbacks and staff redundancies over the past year. The CIA’s mouthpiece seems to have incurred an «intelligence» retrenchment as a result.