Although the redoubtable New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that the Covid-19 virus “has been ahead of us from Day One. We’ve underestimated the enemy, and that is always dangerous, my friends. We should not do that again” it is too much to expect of most political figures that they should ever admit they were wrong about something. President Trump, for example, flatly refuses to acknowledge that in January 2020 he declared that “we have [the virus outbreak] totally under control”, and there are countless similar instances of denial of realities by other leaders, not only about the pandemic, but about very many facets of international affairs. This reluctance extends to the media, although sometimes, it has to be said, some of the media are forced to recognise facts that to them are unpalatable, and to adjust their position accordingly.
One recent instance of non-adjustment, however, is the Western media’s continuing public relations and propaganda campaign against Russia.
On 9 April Al Jazeera carried a report that “A U.S.-Russian space crew blasted off Thursday to the International Space Station following tight quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner lifted off as scheduled from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.” There was an excellent 400-word piece about the mission, just as one would expect from Al Jazeera.
On the other hand, the New York Times, as ascertained from a search of its website on 10 April, didn’t mention the mission at all. The Washington Post carried a twelve-word item that read in its entirety “By Associated Press April 9, 2020 — A U.S.-Russian space crew has blasted off to the International Space Station.” End.
The reason for reluctance on the part of the U.S. mainstream media to inform the world about such an important international event is that Russia played the major part in a successful space mission with the United States. Imagine the news cover if the spacecraft hadn’t been a Russian Soyuz, but a U.S.-produced SpaceX (still under vastly expensive development) launched from the Kennedy Space Centre. There would have been front-page headlines with “Keep America Great” exhortations from the space commander in Washington.
And so the propaganda of the third Cold War continues, involving all sorts of important international affairs, not least being Crimea which (whisper this) is doing very nicely, thank you, having been restored to Mother Russia.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the Washington Post marked the sixth anniversary of the restoration with a piece on 18 March that (albeit reluctantly) recognised Crimea’s accession to Russia. It noted, among other things, that “in Crimea itself, the annexation was popular, especially among Crimea’s large population of older ethnic Russians. More than five years later, and billions of roubles of investment later, it remains popular.” It is mandatory in the West to use the word “annexation” when referring to the accession of Crimea to Russia following a popular referendum, but even the Post can’t escape the facts, which are so distasteful to the propagandists.
In 1783 Crimea became part of Russia and remained so until, as recorded by the BBC, “In 1954 Crimea was handed to Ukraine as a gift by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who was himself half-Ukrainian.” The majority of citizens wanted to rejoin Russia rather than stay with crippled post-revolution Ukraine which would have victimized them because of their Russian heritage. One of its first actions “was to repeal a 2012 law recognising Russian as an official regional language” and governance from Kiev boded badly for minorities.
It was rarely stated that 90 percent of the inhabitants of Crimea are Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured and Russian-educated, and they voted to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another” (in the words of the Declaration of Independence of 1776) in order to rejoin Russia. It would be strange if they had not wanted to accede to a country that not only welcomed their kinship, empathy and loyalty but was economically benevolent concerning their future, as has now been amply demonstrated by ensuing growth and prosperity. As even the Washington Post had to acknowledge, “Crimea’s three largest ethnic groups are, by and in large, happy with the direction of events on the peninsula.”
At the time that these ethnic groups were voting to rejoin their mother country, five years ago, the West, and most notably the administration in Washington, decided to oppose any such move. It didn’t matter that it was a fair and free vote, because there are ways to defeat common sense and national aspirations while creating the impression that it is wrong for people to express their feelings and wishes if these favour a nation that is anathema to those who make the rules.
For example, the government in Crimea invited observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to witness and assess the conduct of the referendum held to determine whether the people of Crimea wished to remain under the Kiev government or rejoin Russia. There were no strings attached, and the invitation was sent to the HQ of the OSCE in Vienna. Then there was a pause during which the matter was considered in who knows what halls of power. And the OSCE conjured up an intriguing excuse for refusing to assess conduct of the plebiscite. As Reuters reported, “a spokeswoman said Crimea could not invite observers as the region was not a full-fledged state and therefore not a member of the 57-member organization. ‘As far as we know, Crimea is not a participating state of the OSCE, so it would be sort of hard for them to invite us,’ she said. She also said that Ukraine, which is an OSCE member, sent no invitation and that the organization ‘respects the full territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine’.” You couldn’t make it up.
The feelings and aspirations of Crimea’s citizens didn’t matter to the OSCE or to the West as a whole. The West wanted, and still wants, Ukraine to rule Crimea, and seems determined to pester and sanction Russia accordingly. But nobody can seriously imagine for one moment that Russia is going to hand over Crimea to the Kiev government. So what is the answer?
Nobody expects the Great and the Good of the West to openly admit they were wrong about Crimea, and that the region and its citizens are in fact immeasurably better-off than they would be had they been subjected to rule by Kiev. But there is usually a way out of such a dilemma, and one that can be gently implemented without embarrassment. All that the West needs to do is quietly accept the status of Crimea and remove anti-Russia sanctions without fanfare. There would be discontent among the ultra-nationalists in Kiev, of course, but the world would be a more secure and happier place. Surely that’s a worthy aim to be achieved?