Every week my email box receives a steady stream of articles aimed at cultivating public animus toward Russia. The articles are always wrapped in a narrative in which Russia is a threat to democracy in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. The effect is to create public support for hardline economic and/or military action against Russia.
The insidious underside of this campaign is it paves the way for a scenario in which Ukraine provokes Russia, thereby drawing a Russian response that is then used as a pretext for U.S. engagement.
The insidious underside of this campaign is it paves the way for a scenario in which Ukraine provokes Russia, thereby drawing a Russian response that is then used as a pretext for U.S. engagement. In such circumstances, the public would have been primed for action and would almost certainly fail to untangle the truth.
What is terrifying is the scope of the stream, which spans the spectrum from mainstream right to center-left.
Here is a piece I received from the Neocon German Marshall Fund: Disquiet on the Eastern Front.
Here is another piece from Project Syndicate, a liberal-leaning outlet funded by George Soros: Putin’s Last Gasp?
And here is a third piece I received from the social-democratic American Prospect, this one aimed at sowing anti-Russian animus in Germany: The Biden-Scholz Connection.
Given the range of opinions, one might reasonably think the case is solid. But stop and consider the possibility that the above articles are either part of an organized campaign or simply reflect the prejudices of U.S. journalism. After all, journalists are part of society and share society’s biases.
Three Simple Arguments
Here are three simple arguments you will not hear which deflate the Russia-as-villain storyline.
- Russia has genuine security concerns about Ukraine and eastward NATO expansion. The United States has and continues to persistently attack and undermine Russian security, doing everything short of putting boots on the ground. All of this is in total violation of the protocols that were agreed at the end of the Cold War.
- Russia has no need or wish to move farther into Ukraine as long as the Ukrainians do not cross the line of contact in Donbas. If they do, Russia will act, just as it did in South Ossetia in 2008. Ukraine as a whole is a black hole for Russia. Under current circumstances, it has no interest in occupying Western Ukraine. Moreover, Ukraine is a source of immigrants to Russia, which Russia needs.
- U.S. actions are claimed to be in the name of democracy promotion. However, everything America has done over the last 20 years has hurt democracy in Russia. By making the Russian government feel more insecure, it has provoked a defensive response that is anti-democratic. That is the way it often works with authoritarian regimes.
A Time for Dissent
To be clear, none of this is to defend the Putin regime. However, Russia’s political problems can only be solved by the Russians. Our actions are counter-productive regarding democracy. Not only have they set back democracy in Russia, but they also lend support to aggressive militaristic political tendencies in our own society. But above all, the current course of action has a non-negligible chance of triggering an Armageddon sequence. This is a time when dissent is patriotic and needed.