Who is fighting a ‘hybrid war’?

The UK press is full of lurid claims about a Russian campaign of information and propaganda against the West. This is the Times:

Russia is waging a “campaign” of propaganda and unconventional warfare against Britain, government officials have acknowledged for the first time. Moscow is behind a concerted drive to undermine the UK through espionage, misinformation, cyberattacks and fake news, senior Whitehall figures believe.

How shocking.

Let’s take a reality check.

The US funds something called ‘Radio Free Europe’. [1] Radio Free Europe broadcasts US propaganda into Russia in Russian. There is also a Russian language web site. [2]

The RFE web site carries articles intended to undermine Russians’ confidence and trust in their own government. This is one [3] about people suffering as a result of (apparent) cuts in disability payments. It was published in March 2016. The idea of the article is to link the cuts in social security payments to Russia’s military involvement (alleged or otherwise) in Ukraine and in Syria:

The change has come during a time of persistent economic troubles for Russia, which is reeling from the effects of low world oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow’s interference in Ukraine — as well as the Kremlin’s own “countersanctions,” which have restricted imports

and

Russia began a costly campaign of air strikes in war-ravaged Syria in September 2015 and has beefed up its military presence there. Despite growing evidence, President Vladimir Putin and his government deny Russia has sent troops and weapons to support separatists in a war that has killed more than 9,100 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The propaganda is crude and cynical. The text flips from these ‘explanations’ presented as facts to the poignant tale of an individual Russian family affected by the cuts in social security.

The explanations offer a simple, artificial, and easy to swallow narrative about Russia’s economic problems. There is the claim that Russia’s counter-sanctions which affect European food products are hurting Russia. (The Russians claim with some likely justification that this policy is helping to stimulate their own food industry). The “growing evidence” for Russian military involvement in Ukraine is noticeable, as usual, by its absence. The Russian campaign in Syria is relatively limited. (The Russians claim, truthfully or not, that it is covered out of the existing military budget). [4] The one-sided and simplistic explanations aside; there is no doubt that the Russian economy is in recession. A combination of US sanctions and the collapse in oil prices is responsible. Possibly the apparent cuts in social security payments mentioned here are the result of budget tightening as a result of pressure on the budget resulting from the recession. And; indeed no doubt (as with any other government) the Russian government is having to balance competing demands on the available funds.

Missing from the article is any sense of US responsibility for any of this though. The US and EU sanctions were applied to Russia after Russia’s reactions to the US and EU sponsored coup in Ukraine. A coup which overthrew an elected President and which disenfranchised those in the East of Ukraine who do not want to become part of the EU and NATO. US sanctions on Russia are not a response to “bad behaviour” by Russia – but an extension of their aggressive policy of “expanding freedom” [5] by any means possible. Russia’s campaign in Syria is designed primarily to stop the spread of terrorism in the region. If the US were not supporting terrorism in Syria and was not using military means to try to bring down the current government Russia would not need to be in Syria.

The Guardian even re-printed the above piece of crude propaganda as a news article.

This is an all too familiar strategy. On the one hand the US applies actions which put the Russian economy under pressure. And then it beams propaganda into Russia to stir up the people to become agitated about their economic circumstances.

The writer of this piece undoubtedly cares only about “expanding freedom” and not for the people who feature in the article, who are being cynically exploited.

At any event. The US is unarguably engaged in waging a ‘hybrid’ war against Russia which includes propaganda. The Russians are no doubt used to this. It has been going on for years. They don’t even mention it in public statements at a political level; it seems they just take it for granted.

The West though is now in a tizz because they think that Russia is doing something like this back to them. There are cries of horror and outrage from politicians and the media. Something must be done. This is all farcical. How can rational people be up in arms about the terribleness of something which they do themselves?

Notes

1. WikiPedia – Radio Free Europe

2.

http://www.rferl.org/p/5547.html

http://www.svoboda.org/

3. http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-disabled-new-rules-hit-hard-take-everything-away/27609451.html

4. Sputnik News. (Russian state media). December 2016.

5. Guardian. 2016. Obama talks about “expanding freedom”

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When is a human shield not a human shield?

Well, according to the Western media/political class –

a human shield is a civilian in Gaza who is killed in an Israeli air-strike aimed at Hamas (and carried out by a donated US war-plane).

But a civilian who is killed by a strike carried out by the Syrian air-force in Syria aimed at armed groups trying to topple the government is ‘a victim of a murderous regime’.

The moral narrative put out by the West is entirely selective. They turn it on and off to suit whatever madcap regime-change adventure they are currently launching.

For example; after Saddam Hussein gassed Kurdish villagers the British government (the Thatcher government) didn’t bat an eyelid. In fact shortly afterwards they dispatched a government minister (Tony Newton) [1] to Baghdad to talk up a trade deal. But after he invaded their little oil haven (Kuwait) he was put on a watch list.

As always in these cases the pivot – from darling dictator (or at least ‘someone we can do business with’) to absolute monster with whom it is impossible to negotiate and who must be eliminated is accompanied by a suitable narrative in the press. For example; at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003 the gassing of Kurdish villagers in 1988 suddenly started being used as an example of how much of a monster Saddam Hussein was. More recently we have the narrative that Assad is ‘murdering his own people’ and before that the narrative that Gaddafi is ‘about to murder his own people’. The political class/media class talk up the moral narrative which ‘justifies’ the invasion. Yet they were silent before. Again; notice how the political and media classes became so concerned about the rights of women in Afghanistan – but only in as much as this was deployed as another moral argument to legitimize an invasion. Prior to the decision on invasion there had been no publicly expressed concern about the rights of women in Afghanistan. As there is none today about the position of women in Saudi Arabia.

This selective use of morality in the service of resurgent imperialist aggression is a hall-mark of the current regime in the West. The press manages the narrative about morality on behalf of the regime.

Notes

1 John Pilger. The New Rulers of the West. Verso 2003. In Chapter ‘Paying the Price’ (p66 in 2003 edition).

 

The Western narrative on Russia takes departure from reality

Businessman Mr Hammond, who is the UK’s Foreign Secretary, has made a speech at a dinner in London. He touched on relations with Russia:

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its aggression in eastern Ukraine are both attacks on the international rules-based system. In the place of partnership, Russia has chosen the role of strategic competitor, at the very time when the diffusion of power more widely around the world makes the international rules-based system all the more important as the principal means to keep the peace between nations. So we must be steadfast in the defence of where nations threaten to undermine it, as we have been, and will remain, in response to Russia’s actions.

We will maintain our efforts to ensure the European Union remains resolute, robust, united and aligned with the United States in the face of this challenge. Because this isn’t just about Ukraine: it is about Russia and its future intentions; about its apparent aspiration to exercise control over the former Soviet republics which were liberated by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 – an event we celebrate, but which President Putin describes as “the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the 20th Century”. It is about standing firm and standing united now, to prevent renewed tests of our resolve in the future. [1]

That this narrative in general from Mr Hammond bears no relation to any kind of