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The Perils of Russian Propaganda

How Putin’s propaganda machine defeats itself.

Vladimir Putin (Credit: ID1974 - Shutterstock.com)

Takeaways


  • Russia’s propaganda could endanger Europe, as well as Ukraine.
  • Putin casts universal values like the rule of law as antithetical to Russian ethnic nationalism.
  • Under Stalin, 11 million Ukrainians starved to death. Now Putin wants to glorify Stalin for cowing Ukraine.
  • Like Stalin, Putin aims to beat Ukraine into submission using propaganda and power.

One of the tactics in war fighting is the use of misinformation to mislead the enemy. Russian propaganda is a weapon being used against Europe. Vladimir Putin has made his choice. He has made Europe the enemy of Russia.

And he has made it clear that European (and universal) values, including rule of law, protections for minority rights and respect for a country’s boundaries, are anathema and antithetical to Russian ethnic nationalism.

In order to “deal” with a sagging economy, those are the instruments that Putin has used to animate his country and provoke war.

As Russian propaganda targets the West, it is becoming less successful. Yes, there are still some “Putin-huggers” in Western Europe that have been produced by Russia via its payrolls. But their efforts are becoming ever more ludicrous since Russia evidently has a fundamental issue with the most basic conceptions of truth and honesty.

Weaponizing history

Putin has repeatedly characterized the decline of the Soviet Union as the “greatest catastrophe of the 20th Century.” That is an astonishing and an alarming claim. After all, his assertion is that the end of the Cold War is worse than both World Wars in his mind. That claim, twisted as it is, should be taken seriously.

It is only logical therefore that Putin’s propaganda not only seeks to “reshape” the present. His propaganda also reshapes the past — via revisionist history.

Consider Sergei Naryshkin, the Speaker of the Russian Duma and one of the Russian officials on the sanctions list by the United States and the European Union. He was also charged by Putin to approve new history books for Russia, in which Stalin is rehabilitated as a “modernizer.”

One of Stalin’s policies, of course, was to commit genocide against Ukrainians in the form of the Terror Famine in 1932-33.

Emptying Europe’s bread basket

Eight decades on, the fighting in Ukraine is Putin’s war to weaken Ukraine. He aims to make Kiev submissive to Moscow. The war is as much anti-Ukrainian as an expansionist ethnic-Russian project.

Russian claims of fraternity with Ukraine are a disguise for the domination of Ukraine, and that policy is a long-standing Russian policy.

Russian aggression in Ukraine is really an attack against ethnic Ukrainians under the pretense to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Mind you, they were not a beleaguered population in Ukraine until Russian propaganda and interference produced the crisis.

Europeans are generally hesitant to jump to conclusions and take meaningful action. However, Putin’s choice is to attack the idea of a peaceful Europe head on. His deceits have been so blatant that he has succeeded only in one thing – making Europeans wake up and see him for the man he really is: a 21st century despot.

Then as now

In 1932-1933, Russians closed the borders of Ukraine and prevented travel in or out of the country. Next, they removed all the grain from the “breadbasket of Europe.” That included grain for food and for planting. They then sold it on international markets for foreign currency, in order to finance the industrialization of Russia.

The policy was not an agricultural policy, but at once a Russian industrialization policy and a targeted anti-Ukrainian policy. That policy deliberately and systematically starved to death 11 million Ukrainians in the Terror Famine.

When a rumor reached Poland of the famine, Poland sent a train load of grain for relief. Russians turned it around at the border, saying that the rumor was false, allowing Ukrainians to die.

Then as now, Russia aims to beat Ukraine into submission.

Europeans face a clear-cut choice: Europe has given Putin far too many chances to step back in the past months and he has abused all of them. Not punishing Russia for its attacks in Europe is not a way to avoid conflict. Rather, it allows Russian duplicity to go unpunished.

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About Carl Bindenagel

Carl Bindenagel is a policy analyst and writer on social justice and social policy.

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