Putin throws down the gauntlet
The moral invalidation of the enemy is at the heart of the propaganda war that always precedes the “real” war.
Vladimir Putin’s speech marking the accession of four Ukrainian regions to Russia calls into question “Western” hegemony and exceptionalism. These are not the boastful words of the president of a small country unable to prevent “the West” from destroying it if he does not give in to its demands. It was the outspoken head of a powerful state capable of inflicting as much damage on “the West” as he threatens to inflict on his country, and perhaps even more, given the development by Russia in recent years of missiles which, according to Putin, give Russia the edge over what NATO has in its arsenal.
Putin’s references to the “so-called west” are first of all interesting. After all, what is “the West” if not the United States and a swarm of camp followers too cowardly to challenge it? These states are not “partners” in the proper sense of the term, but as many satraps within the American empire as the provincial governors were in the Persian empire at the time of Darius or Xerxes. From Afghanistan and the genocidal wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria to the use of sanctions, they are deeply complicit in US-orchestrated war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet, in the case of Ukraine, they dare to attack Russia for violating the “rules-based international order”.
In his speech marking Russia’s “special military operation” in February, Putin called “the West” an “empire of lies”. For half a millennium, the road to hell for millions of people in distant lands has always been paved with good intentions. In the Americas, in Africa, in the Middle East and in the Far East, the plunder of natural resources and the rivers of bloodshed by these genocidal states were the reality, and “civilization and progress” were the conditioning. The pitch has been updated. Civilization was still mentioned occasionally, but now it was democracy that was delivered at gunpoint.
The lie was only rarely exposed, as was the case when Roger Casement and journalist ED Morel exposed the horror of King Leopold’s Belgium, the later setting of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
The moral invalidation of the enemy is at the heart of the propaganda war that always precedes the “real” war. Domestic audiences are primed for hatred so that when filming begins, there is an enemy worth destroying, no matter the civilian cost. Now it’s Putin’s turn to be treated as less than human, a “cornered rat” as Australian columnist Peter Hartcher recently called it.
The hypocrisy and moral delinquency of “the West” extends to the millions of refugees it has created through its wars. Australia, to its indelible historic shame, has led the world by preventing ‘boat people’ from entering its territorial waters, selling them to impoverished neighboring countries and locking them up in the middle of the desert as they somehow managed to reach dry land. . The Australian public was not allowed to know, see or hear them lest they sympathize with their plight and link the refugees to the politicians who had engaged Australia in the attacks on their countries, none of which had in any way provoked Australia. These wars were other examples of how Australia went long ago from a lucky country to a lackey country.
Putin’s remarks were as much aimed at the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, China, the Indian subcontinent, and East and Southeast Asia as against “the West.” Russia has its own bad record in the Caucasus and Central Asia, as neoconservative thinkers, Washington Post, New York Times and London Daily Telegraph columnists will sooner or later point out, but in all these other regions Putin draws in bitter memories of “Western” invasion, occupation, death and destruction. The message will also reach the colonized and subjugated native populations of the United States and Canada.
The neo-colonial ‘west’ still seeks to control these distant lands, but in its weakened hour, not only do these regions have what they always have – the numbers (more than 80% of the planet’s population) – they now have the technological skills and the capacity for political, economic and military resilience that they did not even have half a century ago, including, for some, the possession of nuclear weapons.
Putin’s direct message to “the West” began with how, in 1991, the Soviet party elite made the decision to end the Soviet Union “without asking ordinary citizens what they wanted “. The result was a national disaster, but “we still can’t go back.” His specific message to the “kyiv authorities” and their “Western handlers” was that the citizens of the four disputed regions “are now our citizens forever.” Russia would defend the land of which these four regions are now a part “with all the forces and resources at our disposal”. Since 1991 he said ‘the West’ has been looking for every opportunity to strike a blow at Russia and has crossed every red line so it can continue to live off the world and loot and force other countries to surrender their sovereignty to the US. He had launched a hybrid war against Russia while hypocritically and deceptively insisting on respecting the “rules-based order”.
As he had said in a previous speech, it was not the Russian government but high-ranking figures from the NATO states who started talking about using a nuclear weapon to stop “the special operation” in Ukraine, but Russia would use all means at its disposal to protect the state and its people – “this is not a bluff” – and those trying to blackmail it with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction. Any would-be aggressor would face defeat and dire consequences if they directly attacked “our country”.
After accusing Russia of bombing its own prisoner-of-war camp, the nuclear power plant it was protecting, and civilian convoys seeking safety across the border into Russian territory, “Western” governments and the media are now running the far-fetched line that Russia sabotaged its own Nord Stream gas pipeline. While Putin blamed the “Anglo-Saxons” for this atrocity, other sources point to a joint effort by Poland, Denmark and Sweden in a US-orchestrated operation; but whatever the details, there is no doubt that it was put in place by the United States. Biden had threatened to shut down the pipeline, and the United States is the only beneficiary, now that it is able to sell much-needed gas to Europe at inflated prices. The big loser is a Europe heading into winter without an adequate supply of gas for heating and power.
“Western” governments need to know who is behind all this. Some will be part of the plot, but others might take the opportunity to reflect on where American leaders are really leading them, toward a cold winter and the grave possibility of open war against Russia. For all the weapons they sent to Ukraine, do these other states really want to be dragged into a European war on behalf of one of the most corrupt governments in the European arena and a showman president who will only last as long as the United States wants it to last?
Putin got straight to the point. He threw down the gauntlet. He talked about the depths of Russian history. It is existential for Russia and for Putin’s leadership. The “West” was jubilant when the Soviet Union collapsed and was appalled at the rebirth of a strong Russia from the ruins. He picked up the reins of the Cold War where it left off and since 1991 he has sought to break up Russia. After decades of provocation, Ukraine has broken the camel’s back. A rollback would leave the United States with an egg in its face, but the problem is hardly existential. The survival of the republic is not at stake: the dangers are greater within its borders. Clearly offside Biden isn’t going to last (even though he says he intends to run again in 2024), so he can still be blamed for leading the United States into this impasse. The fact that the New York Times is now publishing an article about the conclusion of US intelligence that “elements of the Ukrainian government” were responsible for the murder of Darya Dugina in August is very significant. Could this mean that the United States is preparing to abandon Zelensky before moving towards a negotiated settlement?
Nor is the situation existential for NATO or the EU. Ukraine has no hope of being admitted to its ranks in the foreseeable future and any attempt to drag the organization deeper into this mess would be blocked by its own members. Austria wants de-escalation and Germany is already indicating that it has gone as far in supporting the kyiv regime as it is willing to go. His own ministers are already bickering over the status of government intervention in Ukraine. Other European states are certain to retreat from where Washington’s Pied Piper has taken them. They will know from their intelligence services who sabotaged Nord Stream even if they will never say so openly.
This should be a wake-up call because – clearly – the destruction of the pipeline was aimed at Europe as well as Russia. It cannot be dismissed as unfortunate collateral damage. It was a deliberate blow, aimed particularly at Germany. An energy crisis, higher food prices and a sharp fall in the value of the euro are all part of the accumulated cost of the long-term cowardly failure of European governments to stand up to the United States, not only about Ukraine and Russia, but on Iran, Syria and other countries that have fallen under US or Israeli interests.