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Part One: The Propaganda War over Ukraine: The New York Times vs. Russia's "White Book"

By       Message Walter Uhler     Permalink
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Daily examination of the online headlines and news links found on the Kyiv Post allows any disinterested observer to conclude that it is a propaganda bullhorn for the provisional government; the one installed after the duly elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted in a violent anti-Russian coup. Thus, it was hardly a surprise when, on May 6th, the propaganda bullhorn published an article of opinion by Oleh Tiahnybok that was riddled with rubbish.

Mr. Tiahnybok is the leader of "Svoboda," a right-wing party that captured 38 seats and 10 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections and played a significant role in the violent overthrow of President Yanukovych. Now, this fascist is running for president.

"Fascist?" Yes, until 2004, Svoboda was called the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine and employed neo-Nazi and SS symbols. Even after it changed its name and symbols, Mr. Tiahnybok continued to rail against the "Muscovite-Jewish mafia running Ukraine" and praise the Ukrainian Insurgency Army (UPA) in World War II for fighting "against the Moscali [Muskovites], Germans, Zhydy [Jews] and other scum, who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state." [see Keith Darden and Lucan Way, Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2014] In his article, Mr. Tiahnybok shamelessly sings the praises of the Ukrainian Insurgency Army.

But he also tells inarticulate lies. Consider his assertion that, "The Russian worldview is shaped by the myth that identifies Ukraine as a Russian cradle." To believe Mr. Tiahnybok, one would need to deny that the first "Russian" state was established in Kiev in the 9th century and was known as "Kievan Rus'." Yet, every student of Russia's history -- or at least those who are not liars or fervent Ukrainian nationalists -- knows better. Moreover, Ukraine didn't even exist in the 9th century.

Mr. Tiahnybok also lies when he alleges that President Yanukovych "effectively became a marionette of Putin's special forces." Actually, the corrupt Mr. Yanukovych attempted to pit Russia against the European Union (EU) in order to obtain the best deal for Ukraine and himself.

The EU insisted on open markets, the rule of law and economic transparency (which would have threatened the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt Yanukovych and his equally corrupt oligarchs), as well as the release of Yanukovych's hated political enemy, infamous "vorovka" (thief) Yulia Timoshenko. In return, Ukraine could expect a "radiant" future of law, economic efficiency, prosperity and, most significantly, liberty beyond the reach of Russian control. That radiant future was enough to dupe a majority of the youths living in Western Ukraine, especially the anti-Russian fascists and neo-Nazis living in Lviv, the capital of "Banderastan," and political stronghold of Mr. Tiahnybok's Svoboda party.

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Unfortunately, the IMF conditioned any loan it might make to Ukraine on an agreement by Yanukovych to inflict a painful austerity program on Ukraine's citizens, especially on those many Russians living in the east and south. Thus the very terms of the EU-IMF proposal promised to fracture an already fragile Ukraine along a Ukrainian/Russian fault line.

President Putin made no such demands on Yanukovych's corrupt regime. He simply promised to raise the price of fuel and close Russia's borders to Ukrainian products. In a word, he threatened to wreck Ukraine's already precarious economy. (Presumably, there were unannounced Russian carrots to go with the sticks, because on 17 December 2013, Russia agreed to invest $15 billion in Ukraine's government debt and reduce by about a third the price that Naftogaz, Ukraine's national energy company, pays for Russian gas. Putin's offer was a genuine lifeline.)

In the end, the prospect of immediate sanctions or immediate aid from Russia proved to be more compelling to the Yanukovych government than the immediate shocks and vague "radiant future" offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

On the same day when Mr. Tiahnybok's rubbish was posted, the Kyiv Post also featured an article by Clemens Wergin, the foreign editor of Die Welt. It was titled, "Why Germans Love Russia."

Mr. Wergin could not understand why such "august figures" as former Chancellors Gerhard Schroder and Helmut Schmidt believed that "NATO and the European Union were the real aggressors [in Ukraine], because they dared to expand into territory that belonged to Moscow's legitimate sphere of interest." He also lamented the strong probability that "part of the German public agrees."

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Mr. Wergin duly noted the blatant hypocrisy of those Germans "who relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq," but who are now "excusing Russia's need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations." But, he failed to add, as any fair-minded person would, that Germany took no serious action against America, when the United States perpetrated the most serious war crime of the 21st century, but did issue sanctions against Russia for its far less deadly intervention in Ukraine. Hypocrisy, Mr. Wergin, cuts both ways.

Mr. Wergin also was quick to blame Russia-sponsored propaganda for the pro-Moscow sentiment in Germany. But, he failed to acknowledge the probability that some of the pro-Moscow sentiment is gratitude, based upon the knowledge that Mikhail Gorbachev facilitated the peaceful unification of Germany under NATO.

In addition, some of Germany's current pro-Moscow sentiment probably springs from guilt. In 1990, Western leaders -- including Germany's Hans-Dietrich Genscher -- promised Soviet leaders that, if they permitted the peaceful unification of Germany under NATO, NATO would not expand eastward beyond Germany. President Clinton broke that promise and Germany did nothing to stop him.

Mr. Wergin doesn't mention that promise at all. Yet, it is the key to what has happened in Ukraine.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
 

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