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US media’s Russiagate fake news have destroyed the dreams of Russian liberals

The US Russophobic press is its own worst enemy, having thoroughly discredited Russian liberals who idealize their western counterparts

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(TheNation) – The US Department of Justice (and the mainstream US media following its lead) gave a royal gift to the “ideological hawks” in the Kremlin, one that even the boldest propagandists dared not dream of. The Russian television channels Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik have been forced to register as “foreign agents”; the stormy (and completely unsurprising) reactions have escalated the information wars, whose consequences are difficult to predict.

Russian lawmakers reacted to the DOJ’s decision emotionally and quickly: In just a few days, amendments were passed without discussion on the media law, adding paragraphs on foreign media and “foreign structures distributing information.” The law regulating non-commercial organizations can now impose on them the status of a foreign agent. “This is a very broad formulation,” says Galina Arapova, director of the Mass Media Defence Centre, media lawyer, and member of the board of Article 19. “It applies to all foreign mass media and foreign structures that produce information for an unlimited circle of readers or viewers; the important part is that they receive foreign money. Obviously, all non-Russian mass media and Internet sites will be considered foreign. Every lawyer understands the absurdity of ‘transferring’ to foreign mass media registered in other countries the norms of the law on non-commercial foreign agent organizations that are registered on Russian territory, and which therefore must follow Russian legislation. This is beyond political control; this is a farce. Russian law cannot force a foreign company registered in another country to present financial reports to the Ministry of Justice if the company doesn’t even have a representative office in Russia. By the way, the Law on Mass Media governs the distribution of foreign mass media on the territory of Russia as well as the registration of their bureaus. It is clear that the new amendment is aimed primarily at the media whose target audience is the Russian reader. The amendment is essentially a declarative political statement.”

In other words, all mass media with foreign financing can be put on the list of “agents” and will be required to present financial documentation, information on employees, and other information to the Russian authorities. Noncompliance brings astronomical fines and even a block on information resources. The basis for inclusion on the agent list is not defined and in fact all foreign companies might be subject to it, from The New York Times to The Herald of Zimbabwe.

Russia’s Presidential Council on Human Rights immediately responded with harsh criticism of the initiative and asked for at least a postponement, since the amendment texts had many errors and contradictions. It must be said that in the last few years the Council has been calling on Parliament and the president to repeal the law on foreign agents, which until now applied only to NGOs and made life very difficult not only for more than a hundred organizations on the list but for the work of civil society as a whole. Moreover, there were fears that the latest proposals, which essentially made it impossible for foreign mass media to work in Russia, was not the end—that the screws would be tightened even more. The speed with which the president signed the amendments supported this concern. But the greatest blow was the US Congress’s decision to take away the accreditation of RT journalists. In response, some Russian parliamentarians proposed taking away the accreditation of all American journalists by the State Duma. However, journalists feel that it is almost impossible for this to happen, since accreditation for foreign correspondents in Russia is given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the meantime, the Voice of America, Radio Liberty and its departments, such as Kavkaz Realii and Krym Realii, have already been informed that they need to register as foreign agents. At the moment of writing, there are nine US media outlets on the list. The consequences of these decisions will be much harsher for them than for RT in the United States. The OSCE, the International Federation of Journalists, and other international organizations have called for both countries, Russia and the United States, to rescind their decisions, which are contrary to the principles of freedom of speech and of journalists not persecuting each other. The appeals have not been heard. On the contrary, the information war is heating up.

It is impossible to predict what will happen next. But even if, by some miracle, reason prevails over the ambitions of decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic and these hasty decisions are repealed, journalism as whole will still suffer irreplaceable losses. It is certain that in any case RT will receive additional billions of rubles from the Russian budget to expand its activity in the world. That is, the money that theoretically could have been spent on developing public mass media, training journalists, developing social programs in local newspapers, exchanges, and much more.

There is no doubt that American programs that aim to counteract “Kremlin propaganda” will also receive funds that theoretically could have been spent on reviving once active and fruitful contacts and joint programs for Russian and US journalists. It looks as if we can forget about future development of dialogue among journalists. And it is also perfectly clear that the search for a fifth column and internal enemy, in the media as well, will become more active in Russia. The familiar pattern is that every new anti-Russian sanction by the West leads not to hostility of citizens toward the state, but just the opposite—an increased consolidation of the obedient majority around the regime, a readiness to forgive all its sins in exchange for resistance to the foreign enemy, and to new repressive measures against independent voices, whose number is rapidly diminishing. This happened with the Magnitsky Act and the sanctions of the last three years. Indeed, the Russian press has come up with a telling phrase: In response to foreign aggression, Russia will “bomb Voronezh”—that is, take it out on its own people.

Russiagate managed in a few months to strike a much stronger blow against the prospects of improving relations than all the years of the Cold War and the arms race together. The mutual trust of the elites is gone. The rules of the game, once reliably observed, have been violated. The worst part is that trust is lost between the people and the intellectuals of both countries. There is another danger that has not been fully comprehended—the basic theses that provided the necessity and possibility of dialogue have been put into doubt. The hybrid war that mixes truth and fake, interpretation and fact, vileness and virtue is a fight without rules in a dark room. One can now say to an audience of millions what until recently was considered unthinkable. The concepts of decency and measure have been cast aside. The battlefield belongs to moral marauders. No one believes anyone anymore.

Experts feel that the abyss between our professional communities will continue growing and it will be even harder to rebuild bridges of understanding and cooperation between anything. The propaganda hysteria on television is not going away, nor will the search for the internal enemy and the fifth column.

Who wins by this? Who benefits from Russiagate? Why is this happening?

Some believers in conspiracy theories in Moscow say that the massive attack on little-known RT and Sputnik—totally without influence on American audiences—resembles a special operation to promote them: Now everyone knows who they are. The historian Ivan Kurilla, a specialist in Russian-American relations and author of Frenemies, has a better explanation: This is not the first time that Russia has been used in the United States in order to define its own identity. Similarly, Russia has used the image of America to solve its own domestic issues throughout the centuries. This promoted the creation of numerous persistent myths, vividly portrayed in movies in Hollywood and by Mosfilm, that were rather removed from reality. The short period of embrace during perestroika ended with a nearly total loss of interest in Russia among the US establishment. The unconsidered description of Russia as a “second-rate provincial state,” the condescending attitude toward Russia, the unwillingness to take its interests into account and try to understand the country’s reality ended with a steep decrease in relations, a rise in anti-American rhetoric long before Crimea and the subsequent anti-American campaign in the mass media, including the statement by Dmitry Kiselev, head of the state agency Russia Today, that Russia could turn the United States into “radioactive ashes.” Russiagate in the Russian press is represented as the hysterical reaction of the superpower to its gradual loss of world sovereignty and fear of the growing “Russia’s unique power.”

For today’s Russian liberal, the intensification of Russiagate is profoundly wounding. First of all, the Russian liberal truly believes in the stability of US democratic institutions per se. The very thought that the strongest democracy in the world could be shaken—and the holiest of holies, the election, be influenced—by some hackers, even the most highly qualified, is intolerable and impossible, almost insulting. The American adherence to the rule of law, replacement of presidents, and transparency of procedures, even complicated ones, is a standard, a model to follow, for generations of liberal-minded Russians. No Russian liberal seriously believes that Russian hackers, however numerous and adept, could influence the elections. Nor could Chinese, Iranian, or US hackers.

Russian intellectuals cannot understand the US press’s stubborn insistence on the exclusive role of Russian hackers, trained by special services. They do not believe Russian propaganda and understand that any reference to the “Russian trace” plays into the hands of the current masters of the Kremlin; they wonder why the US media has to talk about it constantly. The rare press mentions that suggest the US establishment and press are not at all interested in Russia but only in their own problems and that the “Russian trace” is a poorly chosen form of confronting the current administration (for it could have some other trace) creates even greater frustration. The Russian intelligentsia have traditionally believed that their American brethren sincerely want to support democratic reforms and liberal forces in Russia—that they want to promote the primacy of law, transparency of the market, the growth of civil society, and the free development of the arts. They remember how, in the “stagnation” years, US journalists overcame all obstacles in order to meet with Soviet dissidents, or how Slavic scholars supported samizdat authors and opened the world’s eyes to the reality of Soviet life never covered by Soviet propaganda. Journalists and Slavists, together with Soviet liberal intellectuals and dissidents on both sides of the ocean, created a powerful platform for the renewal of the political landscape in the perestroika era. This heroic, without exaggeration, period to which dozens of the leading intellectuals of both countries devoted their best years, has come to an end. New subjects do not fit the old frames. Today US journalists, and Western journalists as a whole, limit themselves to predictable reports about Russia as a dangerous country with an unpredictable and aggressive leader—and nothing more.

The situation is bitterly disillusioning for Russian liberal journalists. Russiagate killed the beautiful dream of the perfection of the US system of government, respect for the law, and the excellence of the US press. A generation of my Russian colleagues grew up holding US journalists, analysts, and researchers as role models. Even in Soviet times, despite the imposed propaganda, college journalism departments did not hide respect for the American way. The fact that this idealized image of US journalism does not always correspond to reality causes a bitter, almost childish, hurt. How could the best press in the world violate its own principles for political aims? How then, does it differ from Russian propagandists? Even more painful is the condescending attitude toward Russians and the clear unwillingness to look more deeply at the complicated situation in the country. This hurt, these unmet expectations for understanding and sympathy, is a time bomb. It may become a real obstacle to future dialogue.

The historian Vladislav Zubok, a professor at the London School of Economics, notes that this attitude toward the complexity of post-Soviet Russia began long ago, when in the 1990s Americans preferred to support “their guy” in the Kremlin and ignored the contradictions in the country. Then, as the contradictions grew sharper and democracy slowed down, the United States simply forgot about Russia: The star correspondents worked in other regions; Russian studies programs were reduced; and information about the country appeared only in stories about extraordinary news events, like Pussy Riot, but there was no serious analysis for readers. Nor is there any serious analysis now. Russiagate leads further and further away from it.

The bitter understanding that playing the Russia card in the information war is an easy way to deal with a political opponent gives rise to a quiet inner protest in the Russian liberal. Notes of hurt and disappointment appear with greater frequency in the independent mass media, as the number of outlets continues to diminish. Economic difficulties are not helping the development of independent media. It is said that the current advertising market in Russia cannot support private press, and managers have to seek additional financing, which most often comes from state structures. The variety of voices in the Russian media landscape is narrowing. The departure of foreign media from the Russian information space—and that is what the new legislative decision might bring—will seriously reduce variety. Of course, in the digital age total isolation as in Soviet times is impossible. But the information milieu will be different.

The dramatic nature of this moment lies in the fact that unlike during the Cold War, when professionals—politicians, image-makers, officials—were involved in the ideological standoff, today ordinary people are involved as well. That did not happen under Brezhnev and Reagan. Today everyday people hate the virtual enemy seriously and emotionally. I don’t remember ever witnessing such anti-American sentiment in Russian society in my entire life. As Olga Alexeyeva, editor-in-chief of Gazeta.ru, said in a recent interview, even a sophisticated reader has trouble finding information on real events in the thickets of fake news and emotional content.

Effort on both sides is needed if Russian and American readers and viewers are to see the true faces of one another. This is work for scholars and scientists and journalists, not just politicians. Citizen diplomacy is needed, so that when relations between our countries improve (which historically is inevitable), politicians will have support in renewing our needed conversation.

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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EU’s ‘toothless’ response to creation of Kosovo army risks worsening the crisis – Moscow

Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army.

RT

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Via RT…


The creation of Kosovo’s own 5,000-strong army is a threat to peace and security in a turbulent region and may lead to a new escalation, Russia’s UN envoy has warned, calling the EU’s lackluster response irresponsible.

Speaking at the UN Security Council emergency meeting on Kosovo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya said that the EU could have and should have done more to stop the breakaway region from creating its own army to replace its lightly armed emergency response force.

“The EU reaction to the decision by Pristina cannot be described as other than toothless. This irresponsible policy has crossed the line,” Nebenzya said, after the UNSC meeting on Monday.

The diplomat said the lack of decisive action on the part of the 28-member bloc was a “great disappointment,” adding that the EU seems to “have turned a blind eye on the illegal creation of Kosovo’s ‘army.’”

The law, approved by Kosovo lawmakers on Friday, paves the way for doubling the size of the current Kosovo Security Force and for turning it into a de facto army, with 5,000 soldiers and 3,000 reservists.

The move did not go down well even with Kosovo’s usual backers, with both NATO and the EU voicing their indignation. NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “ill-timed” and lamented that Kosovo’s authorities had ignored “the concerns expressed by NATO.”

The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, has echoed those concerns, saying in a statement that the mandate of Kosovo’s forces “should only be changed through an inclusive and gradual process” in accordance with the state’s constitution.

The only nation to openly applaud the controversial move was the US, with its ambassador to Kosovo, Phillip Kosnett, saying that Washington “reaffirms its support” for the upgrade as it is “only natural for Kosovo as a sovereign, independent country” to have a full-fledged army.

The Kosovo MPs’ decision has drawn anger in the Serbian capital Belgrade and provoked a strong response from Moscow, which calledon the UN mission in Kosovo to demilitarize the area in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244, and to disband any armed units.

Nebenzya pointed out that the UN resolution does not allow any Kosovo Albanian military units to be present in the region’s territory. He accused Western countries, including members of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR), of “condoning and supporting” the violation by Pristina of the resolution.

It is feared that the army, though a relatively small force, might inflame tensions in the region and impede attempts at reconciliation between Pristina and Belgrade. Serbia has warned that it might consider an armed intervention if the army becomes a threat to the 120,000-strong Serb minority in Kosovo.

“The advance of Kosovo’s army presents a threat to the peace and security in the region, which may lead to the recurrence of the armed conflict,” Nebenzya stated.

In addition to creating its own army, Kosovo in November hit Serbia with a 100 percent import tariff on goods, defying calls by the US and the EU to roll the measure back.

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Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

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Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

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