Contest US Anti-Russian Hype
Besides the Brexit rejection of U.S.-style
neoliberal economics, some European voices are
protesting, finally, the U.S.-led, anti-Russian
propaganda campaign that has justified an expensive
new Cold War.
By Joe Lauria
June 29, 2016
-A significant crack has been unexpectedly opened in
the wall of Europe’s disciplined obedience to the
United States. I’m not only referring to the
possible long-term consequences for U.S.-European
relations in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave
the European Union, but the unlikely blow against
Washington’s information war on Moscow delivered by
Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier,
who a week ago shockingly accused the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization of “war-mongering” against
Bush administration’s twisting of events in the 2008
Russia-Georgia war, which the E.U.
blamed on Georgia, Western populations
have been subjected to the steady message that
Russia is a “threat” to the West and is guilty of
“aggression.” This reached a peak with the false
narrative of events in Ukraine, in which blatant
evidence of the West’s complicity in a violent
coups d’état was omitted from corporate media
accounts, while Russia’s assistance to eastern
Ukrainians resisting the coup has been
framed as a Russian “invasion.”
disinformation campaign has reached the depths of
popular culture, including the EuroVision song
contest and sports doping
scandals, to ensure widespread popular
support for U.S. hostile intentions against Russia.
“aggression” narrative, based largely on lies of
omission, has prepared the way for the U.S. to
install a missile-shield in Romania with offensive
capabilities and to stage significant NATO war games
with 31,000 troops on Russia’s borders. For the
first time in 75 years, German troops
retraced the steps of the Nazi invasion
of the Soviet Union.
U.S. Designs on Russia
The U.S. is
eyeing a post-Putin Russia in which a Wall
Street-friendly leader like Boris Yeltsin can be
restored to reopen the country to Western
exploitation. But Vladimir Putin is no Yeltsin and
has proven a tough nut for the U.S. to crack.
Washington’s modus operandi is to
continually provoke and blame an opponent until it
stands up for itself, as Putin’s Russia has done,
then accuse it of “aggression” and attack in
way, Washington builds popular support for its own
version of events and resistance to the other side
of the story. Unfortunately it is not a new trick in
the U.S. playbook.
statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame
upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will
be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and
will diligently study them, and refuse to examine
any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by
convince himself the war is just, and will thank God
for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of
wrote Mark Twain.
suddenly, after many years of an air-tight,
anti-Russia campaign believed unquestioningly by
hundreds of millions of Westerners, comes Steinmeier
last week blurting out the most significant truth
about Russia uttered by a Western official perhaps
shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further
through saber-rattling and warmongering,” Steinmeier
stunningly told Bild am Sontag newspaper.
“Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the
alliance’s eastern border will bring security is
Steinmeier called for dialogue with Moscow. “We are
well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old
confrontation,” he said, saying it would be “fatal
to search only for military solutions and a policy
with the U.S. propaganda strategy, the U.S.
corporate media virtually ignored the remarks, which
should have been front-page news. The New York
Times did not report Steinmeier’s statement,
but two days later ran a Reuter’s
story only online leading with the U.S.
military’s rejection of his remarks.
NATO General: Russia is No Threat
Just a day
after Steinmeier was quoted in Bild,
General Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s military
committee, dropped another bombshell. Pavel
told a Brussels press conference flat out
that Russia was not at a threat to the
“It is not
the aim of NATO to create a military barrier against
broad-scale Russian aggression, because such
aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence
assessment suggests such a thing,” he said.
happened to Russian “aggression” and the Russian
“threat?” What is the meaning then of the fear of
Russia pounded every day into the heads of Western
citizens? Is it all a lie? Two extraordinary
on-the-record admissions by two men, Steinmeier, the
foreign minister of Europe’s most powerful nation,
and an active NATO general in charge of the military
committee, both revealing that what Western
officials repeat every day is indeed a lie, a lie
that may be acknowledged in private but would never
before be mentioned in public.
ago I was in a background briefing with a senior
European ambassador at his country’s U.N. mission in
New York and could hardly believe my ears when he
said talk about Russia’s threat to Eastern Europe
was “all hype” designed to give NATO “a reason to
exist.” Yet this same ambassador in public Security
Council meetings would viciously attack Russia.
hype is about more than just saving NATO. The fear
campaign feeds the American and European military
industries and most importantly puts pressure on the
Russian government, which the U.S. wants overthrown.
remarks made out of the exasperation of knowing all
along that the Russian threat is hype? Were they
made out of genuine concern that things could get
out of hand under reckless and delusional leaders in
Washington leading to a hot war with Russia?
has been disciplined for speaking out. Does this
signal a change in official German thinking? Will
German businessmen who deal with Russia and have
opposed sanctions against Moscow over Ukraine, which
were forced on Germany by the U.S., be listened to?
Steinmeier’s remarks a one-off act of rebellion, or
is Germany indeed considering defying Washington on
sanctions and regime change in Moscow? Is the German
government finally going to act in Germany’s own
interests? Such a move would spark a European
defiance of the United States not seen since the
days when Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of
NATO in 1966 to preserve French independence.
time European governments broke with Washington on a
major issue was the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Then France and Germany joined Russia on the U.N.
Security Council in blocking the war’s authorization
(although Britain supported it). But France and
Germany then voted for a resolution several months
later that essentially condoned the invasion.
It’s Up to the European Public
One has to
ask whether a conditioned German public is ready to
see through the lies about Russia. Last November, I
flew from St. Petersburg to Berlin and discussed
this very question with a number of well-educated
visited Russia for the first time since 1995, 20
years before to the month. Those were the days of
the Yeltsin-Jeffery Sachs Russia, of the unbridled
neoliberal capitalism of the Wall Street-oligarch
alliance that plundered the country leaving millions
of Russians destitute. Outside train stations I saw
homeless encampments replete with campfires.
Policemen were stopping motorists for bribes. I ran
from two men intent on robbing me until I lost them
in a Metro station. That’s the Russia the neocons in
Washington and the knaves and buccaneers on Wall
Street want to see again.
I saw in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 20 years later,
was orderly and prosperous, as modern as any
European city. It is a testament to Russia’s
resistance to American attempts to restore its
political and financial control. Russia is a
capitalist country. But on its own terms. It is
fully aware of American machinations to undermine
In Berlin I
met several Germans, educated, liberal and
completely aware, unlike most Americans, of how the
United Sates has abused its post-World War II power.
And yet when I asked them all why there are still
U.S. military bases in Germany 70 years after the
war and 25 years after the Cold War ended, and who
the Americans were protecting them from, the
universal answer was: Russia.
shows European fears of Russia to be completely
overblown. Germany and other Western powers have
invaded Russia three times in the last two
centuries: France in 1812, U.S., Britain and France
in the 1918 Russian Civil War, and Germany again in
1941. Except for Imperial Russia’s incursion into
East Prussia after war was declared on it in 1914,
the reverse has never been true.
memoirs Harry Truman
admitted that false fear of Russia was
the “tragedy and shame of our time” during the Cold
War that he had much to do with in part to revive
the U.S. post-war economy with military spending.
George Kennan, the State Department official who
advised a non-military containment of the Soviet
conceded as early as 1947 that Soviet
moves in Eastern Europe were defensive and
constituted no threat. In the 1990s, Kennan also
decried NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s
vast natural resources, Russia has been the big
prize for the West for centuries, and is still today
in neocon-driven Washington. But Germany,
especially, has benefited from trade with Russia and
has no need to join the U.S. imperial project.
voters’ decision, days after Steinmeier’s
extraordinary remark, could herald significant
change in Europe, which may be approaching an
historical junction in its relationship with the
United States. Growing anti-E.U. sentiment has
spread across the continent, including calls for
similar referenda in several countries.
voters evidently saw through the hype about the
Russian “threat,” as a majority did not buy British
Prime Minister David Cameron’s scare
tactic ahead of the vote that Brexit would make
it harder to “combat Russian aggression.”
been called Washington’s Trojan horse in the E.U.
The thinking is that without Britain, the E.U. would
be freer to chart its own course. But as Alexander
here, Obama bypasses London to call
Merkel directly with his demands. Still,
removing Britain’s voice from the E.U.,
though more crucially not from NATO, opens space for
more independent voices in Europe to emerge.
that we will have less clout on our own,” former
British Ambassador to the United States Peter
Westmacott told The New York Times. “In the
future, we won’t have as much influence on Europe’s
response to Putin’s transgressions, Iran’s nuclear
ambitions, or the E.U.’s foreign and security
policy. … And we will be less able to ensure it is
could be a good thing. If German leaders conclude
the United States is pushing Europe into a
disastrous war with Russia, could we see a Charles
de Gaulle moment in Berlin? Merkel doesn’t seem to
have it in her. Three days after Steinmeier’s
remarks, she told a news conference she
favored increased German spending for
NATO to counter Russian “threats.”
will require a revolt by an awakened citizenry
against the E.U. and elected European governments
that refuse to stand up to Washington, mostly
because it benefits their own class interests, to
the detriment of the majority.
Future of the EU
social democracy had been probably the best social
and political system ever devised on earth, maybe
the best that is humanly possible. Europe could have
been a model for the world as a neutral power
committed to social justice. As late as 1988,
Jacques Delors, then president of the European
Commission, promised the British Trades Union
Congress that the E.U. would be a “social market.”
E.U. allowed itself to be sold out to unelected and
unaccountable neoliberal technocrats now in charge
in Brussels. European voters, perhaps not fully
understanding the consequences, elected neoliberal
national governments slavishly taking Washington’s
foreign policy orders. But Brexit shows those voters
are getting educated. Unity is a great ideal but E.U.
leaders have refused to accept that it has to
benefit all Europeans.
Lisbon Treaty is the only constitution in the world
that has neoliberal policies written into it. If it
won’t reform — and the arrogance of the E.U.’s
leaders tells us it won’t — it will be up to the
people of Europe to diminish or dismantle the E.U.
through additional referenda. That would give
liberated European nations the chance to elect
anti-neoliberal national governments, accountable to
the voters, which can also chart foreign policies
independent of Washington.
is that the right-wing sentiment that has driven a
large part of the anti-Establishment movements in
Europe (and the U.S.) may elect governments that
grow even closer to Washington and impose even
harsher neoliberal policies.
That is a
risk that may need to be taken in the hope that the
anti-Establishment left and right can coalesce
around shared interests to put an end to the elitist
Joe Lauria is
a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the
U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston
Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg
Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal
and other newspapers. He can be reached email@example.com and
followed on Twitter at @unjoe.