The truth about Russian intentions []


The truth about Russian intentions

Consider this: for the past 10 days, the world has been swamped by
skillfully spun Russian propaganda.
03/12/2014 01:27

Last Friday the conversation topic between me and my husband during that
blessed hour was unorthodox. We were debating under which family name I
should publish this article.

Earlier that day, the news of a bill proposed to the Russian parliament came
out. It called for treating anti-Russian media reports as treason.
According to the bill, journalists that publish “false anti-Russian
information, provide information and support to extremist anti-Russian
separatist forces, including on events beyond the borders of Russia”
will be considered traitors and punished with up to 10 years in prison.

In case you have not heard: Russia invaded Ukraine on February 28, after
months of spreading anti-Ukrainian propaganda and weeks of staging
subversive activities on Ukrainian territory. It was a carefully planned
military operation. We have not yet seen the end of it. I am in touch with
friends in Ukraine, who vehemently do not want Russian forces in their
country. I fully share their outrage. I am also providing information to you
that, without a doubt, can be considered anti-Russian under the proposed

And that is why we were concerned last Friday night. I have dual Russian and
Israeli citizenship. Publishing under my maiden name exposes me next time I
visit Russia. Publishing under my married name makes it a bit more difficult
for Russian authorities to figure out who I am, but feels cowardly and
dishonest to me. It boiled down to these two questions: how fast will Russia
develop a system to monitor online publications, and how fast will they put
together a list of people writing on Russia-related topics? The fact that I
was actually having this conversation is still barely believable to me.

I grew up in Moscow in the Eighties and Nineties, and do not remember a time
when I did not feel free to say what I thought. The Nineties in Russia were
a heady time, when Russia’s difficult history was discussed with
unprecedented openness. Political talk shows dealt with pressing questions
every nation in the making has to face: how do we deal with our tragic
history? How do we make amends for historic wrongs? What are the values on
which we want to build the new, democratic Russia? That was time full of
hope, promise, economic and political reform. That time has been over for a
while. Over the past 10 years, Russia has been sliding back and down into a
stupor. Today Vladimir Putin’s regime, directly or indirectly, controls most
media outlets, and finds many creative ways to limit free speech.

Yet last month’s events draw a clear line under even this, not exactly
democratic but not yet totalitarian, state of affairs in Russia.

Consider this: for the past 10 days, the world has been swamped by
skillfully spun Russian propaganda.

The Russian invasion into Ukrainian territory was portrayed as a measure to
protect the discriminated- against Russian-speaking minority. The Crimean
legislative assembly – in a rigged vote, and from a building under the
control of Russian forces – voted for Russian military presence on the
peninsula. The truth is that Russian-speakers are not discriminated against
in Ukraine. Most people who happen to live in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine,
which Russia is eyeing hungrily from beyond the border, do not want the
Russian army there, and do not want to secede from Ukraine. But who cares
what they think? The wheels of the propaganda machine are working
full-steam. Russian government officials on all levels, and Russian media,
both print and online, are spreading lies about every aspect of the
conflict. The lies get picked up by reputable news agencies in the rest of
the world and are reprinted till it is all but impossible to distinguish
propaganda from fact.

I have read reports in respectable US and British publications rationalizing
Putin’s behavior. Rationalization translates into justification. There is no
need to justify the incursion into Ukrainian territory, and I will tell you
why. Intellectualizing Russia’s reasons does not matter, because Putin does
not care either way. He is a skillful political operator, and is creating
reality on the ground.

This reality spells doom for everyone, not only for Ukraine that happened to
fall victim to Russia’s imperial ambitions last week. All countries with
sizeable Russian-speaking populations are in danger. All democratic
countries that do not know how to deal with propaganda, or are too cowardly
to take a firm stand, can be bullied into submission.

Russian-speaking Israelis on Facebook are joking about what is going to
happen when Russian special forces disembark in Israel under the pretense of
defending the rights of Israel’s Russian-speaking minority.
Obviously a joke, but consider the message the joke is sending. Those of us
who grew up in the sinister shadow of the Kremlin, as well as those who were
lucky not to have had direct experience with power-hungry dictatorial
regimes, are living in a changed world. This world is a scary place. It is a
place where the bad guys are calling the shots again.
The author has extensively traveled in Ukraine on business since 1999.
She served on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s staff. She holds a BA in
political science from Moscow State University and a MA in Law from the
Fletcher School at Tufts University./



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