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Propaganda In The Eyes Of The Beholder – Analysis


Promoted at Johnson’s Russia List, Paul Goble’s piece of this past January 20 “US Appears to Have Accepted Donbas Model Not Only for Ukraine but for Other Conflicts, Russian Analyst Says“, refers to Strategic Culture Foundation contributor and Russian Academy of Sciences researcher Pyotr Iskenderov as a Kremlin propagandist. This characterization is pretty rich given Goble’s penchant for anti-Russian propaganda.

In his piece, Goble references an Iskenderov commentary on how some former Yugoslav examples might be applied to fully settling the dispute over the Donbas region. Concerning Donbas, the arguably best former Yugoslav example is overlooked. Spending more time on hypocritically calling someone a propagandist over pure analytics can take attention away from providing a more substantive rebuttal.

The analogous former Yugoslav oversight in question concerns the entity known as Republika Srpska (RS), which was created (at the end of the Bosnian Civil War) as a loose Serb majority affiliate of the internationally recognized Bosnian state. Since its inception, RS has faced opposition among anti-Serb proponents. Notwithstanding, RS doesn’t appear to be on the verge of collapse. Perhaps similarly, a mutually agreed and fully implemented agreement (by all of the parties) for a loosely affiliated (to Ukraine) Donbas, might face periodic squabbles with the political consensus in Kiev.

There remains the possibility that the overall mood in Kiev can change for the reasons that I previously presented. Another Goble piece relates to this belief. Picked up in the US based Mikhail Khodorkovsky involved online venue called “The Interpreter”, Goble’s January 28 observation “Moscow Patriarchate Losing Parishes to Kyiv Church and Its Dominance of Ukraine’s Religious Life“, is a poignant example of misleading anti-Russian propaganda. Khodorkovsky’s relationship with such an anti-Russian slant serves to explain why he can probably never become popular in Russia and elsewhere among pro-Russian elements. (The Interpreter frequently carries Goble’s commentary and that of other like minds, minus the opposing view.)

Within objective overview, it’s quite clear that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), has faced intimidation by zealots seeking to takeover its properties. This matter of fact aspect is omitted by Goble, who (instead) spins the image of an exclusively popular mood to drift away from an association with Russia. Goble uncritically references some otherwise questionable statistics to support the idea of a dwindling UOC-MP. On this score, there are conflicting partisan claims made, which leave room for second guessing. For now and the foreseeable future, it doesn’t seem like the UOC-MP is about to dramatically dwindle or fold altogether

Running counter to The Interpreter/Goble take, there was a recent Kiev court ruling against activists seeking to takeover a UOC-MP property. Along with facing a very troubled economy, the Kiev regime relative moderates like President Petro Poroshenko face a mesh of nationalist anti-Russian forces and those with the opposite view.

In the West, it’s common to see the suggestion of a sinister Kremlin attempt to manipulate public opinion in Russia and abroad. Therein lies a faulty position with the mis-informative spin that subjectively disrespects pro-Russian sentiment. Part of this disrespect centers on the theme that to be pro-Russian is to be misinformed by propaganda – something relating to how some find no irony/hypocrisy when Goble refers to Iskenderov as a Kremlin propagandist and why the touted Western free press often omits mainstream Russian views in favor of the opposite take. Rhetorically put: Why give time to flacks who distort, unlike those getting the nod as credible sources? This skewed predicament is tantamount to ignoring certain former Soviet realities.

Another contrast to the preferred Goble/Interpreter imagery, is the January 19 BBC Monitoring feature “Row Over City’s New Name” – a segment not likely to get placed in the televised higher profile BBC newscasts to the US and elsewhere. This particular BBC piece notes a Ukrainian town within Kiev regime territory, whose population prefers the town’s pre-Soviet Russian Empire name (honoring Empress Elizabeth), over the changed Soviet name and the other one favored by anti-Russian leaning Ukrainian nationalists.

The former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (former Moldavian SSR for short) has been periodically referenced as having similar circumstances as Ukraine. Among other examples, Josh Rogin’s April 23, 2014 Daily Beast article on the former Moldavian SSR “Is This Putin’s Next Target“, is misleading sensationalism. Rogin doesn’t cover the neocon to neolib, to flat out anti-Russian influences that unnecessarily provoke a pro-Russian backlash inside and outside of Russia, which the Kremlin can’t simply ignore; and becomes especially difficult to put aside on account of an activist anti-Russian tone among Western foreign policy politicos, who lobby (in one form or another) on former Soviet territory. It’s unrealistically unjust to expect an inactive Kremlin attitude towards such activity. In place of these thoughts, the simple suggestion is made of an aggressive Russia looking to takeover more territory and have greater influence.

There has been no dramatic change in the status of the disputed pro-Russian former Moldavian SSR territory of Pridnestrovie (AKA Transnistria and closely related spellings). The main reason for this has to do with an ongoing situation that isn’t as threatening when compared to what Crimea saw when a democratically elected Ukrainian president was overthrown, with an increased anti-Russian political stance in Kiev.

Within the rest of the former Moldavian SSR, a cross section of pro-EU and pro-Russian parties have converged to oppose a Moldovan political establishment that’s seen by many as ineffective and corrupt. In the long run, can these different East-West sympathies agree on the benefit of a mutually pro-Russian and pro-West course? This very preference is what the last pre-Euromaidan Ukrainian government sought along with Russia – a sharp contrast from the zero sum game (Russia or the West) approach taken by the EU and Obama administration, before the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Going back to the so-called “Orange Revolution”, some have spun the notion of Ukraine becoming a positive example for Russia, Moldova and some other former Soviet republics to follow. The aforementioned existing circumstances indicate that something is more evident. Appearing in the West, the work of Halyna Mokrushyna, Ivan Katchanovski, Paul Moreira, Richard Sakwa and some others, reveal something noticeably different from the image of a peacefully democratic Euromaidan versus pro-Russian troublemakers.

There remains an uphill battle in seeing a more balanced accounting of former Soviet issues. Some like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), still downplay certain particulars like the fear factor mob rule outside Kiev’s Rada (parliament), that played a role in the disproportionate number of appointments given to nationalist Svoboda members in the regime which initially succeeded the overthrown Yanukovych. (In a downplayed way, I recall this instance covered with video footage on the otherwise not so pro-Russian and Euromaidan friendly Al Jazeera America and some other Western based/Western influenced network.) Thereafter, the at times fatal violence against counter-Euromaidan individuals within Kiev regime territory is a matter of clear record.

Those who bash RT as biased, don’t have an objective leg to stand on if they assert that RFE/RL and the Kyiv Post (as well as such sources as Goble and The Interpreter) are more accurate. It’s fair to say that the major Western media venues tend to favor the RFE/RL-Kyiv Post slant over that of RT.

This article initially appeared at the Strategic Culture Foundation’s website on February 7.

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Michael Averko

Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. He has appeared as a guest commentator on the BBC and WABC talk radio, in addition to having been a panelist at the World Russia Forum, Russia Forum New York and Experts' Panel. Besides Averko's Eurasia Review column -, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Global Research, History News Network, InoSMI.Ru, Johnson's Russia List, Journal of Turkish Weekly, Kyiv Post, Oriental Review, Penza News, Pravda.Ru, Pravoslavie.Ru, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russia Insider, Sputnik News, Strategic Culture Foundation, The Duran, The Huffington Post, Valdai Discussion Club, Yonkers Tribune and WikiLeaks, are among the numerous venues where his articles have either appeared or been referenced. The American Institute in Ukraine and the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, have referenced some of Averko's articles, along with academic white papers prepared for NATO Watch, Ohio State University, Problems of Post-Communism and the Royal College of Defence Studies. He has been referenced in the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense One and The New York Times. Averko is source referenced in Richard Sakwa's book "Frontline Ukraine". His Eurasia Review article on Pavlo Skoropadsky, provides the first full online English language transcript of Skoropadsky's edict calling for an "All-Russian Federation", inclusive of Russia and Ukraine. Among other issues, that article explains the relationships among the major combatants in the Russian Civil War. He can be reached via [email protected]

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