When it comes to modern hybrid war, the propaganda is almost as important as the troop movements on the ground and the language has as much power as bullets. When it comes to hybrid war that Putin just waged against the West, Britain is already losing by giving up to Russia’s narrative, argues Tomasz Oryński.
Look at the landing page of the biggest Polish daily paper Gazeta Wyborcza shown above.
The main title clearly states what is happening: “Rosja bierze Donbas” – “Russia takes Donbas”. There is nothing more to add here, this is exactly what is happening. And what you would learn when reading English language news?
“Putin declares rebel-held provinces independent” says the Independent.
“Ukraine: Putin orders Russian troops into separatist states for ‘peacekeeping operations’” writes the Guardian.
“Putin recognizes independence of breakaway Ukrainian states” – this is The Times.
“Putin recognizes breakaway regions in Ukraine as independent and sends peacekeeping troops” – this is Sky News.
What about American media then?
“Russia appears poised to Recognize Ukraine’s Separatist Regions” writes Foreign Policy.
“Putin orders troops into separatist held regions in Ukraine” reads the front page of the CNN.
Only BBC’s title says what it is: “Putin orders troops into eastern Ukraine”; they write and put “peacekeeping functions” in inverted comas, but just a bit later they again say about rebel-held territories.
British media: as long, as you are going just to repeat Putin’s lies, you are losing the information war. You need to call the reality for what it is:
There are no rebel-held provinces. There are Russian-occupied provinces. There was no rebellion. Putin invaded Donbas and Lukhansk regions 8 years ago. We know very well by now, that the armed forces there were led by Russians, supplied by Russia and inspired by Russians. We saw Russian soldiers stationed inside Ukraine (remember that time when foreign media found the exact spots where Russian soldiers were taking their selfies)?
Just as the “green men” in Crimea turned out to be Russian soldiers, so the “rebels” in the eastern part of Ukraine are Russian soldiers. It’s just Russia is not so keen to admit that since they have shot down a Malaysian civilian plane.
There are no separatist states. There are Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. Donbas and Lukhansk are regions in the Ukraine, not independent states. They are not “separatist” or “break-away” regions. They weren’t breaking away. They are pulled away from Ukraine by the Russian military force.
There were no separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. There are Russian occupying forces acting under false flag.
And last but not least: THERE IS NO UKRAINIAN CRISIS. THERE IS RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE. It is not a Ukrainian problem. Or perhaps it is, but the Ukraine’s problem is Russia.
Yes, Putin would like for us to speak about those regions as “independent states, choosing to align themselves with Russia”. This has been his tactic for many decades now. Having seen how the artificially- supported quasi state of Transdniestria a Russian-occupied part of Moldova) puts a spanner in the Moldavian journey to the West, he used the same tactic in 2008 when he invaded Georgia to create the fake states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and then again in 2014 when he invaded Ukraine, trying to frame it yet another time as a justified drive for the independence of the oppressed Russian- speaking regions.
This time, though, it seems as he tried to bite more than he could chew. The occupation of Crimea is far from being a success story and the military actions in Eastern Ukraine came to stalemate. Meanwhile Ukrainians become stronger and look with even bigger hope to the West. Russia tried to cripple Ukraine, just as it had crippled Georgia and Moldova before, hoping it will prevent those countries from turning West. With Ukraine, he failed. That’s why when he realised crippling the country was not enough to crush the Ukrainian spirit he decided to inflict further damage, and possibly even contemplates forcing it to total submission if that will not be enough.
As Emma Szewczak has written on her Twitter: the difference is that while Polish media report on what is actually happening, the British news reports what Russia says is happening.
You need to stop it. Why?
Because as long as we repeat Putin’s lies, we are losing the information war. And Britain already failed Ukraine when after Russian invasion in 2014 it did nothing, despite obligations under the Budapest memorandum.* Russian oligarchs still treat London as rich man’s Disneyland. The EU-wide sanctions are a joke, and Putin – and his lap dog Lukhashenko – are laughing in Europe’s face when they poisoned British citizen Sergei Skripal on the English soil, or when they hijacked an EU-registered Ryanair plane in order to kidnap two of its passengers.
The least the world can do is to call the things for what they really are.
I recommend watching this video which we cannot embed here as it is age-restricted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obMTYs30E9A
*In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States, Russia, and Britain committed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against the country. Those assurances played a key role in persuading the Ukrainian government in Kyiv to give up what amounted to the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, consisting of some 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads.