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Prisoners of the Narrative #1

Written By: - Date published: 4:30 pm, January 23rd, 2022 - Comments Off on Prisoners of the Narrative #1
Categories: boris johnson, kremlinology, military, Peace, Propaganda, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

Robert Ayson’s advocacy of a sanctions regime for New Zealand in case of a  Russian invasion of Ukraine is a bad idea based on poor intelligence.The “Russian invasion” narrative was always a beat-up, and there is no support from major players in Europe for sanctions such as removal from the SWIFT payment system. Russia’s claim for border security is reasonable and essential for peace.

Russia’s request to the US for written guarantees for security at its borders, given the turmoil inside Ukraine since the US-supported Maidan colour revolution in 2014 was met with initial refusal to  meet its terms, coupled with threats of ‘extremely severe’ consequences in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Such invasion was always rejected by Russia and it absolutely makes no sense. Russians are not stupid as their recent behaviour dealing with the recent attempt at a colour revolution in Kazakhstan shows.

The same cannot be said of the Biden government and its key allies in AUKUS. Biden’s foreign affairs strategy is based heavily on their ‘allies and partners.’ This of course included NATO, whose encroachment eastwards towards Russia, coupled with the promised of nuclear missiles positioned close to its borders in Poland and Romania, was the reason for Russian concern. Russia did not want to negotiate with the NATO monkey but with the US organ-grinder, and sought a written response to its proposals.  Two sets of meetings have been held, and a written response is apparently promised for next week.

Evidence that this is a war of narrative control on the part of the West showed in the protocol public session of the meeting between Lavrov and Binken in Geneva. The US State Department had prepared a ‘fact sheet’ about supposed Russian disinformation. Lavrov was polite, but stated that he hoped not all the State Department staff had been involved in its preparation and that some were working on concrete proposals to address Russia’s concerns about the indivisibility of security and the principle that states do not address their own security at the expense of other states. Blinken played to the media with a restatement of the invasion narrative and a request for release of a couple of Americans in custody in Russia.

As for sanctions, before meeting Lavrov on Friday, Blinken had toured European capitals trying to shore up the invasion narrative and gain support for US sanctions. He wasn’t the only one.   CIA Director William Burns met with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz to try to persuade Berlin that the Russians would likely invade Ukraine, and that Germany should join the proposed sanctions such as Russia’s removal from the SWIFT interbank system and cancellation of the HS2 gas pipeline installed but not yet certificated. He wasn’t successful. Italy’s Draghi and France’s Macron are also not in favour of the blunt instrument of sanctions that will hurt them as much if not more than Russia.

The UK has also got into the make-it-up narrative act, with a bizarre Government release attributed to Boris Johnson and  Liz Truss that Russia had its puppet  masters ready for when it overran Ukraine. This was swiftly rebutted by one of the puppets, who lives in Ukraine under Russian sanction.

The US-led narrative is now falling apart. The Financial Times  reports:

At times, the constant publicity has appeared clumsy. The US insistence that a Russian attack is coming has bemused many in Kyiv, with officials insisting they see no major cause for alarm. Espionage findings that might have otherwise been quietly acted upon have been rushed out for public consumption: Britain’s warning this weekend that a coup was being planned in Kyiv — without publishing any evidence — has been met with widespread confusion.

And such a public approach has come at the cost of both laying bare differences in opinion between western allies that otherwise could have been masked by private dialogue, and shrinking the space for back-channel negotiations that could offer a breakthrough.

The US and some of the Europeans, but significantly not the Germans, have poured weapons into Ukraine. The danger is that Ukraine  may be emboldened to attack the Donbass/Lugansk enclave, in which case they would likely be wiped out without any need for invasion.

The US has stated that it will reply in writing to Russia this week, but has asked that the response be kept secret. One possibility is that this may enable the US to claim the win that Biden needs, as they have prevented the Russian invasion that was never going to happen.

The worry for me is that when our pundits and our media follow the US-formulated narrative as a basis for our policy their information is wide of the mark, and bad policy is the likely result. So far there is no evidence that the New Zealand government is taking their advice.

Of course the real action is elsewhere. I’m looking forward to the outcome of Putin and Xi’s meeting in Beijing at the winter Olympics, and also keeping an eye on what may be happening in the US financial markets.

 

 

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