Source: The Guardian Unlimited
Politicians and the media are using Vladimir Putin and Ukraine to justify military expansionism. It’s dangerous folly
A quarter of a century after the end of the cold war, the “Russian threat” is unmistakably back. Vladimir Putin, Britain’s defence secretary Michael Fallon declares, is as great a danger to Europe as “Islamic State”. There may be no ideological confrontation, and Russia may be a shadow of its Soviet predecessor, but the anti-Russian drumbeat has now reached fever pitch.
And much more than in Soviet times, the campaign is personal. It’s all about Putin. The Russian president is an expansionist dictator who has launched a “shameless aggression”. He is the epitome of “political depravity”, “carving up” his neighbours as he crushes dissent at home, and routinely is compared to Hitler. Putin has now become a cartoon villain and Russia the target of almost uniformly belligerent propaganda across the western media. Anyone who questions the dominant narrative on Ukraine – from last year’s overthrow of the elected president and the role of Ukrainian far right to war crimes carried out by Kiev’s forces – is dismissed as a Kremlin dupe.
That has been ratcheted up still further with the murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. The Russian president has, of course, been blamed for the killing, though that makes little sense. Nemtsov was a marginal figure whose role in the “catastroika” of the 1990s scarcely endeared him to ordinary Russians. Responsibility for an outrage that exposed the lack of security in the heart of Moscow and was certain to damage the president hardly seems likely to lie with Putin or his supporters.
But it’s certainly grist to the mill of those pushing military confrontation with Russia. Hundreds of US troops are arriving in Ukraine this week to bolster the Kiev regime’s war with Russian-backed rebels in the east. Not to be outdone, Britain is sending 75 military advisers of its own. As 20th-century history shows, the dispatch of military advisers is often how disastrous escalations start. They are also a direct violation of last month’s Minsk agreement, negotiated with France and Germany, that has at least achieved a temporary ceasefire and some pull-back of heavy weapons. Article 10 requires the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Ukraine.