They appear to assume that if their corporate media is infested with mendacious, incompetent buffoons who are only too happy to repeat the party line, then the Russians must be same or worse.
The reality is quite different. While there is a virtual news blackout with regard to Ukraine in the West, with little being shown beyond pictures of talking heads in Washington and Kiev, the media coverage in Russia is relentless, with daily bulletins describing troop movements, up-to-date maps of the conflict zones, and lots of eye-witness testimony, commentary and analysis.
There is also a lively rumor mill on Russian and international social networks, which I tend to disregard because it’s mostly just that: rumor. In this environment, those who would attempt to fabricate a fictional narrative, as the officials in Washington and Kiev attempt to do, do not survive very long.
There is a great deal to say on the subject, but here I want to limit myself to rectifying some really, really basic misconceptions that Washington has attempted to impose on you via its various corporate media mouthpieces.
1. They would like you to think that there is a Russian invasion in the East of Ukraine. What’s actually happening is a civil war between the government of Western Ukraine (which no longer rules the east in any definable way) and the Russian population of Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine has been falling apart for decades—ever since independence. The eventual break-up was inevitable, but the catalyst for it was the military overthrow of Ukraine’s legitimate government and its replacement with cadres hand-picked in Washington.
2. They would like you to think that the Russian government stands behind Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic—the two regions which, based on referendum results, have chosen to break away from Kiev. In fact, the Russian government has refused to recognize these republics. They have received no official political support from Moscow, which asked for the referendums to be postponed, and repeatedly asked for a cease-fire and an international, negotiated settlement to the crisis. The leadership of LPR and DPR has refused, and now aims for an outright military victory.
3. They would like you to believe that the Russian government is arming the “rebels” in Eastern Ukraine. To the contrary, the Russian government has withheld all military support, limiting itself to providing humanitarian supplies to the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed by artillery and rocket fire coming from the Ukrainian forces. The weapons in the “rebels’” arsenal are trophies, which they seized from the retreating Ukrainian forces. That said, the “rebels” are indeed being supported—but by the Russian people, not the Russian government. Remember, these are all Russians, on both sides of the border, and the Ukrainian government no longer controls any of it.
4. They want to convince you that Russia poses a threat to peace in Europe, and that the crisis in Ukraine is part of an imperialist Russian strategy to resurrect the USSR. Nothing could be further from the truth. The overarching Russian ambition is for Russia to be anormal country, subject of international law, at peace with the whole world, and integrated into the global economy. The Russian government is doing next to nothing to prevent Russians in areas that were once part of Russia from being slaughtered right in their homes using artillery and rocket fire. This makes for a distressing spectacle, but the Russian people understand that enlarging the military conflict beyond the by now purely notional borders of Ukraine is not the answer.
5. They want to assure you that Kiev will eventually prevail in the conflict. In fact, the Ukrainian military is being systematically destroyed. Shelling civilians is the only activity which they have been able to carry out successfully. The government in Kiev has instituted three mobilizations, one after the other, sending into battle boys and old men (maximum draft age is now 60). Those who refuse to be drafted were at first threatened with incarceration, but this no longer works, so they are now threatened with murder. The unofficial “fee” for getting out of being drafted is several thousand dollars. These soldiers are badly armed, badly trained, completely demoralized, and they mostly refuse to fight. Ukraine is quickly running out of tanks and APCs, which are all old Soviet-era and have been rusting for decades. It appears that Ukraine no longer has an air force at all. The casualties run into the tens of thousands. Over just one week in July, 1400 Ukrainian soldiers were killed; on the other side the figure is 10. The kill ratio is 140:1 and that one number tells almost the whole story. The war is far from over, but now, for the first time, LPR and DPR actually have something resembling an army, and that army is going on attack. Once the Ukrainian military collapses altogether, there is still the mercenary force maintained by the oligarch Kolomoisky, who runs Dnepropetrovsk Region as a personal fiefdom, and has recently decided to take charge of other neighboring regions as well. But mercenaries don’t like getting killed and, beyond a certain point, will simply run away. In all, it seems increasingly likely that Kiev will lose and that Ukraine will cease to exist.
6. They want you to think that the government in Kiev is legitimate, popular and stable. In fact, there are huge protests going on in Kiev at this very moment. The entire country is beyond bankrupt and is falling apart in real time, not just in the east, but everywhere. The people are beyond angry. The military units retreating from the east are in a foul mood, and may soon decide to turn their weapons against those who ordered them into battle. The people are beyond angry, and it seems probable that another revolution, only half a year since the last one, is in the works.
I hope that you can absorb this basic information and use it to filter out the propaganda that you read in Western newspapers and hear on the nightly news (if they mention Ukraine at all). Don’t automatically assume that if your side is full of it, then the other side is too. You don’t have to settle for lies.