War and Propaganda in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

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    by Ron Unz, The Unz Review:

    We recently passed the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war and the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy review of the twelve months of the conflict, summarizing what had happened and describing future prospects, an article that attracted more than 2,500 comments.

    • Ukraine Is the West’s War Now
      The initial reluctance of the U.S. and its allies to help Kyiv fight Russia has turned into a massive program of military assistance, which carries risks of its own
      Yaroslav Trofimov • The Wall Street Journal • February 25, 2023 • 2,800 Words

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    Although hardly critical of our involvement, the writer noted that America and its allies had already provided Ukraine with an astonishing $120 billion in military equipment and money, a figure far larger than Russia’s entire defense budget, with further massive outlays still to come.

    As the title of the piece indicated, the West had effectively now taken over control of the war, and if the effort to defeat Russian President Vladimir Putin failed, American global influence might be undermined and the future of the NATO alliance called into question. Indeed, such notable foreign policy luminaries as John Mearsheimer, Jeffrey Sachs, Douglas Macgregor, and Lawrence Wilkinson have all recently raised the possibility that NATO risks disintegration, especially in the wake of Seymour Hersh’s bombshell disclosure that President Biden had illegally destroyed the Nord Stream pipelines, some of Europe’s most important civilian energy infrastructure.

    So in effect, America is at war with Russia on Russia’s own border, and if we lose that war, the era of our global dominance that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union might come to an end. Since the earliest days of the fighting, our electronic and social media have functioned as unrestrained cheerleaders, hailing Ukrainian victories and Russian defeats, but this WSJ article could not avoid providing a much more sobering perspective.

    Although this war has been of enormous world importance, I’ve actually written very little about the details of the conflict.

    I lack any military expertise and doubted that I could contribute anything useful about the fighting, which was anyway obscured by the fog of war. America’s reigning Neocon establishment totally controls the Western mainstream media and over the last few decades they have made propaganda, dishonest or otherwise, one of their most frequently deployed political weapons. Indeed, no sooner had the war broken out than social media was awash with the heroic exploits of “the Ghost of Kyiv” and “the Martyrs of Snake Island,” outright hoaxes that were widely disseminated and believed at the time.

    We live in the era of smartphones, so video clips showing Russian tanks destroyed or Russian troops defeated and retreating were widely promoted by partisans of the Ukrainian side. But such anecdotal evidence seemed totally meaningless to me. In 1940 the French army suffered one of history’s most lop-sided defeats at the hands of the Germans, yet if smartphones had been around at the time, it would have been easy for pro-French activists to provide hundreds of clips showing destroyed German panzers or small German units suffering defeat. Such war-porn seems more like entertainment for political partisans than anything having serious value.

    This obvious problem soon led some observers to search out a means of more objectively determining combat losses. Many of them began relying upon the Oryx website, run by a purportedly independent “open source” organization that organized and displayed images of destroyed tanks and other military vehicles, thereby allowing analysts to total up the losses suffered by each side in the conflict. Journalists and others soon used this photographic evidence to conclude that the Russians had suffered enormous, almost catastrophic losses, with the under-gunned but highly-motivated Ukrainian defenders destroying huge numbers of Russian tanks and other military vehicles, a result that also suggested very high Russian casualties.

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