Say what you will about state control over the media, but it offers one undeniable benefit: by watching, say, a state TV channel, outsiders can learn exactly what the sponsoring government is thinking.
Extrapolating ever so slightly, outsiders can also learn what the sponsoring government is – if they wish to learn, that is.
Putin’s Westerns fans demonstrably don’t fall into the category of such inquisitive souls. However, the rest of you may be curious to know how Putin’s government, speaking through its official mouthpieces, comments on the mounting tension in the Far East.
The mouthpieces in question are Vladimir Soloviov, who hosts an almost daily TV talk show on Rossiya 1, and Dmitri Kisilev, a weekly presence on the same channel, whom the Russians affectionately call ‘Putin’s Goebbels’.
Here – without my comments and in no particular order – is what the viewers of their shows heard on the same day, 16 April.
“Deng Xiaoping… sorted out the Tiananmen brouhaha brutally, and quite right too.”
“They send the troops in. Four hundred thousand! Tanks! There was a horrible carnage, several thousand died. But a wonderful China emerged as a result!”
“Does it bother America that, as a result of her actions, North Korea may obliterate South Korea? Quite the opposite: that would be one economic competitor less. Same thing with Japan – they don’ care about it. They’ll just rebuild it afterwards – and make out like bandits.”
“Americans pretend to support democracy, but where were masses of people blacklisted for ideological deviations? In America during McCarthyism! They deported Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein and Leonard Bernstein.” [I promised no commentary but, just to keep the record straight, Messrs Einstein and Bernstein suffered no such fate. But hey, what are facts if the story’s good?]
“Gorbachev was incapable of pulling the nuclear trigger – Putin can do it. That’s why, even though we’re weaker economically, we can withstand any pressure.”
“The North Koreans once had to hide their rocket, so they cut a huge tunnel through rock – in one night and with pickaxes. That’s how motivated their soldiers are!”
“We realise anyway that they [US] don’t understand any other language: we must arm ourselves and our partners. And I wouldn’t say they won’t attack: they have lots of missiles. So the Koreans are replying properly: you touch us, we’ll respond.”
“Let Seoul and Pyongyang go up in smoke – the country will be united!”
“North Koreans have created a unique society, consolidating within itself the energy of victory over the whole mankind… Theirs is an apostolic army that will unite Korea.”
“North Korea will start the fighting, then we’ll deliver a preemptive strike – and there goes your vaunted America! I’d also pull Chinese troops to the 38th parallel…”
“Kim hasn’t sent an armada to the shores of America. Donald Trump sent a carrier strike group to North Korea, adding he’s ready to send in nuclear subs as well.”
“Kim hasn’t committed a single aggressive act towards any other country. His missile may have been launched but never at specific military targets. However, Donald Trump launched missiles at Syria… Thus Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim.”
“North Koreans are demonstrating their latest achievement, the Naro-2 missile. It’s capable, they say, of reaching the US bases in Guam and Hawaii. Their Vice-Marshal says: ‘If America stages a provocation, we’ll immediately respond with a devastating attack. Total war in response to total war, a nuclear strike in response to a nuclear strike’.”
“The parade in Kim Il Sung Square is the pride of every North Korean. The moment the North Korean leader appears on the dais, the square explodes in applause. The party leaders rise to their feet, the people weep and shout. This year is particularly festive: it’s the 105th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, the founder of the republic who even 23 years after his death still holds the post of eternal chairman. Units of the North Korean army are marching past the stand of the party leaders. Traditional world-renowned Korean goose-stepping, with a slight hop. Amazing synchronicity and so powerful that the earth appears to be shaking. Only the best of North Korea’s 1.3 million soldiers are in this square.”
“North Korea life is unique, based on Kim Il Sung’s ideology and the ideas of so-called juche. Its most important part is an original way of life with powerful centralisation, a huge public sector in the economy, official atheism and – most important – self-reliance. North Korea is based on the communist principle: from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
“If you want to know my opinion, Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong-un.”
“From their childhood North Koreans are imbued with the certainty that Pyongyang can defend itself. The North Korean army is regarded as one of the world’s strongest.”
“Great North Korea is a wonderful country that punched the USA in the snout.”
This, and only this, is what the Russians hear round the clock, day in, day out. Such rhetoric and tone haven’t been heard there since 1953, when another great leader, Stalin, died – bequeathing, unbeknown to himself, the country to a one-year-old baby who’d grow up to see Kim as his best friend and role model.