Peter Hitchens has been spreading Kremlin propaganda for so long that his writing on the subject has become rather formulaic, as his article Poke the Bear and This is What Happens shows yet again.
The formula is simple. First, issue a disclaimer, such as today’s: Putin “is nasty, cruel, sinister, intolerant and many other things.” Really? I thought he turned Russia into the most conservative and Christian nation in Europe, which is another one of Hitchens’s mantras.
But never mind, a variation on the theme of Russia’s innocent goodness will come later. Now it’s time for the second part of the formula, branding those who are genuinely scared of Putin’s aggression as ignoramuses who “know nothing of the issue, could not find Odessa on a map and are joining the crowd because they feel safe doing so.”
Third part, preempt inevitable criticism: “For these days, if you don’t join such crowds you will be accused of being a ‘Putin apologist’ and worse.” Such as, well, Putin’s shill.
Then the actual propaganda, which never moves too far from the line peddled by Putin’s Goebbelses: “Putin… has no ideology, racial or social. He has been complaining for years, using every peaceful means, against the expansion of Nato into Eastern Europe. He has asked, quite reasonably, who it is aimed at.”
Had he posed that question to me, he would have received quite a reasonable reply. It is aimed at Russia, or rather against her expansionist ideology Putin and his lot enunciate and practise.
The ideology, far from being nonexistent, is Third Rome chauvinism based on Russia’s divine right to dominate in eternity what used to be her empire. This ideological hymn has been played, at an ever-increasing volume, since the 16th century reign of Ivan III.
Then comes a lie or two. Today it’s more like three.
Lie One: “Russia is not the USSR”. Quite. She merely inherited the entire nuclear arsenal of the USSR, which is what enables her to blackmail the West with an élan that puts even Khrushchev, and certainly Brezhnev, to shame.
That blackmail is an essential part of fulfilling the ideological promise to restore the Soviet empire, which Russia, according to Hitchens, isn’t.
Lie Two develops Lie One: “Nato was set up to deter aggression by the USSR, an empire which ceased to exist 31 years ago… Keeping Nato in existence is like maintaining an alliance against the Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman Empires, which vanished a century ago.”
Russia is not the USSR; she is merely acting like it. To distract observers unsullied by a passion for Putin’s kleptofascism, the likes of Hitchens play with grammar.
They talk about Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine either in the future tense or in the subjunctive mood. People like me, they snigger, claim the invasion of the Ukraine will happen or could happen.
This cunningly ignores the crude, physical fact that it did happen, in 2014, when Putin’s troops grabbed the Crimea and two vast provinces of eastern Ukraine. That act is now treated as a fait accompli, rather than a crime in progress, one that has already claimed 15,000 Ukrainian lives (Russian casualties are unrevealed, or possibly uncounted and therefore unknown).
Lie Three: Russia in her munificence “let go of vast tracts of Asia and Europe”, and in return “the then leaders of the West said they would not expand Nato to the east (a huge archive of documents at George Washington University in the US confirms this).”
No legal document containing such an undertaking exists in that or any other “huge archive”. The legal document that does exist is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, signed by the US, UK and Russia. It provided “security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan” in return for those countries giving up their Soviet nuclear weapons.
Those terms have been heinously violated by Russia’s 2014 invasion. The two Western signatories hardly covered themselves with glory either. Their security assurances amounted to expressions of concern, rather mild sanctions against Russia and grossly inadequate supplies of arms to the Ukraine.
The summation of all these lies leads to a reiteration of the umbrella lie screamed by the Kremlin with monotonous regularity. Russia is supposed to feel threatened by what Putin’s shills, including Hitchens, call “NATO’s expansion to Eastern Europe” and what was in reality a just — and justified — response to a desperate plea for protection.
Even assuming that the Russians are paranoid, a British journalist shouldn’t be. He must know that NATO was, is and always will be a purely defensive barrier designed to contain Russian aggression.
It has never harboured any offensive plans against Russia. Nor can anyone in his right mind possibly imagine NATO launching a first-strike offensive. Screaming about it from the Kremlin’s towers, however, can be used as a pretext for further Russian aggression.
In 1956 the Soviets drowned the Hungarian Revolution in blood. I was only nine at the time, but I remember the rumours spread by the KGB and the press, to the effect that Soviet tanks moved in to preempt an invasion of Hungary by American and West German troops. Sound familiar?
Putin’s shills, such as Hitchens, even lack the imagination to come up with a new line. The criminal invasion of the Ukraine in 2014, they keep droning on, was a response to a NATO offensive, or the threat thereof. But those Western villains didn’t suspend their beastly plans. Hence another invasion may be an unfortunate necessity.
Hitchens concludes with a slight paraphrase of that sentiment: “If you poke a bear enough with a sharp stick, he will attack you. When he does, you should perhaps not blame the bear.”
No, of course not. It’s all NATO’s fault, m’lord. It’s America what done it.