Putin’s shill is at it again

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.

That poor baited Russian bear

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.

9 thoughts on “Putin’s shill is at it again”

  1. “She [Russia] merely inherited the entire nuclear arsenal of the USSR”

    And continues to modernize the existing arsenal in a way the USA is not with theirs.

  2. I see that you continue to resort to ad hominem attacks on Mr Hitchens for daring not to share your opinion, rather than a point by point analysis Mr Boot.
    Well, that’s certainly your privilege in the sulphurous and hallucinatory confines of your own Ephesian temple, and I support your right to do so. Like Bismarck the Ukraine is for me, or rather Britain, not worth the life of one Grenadier. A policy espoused by the current German government, if not the ignorant blowhards in Westminster.
    Here is the much respected Richard Sakwa commenting in an informed, objective and reasoned manner on the subject.
    How long will it be, I wonder, before you remove this post? No long I suspect, after all, like the NKVD, you have ‘previous’ in such matters.

    1. I don’t remove posts, and certainly not in response to Kremlin propaganda. If you read this piece, along with the compendium of the ‘previous’ I’ve written, you’ll find a volume of point-by-point analysis. But that won’t make a dent, I know. With the likes of Hitchens and, by the sound of it, you, an affection for conspicuously fascist regimes is too deeply ingrained to be shifted by facts and reason.

      1. I see you didn’t feel you needed to comment on the matters raised by Professor Sakwa.
        A poimt of fact, as I’m writing not speaking, you will not be hearing sounds, at least from me.
        Unlike my father, who after fighting both the Germans and the Japanese and spending 3 years as a slave prisoner of war for the latter at least had an explanation for his schizophrenia and the consequent sounds he heard for the rest of his life as a result of facist hospitality.
        As for your aspersion that I have an affection for ‘conspicuously facist regimes’ it’s an unjustified and unjustifiable slur beneath reply: my objection to wasting the blood of my relatives and countrymen in a futile cause at the behest of foolish, warmongering neo conservatives does not mean that I support the thugocracy of Putin’s Russia, simply that in great part an arrogant imperialistic US, a cowardly Europe and a duplicious Ukraine have been and continue to be prime creators of the current crisis.
        Blaming Mr Hitchens or myself for identifying the causes of current situation is simply to behave like Billy Bunter throwiing apost- juvenile tantrum.
        For those who prefer objectivity to demogogery I provide a link to another piece by Professor Sakwa.

  3. Alexander, let me play devil’s advocate here. Isn’t it a reality of power politics that weak nation states on or near the border of powerful states must to some degree subordinate themselves to their powerful neighbors? When Noriega in the late 80’s began making suggestions that he “might” discontinue letting American military use the Panama Canal (they could always go around Cape Horn to get to the Pacific, he said), the US intervened (though couching it as a blow against Noriega’s involvement in the cocaine trade). Similarly, when the Ukrainian government (goaded by neocons in the Obama administration) suggested that it might deny the Russian navy use of the warm water port in the Crimea, Putin and Russia reacted.

  4. The Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe, so I wouldn’t compare it to Panama. In fact, I wouldn’t compare any invasion to any other. Each ought to be judged on its own merits.

    Not all invasions launched by the US and NATO are virtuous. You’ll find, for example, that I often describe the 2003 invasion of Iraq as criminal. At the same time, the actions against Panama, Granada and Nicaragua were more or less justifiable (for reasons I shan’t go into here).

    And in Europe, real or imaginary grievances haven’t been settled by invasion since WWII.

    In this case, Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine is sui generis. Its objective is to rebuild the Russo-Soviet empire, not to settle any minor dispute. If you follow the Russian press, which is mostly the mouthpiece of the Kremlin, the Ukraine is seen as a renegate, an ingrate who refuses to be part of Mother Russia, who has treated her so well (to find out how well, I recommend Conquest’s book The Harvest of Sorrow). It’s also regarded as a battlefield between the virtuous Russia and the degenerate West.

    Crimean ports have nothing to do with any of this. There was no problem there that couldn’t have been solved by a few phone calls. And in any case, Putin grabbed not only the Crimea but also vast chunks of the Ukrainian mainland.

    Putin is a career officer in history’s most evil and sinister organisation, and so are most of his lieutenants. So he acts as one, looking for a weak spot and then striking. Under him Russian troops have seen action in Chechnya, Georgia, the Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East. Each time his Goebbelses come up with spurious reasons for what is simply a fascist regime acting in character.

    If you are familiar with such regimes and how they act, they don’t stop when mollified and when their stated grievances are addressed. Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia, for example, had nothing to do with the plight of the Sudeten Germans; Musollini’s attack on Ethiopia was pure aggression; Russia’s 1939 attack on Finland wasn’t caused by Leningrad’s proximity to the border.

    There has always existed in the West a longing for a strong government, which Western governments often aren’t. That’s why the two most evil regimes in history, Soviet and Nazi, each had a large army of Western champions. Putin’s support comes from three broad groups: those Lenin described as ‘useful idiots’, those who love fascist regimes specifically because they are fascists, and those whose affections have been bought (most of Europe’s marginal fascistic parties are like that). Oh well, just read my pieces over the past 10 years.

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