The following interview was originally published on Sputnik News, a website which is currently banned in UK.
IMAGE: Vladimir Golstein, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University.
On 9 May, US President Joe Biden signed a lend-lease Bill to streamline US lethal military aid to Ukraine, while the American press continues to present a one-sided picture of the Ukraine crisis. Vladimir Golstein, associate professor at Brown University in Rhode Island, has explained why this approach is fraught with great risks for the US.
Sputnik: After the beginning of Russian special operation in Ukraine, US Big Tech labelled and banned major Russian media outlets. Now, the Department of Homeland Security has announced the creation of a so-called Disinformation Governance Board to fight “Russian disinformation”. What’s so scary about Russian news, in your opinion? How far can this go?
Vladimir Golstein: This trend is highly disturbing, to say the least. As is the case with all sorts of censorship, political in particular, it reveals the weakness of the censoring side. Why are they afraid to discuss issues if they are convinced that they are doing the right thing? What exactly are they hiding? Why are they afraid to be challenged?
Needless to say, this idea of censorship goes against the most fundamental and cherished principles of the United States. This is especially important, when the information which is being suppressed relates to a distant land and complex and highly contentious issues. Americans have the right to know what kind of a cause their money is supporting, and what kind of cause is worth pursuing at the risk of global conflagration.
The whole idea of “fake news” or “disinformation” is highly dubious. Any complex event has a multitude of manifestations and causes. There is no single set of eyes that can see and register it all. As St Paul observed, in the affairs of this world we see “through a glass darkly”, consequently, it is highly erroneous for one side to claim that they see clearly, whereas another side produces only fake news.
Besides myopia and the self-defeating dimension of censorship, one should highlight two obvious facts related to censorship and the dismissal of alternative interpretations as propaganda:
First, governments resort to this tactic to achieve some sort of consensus, which they don’t want to be challenged. Indeed, ever since the violent overthrow of the legitimate government in Kiev in 2014, the western consensus has been established: “Ukraine is resisting Russian aggression. This aggression is getting more and more out of hand and is bound to spread further. To stop it, we need a stronger NATO. So, dear taxpayers, get ready to pay more for NATO expansion and a build-up of the military.”
Second, the war hysteria and the unchallenged demonisation of the other side serve one additional purpose: a diversion; a diversion from all sorts of failures by the government.
So I am not surprised that numerous western governments, British and American in particular, have decided to resort to various forms of modern censorship for the sake of these two myopic goals: military build-up and diversion.
Sputnik: Adam Kinzinger (the Republican Representative for Illinois’ 16th congressional district) introduced an authorisation for use of military force (AUMF) resolution which would allow the US president to send US troops to Ukraine. Does anyone among those supporting Kinzinger understand that this step could translate into all-out war between Russia and NATO?
Vladimir Golstein: This political resolution is nothing but posturing. The United States is not ready to send military forces to Ukraine, knowing very well that that would result in all-out war. At least, top people in the government, the Pentagon in particular, are aware of that, and the president has been rather clear on the issue.
What is more disturbing is the fact that Adam Kinzinger believes that he can get political momentum by acting as an even greater war-monger than the Democrats. He obviously believes that the American campaign of demonising Russia has been so successful that his constituents would welcome further belligerent actions. Here again, we are dealing with the concrete results of the massive propaganda campaign undertaken by the US government along with all sorts of liberal outlets which used to be rather pacifist.
In recent years, however, the endless barrage of news to which Americans have been exposed, seems to carry two messages: first, Russians are barbaric and therefore performing all sorts of barbaric policies, including wars; second, they are not competent at what they do and are therefore being defeated by the courageous Ukrainian forces.
Consequently, Mr Kinzinger’s average voter concludes that if barbaric Russians can’t win against Ukraine, they are surely no match for the all-powerful American war machine. Thus, there is no longer any fear connected with this war escalating to another level. This is very disturbing. There is a well-known book by Christopher Clark on the history of the First World War called ‘The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914’. That’s exactly what we are facing now: sleepwalking politicians, such as Mr Kinzinger, gain in popularity, while their voters sleepwalk into electing them, ignoring what unfolds in front of their own eyes.
Sputnik: Some observers say that the US and other NATO countries are already at war with Russia via their proxies in Ukraine. Do you agree with this view? What’s your take on Finland and Sweden’s NATO bid amid Russia’s special operation, which itself was triggered by NATO expansion?
Vladimir Golstein: The nature of this proxy war is obvious, and it has been obvious to any unbiased observer. The speed with which Ukraine has been armed by NATO, the provocative Ukrainian stance, the West’s refusal to engage in diplomacy, the well-organised sanction campaign, the all-powerful media blitzkrieg, and finally, the acknowledgment of the top figures in western establishment that their purpose is to weaken Russia so it won’t be capable of any military action, all testify to the highly elaborate plans of subjugating Russia before tackling the next country that threatens NATO hegemony: China.
Needless to say, China is not interested in seeing Russia fall. Russia, China, India and other major countries are much more interested in a multi-polar world, and any action that would consolidate western leadership, such as further expanding NATO to include Finland and Sweden, are bound to have all sorts of repercussions, ranging from economic to military pushback. Further expansion of NATO means further undermining of the post-Second World War peace architecture, further escalation and military build-up, further abuse of valuable Earth resources for the sake of militarism.
One hopes that the depth and scope of these repercussions are made clear to the citizens of Sweden and Finland. Unfortunately, here we return to the issue of censorship and the dismissals of the Russian point of view. Somehow, Russian security concerns are consistently delegitimised in the western press, and that includes the Swedish and Finnish media.
This is highly regrettable and, more importantly, extremely dangerous. Poking a nuclear bear is one of the most idiotic things anyone can do, and Scandinavian people, who know Russians well, and who have been interacting with Russians for centuries, should know better.
Sputnik: What forces are interested in poking Russia, cancelling Russian culture, attacks on Russians abroad, further NATO expansion plans and arming Ukraine? What goals are they trying to reach?
Vladimir Golstein: Unfortunately, militarism remains a very powerful magnet for a lot of people. Demonising Russia pays in all sorts of ways: it pays for the military industrial complex; it pays for the press that loves hysteria and black-and-white stories of the evil Russians and their innocent victims; it pays for the politicians who expect to ride and exploit this war of the Slavs for their own benefit; and last, but not least, it pays for the military strategists who know that taking on both Russia and China to reassert American supremacy is a complicated if not an impossible task, whereas starting with weakening Russia and gaining access to its resources is a much more reasonable undertaking. Consequently, too many people with access to power are interested in further escalation, in further expanding this proxy war.
It is the task of Russia to provide an adequate response without bringing the world to the brink of the Third World War. One hopes that Russian success in Ukraine will make NATO leaders rethink their strategies. Otherwise, the poking of Russia will continue, ushering in everything from a nuclear war to Russia’s collapse and dismantling.
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