Nearly 18 months into Russia’s war against Ukraine and, against all objective evidence about Russian war crimes, Kremlin tropes are still getting traction with legitimate Western media.

 

A recent opinion editorial (op-ed) published in The Australian, Australia’s national newspaper of record owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, serves as a classic example of the pernicious influence of Russia’s strategic propaganda.

The opinion piece in question was written by veteran Washington-based journalist Adam Creighton, who is on the full-time payroll of News Ltd and was under the headline “Why Can’t We Be Honest About Ukraine’s Counteroffensive?”.

One might be forgiven for thinking it was sarcasm, as what followed was a litany of untruths, half-truths and classic Kremlin propaganda tropes.

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Worryingly, such comments – if unchecked – can have consequences. When Western confidence – and support – for Ukraine is undermined in Washington, Canberra or London, the risk of condemning Ukrainians to on-going and unprovoked violence directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin rises.

Mr. Creighton’s piece was so wrong and so disturbing on so many levels that it’s difficult to chronologically refute each falsehood. But here’s a selection that illustrates Moscow’s post-truth narrative in action.

First, the journalist says that Ukraine’s offensive to reoccupy its own territory is a “disaster.” This is factually wrong.

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Ukraine’s summer offensive is now entering its third month. In less than nine weeks, against a fully entrenched and highly fortified enemy, and flying only some 10 air support sorties per day, Ukrainian troops have recaptured territory that is larger than Switzerland. Ukrainian troops only yesterday took their 10th town.

The pace of the advance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has been close to that of millions of Allied troops in France following D-Day – but with much lower casualties and without the benefit of air support.

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This offensive also follows Ukraine’s decisive victories over Russian invading forces – which the journalist in question says are “insurmountably” stronger – in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson earlier in the war and the recovery of nearly 50 percent of occupied Ukrainian territory since the full-scale invasion began.

It’s troubling that such basic facts don’t seem to trouble trusted journalists.

Indeed, the writer rattles off a list of ludicrous claims: that Ukrainians oppose the war in defense of their own homes; that journalists in Ukraine are State-controlled, and that people are “dragged off” the street for military service.

Each of these can be sourced back to actual Russian propaganda outlets, including material completely curated from troll factories. Russia lies on an industrial scale – a phrase used by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin back in 2017 and rightly oft-repeated – but usually professional journalists know that and look elsewhere for objective reality.

In fact, a wide range of opinion polls consistently show that over 90 percent of Ukrainians believe in their future victory, as does their massive volunteering in the war effort; there is no compulsory military service in Ukraine to be “dragged” into, and; I can attest from my own work in Kyiv that I have the same freedom of editorial content and movement as any News Limited journalist.

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Why a Western journalist chooses to seemingly unquestioningly repeat Kremlin tropes is a question for that journalist. Perhaps, he has been hit with what one US analyst calls Moscow’s “firehouse of falsehoods.”

I don’t think so. Rather, it seems that some with media access are trying to set up the perverse rationale for a pre-determined goal: that the West should support “peace” negotiations with Moscow.

Indeed, much is revealed when Mr. Creighton finally states: “Moscow’s interests and arguments, whether we agree with them or not, will need to be taken into account in Ukraine, at least as much as Washington’s.”

There’s a level of moral grotesquery here. The fact that Moscow initiated unilateral military attacks and armed takeovers of an independent and peaceful neighbor since 2014, doesn’t seem to matter because of “interests and arguments.”

The fact that, according to the UN, some 500 Ukrainian children have been killed and 20,000 others forcibly deported to Russia doesn’t seem to matter because of “interests and arguments.”

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The fact that Moscow continues to nightly drop million-dollar missiles on flats, pizzerias and supermarkets, and slaughter civilians in Ukraine’s cities, doesn’t seem to matter because of “interests and arguments.”

Perhaps, if Mr. Creighton were to stand in a Kharkiv shopping center and witness coffee drinkers ripped to pieces by shrapnel from incoming Russian artillery – as I and many other journalists on the ground have – he might change his twisted perspective about who he wants Ukraine to negotiate with.

In the name of some perverse version of ‘realpolitik’, what commentators of this sort are suggesting is the same as negotiations between a serial rapist and his victims – and as callously too.

The simple cliché is very true. If Russia stops fighting, the war ends; if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. Country A invaded Country B. That’s where the reckoning begins and ends.

But somehow, in some elite newsrooms of the West, a leading journalist can still ignore the thousands of murders, gang rapes and other atrocities undertaken by Russian occupying forces, including against the very “Russian speakers” they treat as a bargaining chip.

In this case, the journalist says Ukraine shouldn’t be allowed to join NATO and that the war started because of Russian concerns about NATO. Putin, charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes against Ukrainian children, has said exactly the same words.

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A single poll is cited that Americans don’t support funding for Ukraine. A quick Google reveals another reputable poll with a larger sample size and lower margin of error that shows the opposite, but somehow someone’s search engine didn’t get him there.

Similar to Mr. Creighton’s stated concerns, I also want Ukrainians – my friends, family and work colleagues – to stop prematurely dying, stop being forced to migrate and separate from their families by the millions – and stop losing their limbs.

There’s a direct way for that to happen and it’s not negotiation with the Mafia leader of a country blighted by hegemonic psychosis. That way is for Ukraine to have the world’s backing to stop Russia and stop a genocidal campaign against a sovereign country that shares the West’s democratic values.

Yes, honesty is important. Mr. Creighton, as well as those repeating Kremlin narratives, should really be honest. Do they also share those democratic values or is he okay with sacrificing millions of innocents to Putin’s putrid plans?

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Comments (5)

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Paolo
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You do wonder how many western commentators are on the kremlin payroll, some of the stuff I read online could have been written by Putin himself.

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Daudi Ochami
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This opinion is too angry to be rational and it commits the same fallacies it purports to point including cherry picking and mischaracterising another journalist's view. In this effort a sweeping claim is made that Ukraine shares democratic values with the West. Without cause he baptizes any criticism of Ukraine as Kremlin propaganda. Then he denies the obvious that the counteroffensive is stalling or that Western support for Ukraine is beginning to flail. He offers no path for Ukrainian victory, through military beyond denouncing a compromise and suggesting more war.

Abrams
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@Daudi Ochami, It's pretty obvious that any long term peace can be achieved only when Putin's regime is no longer calling the shots.

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David
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Cause your jewish propaganda is even worst and more blatant and obvious

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Karl
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I agree with this 100%. Not because you told me so but because I infer as much from all the things that are written/reported from a multitude of sources. What’s all the arguing about anyway? “This counteroffensive is slow, this counteroffensive is costing lives, it will never work” bla bla. I’m losing my faith in many spineless westerners right now. It’s very simple: WE SHALL SUPPORT UKRAINE FOR AS LONG AS THEY WANT TO FIGHT FOR THEIR SURVIVAL.

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Kelvin
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Creighton's article in the Oz was terrible.
I wanted to post my comment here, but it is slightly over 1500 characters. It took that long to even briefly challenge the multitude of appalling falsehoods.

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