May 01, 2014

This Just in From Ukraine...

This Just in From Ukraine...

Today is the 401st anniversary of the crowning of the first Romanov Tsar, Mikhail, in 1613, and the end of the "Time of Troubles." This of course has nothing to do with the present day. Just thought I'd mention it in passing. 

A few things have caught my eye of late while trying to keep on top of the ever-changing, often contradictory and usually incomplete coverage of events in Russia and Ukraine. 

First, Russia (which, by the way does not have a demographic problem, says Forbes' Mark Adomanis) has assured the US that it will not invade Ukraine. Really. Double promise, cross-our-hearts, spit and shake on it:

"Secretary of Defense (Chuck) Hagel spoke today by phone with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu (and) Shoigu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine." [AFP, 4/29/14]

Whew. That's a relief. I feel so much better now.

Oh, and during that conversation, Shoigu also apparently "called on the US to tone down its rhetoric on the Ukraine crisis." Hm... Interesting you mention that, Seryozha, I was just going to point out...

Second, Moscow has been tossing a lot of rather, well, insulting epithets in Ukraine's direction. You know, stuff like "Nazi" and "fascist" and "Fritz" – basically not the sort of terms one generally uses among polite company ("Excuse me you fascist Fritz, can you please pass the artichoke spread?"). But then, these are dangerous times, and when there is a real threat to life and liberty, you can't be too.... Wait, what's that? Really? I see... Ahem... Apparently the folks at Israel's respected paper Haaretz have judged Moscow's slanders to be "outlandish," "inflammatory" and, well, "dangerous." And, well, one gathers they know from Nazis...

Showing how the propaganda effort began during the Maidan demonstrations, Haaretz notes that the tactic has been rather effective, mainly because images of WWII are rather potent for unification of public opinion. But of course it also has another potency: 

Russian news media regularly distort information to make it fit the black-and-white World War II mindset, condoning vigilante violence.

Third, apparently the US has been listening in on some people's conversations (!) and has found – surprise, surprise – that Eastern Ukraine's Free Radicals are being directed by Moscow. US Secretary of State John Kerry announced this shocker in a speech at Washington's Trilateral Commission the other day, according to the Daily Beast:

"Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who's giving those orders, we know where they are coming from...

Who knew Kerry, with his busy schedule, had time to study Russian? Or maybe by everybody being able to tell the difference in accents, idioms, etc., he was just using the Royal We?

Fourth, today saw the first May Day celebratory march through Red Square since the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, that's a reset!

Perhaps the best way to make sense of all this is with Stephen Colbert's interview with former Ambassador Michael McFaul.

Photo: Landov, The Daily Beast.

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