By Daniel Greenfield l August 17, 2008
Russian propaganda has never been fairly sophisticated, just a repetitive recitation of simple if outlandish points, and it has changed very little over the generations.
The propaganda offensive is fairly simple, characterize the country you’re invading as “aggressive,” describe its leadership as warmongering, fascist, adventurist and sometimes psychotic and claim you need to occupy them in order to insure peace.
The short language guide to what these Pravda terms actually mean runs as follows:
- A. Warmongering – Its troops are still resisting a Russian occupation;
- B. Fascist – Its government refuses to make way for a Russian puppet regime;
- C. Adventurist – Its government has asked for help from the West or is allied to the West; and,
- D. Psychotic – It has a strong leader who is refusing to concede to Russia.
The shortest guide is to understand that Pravdaspeak terms are the opposite of truth. An aggressive country is usually one that Russia has invaded or a country that is refusing to let a Russian invasion proceed. An adventurist country has been cut off and is frantically asking the West and anyone else for aid, e.g. Poland in 1939.
With the Russian press tightly controlled by Putin and dissenting reporters murdered by some of the same KGB enforcers and Chechnyan thugs currently rampaging across Georgia, the Russian media is back to projecting the same one sided Kremlin propaganda it did during the halcyon days of the Czars and the USSR.
Naturally the Republic of Georgia is the aggressor state and naturally Saakashvili is a psychotic warmonger. After all, it’s not like Russia ever invades any country that isn’t an aggressor state led by psychotic warmongers. And having gotten its clock cleaned by the likes of Japan and Finland, Russians are ecstatic over finally finding a small country they can actually win a war with.
In the Russian propaganda lexicon, invaded nations are both “weak” and “aggressors.” They’re weak because naturally no one can stand up to the “Mighty Russians” and they’re aggressors because they had to do something for us to invade them.
Russian propaganda reconciles this paradox of the “weak aggressor” by painting them as “pawns” of a much larger power that seeks to stir up conflict with the “peaceful Russian people.” Russian invasions are therefore routinely “peacekeeping” missions to prevent this “third party” from stirring up a war.
So, Poland in 1939 was actually a pawn of England and the Capitalist powers, whose goal was to stir up war with Germany. Georgia, in 2008, is naturally a pawn of America, Britain and the Jews in order to stir up war with the Oh, so peaceful Russia.
Russian propaganda highlights the American and Israeli advisers of the Georgian army and emphasizes claims that Saakashvili is an American-Jewish puppet, playing up statements made by him in Israel calling on Georgian Jews to return, along with describing two ministers in his government as Jews. Some describe Saakshvili himself as Jewish. This is par for the course in Russian propaganda, the original authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, who naturally turn up the Jews as being behind everything.
The first step in Russia’s propaganda campaign was to demonize and promote hate crimes against Georgians in Russia. With the invasion underway, Russian propaganda typically switches to demonizing the Georgian government followed by the third parties whose “puppets” they turn out to be.
This naturally has the added advantage of playing well to the far right, whether it’s Pat Buchanan or Ron Paul supporters in America, who continue to promote and distribute Kremlin propaganda. Russia’s tyrants having morphed from Communist-Nationalists to Fascist-Nationalists, their new fellow travelers have become the far right rather than the far left.
It’s repulsive and yet somehow ironically amusing to watch old line Cold War era paleocons like Pat Buchanan churn out screeds arguing that America should let Russia have all of Eastern Europe as long as they let us live in peace.
The general Anti-American crowd is happy enough to jump on board Russia’s invasion, so long as they get to blame Bush and rant about Dick Cheney and FOX News. Despite the Russian invasion being a literal case of a Blood for Oil war, the “No Blood for Oil” crowd has realized that they’re all for that sort of thing as long as an American ally is the one being invaded.
When Russia invaded Poland in 1939 as part of the Hitler-Stalin pact, Russian Foreign Minister Molotov declared that Poland’s aggressive government was at fault, accused them of provoking war and declared that Russian troops needed to occupy Poland to protect Russian Ukrainians who were oppressed by the Poles.
When Estonia’s turn came, Russia staged a phony submarine attack on its shipping, blockaded Estonia’s ports claiming that it had been attacked and forced the signing of a treaty that put Russian troops and air and naval bases all across Estonia.
This is the usual Russian one-two punch approach. Either a straight out invasion or a treaty signed at gunpoint that removes the need for an armed invasion and passes on straight to the occupation.
The Russian invasion of Georgia is Russia’s first “Proof of Concept” that it can bring its escaped Republics and Warsaw Pact allies back into the fold by force, and a chance to take control of Georgian trade and the oil pipeline, turning it all into money for Putin’s band of KGB robber barons back home. When Putin has rid himself of that “psychotic warmongering” pest in Tblisi and replaced him with a solid KGB fellow, like the sort who are running South Ossettia now, the rubles and dollars and euros will really begin flowing back along the same KGB companies, each getting a piece of the action.
Putin’s tactics aren’t really new; Russia used them to create the Warsaw Pact back in the day. Putin just has enough business training to do a better job of making them work. Here fresh from Time Magazine of 1947 is how the Ivans did it last time around.
In 30 days, twelve new trade pacts were signed between Moscow and satellites, or satellites and satellites. Shotgun treaties herded satellites more snugly into the Soviet economic pen.
Economic Pincers, Russian trade treaties, like reparations, were instruments of extortion, and, in method, straight out of the Nazi mold, with which Molotov had more than a newspaper reader’s acquaintance during the piping days of German-Russian war collaboration, 1939-41.
But the Soviet Union had also developed another kind of economic pincers – the so-called “joint venture company.” The pattern was 50-50 ownership by the Soviet Union and the local government, with 100% administration by Soviet-picked executives. The function of the joint venture companies was to keep goods flowing into Russia. Through the joint-stock company and alleged reparations, Moscow had seized drum-tight control over:
All Balkan shipping on the Danube, all Rumanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian air transport. One-third of Rumania’s oil (expropriation of British and U.S. interests would complete Soviet control), 90% of her coal, a large portion of her gold, metal, coke, chemicals, and part of her banking.
The takeover of one hundred eighty Hungarian enterprises in oil, aluminum, banking, insurance, manufacturing, mining and transport.
Ten percent of all of Austria’s industry, including the Zistersdorf oilfield, Credit-Anstalt bank, factories making electrical machinery, tools, and locomotives.
Maiming Monopoly. Through its threefold control, the Soviet Union was taking from Eastern Europe not only manufactured goods that Russia desperately needed, but also products of which it had an abundance. The Soviet Union took most of Polands’s exportable coal (15 million tons), all of Rumania’s exportable timber (203,000 tons), and all of Bulgaria’s exportable tobacco (35,000 tons).
Prewar, Europe’s not-too-healthy economy was partly sustained by the flow of such Eastern products westward in exchange for machinery and manufactured goods, which Russia is in no position to supply. Continued Soviet draining would plunge European living standards still farther, even below the Russian level of life, which has been described as a permanent economic depression.
This time out, it’s less about coal and tobacco, even if Russian troops and their Chechnyan and Cossack looters and mercenaries continue relying on Georgian slave labor, Russia will hardly be able to compete with China. Indeed Russia has had to lease much of its timber forests to China because it lacks the willing or even unwilling manpower to get the job done.
The goal this time is energy. Russia has one thing going for it and that’s state owned energy. By creating energy conflicts it can squeeze the price of oil higher and right into its pockets. It doesn’t need industry anymore, Putin is following the OPEC model of cornering energy and letting everything else go to hell. If he can get his hands around Europe’s energy nozzle, he can squeeze the EU into compliance, dismantle NATO and take back the Republics or wreck the European economy.
Of course Stalin’s plan failed back in 1947 and Putin’s plan likely will too. Stalin didn’t count on American aid to Europe or on the emergence of non-European markets. Putin is counting on an indecisive America and Europe unwilling to seriously confront him, but the Russian army is much weaker than beating up on Georgia has made it seem, and the Russian propaganda has traditionally been a bellicose cover for Russian weakness.
Putin is substituting ruthlessness and greed for actual military strength. He may find that he has overreached himself, as the Baltic States run toward NATO and away from him; and his fellow travelers in the West, on the Far Right, lack either the influence or persuasive powers of Russia’s old left wing allies. Russia’s invasion of Georgia has made the hearts of the Ivans swell with national pride, but it has woken up Europe to the cold dark reality of what the Putin regime represents and its plans for Europe, both East and West.
Russia’s propaganda may have helped buy Russia enough time to begin consuming Georgia, but it will need more than government sponsored hate campaigns to reclaim its dream of seizing its old conquests across Eastern Europe once again.
Daniel Greenfield is a New York City-based writer and freelance commentator with a special focus on the War on Terror and the rising threat to Western Civilization. Mr. Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He maintains a blog and is a contributor to