by Gordon M. Hahn
Is it all the result of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ or just bad propaganda/stratcomm (strategic communications)? Like the rest of the U.S. mainstream media, ever since the defeat of their preferred candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, the Washington Post has been engaged in an extensive ‘hissy fit’ and disinformation campaign that greatly exaggerates and even outright manufactures the story of significant Russian influence in the campaign. This campaign has little to nothing to do with any Washington Post concern for US national security. We know this since the Post shows little to no such concern on other issues. From illegal immigration to jihadi terrorism, the WP eschews such concern in favor of political correctness and identity politics often focused on the domestic political discourse and contest rather than concern for the average Americans’ security and well-being.
This practice was on display in a recent WP article by one Jennifer Rubin. She wrote: “Trump has yet to take a single action nor have a single public interchange that harmed Russia’s interests” (www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/05/31/would-a-spy-for-russia-be-acting-any-differently/?utm_term=.367c17a2bf14). Let’s take a look at the veracity of Ms. Rubin and the WP.
Here is a short list of Trump administration actions and statements damaging to Putin and Russia:
* The bombing of Russian ally Syria’s air force base within days of a chemical attack that killed civilians and for which no evidence had yet been gathered as to who might have been the attacks perpetrator. Russia condemned the bombing attack which included some 50 cruise missiles and inflicted casualties on Syrian servicemen.
* The Trump administration instituted sanctions against companies doing business with Syria, Iran and North Korea, including eight Russian companies.
* The Trump State Department issued a press release on the third anniversary of Russia’s reunification/annexation of Crimea condemning Putin’s action. The press statement read in part: “The United States does not recognize Russia’s “referendum” of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law. We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” … “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
* In an April interview with The Times newspaper, Trump criticized Russia’s involvement in the siege of jihadi-controlled Aleppo in which Russia played a vital role by supplying air support for Syrian army troops and Iran-backed militias. Trump said: “Aleppo was nasty. I mean when you see them shooting old ladies walking out of town — they can’t even walk and they’re shooting them — it almost looks like they’re shooting them for sport — ah no, that’s … a terrible situation. Trump added that “security zones” should have been set in Syria. Two weeks ago, Russia proposed and then began setting up security zones in Syria.
* Trump’s White House press secretary Sean Spicer opened his Monday briefing by reading a statement saying the U.S. “strongly condemns” the detention of hundreds, including leading Putin critic Alexei Navalny, following a weekend crackdown on peaceful anti-corruption protests across Russia (www.politico.com/story/2017/03/trump-putin-russia-cold-war-236568).
* If one believes – as Rubin, the WP and their ilk do – that General and former NSA Director Michael Flynn carries the Kremlin’s water, then Flynn’s firing was against Russian interests.
* If one believes – as Rubin, the WP and their ilk do – that Trump chief of staff Steve Bannon General and former NSA Director Michael Flynn carries the Kremlin’s water, then Bannon’s removal as an ex officio attendee at NSC meetings.
One could go on with this list, but the point has been made. The same point could have been made by the WP, but nuance in the service of Democratic Party goals is seen as less effective. One must not just tell lies often enough, one must offer the most extreme version of the lie to have the greatest propaganda effect.
Sadly, such ‘mistakes’ and inaccuracies are long part and parcel of a familiar WP and increasingly the overall American politics playbook in which foreign policy and especially relations with Russia are used as a weapon in domestic political competition; something that is fraught with danger for US-Russian relations and international security. If you are a WP, NYT, or even a WSJ reader and you want to be precisely informed on US-Russian relations, Russia, or almost anything else, I suggest you cease reading these politicized dinosaurs to free up time for reading more serious and learned reporting and analytical sources.
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Analyst at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago), www.geostrategicforecasting.com; member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles), www.aigeo.org; and Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California.
Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book from McFarland Publishers Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War. Previously, he has authored three well-received books: The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution. Dr. Hahn also has been a Contributing Analyst for Russia Direct (russia-direct.com) and an Analyst and Consultant for Russia – Other Points of View (San Mateo, California) (www.russiaotherpointsofview.com).