Cracks in the Narrative on Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy adviser Jens Plötner caused a major stir on June 20 when he said that the media should focus more on Germany’s future relationship with Russia than on supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons. He was addressing criticism directed at Scholz’s government that Germany has been lukewarm in its support for Ukraine, in general, and specifically less eager than other major NATO powers to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons.

Addressing the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Plötner said the discussion about helping Ukraine was driven by a “feverishness that misses the big issues.” Many newspaper pages can be filled with Ukraine’s demands for German heavy weapons, he went on, “but there are somehow fewer articles about what our relationship with Russia should be like in future… and that is at least as exciting and relevant an issue, and one we could be discussing.”

Since Plötner rarely speaks in public, his words provided a rare glimpse of how Chancellor Scholz and his closest aides—though not necessarily his cabinet as a whole—view the war in Ukraine. He also referred frostily to Ukraine’s application to join the European Union, which was on the agenda of an EU summit in Brussels three days later. “Just because you’re attacked doesn’t automatically mean your rule of law improves,” Plötner said. “The problems which the Ukrainians have been having are structural, they are still there, and they must be dealt with.”

Olaf Scholz aide’s comments on future links with Russia trigger dismay,” the Financial Times headline read on June 21. “Scholz adviser turns heads with appeal to consider future Russian relationship” was the Politico headline; and that was all. The leading U.S. media chose to ignore the story, almost certainly because it was at odds with the narrative of a perfectly monolithic Western world, rock-solid in its determination to punish Russia and to uphold the “rules-based international order.”

The controllers of the media narrative decided—more egregiously—to ignore Dr. Henry Kissinger’s powerful interview, which was presented in the form of an article by the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson and published by The Sunday Times of London on June 11. Physically frail but mentally alert, Kissinger insisted that, to avoid a further escalation in Ukraine and possible nuclear war, the West needed to work on a compromise deal that would avoid humiliating Russia.

Kissinger had already caused a big stir three weeks earlier, when on May 24, he told the gathering of the Western ruling elite in Davos, Switzerland, that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the conflict. Reminding his audience that “Russia has been an essential part of Europe for 400 years now… in some cases as a guarantor or instrument with which to restore the European balance” and warning not to be swept up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger urged the West to advise Ukraine to accept a negotiated agreement. In addition, he stressed that Russia should not be forced into a permanent alliance with China. Pursuing the war for months on end, Kissinger said, “would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.” Implicitly, he suggested a deal which would entail the acceptance of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its present de facto control of the Donbas.

Kissinger’s Davos speech could not be ignored, so it was attacked instead as a relic of the old man’s outdated mentality, and his subsequent interview with Ferguson promptly became news unfit to print in the North American corporate media. As it happens, I referred to it in my previous article, “Is There a Western ‘Plan B’ in Ukraine.If you search Google for “Kissinger interview Niall Ferguson,” you will find that my Chronicles piece is the eighth on the list of results. Such a high search ranking (given the myriad of media that should have reported on it) is most unusual and possible only because major newspapers, syndicated columnists, and TV networks have decided to ignore it.

There are many similar examples on a daily basis. None of them has taken note of the leading Turkish daily Cumhuriyet’s suggesting that Turkey should leave NATO and close the Straits to the U.S. Navy. None of them reported that, on June 20, only four African heads of state attended Ukrainian President Zelensky’s video address to the African Union (AU), despite the fact that all 55 heads of state had been invited; and let us add that the event was led by Senegal’s President Macky Sall, current AU chair, who had paid a state visit to Vladimir Putin in Moscow just two weeks earlier.

Equally unreported is the news that Russia earned $98bn from fossil fuel exports during the first hundred days of the Ukraine conflict, with over 60 percent of those exports going to Europe. Russia is earning a billion a day, and the war is estimated to cost the country exactly that much. This economic reality, rather than the battlefield, “effectively determines a Russian victory, said Ioannis Mazis, chair of the department of Turkish and Modern Asian Studies at the University of Athens.”

Arguably the most glaring, undoubtedly deliberate, media omission is the non-reporting of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement, in a meeting with the president of Finland on June 13, that peace in Ukraine is possible: “The only question is: What price are the Ukrainians willing to pay for peace?” Stoltenberg said. “How much territory, how much independence, how much sovereignty are they willing to sacrifice for peace?”

This was truly remarkable, coming from the man who in April declared that NATO must prepare for a “long haul” in Ukraine, who later said that the war could drag on for years, and who insisted in May that we must put values over profits. Stoltenberg’s office duly walked back the June 13 statement, but in any event, no corporate media consumer in the U.S. was even made aware of its existence.

In Europe there are clear signs of trouble for the bipartisan zealots in Washington who want to wage a long war against Russia, down to the last Ukrainian, and who expect the Old Continent to remain as supine as it has been since the beginning of this crisis. In France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party has made a historic breakthrough, winning 90 seats in parliamentary elections. In Bulgaria, a “pro-Western” government collapsed after just six months in power. And with Putin still holding the cards on global energy, the much-lauded transatlantic unity is cracking: the EU got to the duel late and its pistol has jammed.

As Col. Douglas Macgregor, ex-advisor to the secretary of defense in the Trump administration, notes in his latest column in The American Conservative, Europeans do not have to blindly follow Washington’s lead. They, like most Americans, are already peering into the abyss of an all-encompassing economic downturn. Unlike Americans, who must cope with the consequences of Biden’s ill-conceived policies, European governments can opt out of Biden’s perpetual-war plan for Ukraine. Come Nov. 8 at the latest, the center will no longer hold.

Image: Working trip of the President of Ukraine to the Kyiv region ( / via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

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