“Instructions from Kiev”: Ukraine Propaganda Messaging

Below we are reproducing a post from Ukraine Telegram, along with an assessment from Colonel Douglas Macgregor. A long-standing military colleague sent the material to Macgregor, who deems it to be authentic.

One thing that is striking about the text of Ukraine gaslighting messaging points is the focus on creating dissent in the military with the intent of achieving regime change in Moscow. One thing I have inferred despite my considerable distance from Russian Telegram is the degree to which it seems to be highly critical of the Russian government’s conduct of the war. This seems to go beyond possible self-selection. Yes, ex-soldiers and other war nerds can no doubt come up with mistakes made, as well as having a general hankering for more aggressive action. Mind you, Russia is now moving into that footing with its dissection of Ukraine’s electrical grid. That is presumably be followed sometime in the winter with an increase in the tempo of the war. But Surovikin promised a grinding war. If that translates into grinding in more places, and faster loss of Ukraine/Western men and materiel, will that be kinetic enough to make these armchair generals happy?

What has struck me with my limited contact with Russian Telegram is that its members seem too often to become overwrought about minor setbacks, like the loss of three Russian helicopters at an airbase due to apparent sabotage. Yes, this is bad and suggests not enough care was taken to prevent such an event (although one could easily argue given the ferocity of Ukraine intent that the level of successful terrorist operations has been comparatively modest). But the level of upset on Telegram seemed wildly disproportionate, and hence not organic…particularly given that the Western press also flogged the story.

Some of the messaging in the Western press is also so uniform as to raise questions about how so many journalists can suddenly be thinking the same thing. For instance, now that they can’t not mention Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid, the spin is that this move is an act of desperation by Russia, a last-ditch effort to salvage its failing campaign….which will clearly fizzle into nothing when they run out of missiles.

Now to Macgregor, who I hope you will thank for letting me publish his finding. Hoisted from e-mail:

I am indebted to XXXX who sent this material to me this morning. The material is very revealing.

The instructions below from the Kiev Government to its propaganda organs read like talking points for the Washington Post, New York Times, and most of the major western media. These points were lifted from a Ukrainian telegram channel. The stories that appear in Western media begin with the utterly false and misleading assertions on the list below. Encouraged by Western Governments, Western Journalists eagerly adopt them and present the fairy tales that proceed from them as factual.

Trotsky who distinguished himself during the Russian Civil War and the Russian Invasion of Poland with the creation of similarly effective lies and fabrications would be enormously proud of Zalenskiy and the work he and his apparatus are doing.

From XXX:

According to the source, this is a conditional training manual for a week from the functionaries of the Office of the President and CIPSO for their bot farms and social media to work in the RU segment.

Media plan, November 21-27

Topic: Problems of mobilization 

  • Search and creation of materials about the problems of providing mobilized weapons, equipment, mistakes in managing on the battlefield and during training.
  • Use authentic videos from the mobilized, published in Russian news and military Telegram channels.
  • Obtaining, creating and disseminating insider information about problems in the regions. Detailed coverage, generalization of problematic incidents for the entire mobilization process.
  • The direct accusation of the Russian high command and leadership of the Ministry of Defense of corruption, low qualifications and neglect of the lives of their subordinates.

Topic: Losses in manpower and equipment 

  • Use of numerical data of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, ISW, CIT, Oryx and other approved sources.
  • Emphasize high casualties among mobilized, not professional Russian military. The task is to create a conflict between the career military and those called up for mobilization for further development and consistent updating.
  • Calls to lay down arms and surrender – saving lives is more important than war for undefined goals and the Kremlin regime. Involvement of youth opinion leaders and organizations to disseminate such appeals.
  • Losses in technology – translate the assessment into financial indicators. Emphasis: the money spent on the war, the Kremlin should have distributed among the population, so that it becomes richer.
  • Emphasize the losses of the economy from the war and the imposed sanctions.

Topic: Internal conflicts in power 

  • Key line: to strengthen the basis for the revolt of the military against the Kremlin in case of a crisis.
  • Return to theses about conflicts in the Russian elite, among the “Kremlin towers”. The task is to undermine the trust of civil officials and security forces in each other.
  • The accusation of officials of the Presidential Administration and the government of disagreeing with the actions of the military, in parallel to disseminate information about the violent dissatisfaction of the military with the political decisions of the Kremlin. Task: to launch information about the next conflict between the civilian and security forces of the regime.
  • The use of defector speakers to launch information about conflicts between law enforcement agencies – the military, the FSB, the National Guard.
  • Continuing the line: discrediting past referendums on joining Russia. The key thesis is that among the Russians, the annexation of regions does not enjoy support, their preservation as part of Russia is not considered important following the results of the war.

Topic: Russia is a terrorist state 

  • Key line: The whole world considers the Russian regime to be terrorist in its essence, punishment for its crimes is inevitable.
  • Active coverage of Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure. Emphasize the suffering of the civilian population from the power outage, the victims of the civilian population from shelling.
  • Accents in coverage: The European Parliament recognizes Russia as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”. The Dutch Parliament will vote on a resolution recognizing the Russian Federation as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”. Emphasize European unity on the issue of recognizing the Putin regime as a terrorist one.”
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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    Question: Was this document promulgated in English originally? I’m trying to analyze the source, but stylistically, the document is a pastiche. The spelling is U.S. style, but the punctuation is English style. (Right down to the lack of a serial comma, and the endless comma splices, just two more signs of the decline of the British empire.)

    One wonders where the cadre of English-speaking managerial types are coming from? Where are they housed? Is this document being shipped from military-industrial contractors in the US of A to Kiev?

    Specifics: I have been thinking much lately about how the U.S. has lost its “soft power,” which means that the U.S. can now only use violence / proxy wars in places like Iran, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Certainly, the population of Iran has legitimate grievances, and I doubt that the demonstrations are manufactured, but I also am coming to the realization that the U.S. has no leverage in Iran. Why would the members of the mass movements in Iran trust U.S. advice? Just one for-instance.

    And then there’s this: “Active coverage of Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure. Emphasize the suffering of the civilian population from the power outage, the victims of the civilian population from shelling.”

    La Stampa is the perfect example: Repetition of the “resistance” in Kiev, with people cooking in the dark. Yesterday, the endlessly breathless warmonger Anna Zafesova published in La Stampa her usual variation on the theme: This time it was commemorating the Holodomar. Natch, she and Zelenskyy are trying to claim that the Russians want a new Holodomar when there is no indication at all of such a tactic.

    Meanwhile, La Stampa is still terribly, terribly mystified at how the Russians keep bombing themselves at the Zaporizhzhia nuke plant.

    So: an adage: There is no such thing as fake news. “Fake news” as a concept is a form of propaganda, like the idea that Ukraine was the Switzerland of Eastern Europe, a veritable paradise of freedoms of speech and minority rights with a special regard for gayfolk. (Sheesh, the Ukrainians and the gay-washing they do are the very definition of propaganda.)

    And let’s have another interview with one of those blond neonazis (who, as we all know, are harmless)…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, it was on Ukrainian Telegram, as indicted, meaning in Ukrainian. So the patische of styles might come from Ukrainians attempting to phrase-make in Ukrainian in ways that would translate well into English.

      Zelensky is surrounded by media types. His entourage is full of people from his TV production company.

      1. digi_owl

        In decades past, certain darker scifi mused about wars becoming media driven blood sport spectacles. Never did i expect to live to see it happen.

      2. DJG, Reality Czar

        Yves Smith: Thanks. And thanks to Douglas Macgregor for the “leak.”

        –I have even less experience (zero) with Telegram than you do, so I wasn’t sure if this document may have come from an official Ukrainian government account. Now, I will assume that it was leaked on Telegram and leaked in the Ukrainian language.
        –It was leaked “in real time”–given that the dates are last week.
        –Somewhere along way, the document was Englished. Now, it may be that Col. Macgregor’s colleague put it into English to make it easier for Col. Macgregor.
        –The use of the words “authentic” and “problematic”–both buzzwords in the U.S. of A.–indicates an American hand.
        –The reason that I wrote about sourcing and translation is that it is more than obvious that the Ukrainian government wants to dominate the discussion in the English-language world. The Ukrainian government has to keep the U.S. and U.K. in line, making those shipments of bombs.
        –Other languages are less important, even French.
        –And yet the level of pettiness (or thoroughness, for those who think that the Ukrainian media show has merit) seems to have no bottom. The Ukrainian consul in Milano is currently in a dustup with La Scala because La Scala will soon mount a production of Boris Godunov. By Mussorgsky, who has been dead for 140 years.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Google will translate Telegram. For Russian Telegram, for instance I put in “Rybar Telegram,” click on the one that comes up in Cyrillic, but the “Translate” link and voila! Rybar in English! Translations not too shabby.

          1. jrkrideau

            I have more faith in the Yandex translator but the kicker, as far as I have figured out so far, is than you need to read just enough Russian Cyrillic to figure out the list of languages if you want to move beyond RussianEnglish. I certainly trust its Russian accent.

          2. Greg

            Telegram on an android will automatically translate any post into any language, presumably using google services at the backend. Makes it much more accessible on mobile than on pc, which is frustrating.

            The “translate” setting is only available in the mobile app, not the desktop app.

        2. Lex

          I first saw it on one of the Ukrainian telegram channels that purports to have inside information. (I’ll give a couple of those credit for being more right than wrong regardless of access to inside info, but purport is still operative.) on mobile devices there’s a native translation function that’s quite good. IIRC, the original post was in Russian, not Ukrainian.

          There are, however, lots of Americans who’ve long been involved in the Ukrainian government. Post coup it became legal to serve in the government as a dual citizen and there was a wave of appointing westerners who got citizenship because of ancestry. Nina Jankowicz (of DHS ministry of truth fame) did comms work for Zelensky’s presidential campaign. I would assume that American and Brit’s are involved in Ukraine’s information war.

          1. hunkerdown

            “WEIRD” Nina Jankowicz is indeed a registered foreign agent of UK FCO, according to filings posted on Kit Klarenberg’s tweet thread in this morning’s Links.

        3. Greg

          Telegram is interesting. The complete lack of moderation gives it more of an early internet feel – Mos Eisley but less cuddly.
          There are pockets of sanity and good conversation, but everywhere the great unwashed can at any time explode into violence and spam.
          Being built around channels with themes or topics they specialise in, but with rampant cross-posting within network bubbles, it’s a bit like the old usenet or a more structured twitter (assuming twitter gets totally feral post-Musk).

          Most of what you see about Ukraine on twitter is reposts from Telegram, curated for the angle the twitter user wants. And videos always get shortened and de-rezzed for twitter of course (Telegram, for good or ill, allows embedding of very large videos).

    2. vao

      One wonders where the cadre of English-speaking managerial types are coming from?

      Europe, in this case, Ukraine.

      It is very common to see Europeans learning English as a foreign language adopting a form of English that looks like a mixture of the British and North American variants. Typically, courses go according to the principle that since it is Europe, English should be taught according to British patterns. However, the cultural dominance of the USA is such that its influence on what is ultimately learnt is unavoidably extensive.

      So this:

      […] stylistically, the document is a pastiche. The spelling is U.S. style, but the punctuation is English style.

      is not uncommon. You will also meet people, typically from Scandinavia or the Netherlands, speaking English with a British pronunciation (because they were inculcated proper “BBC English” or “received pronunciation”), but using the North American spelling when writing. Or people who mix spelling (e.g. using “-ize/-izing”, but “colour” or “centre”). Or people tending towards a North American pronunciation, but relying upon British vocabulary (e.g. “lorry” instead of “truck”, “flat” instead of “apartment”, “pavement” instead of “sidewalk”, “underground” instead of “subway”).

      1. Stephen

        I agree. Have seen exactly what you describe in European business.

        Additionally, my understanding is that various British PR firms are working with Zelensky too. It gives me no satisfaction to say that this is an industry where Britain remains a world leader!

        US spelling is normally seen as standard for international businesses (and was for the ones I have worked in) and is something we British can easily adapt to and use a spell check for. But punctuation is harder to adapt if you are native British. That might be another explanation.

        It is not well worded anyway with verbs and nouns being mixed at the start of different bullets. This may partly reflect non native drafting or simply a committee of many people creating it. I have seen many documents end up as a pastiche based on that and in the end everyone just gives up on further edits out of sheer exhaustion.

    3. jefemt

      What if the Rooskies supplied the talking points?

      I’d actually put my money on the US and International M I C’s Verrrrry S L I C C and pretty cost-effective!

    4. TimH

      The expression “Fake news” is very clever, because it can mean two accusations:
      1. The data behind the report is faulty
      2. The report is not news (maybe out of date – as in old news – or unworthy of reportage)

      The usual implication is 1., but when challenged 2. can be claimed, which is really a matter of opinion.

  2. Antifa

    (melody borrowed from All Of Me by Frank Sinatra)

    Stick with The Narrative
    Have no doubt
    Truth has a worldview
    Read my lips
    Russians are losers
    Use big words
    Journalists are confusers
    Magnify then oversimplify
    Spin the facts with mental jujitsu
    Tear the truth apart upset the applecart
    Stick with The Narrative

    (musical interlude)

    Stick with The Narrative
    Don’t rely
    On what people tell you
    Have to untangle
    Points of view
    Stick with your angle
    Justify raising a hue and cry
    About lies we will provide you
    Think of your career don’t be a mutineer
    Stick with The Narrative

    1. John Zelnicker

      Love this part:

      “Journalists are confusers
      Magnify then oversimplify
      Spin the facts with mental jujitsu
      Tear the truth apart upset the applecart”

      One of the best descriptions of MSM stenographers, umm, journalists, that I’ve seen lately.

      Stay safe.

  3. Robert Gray

    I’m looking for clarification of something I think is important. Yesterday (27.11.) Alexander Mercouris reviewed the state of the war and mentioned the 300 000 reservists soon to be applied, along with 80 000 new volunteers, to the SMO. As I understand it, a ‘reservist’ is someone with prior active duty who is kept ‘on the books’, either with or without periodic (re)training, who can be called into service if/when needed. However, I have also seen these 300 000 troops referred to in the Western propaganda-press as ‘conscripts’, which to me would mean someone newly inducted, given basic- and (maybe) advanced-training, and then sent into action.

    Since as far back as last March, commentators such as Douglas Macgregor — along with Scott Ritter, Brian Berletic and even Mercouris himself — have noted that Russia’s ‘grinding’ approach was defined in part by their use of only a small proportion (10% ? 15% ?) of their standing army in the prosecution of the SMO. Moreover, Vladimir Vladimirovitch notably promised that no conscripts would be sent to fight outside of Russia — although perhaps the accession of the four new oblasts to the Russian Federation (with the concomitant newly-created interstices) muddies those waters a bit. Has VVP had to walk back that pledge?

    Any road, I think this is more than just semantics. ‘Putin remains highly popular; if anything the general public want a more aggressive strategy’ versus ‘Putin is weak and alone [not to mention dying of cancer or some mystery illness], with young men fleeing en masse to avoid the army and/or vociferously demonstrating against the government.’ Obviously, both cannot be true. I tend to categorically dismiss the Western lying liars and their lies — but in order to discuss this with the occasional pro-Ukraine supporter who keeps an open mind it would be nice to have some clear, authoritative information regarding the status of these 300K (or 380K) ‘new’ troops that we are expecting to see in motion as soon as the ground is hard enough, as well, of course, as to counter some of the other Kiev talking points relayed by Macgregor here.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The 300,000 are all reservists. There was a scandal early in the SMO when 600 conscripts were mistakenly sent to Donbass. They were sent back as soon as that was uncovered.

      The 80,000 additional are volunteers. I don’t believe all were accepted.

      I believe Macgregor and Alex Christaforu, based on rumors from contacts in Russia, base the claim of bigger #s on the belief that more than 300,000 reservists were called up. Shoigu said some weeks back to Putin that they’d all been enrolled, so if this is true, it was not done by extending the time.

      1. The Rev Kev

        I think that about 80,000 of those reserves have been re-trained and sent to active units to bring them up to full strength. And that helps put an end to Ukrainian strike teams being able to slip through over-extended Russians lines like they often did in the past. But those reservists that are left are forming new units and when they are done, the Russian Army will have an equivalent of 10-15 Divisions to deploy against the Ukrainians. Not Brigades – Divisions of men. That is a lot of firepower they will be deployed against the Ukrainians.

        1. Greg

          I also think Mercouris has mixed up the 80k – the numbers I’ve seen from Putin and the Russian MoD are that there were 18,000 additional volunteers during the mobilization of 300,000. I suspect at some point a verbal report has confused 18/80.

          All mobilised trained (and now retrained) men anyway, not conscripts. Conceivably some of the volunteers are untrained and will be undergoing longer training and deployment behind the lines.

          1. Polar Socialist

            The number is somewhat complicated issue. Russia stopped the mobilization at 318,000, and that number includes the volunteers but nowhere has it been said how many volunteers there actually are. Nor was it stated what was the actual target for the mobilization, the 300k was supposed to be the upper limit.

            More confusingly, I’ve seen reports that 15,000 volunteered directly to Donbass militias, and are not included in that number, since they were not processed by Russian military.

            And even more confusingly, regional volunteer battalions started appearing already in the summer, and their numbers may or may not be included. Many of them have already been in action (for example, volunteer battalion of Crimean Tatars held the line in western Kherson against multiple Ukrainian attacks), so maybe they are not included. Who knows?

        2. redleg

          For non-military folks, in case nobody has put out a glossary of military units:
          A company is made up of 3 to 6 platoons, commanded by a captain, and is roughly 200 soldiers.
          A battalion is made up of 3 to 5 companies, commanded by a lieutenant colonel.
          A brigade is made up of 3 to 5 battalions, commanded by a colonel.
          A division is usually 3 or 4 brigades plus a brigade’s worth of specialized units, commanded by a major general (US 2 stars).
          A corps is usually 3 to 5 divisions, plus several brigade’s worth of specialized units, commanded by a lieutenant general (US 3 stars).
          Roughly multiply 200 soldiers per company through the different higher commands to estimate numbers, keeping in mind that every army will organize somewhat differently.

          The key to the units is groups of three sub-units, which allows for each unit to deploy two and have at least one in reserve.
          Note that artillery and cavalry/scouts have slightly different unit names (e.g. battery and troop are each equivalent to a company).

          1. The Rev Kev

            That seems to be the best system and the US Army used that system back in the day. Most people can keep five elements in their mind so an officer would have, say, three companies, a HQ unit and a heavy weapons unit to keep track of. But for a while during the First Cold War the US military went into the dread Pantomic system which did not work out so well-


            Officers got overloaded with too many elements to keep track of.

          2. Polar Socialist

            You left out regiment, between a battalion and a brigade, and the smallest unit considered capable of (limited) independent action. Also the basis of recruitment in many commonwealth countries.

            Regiments are still considered to consists of only one type of troops (i.e. infantry regiment), even if they do have their own support elements. Brigades are usually already combined arms formations, a mixed bag of troops.

      2. Greg

        My understanding is that half a million men (MacGregors estimate) is made up of 300k reservists, plus the men already in theatre (largely LHR and DPR troops, but around 150k), plus Chechens, Wagner, and a smattering of volunteers.

    2. Polar Socialist

      When the partial mobilization was declared, it was also announced that the priority was specifically on those who had experience from actual fighting – Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, Caucasus, Donbass, Africa. So not just reservists, but combat veterans. There was also a rule that no more than 30% of any company’s employees could be mobilized, probably because these veterans tend to work on security business.

      Of course, according to the Russian law, Russia could now use conscripts in the annexed areas, but so far Kremlin has denied any plans to do so. Only reported effect of the annexation has been that DNR and LNR had to demobilize all students that have been mobilized in their militias – as required by Russian law. The students are free to volunteer right back, and apparently many have done so.

      All together Russian armed forces have some 2 million people in service, but only about a million are military. The rest are all kinds of support, maintenance, education etc. personnel. Because of the situation with NATO and Ukraine, this year Russia decided to rise the number of professional soldiers to 1.1 million, considering that in the near future it has to garrison the new areas with professionals and very likely heavily militarize Baltic Sea when Sweden and Finland join NATO.

    3. jrkrideau

      Just to add to Yves response, the Western press and commentators, if they know the difference between a conscript and a reservist, do not do their homework. Many are still under the impression that the Russian army is still an all-conscript army. So they think that all those Russian troops in the SMO are conscripts. They did not read the memo about about the 600 conscripts.

  4. dandyandy

    Not entirely unexpected, an aide memoire for the psychobots, so they can continue to gaslight the western world populace. In a way, helps to confirm suspicions of all those people whose brain is still functioning, and who are asking themselves how comes that all MSM “news” have the same daily message, including same wording (that’ just lazy BTW).

    Interestingly if one then looks further into the MSM “menu”, one can see which regimes have been already singled out for attack and destruction; so far we have Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Central Asian ‘stans are starting to get mentioned. Saudis even; I mean they are already on Qatar’s case. It will be interesting to see when the “news” start to trickle about “massive” “pro-democracy” and “for-LBTQ” demonstrations in India and Pakistan, or maybe that phase of works will start with Vietnam, Thailand and that neighbourhood.

  5. Stephen

    Thank you Colonel MacGregor for publishing these comments and more broadly for being one of the very few voices of western world sanity in this entire, tragic situation. It must take considerable moral courage to speak up publicly and to oppose the flow of pure western disinformation.

    I guess too that we ought not to be surprised that such a media plan exists. But the fact that western mainstream media clearly just swallows it sums up the state of our journalism. We ought to be shocked too I think by the sheer hypocrisy of the narratives and the inability or unwillingness of so many people to hold up a mirror. The Russians are simply doing many of the things that US and western countries have done in their military campaigns, with the possible proviso that they have been more restrained.

    The nonsense was summed up for me by a recent British MoD claim that Russia is now firing old cruise missiles without warheads. This is said to show that they are running out of missiles. Brian Berletic very intelligently pointed out that this has been discussed previously within Russia and that they are used as decoys and to reveal the location of anti aircraft batteries. Apparently, the US has done precisely this in the past too. As a British person it gives no pleasure to reflect the British MoD is not a truthful organisation. Nor a particularly competent one, I believe.

    We have in fact seriously regressed. Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs I recall the 1982 Falklands War and the very dry, daily British MoD briefings that were factual.and not pure spin. Clearly, they were designed to paint things in a good light but not the total overt lying with no relationship to truth that we see today. At that time, they seemed very like their modern day Russian equivalents: a professional organisation that was not a pure PR propaganda engine. Today, the British military seems to be a tragic joke when it comes to any serious war against a real enemy (although I am sure that many competent, brave and professional individuals still serve) but is seeking to make up for that with dangerous bellicosity. We also have politicians dressing up in flak jackets treating war as a joke too. It is not a good mix.

    1. digi_owl

      Look into the use of PR flacks by Blair and (Mr) Clinton, that is likely when things went off rails.

      Sure, the idea of an informed citizenry had been slowly fading thanks to post-WW2 psychological research. But those two were perhaps the first time policies were set as if they were marketing everyone a new fridge.

      1. Stephen

        I think that is right. It would be naive to think that propaganda in the west is entirely new but the late 90s marked a definite change in the US and UK towards a very systematic and all embracing approach to it.

  6. David

    This is a particular case of what all governments do every day about every important subject. If there is a dispute between, say, Belgium and the Netherlands about some agricultural issues in the EU, there will be similar documents setting out what representatives of each government should say about the subject within the EU, to the media, to third parties or whatever. The message will vary in complexity: a Minister giving a radio interview will put things much more simply than a bureaucrat in an EU meeting, but the fundamental points will be the same. This is an absolutely basic political tool.

    When you have a crisis, as here, you develop a media strategy to feed to your own and foreign media, to try to determine, or at least influence, the way they write their story. Since most media today are poorly resourced and intrinsically lazy, providing them with pre-packaged sets of background information (which usually accompany documents of this kind) does a lot of their work for them. Reputable media outlets will of course preface their remarks by saying something like “The government of X was suggesting last night …” or at least double-checking some of the assertions, but we’ve gone beyond that.

    As you say, it’s a pastiche of styles, but also of techniques, and may have been translated by different hands, by people with experience of different languages.

    1. Thuto

      In other words, the inclination to believe the government must be dialled down considerably, doubly so during wartime. I read your comment to mean the Ukrainians aren’t exactly blazing a trail here, but surely the dropping of all pretense that vigorous debate (e.g. giving the antiwar movement coverage) is allowed on a conflict that could lead to WW3 puts us in uncharted territory no? Peace has become a dirty word, any dissenting voice that breaches the approved narrative is punished by merciless trolling on social media, and smeared by the msm and the pundit class (to say nothing of the trendy, regular Kiev sojourns by western leaders eager to kiss the ring of the latter day Winston Churchill). It all feels so surreal…

      1. Keith Newman

        Re David@ 6:36am
        Totally concur. This is general practice not only for governments but any grouping of organisations that need to coordinate their positions and messaging.
        I have been involved in such planning and coordination myself in the fight to protect and expand Canadian public healthcare. When some important issue comes up or a new strategy needs to be developed a broad country-wide committee meets and works out the details and messaging. Individual organisations across the country then deliver the same message in their own words. It is much more efficient and powerful than organisations working everything out individually and delivering messages that might be unclear, unfocused or even at cross-purposes from others.
        People who are unaware of this basic coordinating function sometimes misname it a conspiracy when they don’t like the organisations doing it. In a way I suppose it is but it’s a necessity to successfully get your message across in today’s complicated world.
        In the case of Ukraine we are observing outright lies and fabrications in the media and by politicians, but the method of dissemination remains the same.

      2. David

        This is a media strategy, designed to influence local and international media to report the war in a particular way, and to focus on particular issues (and by implication ignore others.) It’s no more than that. The purpose is, obviously, partisan: it’s not to give a balanced overview, or even a nuanced presentation of the government’s position. The aim is simply to ensure media coverage that furthers your objectives. A government will express itself in other ways in other contexts and for other objectives, according to different rules. It would be unwise to read too much into this text , and we shouldn’t necessarily confuse it with what the government in Kiev actually thinks.

  7. JohnA

    I am surprised by:
    Calls to lay down arms and surrender

    As there has been plenty of verified, including by the New York Times, of footage of Russian POWs being killed or tortured, or both by Ukrainian forces, this is surely a huge incentive for Russian soldiers not to surrender.
    I also understand that Ukrainian troops were advised not to surrender as they would be tortured/killed by the Russian forces. However, it would appear the Russians are abiding by then Geneva Convention, as no damning footage has appeared to show the contrary.

    1. digi_owl

      More and more it seems like the output from Kiev and actions taken at the front are not aligned, and Zelensky is not in control of the troops.

      While Zelensky is putting on his best acting face and spinning the west on heroic stoicism, Azov battalion and like are going round doing SS reenactments along the front.

    2. hunkerdown

      Psychological transference via scapegoat is half of the PMC’s whole art of politics. The other half is group narcissism.

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Hmm, that sounds a lot like a certain group of people who ran Germany for a while in the mid-20th century…

  8. digi_owl

    Far too often when i check bylines on articles, they are sourced via AP or Reuters, that in turn has acted as forwarder for some Ukrainian “freelance journalist”.

  9. JoeC100

    John Helmer has a most interesting post up today outlining his view of where the war is going, to a stable end point.

  10. Lex

    Whenever I hear that Russians are totally media manipulated and live in a fantasy of totalitarian thought control I just laugh. It’s true that Putin is almost never personally criticized by name and even at the governor level it’s often not by name. But in terms of policy and criticizing “the government” the information field in Russia is at least as critical as anything we see in the West and in most cases much more pointed, specific and policy related.

    I can confirm Yves’s assessment. Every little thing that goes wrong sets off a chain reaction of doom in russian social media. Such that in russian social media it’s called doomerism and practiced by doomers. But western infowar practitioners and leadership don’t seem to get us that the influential public mood is not dangerous to the war effort. If their dream of dragging Putin down came true the result would be far less beneficial to the west than Putin being in charge.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I’ve tried in the past to ‘explain’ Russians and Ukrainians to friends. I have poor success with worldly, widely traveled westerners but find American rednecks and foreigners with little experience of countries other than the US and their own to be much more receptive. I think comfort with religious belief and cultural idiosyncracy, and the notion that it’s understandable that people will defend those things, and be anxious about threats to them, are what make the difference.

      American educated elites’ provincialism and notions of possessing universal values are probably their outstanding feature, cutting across all ideological boundaries, and manifesting as something like nation-level Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  11. Tom Stone

    Thank you Col. Macgregor.
    I too found the line about encouraging Russian troops to surrender amusing and the rest sad.
    Here in the USA six years of unceasing anti Russian propaganda has had an effect, not buying the Narrative that ” Donald J Putin is SATAN! ” is an uncomfortable position to hold.

  12. Sergey P

    There is definitely this um fragility, or say vulnerability of a fighting spirit among the Russian TG channels. It was originally the reason for me to abandon them completely. They do provide the fastest and purest info, but with a heavy price of this defeatist attitude. So I switched to a more analytical and dare I say removed coverage from NC, Duran, Brian Berletic and the so on.

    But I have to be honest: it’s not just the TG channels. It’s also me. And my social strata. And I would guess many others. In light of some at most tactical setbacks I catch myself being easily overwhelmed by heavy anxiety, to a point of somatic malaise.

    I have found this phenomena with other people as well, and have spent some time reflecting on it. It does feel somewhat NOT ORGANIC, but not in a sense of Western/Ukrainian propaganda. But rather like a massive neurosis of sorts.

    So far I’ve had two ideas on the reasons for that fragility.

    1. A deeply ingrained feeling of inferiority towards the West. It probably started at least around 1970s, and persists to this day. A spiritual colonisation of Russia, if you will. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as second rate citizens to the West’s first class. So now we find ourselves revolting against the Masters. That would definitely produce a lot of fear, feeling of weakness and fragility — but also a chance to separate from these feelings, learn to overcome them.

    2. Also this war is half-assed. We are kind of at war, but not really, but also it’s a WW3, but also SMO, but also possible nuclear Apocalypse. Yet more than that — Ukrainians are brothers. We don’t really see them as enemies, we don’t want to kill them all and rip their eyes out. By we here I mean a certain demographic, intelligentsia and the likes, which would encompass the journalists as well. So the anger, the fury that comes with being in a real fight — is not quite here. And it probably is not there for mr. Putin himself too, seeing how this war is conducted in a comparatively delicate manner. Having gone through years and years of boxing training, I would say one of the functions of fury is to make you somewhat immune to setbacks. When you’re in a fight, you can take quite a lot of punches and keep the spirit. Also, it could be the case that genetic memory of the horrors of war is quite alive, so there is a sort of resistance to go down that path and rain hell on our brothers.

    It has to be said, that Ukrainians definitely feel very different. Where we are weakened by these two points above, they would be strengthened — feeling the support of the better people of the West, as well as definitely having a massive sentiment of wishing Russians dead, including but not limited to children.

    That kind of tension might lead to gradual hardening of the Russian feelings and approach to war — which we might be witnessing with the destruction of the energy infrastructure. And when that happens, I am afraid Ukraine will have to face terrible, terrible things. Fuelled in part by a fury of brotherly love rejected and betrayed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Perhaps the sense of deep unease goes beyond the war.

      The “collective West” has chosen to break itself on Russia. The reason it is smashing up is that no one in a position of authority recognized that it had become as hollowed out as a pinata.

      But the collective West designed and still dominates the institutions and practices that control the world order, such as it is. Putin has been talking of late of revolutionary times. Revolutions are fraught affairs. Even though the old regime had to end, and likely created the circumstances that meant its end would be violent, that doesn’t mean what comes in next is better in the near term. The French Revolution produced 10 years of bloodshed and nearly 100 years of unstable regimes until the Third Republic ushered in a durable democratic order. Even the supposedly milder Industrial Revolution in England lowered the living standards of average working people for a generation.

      So there’s a lot of reason for anxiety. Russia has been put in the position of having to break the West or be crushed, but then winds up having to play midwife to what comes next to have any hope that it will suit Russia’s liking.

      1. Sergey P

        Yes, that also sounds like a great responsibility. And an overall great overhaul. So I myself, tending somewhat to anxiously live in the future, have already felt that nostalgia for the once beautiful West-led world on the turn of the millennia. When the dust settles, a multipolar world may become more just in some ways — but maybe a lot worse in yet some others.

        Weird destiny my country has, anyway.

        1. Stephen

          It seems to be a consistent destiny too. Charles XII, Napoleon and Hitler were ultimately all broken by Russia, of course. Whatever our historical propaganda likes to think was the case with the latter two, it was predominantly Russia that won the victories and then played a key role to orchestrate what followed.

          Most people in the west (I write from England) do not realize the true stakes associated with this war, nor understand their own country’s culpabilities. Just another far away war that we have been involved in far too many of. My suspicion is that Russians are more likely to understand what is really at stake and what war really entails. That may be another reason for anxiety.

          I have Irish ancestry (as do many English people) and my sense is that Russians fighting Ukrainians would feel the same as us having a war now with Ireland. More like a civil war than anything else (as indeed we have had), and those always seem particularly difficult.

          1. Sergey P

            One could argue, Genghis Khan too, though not quite in a blistering defeat.

            Yes, Irish and English at war would I guess be somewhat close. Or maybe US and Texas?

            1. fjallstrom

              I think the narrative regarding Russia and the Mongols in the West is largely that the Mongols conquered (Kievan) Russia, and because of the long time under the Mongol rule, Russia is weird. In what sense Russia is weird can be adopted according to needs.

              Therefore I am curious about the (Russian?) narrative that Russia fought of Genghis khan. Because he was dead when Kievan Russia was conquered? Because the northern parts of Russia was never occupied? Because Moscow broke free from the Mongols?

              1. Daniil Adamov

                That Russia was (largely) conquered by the Mongols is the mainstream view here as well, last I checked. It wasn’t a complete subjugation, but the Mongols won militarily (by attacking in winter, contrary to modern conventional wisdom about Russia being impregnable in winter), collected tributes, and decided who would rule in which principality. There are some alternative viewpoints of course, like the “Eurasian” notion that Mongol rule was less a “yoke” and more of a benevolent political and cultural symbiosis that helped us withstand attacks and malign influences from the West. Tatar nationalists seem to like that one for obvious reasons. Personally, I think it is rather overgenerous of the Eurasians to overlook the razing of most key Russian cities before the dawn of benevolent Mongol rule.

        2. Keith Newman

          @Sergey P
          Thank you for your fascinating comments. Last night I listened to Gabor Mate discuss his book The Myth of Normal which deals with the bad experiences people live through and how they can produce trauma. Quite disturbing. He notes the post-collapse period in the former USSR as a particularly bad time for people there. Perhaps this is relevant too.

          1. Sergey P

            Thank you for your kind words, Keith. I was a child in the 90s and can say much from personal experience. My parents were psychotherapists, in a lot of contact with lovely colleagues from the then-blissful USA.

            But now it seems there is a wave reflection growing, putting the 90s to good scrutiny. Adam Curtises sublime Traumazone is another great example of this exploration. As are, by the way, some other NC articles. Like the one about Gorbachev and the oligarchs.

          2. Greg S

            Svetlana Alexievich’s Second Hand Time provides an excellent oral history of this period in Russian history. It was a traumatic time for both the older and younger generations of Russians.

      2. Keith Newman

        An aside to Yves’ comment @9:13.
        I have almost finished reading The Age of Revolution 1789 -1848 by Eric Hobsbawm (1987) which includes much analysis that applies to current events (not only Ukraine), much to my surprise.
        It deals with the French revolution and the industrial revolution in England and the progression of the ideas and economic effects of both. This is the period where expressions such as liberalism (today neo-liberalism), working class, industrialist, etc, were coined. The nasty greediness of business owners and their apologists is not by any means new.

    2. Lex

      Thank you for this perspective. While I haven’t been in Russia since 2000, your first point rings deeply true with me. I suspect that the inferiority complex has improved since the late 90’s but is still there and this conflict would certainly raise it back to the surface. That’s especially true given the information war being waged against Russia and what I have to assume are the intentional and unintentional filters western information passes through on its way to Russians.

      I can’t disagree with your second point, especially in how the Russian state has presented the conflict to the domestic audience. I assume it is trying to thread a delicate and dangerous needle and it’s pretty terrible at information war (I go back and forth on whether it’s just terrible at it or is actually attempting to be relatively truthful). An aspect that I don’t think enough Westerners understand, regardless of which side they take in the conflict, is the civil war aspect of this conflict. These are your brothers. The Ukrainians seem to have forsaken the relationship while Russians haven’t.

      1. Sergey P

        Glad my thoughts resonate with you. Overall I have to say NC authors and community have been a great source of support during this war.

        I have been reading the blog for some years now, and have not seen a better intellectual environment anywhere in the Internet. So when Shahed hit the fan so to speak — it was great to see that analysis and understanding of the whole affair among these wonderful people, you included, does not contradict my intuitions.

        I can only hope that Russian intelligentsia would be more exposed to such a level of fearless intellectual insight. Though I gotta say, sometimes it feels almost like mr. Putin does read a post or two every now and the. If only he had paid more attention to the MMT part!

      2. Thuto

        I know you vacillate between thinking Russia is terrible at information war and thinking they hold themselves to higher standards of truthfulness. I’d like to suggest that honing in on the latter and embracing it as your truth would free you from what I believe to be an unnecessary cognitive load. I don’t believe Russia is bad at information war, otherwise Macron and Borrell wouldn’t complain that “Russian disinformation” is winning hearts and minds in the Global South (where the western narrative is falling flat and seen for the hollow, hypocritical propaganda it is). On the contrary, I much suspect the Russians have realized that attempting to disseminate their perspective in the west is a low ROI effort and a fool’s errand, and are focusing their resources elsewhere. The western public is, on the whole, so hopelessly propagandized that i’d have been surprised if they’d kept hammering away at trying to get in a word amidst the chorus of anti-Russian voices that saturate the western mainstream press. Furthermore Russia, with the ravenous horde of pundits and imperial stenographers aka “journalists” always ready to seize any opportunity to spout “Putin’s propaganda”, doesn’t have the luxury to peddle outright lies as is the wont of many in the western press, so whatever they put out has to be disseminated against that backdrop.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Thuto: Really glad you made these points, esp. the part about deciding who you are (second rate, or determined standard-bearer of a New Way) and the part about who’s winning the propaganda war, and btw, _which_ propaganda war (in the West, or in Rest Of World).

          Ya, Russia has a rough row to hoe. But how many chances does a country get to just untie the ship from the wharf, steam out of the harbor, and Get On the High Seas?

          Not that often.

          Let those fears and uncertainties be strong winds in your sails.

          Same goes for us Westerners. Our story has a lot of chapters left to write.

          “Unnecessary cognitive load”. That was phenomenal. Blam.

          1. Sergey P

            Love your idea, Thuto!

            I can share a personal journey: at first in February I was rather distrustful of both sides of the conflict, assuming that both have incentives to lie, and therefore truth must be somewhere in the middle. But over time I was actually surprised to realise, how much truth there is in Russian official accounts, and how much lies in the Ukrainian.

            Take, for instance, the question of Ukraine Nazis. At first me and some of my friends discarded that as probably blown out of proportion. But then more and more photos and videos have surfaced, and what do you know, Ukraine does seem to have a whole bunch of actual proper Nazis. Not even some American-style neo-nazis, actual goose-stepping swastika-bearing SS-hailing Nazis!

            I am still cautious. And I would not rule out Russia’s government lying for gain. But I think your idea is definitely worth entertaining. What if mr. Putin, being a very spiritual man, has decided he can’t fight the Empire of Lies while lying too much himself? That would be both elegant and long-term super-efficient. If there is one thing Russia really needs, it’s trust.

            1. Thuto

              Sergey, the west can lie on behalf of Ukraine because the spin masters that occupy the ivory towers otherwise known as legacy mainstream news brands (CNN, BBC, NYT etc) continue to labour under the delusion that they’re still seen as “trusted voices” in the rest of the world, when the reality is the complete opposite. Russia, out of necessity, cannot fight lies with more lies and has to hold itself to a higher standard and watch those that presume they hold the moral high ground fritter away whatever goodwill they still had left in the tank with the international community (the true international community that includes the rest of the world, not the counterfeit version promoted ad nauseam by the US and its vassals).

            2. Daniil Adamov

              Of course, they do have Nazis. (And this was known long before the war, even popping up in Western media at times.) More importantly, they have Nazis and other far right ethnonationalists strongly affiliated with their government and able to act with relative impunity. Insofar as that’s a problem for anyone other than the people unfortunate enough to share a country with them, though, I think it is important to ask whether the war makes them weaker or stronger. They lose some people, but they can always recruit more both at home and abroad, and the reputational gains for them have been phenomenal. I don’t think Ukraine is literally ruled by Nazis at this point, but that may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in a few years. To me, this war is reminiscent of America’s anti-terrorist misadventures, at least in this regard.

              1. Brandon

                My understanding is that Ukraine *is* ruled by nazis ~ neo-nazis to historical purists I guess ~. Zelenskyy won his election campaign on making peace – with the Russian-Ukrainians (indicating Ukrainians, for the most part, wanted peace too). But after his election and position taken, the then leader of Right Sektor, Yarosh, told him, through a local interview (I have it) that Zelenskyy would be hanging from a tree in Kiev if he gave an inch to make peace with the Russian-Ukrainians.
                I would call that, ruled by nazis.

          2. Thuto

            Thank you Tom.

            I’ve found that the temptation to believe Russia is losing the information war (and to extrapolate this obviously true observation when limiting the information battlefield to the western public to the rest of the world) can overwhelm those living in the west. Russia stands no chance of countering the western narrative in the west, none, but the rest of the world is a different story and here, Putin has done an admirable, and dare I say masterful, job of casting Russia as fighting not just for itself and its own survival, but also to free the rest of humanity from the tyrannical grip of the US hegemon. That’s a message that has found resonance with many in the global south so I thought it important to highlight this.

        2. Polar Socialist

          It’s my understanding that Russians in general don’t trust the government or the media for much. So there probably are no experienced, homegrown “media warriors” available.

          And in this specific case, SMO, the big problem for Russian “narrative control” is that very, very few in Russia can think of Ukraine as an enemy, no matter what. This means that the propaganda machine can only focus on Ukrainian nazis and the treatment of separatists.

          Who knows, if The West hadn’t attacked everything Russian so vehemently, the current government might be on a much weaker standing. But they did what they did, and made it really easy to claim, with evidence, that Russia is fighting for it’s existence against the whole might of The West.

          As the British complained, the biggest hurdle in fighting Russian disinformation is that it’s quite often factual (a.k.a. not disinformation).

        3. Lex

          I do lean much more towards Russian truthfulness. All governments and especially ministries of defense have a tendency towards either lying or not being fully truthful. Maybe I’ve got a Russian soul in its distrust and cynicism. But I have watched this conflict closely and on all the big stuff and most of the little stuff, the Russian government has been truthful. Amazingly, even its mistakes (not announcing prisoner exchanges, for example) it seems to learn. And I do agree with you that being truthful is important to the Russian state for the reasons you discuss.

          The Global South narrative is extremely important and reading what governments and diplomats from those places say about Russia is illustrative. It is almost without exception that Russia honors its word, says what it will do and does what it says. At least one Saudi official has commented that Russia sticking by Assad, even though KSA was/is on the opposite side of the conflict, earned enormous respect from Saudi power centers. Russia’s been very successful in terms of information wars outside the west by being truthful.

          It’s been unsuccessful in the west because it smartly hasn’t bothered trying. It’s been pretty bad in Ukraine, Belarus and even domestically. Maybe that’s just a product of being mostly truthful makes waging actual information wars really hard. And the Kremlin should get some credit for not clamping down on domestic political discussion.

      3. hunkerdown

        No military operation holds ground for funsies. There must be a definite effect on the state of the war to make a psyop mission worth pursuing. If Russia has determined, on account of the success of CIPSO/DNC’s online operations, MSM gatekeeping, and social media infiltration, that Russia doesn’t have escalation dominance on the Western media battlefield and psyops wouldn’t support the strategy, the big arrows that would be pushed into that theater are better redeployed toward missions that recruit meaningful support to Russia’s side.

        That said, Russia does seem to have the bulk of the grassroots (“alt”) right and anti-war persons from almost every ideology fairly in their corner. They also seem to have the anti-China crusaders lathered and distracted and sucker-punching themselves. Materiality level TBD.

    3. Maxwell Johnston

      Very much enjoyed your comment, and I agree totally with points 1 and 2. Re 1 (inferiority complex), I think this is more prevalent among older Russians (say, 50+) and much less so among the younger set. Younger Russians have had more opportunities to travel abroad and compare RU living standards with those in the west, and they’re not always as impressed as their parents were. I remember taking my Russian father-in-law to a Home Depot way back when, and he acted like a kid in a candy shop. Nowadays every big RU city has several Home Depot equivalents, so the effect isn’t the same anymore. Re 2, yes it’s a strange sort of war. I think RU started out thinking that UKR are basically brothers or cousins, but gradually is realizing that the UKR leadership is loony tunes and egged on by the west. Hence the gradual and reluctant escalation, including mobilization and systematic whacking of UKR infrastructure, which I’m afraid will continue until UKR is completely wrecked (as John Mearsheimer predicted).

      1. Sergey P

        Thank you, Maxwell. I would argue that the effect of cultural colonisation is not less with the younger generations. Obviously, all people are different people. But the Western propaganda, hidden under the guise of universal values, is deeply ingrained in exactly the youth.

        People that have lived through the Soviet times might’ve loved or hated the USSR, but they mostly learned not to trust the media. It’s only the most devoted ‘liberals’, as they are often called, Western-oriented intelligentsia, that are very uncritical of the rules-based international order. I would say, they suffer from a similar mythical malaise as Ukrainians do — a dream of being accepted into the First World. They have grown up under this dream, and are ready to suffer for it. I don’t have any reliable data on hand, but I would not expect them to be even 20% of the population.

        Younger generation is — surprise, surprise — more concerned with comfortable Western-style consumerism, flying out to Radiohead concerts in Budapest or shopping online. Of course, this is for the affluent. But the less fortunate ones still dream of a similar lifestyle. Though, again, there are naturally quite a lot of critically thinking and patriotic people.

        Young people lack wisdom and life experience to properly calculate the cost of living in Europe, which would show them how much disposable income they might have (Urbanites, naturally. Rural population has a whole different game.) But also, most of the media for the educated classes are very West-leaning. Like Meduza, Riga-based outlet in the Radio Free Europe and BBC news vein, complete with the same condescending explainers one would find in The New York Times.

        So this condescension is a great commodity, many are people who would love to despise others, given a proper justification. And this justification becomes intertwined with the Western talking points and optics, allowing the readers to discard any opposing views as a product of Kremlin propaganda and TV (not inappropriately called ‘the zombie-box’). Doesn’t this remind you of exactly the same pattern by Western progressives?

    4. David in Santa Cruz

      Thank you Sergey P for sharing your feelings and insights about the emotions of living through such a violent civil war in a country that has suffered through a quarter century of political, economic, and spiritual collapse. I have been struck to read how many in the current Russian government were born in places such as Kramatorsk or attended university in Kharkov or Kiev.

      For years I followed with interest Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames’ voyeuristic dispatches in The Exile. Pensioners spending their last kopeks on enough vodka to painlessly freeze to death outdoors. Smart young women buying one-way tickets in order to prostitute themselves in the West. Entire regions breaking away in hopes of similarly prostituting themselves to the West. A handful of oligarchs corrupting a complete society virtually overnight.

      I fear that we are at the precipice of a similar collapse here in the USA and it’s not pretty. The lack of compassion for the former citizens of the USSR saddens me. How are the endless civil wars begun by CIA-funded “Springs” and “Color Revolutions” helpful to the broad masses in those regions? A culture steeped in a history of genocide, slavery, and racism taking pleasure in the suffering of others keeps us vulnerable to manipulation by the sort of propaganda that we see outlined here by Col. MacGregor.

      1. Sergey P

        Thank you, David. I too feel that a civil war scenario for the US is not out of the cards. Sowing discord has become a main political tool, with both sides doing the most terrible thing, delegitimising each other and therefore the whole system. I would not say I see this as likely, or even probable, but it doesn’t seem impossible any more.

        I would feel sorry for the wonderful people of United States, whom I think are a lot more like Russians than any country realises, passionate and clumsy and struggling with their own grandeur, be it mythical or actual.

        Then again, I have to be honest, a part of me would see this as poetic justice. Chickens truly coming home to roost.

        1. juno mas

          Sergey, Russia and Russian culture is on the ascension; in the homeland and in the countries that will matter in the future. President Putin has clearly stated his vision: talented and energetic natives are always welcome.

    5. Offtrail

      Very poignant comment about not wanting to see “terrible, terrible things”. I don’t want that for Ukraine, or Russia for that matter. It is hard to know what course to support.

      I had a post Thanksgiving argument / discussion about Ukraine with my cousin last night. He lived in Kiev for years in the post Soviet era as an attorney working on economic restructuring. He said very passionately that Ukrainians, including Russian speaking Ukrainians, want to be Europeans, and that is what this war is about. I have to bow to his personal experience, which I lack, and am always interested in hearing from those who have been there. Having been here, in the US, I am more guided by a reflexive anti-American based on long observation of our actions abroad.

      Sergey, where do you live? Are you a temporary / permanent expatriate? (Ha – the spell checker first changed that to “expatriot”.)

      1. Sergey P

        Thanks, Offtrail.

        I’m a muscovite, born and raised. I do travel some, mostly Asia and especially India in winter, but have shortly lived in the States as well.

        I would confirm your friend’s insight. I think Ukrainians do actually dream of becoming Europeans. And they seem to be ready to die for. Yet this to me is another bitter example of a power of myth-making, especially when coupled with rather lackluster economic and overall performance.

        It seems to me there is a mythical Europe, the lands of plenty, and each Ukrainian gets to ride in a German automobile towards his French beachside property. A dream as beautiful, as it is unattainable. Unfortunately, the likelier scenario it seems to me is of a Europe’s most corrupt country becoming a distant shadow of Romania.

        But who cares about those boring details! Europe is to die for, especially the one you can never get to, especially the one that probably never even existed.

        1. David in Santa Cruz

          EUkraine appears to be a modern Cargo Cult. Murder your brother and Instagram will rain-down Porsches and Moët…

          1. Sergey P

            I can relate to that. I was once in love with the USA. I was 7 when I first came there in 1990, out of the collapsing Soviet Union. Toys’R’Us seemed like an Aladdin’s cave brought to life. And I have been enamoured with America for many years to come, only gradually gaining a more controversial perspective. Then again, America of the 90s truly was an amazing country to live, it seems to me. As was probably Europe of the aughts.

          2. hunkerdown

            But they want to be Europeans, not just superior. I get big Eminem “Stan” vibes out of post-Warsaw Pact cultures.

            1. Daniil Adamov

              “Europeans” or “white people” are definitionally superior, to go from how those words are often wistfully used in everyday Russian speech. Everyone here wants to live “like” them (probably not literally everyone, especially now, but it certainly can seem that way, especially in an urban liberal milieu). I suspect West-leaning Ukrainians are the same.

        2. Elizabeth Burton

          It sounds like the Ukrainians have been sold another version of what’s been propagated in the States for most of two centuries as “the American Dream”. It’s the primary propaganda tenet to ensure the working class obediently accepts the myth that if they just work hard enough and make the right choices they’ll reach the divine heights occupied by our oligarchs.

          I’ve read that the Ukrainian government is already selling off resources to pay for this debacle, and I suspect the population there isn’t hearing that most of that money flooding in from Europe and the US is in the form of loans that are going to turn their country into another Greece.

        3. Daniil Adamov

          I always thought of their efforts in 2014 and afterwards as going through the same events as Russia since the 90s in an accelerated mode (Ukraine’s 90s were a good deal less wild than ours, I think). With the likely result of becoming just like the hated RF, only much smaller, weaker, poorer, more corrupt, more dysfunctional, and altogether more miserable – rather than the idealised France or Sweden of their dreams. They went through an oligarch takeover and shameless looting, an endless separatist conflict, and authoritarian consolidation (complete with selective attacks on some previously powerful oligarchs). They do of course also have those Nazis for variety’s sake. The war may send them on a different course, though – quite possibly an even worse one.

    6. Raymond Sim

      My notion is that (aside from the effects of the pandemic, on which subject I’m a broken record, so I’ll lay off it.) Doomerism is the most under-discussed probable motive for the go-slow approach.

      Remember the ANNA coverage of the Syrian army’s operations? Russians were allowed to see how grim the situation was and what was at stake, as well as being shown the men of Syria soldiering onward. This was masterful propaganda, especially given the chronically delicate state of Russian national self-confidence. And, since Western media were continually lying through their teeth, allowing the situation to develop also amounted to allowing NATO and Israel to discredit themselves.

      I think time is on Russia’s side in almost every aspect of this war, and that includes giving all elements of Russian society time to get used to the idea that the powers that be in the West are honest-to-God bent on Russia’s destruction (again). Then whatever costs are to be borne will be borne.

      1. Daniil Adamov

        The powers that be in the West may want it (certainly some among them do), but do they really have any ability to pull it off? Short of starting a nuclear war. I’m not buying it.

  13. Lex

    In my opinion there’s a fair bit of projection in this leaked plan too. The same Ukrainian TG channels that dropped this and have been generally more right than wrong in a lot of analysis are spending a lot of time discussing the internal, political upheavals in Kiev. In more than a few ways, the points they hope to push onto Russia are already moderately well developed in Ukraine and dangerous.

    I’m now wondering if another reason for the rather slow dismemberment of the Ukrainian electrical grid is a matter of forcing Kiev to cope with it in small, somewhat manageable doses. That is starting to expose that while Kiev should have been able to predict this would happen, it didn’t bother to actually prepare for it or do anything for the population that would suffer through it. Information inside Ukraine is pretty tightly controlled, but unlike in Russia where every setback is analyzed and projected to death, the problem with tight information control is that if/when it breaks it does so catastrophically.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I’m now wondering if another reason for the rather slow dismemberment of the Ukrainian electrical grid is a matter of forcing Kiev to cope with it in small, somewhat manageable doses.

      I think that it’s simply the most effective way to go about it. Breaking nodes till the Ukrainians can’t fix them anymore is a path to complete system failure for which planners can draw up contingency trees and timelines and make confident predictions. There are lots of other exploitable effects, but the ability to plan things out with confidence strikes me as a decisive reason to go about it this way.

      1. danpaco

        Breaking nodes and then analyzing whats prioritized for repair. Then break them again.
        That would provide the Russians with plenty of intel.

  14. GW

    The Ukrainian propaganda talking points (Nov. 21st through 27th) are certainly hallmarks of Western MSM reporting on the war.

    But, as best as I can tell, I’m not seeing any hint of these themes on the Russian Telegram channels I follow. Those sources are Igor Strelkov, Colonel Cassad, WarGonzo, and Rybar.

    Sure, Strelkov has been scathingly critical of the Russian MoD’s management of the conflict since the beginning. But that’s because he’s a hard-right champion of the country’s war party. Through it all, it’s been clear Strelkov’s pulling hard for Russia. He was among the first to praise Putin’s recent mobilization order, in addition to strongly endorsing the new strategy of destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Strelkov’s message, basically, is that the Kremlin needs to step it up and start fighting a “real war.”

    As for Colonel Cassad, WarGonzo, and Rybar, it is true they’ve called attention to alleged corruption, inefficiencies, and incompetence on the domestic side of Russia’s war front. I suppose this makes them Russian muckrakers of sorts. But even so, I’m not convinced they’ve said anything unreasonable in their occasional criticism of the Kremlin, MoD, and military high command. Most important is that all three channels exude a strongly patriotic and vigorously pro-war tone in their daily updates.

    I’m wondering, perhaps Yves is alluding to Russian Telegram channels other than the four I discussed? Could be there are some bad ones I’m not yet aware of.

    Or, maybe Yves is overlooking that these Telegram channels (my four) might be acting as a Russian version of a free and open press, vigorously calling attention to what City Hall needs to do to keep the trains arriving on time?

    1. Polar Socialist

      I think somewhat illustrative example of Russian TG channels damping each other is that today Colonel Cassad brought up Polish media claims about Polish casualties in Ukraine, and soon enough Rybar commented that the source Colonel Cassad used was not the most trustworthy and very pro-Russian (if not Russian), so take with a lot of salt.

      They also pointed out that the issue of Polish volunteers is very sensitive to Poland, since the law forbids citizens joining foreign military units. Which is why the official Poland vehemently denies any Polish presence in Ukraine.

      1. GW

        I definitely take the Russian TG channels with a grain of salt. It’s impossible to know how much of their info is truth, lies, or pro-Russian propaganda.

        Even so, I find them valuable because their data is a much-welcom break from the deluge of pro-Ukrainian cheerleading and propaganda that Western MSM has forced on us since the war started.

        I try to cross-compare Rybar, WarGonzo, and Cassad updates against whatever claims are made by the Ukrainian General Staff and US/UK/NATO intelligence services. If the two diametrically opposed info sources ever say the same thing, I tend to conclude that those pieces of the war fog puzzle must be true.

        ISW is one info source I avoid like the plague. It’s sickening that Western MSM dignifies this propaganda outlet as a bona fide think tank. Anytime I find an article in Western MSM that quotes ISW, I stop reading right then and there.

  15. Ignacio

    I find this PR effort useless, and believe it will turn counterproductive at some point for both, perpetrators and recipients of the messages. Hopefully, I used the commas properly and can avoid DJG going after me. ;)

    1. Samuel Conner

      A lot of those points seem to me to echo problems that Ukraine itself is having (for example poorly armed/trained territorial defense units used as cannon fodder to preserve the more combat effective regular army).

      The thought occurs that part of the target audience is the Ukrainian people: “see, the Russians have the same kinds of problems you may have been hearing about on our side.” “Projection” is, after all, a psychological defense mechanism.

  16. LadyXoc

    I am also overcome by a deep sense of malaise and feeling that the end of the world as we know it is approaching. Much of this has to do with fact that West seems to only be able to project its own anxieties on the conflict and has no desire or intention to report or respond to facts on the ground. I thank NC, the commentariat, John Helmer, Michael Hudson, The Duran (Alexander with some incredible round tables in last few days), and Brian Berletic for their thoughtful, insightful, and above all, Real Politik approach to current events. The West is fooked.

    1. Bsn

      For respite from the horrible news and events, we take a bit of humor from J Howard Kunstler as a brief outlet. Also, we take the info we scour from NC and the sites you mention, and then localize our world. If you’re in a large city, get out. It’s hard to garden on the 10th floor. Establish connections and give your skills to your local community. For us, this approach gives our minds a break during the day: gardening; eating and sharing the fruits thereof; playing music alone and in groups; volunteer or work at a local institution ……. All these little things keep your stomach full and your heart will swell. THEN, back to NC and the news :-) Bon courage.

  17. chuck roast

    I gotta take the 64 bus today. So, when I left this post I went to the bus company website to check out the 64 schedule. The schedule popped up in cyrillic. Yikes…that is some powerful propaganda.

  18. Expat2Uruguay

    I have recently met about a half a dozen young men from Russia and Ukraine that have come here to Uruguay. I belong to a social group of Travelers and we are all very welcoming of Travelers regardless of where they are from. It makes a lot of sense that they are coming to South America, since we are in the summertime. When I tell the young men from Russia that I really want to visit their country, they tell me “oh you don’t want to go right now, it’s terrible!” In this way I find out they’re against the war.

    To the author and commenters here: Are there any questions that you would Ike me to ask these young men?

    1. Mark Gisleson

      The “Nazi question” would be interesting assuming they wouldn’t take offense or fear speaking openly.

      Do they think there are Nazis embedded in their government, and what do they think about that?

      1. Expat2Uruguay

        The Ukrainian (34yo) is living on the money he made in crypto
        I will see them again on Thursday meeting

    2. Sergey P

      Thanks for the sharing, and thank you for supporting whomever you meet along the way. I would say, these Russians are most likely a rather narrow niche.

      Could it also be they are referring to Winter? Russian winters are harsh and somewhat unwelcoming, so I too would advise you to rather travel April to October.

      But regarding the war, I honestly find little evidence of it outside my phone and laptop. Definitely the disruption of daily life and activities in Moscow is an order of magnitude less than 2020 covid lockdowns.

      That being said, a lot of my countrymen do have an eagerness of sort, and some of those work in the security apparatus. So I really can’t say how safe it is for a foreigner now. Though I have not heard any negative anecdotes, it might just be a function of my positive selection bias.

  19. Thomas Wallace

    “Topic: Russia is a terrorist state ”
    I have noticed this theme in WSJ reporting. The editors know that targeting a power grid is widely considered a legitimate military target. So they extensively quote Zelensky’s opinions, refreshed nightly, on this topic. And refuse to print anything else that addresses this.
    This is discussed at some length in the US DOD Document, Law of War. https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/DoD%20Law%20of%20War%20Manual%20-%20June%202015%20Updated%20Dec%202016.pdf?ver=2016-12-13-172036-190

    The interesting aspect this is that the editors know exactly what they are doing. Which differs from lazy or sloppy reporting. If this topic were a serious argument, it would be supported by more than Zelensky’s nightly opinion. But they can’t even find a talking head to seriously address this assertion. Other than to refer to the power grid as civilian infrastructure, which is meaningless in that most infrastructure support both military and civilian needs.

    But it is not that the US has specifically done this. It is that they have explicitly and extensively done this (Kosovo and Iraq) and discussed the legal justification in detail.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Zelensky seems not to remember what happened to Crimean electricity in 2015. Or how somebody targeted Donetsk and Luhansk local transformers between 2014 and 2022.

      1. Irrational

        Very convenient this amnesia. Also extends to shelling civilian targets in Donetzk for 8 years and calling the Russian missile strikes a war crime. That goes beyond projection to my simple mind.

          1. Polar Socialist

            Apparently at some point of his career as comedian Mr. Z played the character of Crimea that, to the great amusement of the Ukrainian audience, was only able to focus on the glass of water in front of him – due to Ukraine having cut the fresh water from Crimea.

            Playing that clip to him in front of the western audience would make great entertainment, me thinks. In so many levels.

      2. Vandemonian

        …or to Serbia’s power grid in 1999. And not just the grid, power plants as well. Remember the graphite bombs?

  20. Alex

    Even if authentic, these “talking points” have nothing do with armchair generals’ angst, as they don’t go even near the sources of said anger and dissatisfaction. At best they found a way to “liberal opposition” channels, whose audience is miniscule. “Fortunately”, Russian military and political leadership gives more than enough reasons for the Russian telegrammers to be unhappy, and do not need help of our жовто-блакытные “brothers” for that.

  21. ThirtyOne

    Driving Ukraine high on cocaine
    Volodymyr Zelenskyy, better watch your back
    Russia ahead Nazis behind
    And you know that notion should cross your mind

    Casey Jones from the album Workingman’s Dead by Grateful Dead

  22. dean 1000

    I’ve seen several of your utube videos Colonel Macgregor. Thanks for doing a piece for Naked capitalism.
    You are doing a really good job reporting on naked imperialism.

  23. Daniil Adamov

    If there is widespread social consensus on any point within Russia, it is that the mobilisation was botched. The doves and the hawks say it on social media (though the latter generally favour it – they just think it was very badly executed), the local newspapers say it, the Duma says it, even the President acknowledged it. How badly botched is the question. Certainly it’s worth remembering Tuchman’s Law. It may be that all the reported problems (such as numerous instances of sick or physically disabled people being drafted without any medical inspection, or people being sent straight to the frontlines without the promised training, resulting in some unexpectedly early obituaries) were anomalies and for the most part it actually went alright. Nonetheless, the bungling is so universally accepted that any propaganda on the matter would be indistinguishable from organic opinions.

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