On Ukraine, the far left and right parrot Putin's propaganda

On Ukraine, the far left and right parrot Putin's propaganda
Russia expert explains why he was truly 'scared' by Putin's recent speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wikimedia

The Biden administration said Thursday the Kremlin was planning to create a propaganda video in which fake Ukrainian military launches an attack on Russian soil in order to justify an invasion of Ukraine.

Very scary.

Just one problem.

“The allegations by the Biden administration were met with pushback due to the lack of specificity and evidence,” according to the Post.

During a press briefing, reporters “repeatedly” asked a State Department spokesman to show evidence of such a plan. “That’s for me to know and you to find out” is basically what Ned Price said.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said that “diplomacy needs to be the focus” in US-Russia talks over Ukraine.

“We have significant concerns that new troop deployments, sweeping and indiscriminate sanctions and a flood of hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal weapons will only raise tensions,” a release said.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on Mehdi Hasan’s show to say the “military-industrial complex” outside the Pentagon that “just left Afghanistan” is “starved for revenue.” So she’s concerned about the “urgency” of the situation being “exploited by military interests.”

She went farther than her fellow progressives. They stressed diplomacy but didn’t rule out military reaction to Russian aggression. “But there is not a military solution to this problem,” she said.

While all that was happening, US Senator Josh Hawley said Wednesday that the Biden administration should drop support for bringing Ukraine into NATO. He said that will draw attention away from China.

“Our interest is not so strong,” the Missouori lawmaker said in a letter to the White House, “as to justify committing the United States to go to war with Russia over Ukraine’s fate. Rather, we must aid Ukraine in a manner that aligns with the American interests at stake and preserves our ability to deny Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific.”

On the one hand, the left is deeply suspicious of military intervention. In addition to generally being anti-war, they fear a reprisal of Iraq and Afghanistan. Would we do this for the sake of liberty or for profits?

On the other, the right, in the form of Josh Hawley, is skeptical because China is of greater international concern, but also because Europe’s problems are Europe’s. “Our interest is not so strong,” he said.

(That’s an odd thing to say. The former president conspired with the Kremlin to sabotage his Democratic opponent in 2016 for the purpose of “winning” the election and destabilizing America from the inside.

Vladimir Putin “believes that the United States is currently in the same predicament as Russia was after the Soviet collapse: grievously weakened at home and in retreat abroad,” said Fiona Hill in the Times.

QUOTE QUOTE“From Russia’s perspective, America’s domestic travails after four years of Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency, as well as the rifts he created with U.S. allies and then America’s precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, signal weakness.”

If Putin presses hard enough, Hill said, he can avoid an “open-ended conflict” with the United States while pushing it out of Europe.

Yet “our interest is not so strong,” Hawley said.)

In any case, both sides, for different reasons, appear to view Russia as if it were on defense rather than offense, as it has been for 10 years.

Moreover, the left and the right, said Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a PhD student and presidential fellow in the Department of History at Penn, “are on the same side in terms of limiting the American response to the crisis and in terms of oft-repeating Russian talking points.”


The US says Russia is preparing a false flag event as a pretext for invading Ukraine. Does that sound plausible to you? If so, why?

Like many fellow regional experts on Russia and Ukraine, I am highly skeptical of the veracity of this "false-flag" operation. It does not make sense that Russia would use a video as a pretext. It does not follow how Russia behaved in 2014 when it created a pretext for interfering in the Crimean referendum vote and in its invasion of the Donbas.

The Biden administration said it declassified evidence of such information, but refused to release it. That does not help its argument.

Is there a reason you can think of for the US to assert that?

I think what State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday, that they believe making this information public will make Russia re-think what it may do, is the reason the information was publicized. Now, if this is or will be a successful strategy is a different question.

The progressive caucus in the House appears to think troop surge and other defensive measures for Ukraine would escalate tensions with Russia? Are they right? If not, what are they missing?

I do not agree with the Progressive Caucus's assessment of the American response to the Ukraine-Russia crisis. They fundamentally misunderstand the causes of the conflict, the fact that Ukraine has been at war with Russia since 2014, and the diverse set of options the United States has at hand to deal with the conflict.

What do they need to understand?

That the Ukrainian situation is nothing like the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, and that perpetuating that narrative is irresponsible.

This is an active conflict. Thousands of Ukrainians have died in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian territory in the Donbas is still occupied. This is not a hypothetical or "weapons of mass destruction" moment.

They imply the "military-industrial complex" has some interest in pursuing a military solution, but ignore the American response to the Ukrainian-Russian conflict that has been happening since 2014.

They also tweeted a statement about indiscriminate sanctions not being a solution, and AOC mentioned, at the end of her interview (on MSNBC), that sanctions would harm Ukrainians. How is this possible? How can American sanctions on Russia harm Ukrainians?

I am surprised, but should not be, that so many elected officials (across the political spectrum) and members of the Biden administration are so ignorant of the historical and political contexts of this conflict.

The progressives seem to be approaching this as if Russia were a little government the US is going to beat up, as we did in Iraq. But it's a de facto superpower with dangerous intentions. Am I right?


I'm surprised by this underlying narrative that Russia is somehow a victim of American aggression. I fundamentally do not understand where this comes from. In no sense is Russia a victim here.

Russia has violated and continues to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine, which gave up all of its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a guarantee that its territorial sovereignty would be respected. (The United States and Russia signed this agreement in 1994.) Russia is the aggressor, and it will continue to destabilize Ukraine if given the chance.

The left is generally suspicious of US military ventures overseas. I think that accounts for the "US is the real aggressor" pap. The right, however, is generally rah-rah-rah. That's why Josh Hawley's remarks, about abandoning efforts to get Ukraine into NATO, are baffling.

I often find Hawley's thinking baffling.

His statement about abandoning Ukraine's addition to NATO is in-line with the GOP shift in narrative following the Afghanistan withdrawal. Ted Cruz blames Biden for that conflict, as if it started a month ago.

If Hawley is like Donald Trump, he’s going to question the usefulness of NATO and think further engagement is the same as conflict with Russia. Ukraine is not worth it, he said. Is his assessment correct? No.

Let's put a finer point on that. Josh Hawley, like Donald Trump before him, is repeating Russian talking points, right?

Hawley is following Trump's logic, but he is arguing that China and its influence in the Pacific are more concerning for America than Eastern Europe. So, like Trump, China is the boogeyman, not Russia.

He and others in the Congress presume that the prospect of posting less than 5,000 American troops in Poland, Germany and Romania is the equivalent of going to war with Russia, which it is not.

The right used to be generally suspicious of homegrown communists before and throughout the Cold War. I think the left is insufficiently suspicious of homegrown "Russianists" now. That Hawley wants us to pay attention to China, and not Russia, seems telling, no?

I think everyone needs to take a breath and think. This fear of Russian agents behind every bush and tree is nonsense. To be fair to Hawley, he has been harping on China since his election, so this is not new.

There are considerable risks that we need to think about in how we engage with Russia and support Ukraine, of course. However, both the Progressive Caucus and Republican members like Senator Hawley are on the same side here in terms of limiting American responses to the crisis and in terms of oft-repeating Russian talking points.

I think this is less serving Russia and more a lack of care toward Ukraine's sovereignty and position in Eastern Europe. Both groups (the left and the right) are saying the situation is concerning, but apparently do not understand their concern does nothing for the thousands of Ukrainians living with Russian troops near them.

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