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Guardian Lords: Let Our Sins be on Putin’s Head

Devil’s Advocate Dejevski Fed to the Trolls

While a standard journalistic procedure, publishing conflicting views on a single subject has long escaped the Guardian on the Ukrainian crisis. Today seems to be a very lucky day, two seemingly antithetic accounts are posted back to back. But how different are they, really?

The UK House of Lords committee on foreign affairs is reported as having published a sharply critical report on London’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis. If you think that it acknowledges UK’s misjudgment in supporting a nationalistic coup, ousting a legitimate president, provoking a powerful neighboring state, you are in fact spot on.

You would not read it in the Guardian, however. The newspaper presents the report as a stinging reprimand of Downing Street and Britain’s assorted intelligence services failure to start World War Three due to incompetence.

In reality, the report’s sensitivity and reluctance to reduce its analysis to name-calling has forced the Guardian to cleverly insert in the news piece a militant quote by defense secretary Fallon. The quote is supposed to confuse the reader about the Lords’ balanced and sensible account of the crisis.

Reading the Guardian one would be pushed to pity the “poor linguistic skills” of the UK’s intelligence arms and tremble at the realization of Russia’s “frozen anarchy”, ready to burst into another “adventure… they don’t know how to end”, this time in the Baltic states.

Of course, this is, again, nothing to do with the report, but a purposefully planted quote upping the fear factor.

In fact, the report makes the sober admission that the “adventure” referred to by Guardian’s selected warmongers, was really a logical outcome from the way Russia’s security concerns were treated throughout the post-Soviet era. While Yanukovich was sending signals he would not sign the EU Association agreement for weeks, this came as a shock to the West. Hours before the referendum on Crimea’s independence and reunification with Russia, Western should-have-knowns were ringing their Russian sources in utter disbelief.

The Lords’ account of the events leading to the Ukrainian civil war drive numerous stakes in the heart of the “Russian Aggression” frame. In a hearing before the subcommittee, Elena Korosteleva, Professor of International Politics, University of Kent, said that the EU undertook a “moderate, but miscalculated campaign to accelerate or arguably compel Ukraine to a decision over the A[ssociation] A[greement]” at the Vilnius summit in November 2013.

The report acknowledges that Russia had expressed reservation and opposition to the AA, and that it had, through Yanukovich, suggested that trilateral negotiations on the economic repercussions of the Agreement be held between Brussels, Kiev and Moscow.

The report would be surely deleted if it appeared as a reader’s comment on Guardian’s CiF forum. For it nails the pivotal moment of the crisis:

Mr Polyanskiy also noted that “instead of accepting this proposal and creating such a mechanism, which it was not too late to establish at this point, the EU … did everything to facilitate the power change in Kiev.”

This was the point where “we could have avoided everything that is happening right now.”

Mr Lukyanov said that it was only now, “after all the tragedies”, that the EU was inviting the Russian side to discussions.

The report goes on dissecting the events before, during and after the Maydan protests, which would and did lead to a spike in Russia’s suspicions that a “western plot” to infringe on Russia’s interest was being implemented. The report, quite eloquent to this point recounts the ousting of Yanukovich in a quick, unattributed narration, quite unlike the well-developed descriptions of preceding events, where numerous references to both Western and Russian sources are made. And if you have by any chance heard of some snipers practicing on live targets probably in Europe, probably in Kiev, you are definitely not qualified for peerage. If you are seriously depressed, cheer up with the latest claim made by President Poroshenko on the subject.

It follows from the report that the deal set up by Poland, Germany and France on the early stepdown of Yanukovich, “was rejected by the Maydan.” After glossing over the coup, the Lords return to a more sober appraisal of the events:

In the following weeks, a series of events reinforced Russian perceptions of a government in Kiev hostile to Russian interests. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) took various steps that demonstrated strong anti-Russian sentiment.

First it alarmed many Russian-speaking Ukrainians by seeking to repeal the 2012 language law allowing Ukrainian regions to make Russian a second official language.

Then, on 5 March, the Verkhovna Rada secretariat registered draft legislation which would have reinstated the goal of joining NATO as Ukrainian national strategy.

There is a sub-chapter in the report called

Phase V: Rebellion in eastern Ukraine and downing of MH17

Read this title again. Then go to the following three paragraphs:

A further deterioration of relations between Russia and the EU and escalation of insecurity took place as a result of Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine and the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH17.

From late February, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups took place in the Donbas region (oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk) of Ukraine. Acting Ambassador Kuzmenko told us that the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were “inspired, fed, paid and equipped by the Russians.”

On 17 July, a Malaysian airliner (MH17) was brought down near Torez, a town in eastern Ukraine 50 km from the Russian border… The circumstances surrounding the downing of MH17 are still unclear and an international investigation is planned, but it has been hampered by continued fighting in the region, while Russian and separatist officials have also been accused of obstruction.

If you fail to spot ANYTHING about the dozens of people burned alive in Odessa on May 2, 2014, if you see nothing about the aerial attack on Lugansk a month later, if you feel the long weeks of murderous shelling of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk are omitted, you don’t need to have your eyes checked.

Surprisingly, the history gap, as wide as a couple of political “Titanics”, has not obscured the Lords’ view to some obvious conclusions:

While the current Russian government has adopted a more adversarial policy, it is too easy to assume that recent events have solely been due to one government’s approach, or that the current impasse in relations is a short-term problem. Multiple witnesses have pointed out to us that Russia’s policies are based on long – standing threat perceptions, historical grievances and issues surrounding Russia’s identity. Such perceptions are shared by many of the Russian people and parts of the Russian elite as well. It is important that these perceptions should be better understood in the West, although that does not mean accepting the premises on which they are based.

Could we modestly suggest that anyone interested in the subject also reads Mary Dejevski’s great piece in the same issue of the Guardian (In their cynicism about Putin, western diplomats are making the Ukrainian crisis worse)? One can agree with her or not, but it is rather dispiriting to see her thrown to the trolls by the same Guardian forum guardians which are so good with the hatchet whenever anyone dares challenge the “evil Russia” narrative.

Update 1: How long does it take the Guardian to say “Snowden”?

Answer: A headline, a sub plus two and a half paragraphs.