Russia’s anti-Ukraine propaganda targeting the West is pervasive and mendacious

Recently, Donald Trump Jr. responded to a question by Timcast IRL co-host Luke Rudkowski about Ukraine.

Trump Jr. said, “We’re creating a class of billionaire oligarchs in Ukraine” by way of the country’s corruption.

Previously, he mocked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky for seeming ungrateful for the aid received. Earlier, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis described Russia’s full scale invasion as a “border dispute,” then backtracked.

It’s disturbing to hear so many ridiculous talking points from channels that I’ve otherwise thought to be pretty good. It’s reminiscent of when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014. Most of the libertarian communities I was part of immediately went off the deep end, inspiring me to write this trilogy of essays.

Today, Russian propaganda is as prominent, brazen, and aggressive as it was in 2014, and as I imagine that it was it was during the 1930s Holodomor when Russia last tried to exterminate Ukrainians.

Then, the New York Times denied that the Holodomor — the great famine — was happening, and the Welsh journalist who exposed it, Gareth Jones, was assassinated.

For a point of reference, and maybe a clue as to why Ukrainians are fighting so hard, my late friend and once-co-author, Russian-American economist, Dr. Yuri Maltsev estimated that the Soviet Union slaughtered 60 million people, and this barbarism neither started nor ended with the Soviet Union. Besides the Holodomor, there are a handful of genocides which I doubt most of the readers here ever heard of: the Circassian Genocide, the Genocide of the Don Cossacks (see The Cossacks by Shane O’Rourke), the 75% reduction of Kamchatka’s native population, the repeated 16th century massacres of Novgorod because of … get this … Western influence (read: “NATO Expansion”).

For much of Europe, and certainly Ukraine, this is the context in which this war is happening.

Add to this historic observations of Russia’s relentless expansionism, their annexation of 20% of Georgia territory in 2009, and their brutality in Chechnya in the 1990s, possibly killing a tenth of their population, and their persistent calls for genocide of Ukrainians.

Here’s a playlist

Idiotic conservatives who attempt position American decadence against Russian traditionalism (something which isn’t remotely true, if you scratch the surface) might as well be the communists of a couple generations ago, aghast that people are risking their lives to flee the workers’ paradise into West Berlin.

More subtle agents, witting or unwitting, simply magnify every Ukrainian failure, ignore every Ukrainian success (liberating Kharkiv and Kherson, and clearing the Russian Navy from the western Black Sea), ignore the historic contexts such as the Holodomor and the Budapest Memorandum, and ignore every Russian atrocity in Ukraine and at home, like the suspicious deaths of at least fifty of prominent Russian business people and officials since the full scale invasion began.

Since even before the days of Potemkin villages, Russia has prioritized perceptions in ways that West does not.

In Russian military doctrine, propaganda is woven into everything, including their Principles of War, while in NATO militaries, principles are strictly tactical.

In 2014, I assembled this collection of incidents, which includes explicit calls to carry out massacres to blame on Ukraine.

One of the compromises we make to live in a relatively free society is that it’s hard to quash propaganda from well-organized foreign actors.

Let’s at least talk about it and identify what we know.

Twitter’s recent release of 9 million tweets from a Russian troll farm demonstrates that they disproportionately target conservatives, though not exclusively.

Russia has also promoted Black Lives Matter and the green movement in its propaganda operations targeting the West.

Communist groups stage creepy pro-Russian rallies, such as this one here. They hold influence over both white nationalists, where they can be found and black nationalists.

Upon Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, the 2004 Communist Party U.S.A. candidate for president, John Parker, visited occupied Luhansk in eastern Ukraine to demonstrate support for Russia. The CPUSA, in the past, has been known to take funding subsidies from the U.S.S.R. Ties apparently have never been broken.

In 2016, separate Russian-linked social media groups promoted both anti-Islam and pro-Islam protests in Texas, encouraging both sides to “battle in the streets.”

If conservatives have ever heard of Yuri Bezmenov, it’s probably in the context of relating his interview about “ideological subversion” to the cultural tensions in the West.

There are more important lessons to learn from his interview and lectures.

According to Bezmenov, 85% of Russian spy resources went into messaging, not espionage. The Russians were interested in extremely small influencers, including, fifty years ago at least, talkative barbers and taxi drivers. I strongly suspect that they found a way to pay me (yes, me!) $35 per month in 2008 for a tiny little Ron Paul blog I ran that echoed voices that took the Russian perspective in their invasion and annexation of a fifth of Georgia (more on that here).

Bezmenov also discussed how, in the countries they targeted, they nurtured the careers of influencers they considered helpful, and attempted to destroy the careers or the people who opposed them.

Thoughtful criticism of Ukraine should acknowledge the historic context including the Budapest Memoradum by which Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for security guarantees, and the realities of Russian war crimes and rhetoric. And while we must tolerate foreign influence as part of living in a relatively free society, let’s do the work of understanding and describing it.