“Two Romes have fallen. A third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!” — Letter composed by Russian monk Philotheus in 1510 to son Grand Duke Vasili III
“We can do what we want, for Ukraine is not a country!” This is the meme, propagated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his conversation with George W. Bush, that I see emanating from Novorossiya in East Ukraine constantly via the social media networks. It is used as a justification for military force and to de-legitimize the Ukrainian government’s sovereignty over the land under pro-Russian separatist control. This meme is combined with an overwhelming information warfare campaign to propagandize the Russian people as well as to shape opinion in the West.
The simple fact is that it is working.
There have been very few times in history that Ukraine actually has been a country. Throughout the ages, Ukraine has been controlled by one power or another, such as the Russians, Poles, Germans, or the Turks. But should this fact be used for marshall justification? This question is pertinent because I also am starting to see more of this type of information campaign focused against the West in general. It is obviously sophisticated and well-funded.
For instance, the narrative is now being applied to the United States, attempting to de-legitimize her role in WWII and her very existence. “The United States is not a country, it’s just a place for immigrants. You have no history. “Russians have inhabited the Motherland for a thousand years,” are comments I hear frequently. “Americans don’t read. They are fat. They have no sense of history or culture. They are illiterate. They are not sophisticated, a simple people, not worthy of greatness.” The old Soviet narrative that the West in general is decadent, immoral and, therefore weak, comes up frequently in discussions as well. Last year, after the Eurovision singing contest, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, known for his anti-Western views, slammed the choice of Wurst as the contest’s winner in a post on his Twitter account: “Eurovision showed European integrators their Euro-prospect — a bearded girl.”
Vladimir Lenin said, “A Lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
I write a great deal about Russia and the former Soviet Union, much of it quite complementary. However, when I post something negative, the online response is immediate, overwhelming and effective. Typically online threat to follow.
The West is losing the information war against this view of the world.
Much of the reason is due to weak and ineffective, or non-existent, leadership. The West has squandered any moral authority it gained after the end of the Cold War. The world sees this; it’s not stupid. We have a president who doesn’t mean what he says, who makes empty threats, who appeases our adversaries, who doesn’t stand up to evil, and who destroys relationships with our allies. I’ve always said that with Barack Obama, you can’t listen to what he says, you have to look at the results of his actions and policies. Those results are, a weak economy, loss of American prestige and power, reduced military capability, an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, Russia on the march, China threatening our allies in the Pacific, et cetera, et cetera.
Specifically, the Western response to this information warfare campaign has been weak and ineffective. During the Cold War, the Voice of America persistently broadcast our views of freedom and liberty. Today those voices are being overwhelmed by the narratives I spoke of above. This situation is especially true in Eastern Europe and former Soviet satellite states where the battle for hearts and minds is in full swing. The Kremlin is actively courting Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, and others to steer them toward Moscow’s influence. NATO has started to at least talk about countering this overwhelming propaganda and nations on the front line are actively engaged in the fight against it.
The West has to come to grips with what it is facing, a coordinated attack against the very foundation of its existence. We need a leader who can realize and see this threat and stand up to it.
I can tell you upfront that leader is not Hillary Clinton. She will sell us to our foreign adversaries, not stand up to them.
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