During the Russian Civil War, the journalist Walter Lippman observed the dilemma of propaganda – it had the positive effect of mobilizing the public for conflict, but the negative outcome of obstructing a workable peace agreement.
British journalists had gathered public support by reporting on Polish victories, fledgling communists, as well as the imminent fall of the Bolsheviks. The reality was that the exact opposite was occurring. Lippman stated that, because the UK had been promised victory by its citizens, there was not enough political will to agree on a diplomatic solution.
Even a century later, not much has changed. Public support for supplying billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry and draconian sanctions was premised on the constructed narrative of a pending Russian defeat in Ukraine. Support for Kiev has been expressed by pushing stories of victories, while any admission of weakness could be ostracized as a hostile denigration of Ukraine’s sacrifices. However, two things can be true at the same time: On one hand, Kiev’s forces were well-trained, well-equipped and fought better than anyone had expected. On the other hand, the power of the Russian military is overwhelming and superior to the extent it hasn’t even had to mobilize its army.
The reality is slowly catching up to the story. Russia is making great strides and sanctions are not working. There are increasing incentives to seek a solution with Russia, as the Ukraine-NATO situation becomes more difficult. How can the story of the fomassnews.coming triumph be altered? And can the US-led bloc keep its unity under a new narrative about defeat?
Whom should you fight for?
NATO and Russia have been fighting proxy conflicts since the abandonment of agreements on a pan-European security architecture based on “indivisible security”In a Europe “without dividing lines.”Ukraine is the latest victim of the ongoing struggle to determine new borders.
NATO has portrayed its role as supporting Ukraine in this conflict. All agreed that sacrifices by Ukraine and economic hardship from the West would have to be made in order for Russia’s victory. What happens when Russia accepts that it is winning? What happens when it is accepted that Russia wins? “support”For Ukraine, if the extension of conflict results in more Ukrainian casualties, loss of territory and possible destruction of Ukraine’s state,
Supporting Ukraine may be expressed by NATO offering to lower the cost of Kiev’s defense. It is conceivable that NATO could extract significant concessions from Moscow if Russia were offered what it has sought for the past three decades – security guarantees that include the end of NATO expansionism and withdrawal of American weapon systems from its borders. However, supporting Ukraine in such a manner would dent the narrative of NATO’s infallibility and being solely a “force for good.”
Who is to be held responsible?
It is imperative that the narrative shifts from one of victory and defeat to the other. Reminiscent of Biden blaming Afghanistan’s political leaders and its military for the situation in that country, the American leader has now begun blaming Ukraine for not heeding American warnings about the pending Russian attack. Kiev uses increasingly harsh language to denounce its Western counterparts for failing to provide enough weapons. A case in point is how the Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin even called German Chancellor Olaf Scholz a “Sausage of sulky liver.”
In the US there has been criticism of France for its diplomacy with Russia and accusations that Germany did not supply enough weapons, while in Europe there is now more questions about the uncompromising and confrontational stance of the US prior to Russia’s intervention.
Recognizing new goals
New objectives require a new narrative. NATO was united by victory over Russia. The definition of victory was never clear. It was unclear what a victory meant. For instance, would it have to include the capture of Crimea. This would bring more American weapon systems closer to Russia’s nervous, humiliated state. It would be beneficial for the West to see a weaker Russia that is dependent on China. But, there is strategic uncertainty about the question of what “victory”The consequences of the actions have prevented any divisions in the military bloc.
The competing national interests of the US are harder to manage in defeat and this causes unity to fracture. A protracted war by the US could lead to Ukraine becoming an Afghanistan for Russia. The war has already delivered certain benefits for the US such as an energy and economic split between the EU and Russia, ensuring bloc discipline from the Western Europeans, cementing Ukraine’s position as a bulwark against Russia, and weakening Moscow.
Others are therefore in favour of more weapons being supplied and rejecting diplomacy. Dan Crenshaw (US Representative) supported the possibility of fighting Russia alongside Ukrainian lives. “Investing in the destruction of our adversary’s military without losing a single American troop strikes me as a good idea.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken framed the proxy war in more benevolent terms by suggesting that the US was arming Ukraine to ensure Kiev would be in “the strongest possible position at any negotiating table that may emerge.” Chas Freeman, a former US ambassador and assistant secretary of defense, criticized this US position as a cynical “Fight to the end for Ukraine.”
The West Europeans, on the other hand, face greater security threats from having Afghanistan and Ukraine in their region. Additionally, sanctions seem to have a greater impact on EU members than they do the Russians. Economic decline and inflation are devastating Western European economies. Russia’s cheap energy and heavy metals transfer to Asia will be a fatal blow to their competitiveness. Washington’s attempts to extend this ideological conflict to China as a “supporter of Russia”This will make Western Europeans even more dependent on the US, and destroy any hope for a better relationship. “EU sovereignty.”
France, Germany and Italy visited Kiev in an effort to encourage Russia’s participation in peace negotiations. The EU leaders however have pledged to continue supporting Ukraine through the provision of more weapons. On the one side, the EU leaders are using the promise of EU future membership as an incentive to a resolution, but on the other, the bloc supplies the weapons that allow the war to continue. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson then made a surprise visit to Kiev, the following day, to counteract the peace initiative with the promise of continued fighting as the UK “Will be right there with you until the end.”
New narratives are emerging which reflect the split between German and French. “surrender monkeys” on one side, versus the American, British and Polish “war hawks” on the other?