Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Putin's Propaganda

Magazine article Foreign Affairs

Putin's Propaganda

Article excerpt

To the Editor:

Alexander Lukin's recent article ("What the Kremlin Is Thinking," July/ August 2014) is yet another blunt example of Russia's misinformation cam- paign, which has increasingly dominated the public sphere as the crisis in Ukraine continues. The myths publicized by the Kremlin, many of which appear in Lukin's article, are deeply flawed attempts to justify Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The first myth has to do with nato expansion. The Kremlin insists that the West violated its promise to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev not to enlarge nato. The current policy of the West, accord- ing to the Kremlin, is to mitigate Russia's influence in the region. For the sake of clarity and historical truthfulness, how- ever, it should be understood that the West never made any such promise to Gorbachev. The Kremlin also believes that the West forces European countries to join the European Union and nato even though they actually desire closer cooperation with Russia. This is also false. The value of Western policy lies in its respect for sovereignty, allowing each country to decide its own future.

The next myth is that the West applies a different standard to itself than it does to Russia. According to Russia, it is the West that violates international laws and treaties, most prominently the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which recognizes the inviolability of national frontiers.

But it is Russia that has brutally violated international law by exercising military power in its neighborhood. Scholars have tried to dismiss the long- standing conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria, as well as the Russian occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as inevitable convulsions induced by the collapse of the Soviet Union. But Russia's recent annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Penin- sula should be a wake-up call. When Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Russia said that the West had violated international laws protecting sovereignty. In fact, Kosovo's declaration of independence came only after exhaus- tive international discussions. In Crimea, by contrast, there was no attempt to negotiate a solution, and Russia bypassed the entire international community- including the United Nations-to occupy part of another country's territory.

If the Kremlin is to be believed, Russia's actions are a justified response to nato's plans to position armaments and military infrastructure closer to Russia's borders. …

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