The media campaign attacking Russia is in high gear these days. Russia is accused of cyberwarfare, leaking poor Hillary's emails, and now, of a slick disinformation campaign to undermine poor NATO, our bastion of peace.

Then there is the traitor Edward Snowden, basking in sunny Moscow.  He blew a loud whistle from Hong Kong in 2013, revealing numerous US global surveillance programs, many run by the National Security Agency, implicating telecommunication companies and European governments.

Though he had no desire to defect to Russia (and the Russians were reluctant to take him), he was denied his US passport, marooned in Moscow, and pleaded political asylum. What was poor Russia to do?

Who planted the seed of discord?

Bush Sr and friends smiled and plied Yeltsin with vodka in the 1990s, assuring him that NATO would never dream of expanding eastward, that Russia would now be the West's best friend, that together, they would bring peace and joy to the world. They even signed a scrap of paper in 1997 solemnly avowing this.

Sadly, the US, like the cannibal plant in Little Shop of Horrors, has an insatiable craving for human blood. "Feed me!" the plant cries incessantly, as its postmodern florist Seymor scurries to find or produce the necessary fresh blood.

NATO (excuse me, the plant) grows by leaps and bounds. I won't spoil the ending, but I suggest you hurry to see the off-off Broadway musical before it reaches us in real life. It is a cult classic.

Who interfered in Ukraine affairs?

New York Times journalist Neil MacFarquhar's "A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories" features an ominous picture of "unidentified soldiers" in Crimea in March 2014, the implication being that Russia had boldly invaded Crimea following the coup in Ukraine.  

Crimea is a complex place, part of the Russian empire from the 18th century (taken from the Ottomans). It was never really part of the sorry looking Ukraine of today, which was never really a state until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and has lurched from one crisis to another.

Ukraine is the least functional of the dysfunctional pseudo-states created in 1991 by a tiny cabal of now ex-Soviet functionaries. They used the latest 'time of troubles'* to snatch personal power and become fabulously wealthy, with full support of the US. Until a coup by NATO-lovers and neofascists**--blessed by Obama--seized power in February 2014.

Nobel Peacenik Obama later admitted he tried to broker a deal during the coup, calling on the Ukrainian army to "stand down" to allow the formation of a "transitional government". Outrageous, but who cares if you violate international law in the interests of empire? Of course, no mention of this is made in MacFarquhar's piece, or anywhere else in western media.

Crimea from 1991 on has called for reunification with Russia. It was always an autonomous republic, and when the coup happened in February 2014, Crimeans jumped at the chance to make use of it. In March, 78 of the 100 Crimean parliamentarians voted to join Russia, and in a referendum 97% voted 'yes'.

What was poor Russia to do? Refuse to take the beleaguered Crimean Russians*** back into the fold? Cede its key military base--where its ships were still docked--to NATO?

Meanwhile, ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk), looked longingly at Crimeans and at their cousins and aunts in stable, comparatively well-managed Russia next door. They too decided enough with the chaos and NATO/ neofascist shenanigans, and declared independence.  

What were the poor Russians to do? Ignore suffering compatriots trapped in a western-inspired nightmare? Bow to the threatening NATOistas?

Who is the disinformer?

NATO is marching through Sweden this month to drum up support to join the club, to have the privilege of being the latest domino to fall into the post-1997 eastern European black hole. Lo and behold, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered "a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue." Such fabrications as:

* the alliance could stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil;
* NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval;
* NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

Canadian experience

Hmmm. "Outright false"? All NATO minions do as they're told.  Woe to anyone who defies the empire. Ask all post-WWII Canadian prime ministers, especially John Diefenbaker, against whom JFK managed a postmodern coup, deposing him in 1963, when Diefenbaker balked at stationing nuclear missiles on Canadian territory.

Kennedy's buddy, our very own Nobel Peacenik Lester Pearson, quickly signed on the dotted line, and secretly opened the doors, no Canadian sovereignty strings attached. His successor Pierre Trudeau, who derided Pearson as the "defrocked Prince of Peace", was vilified by Nixon for giving  asylum to US war resisters and launching his own quixotic detente initiative with the Soviets, which of course went nowhere.

Look at cynical Trudeau Jr, now slavishly following the NATO line on everything. Why bother to buck the empire?

Turkey's travails

Ask Erdogan about the US fury when he refused to let the US launch "Operation Enduring Freedom" to destroy Iraq.

Erdogan is a reluctant US ally, no friend of imperialism. But he too bowed increasingly over time to US pressure. He condoned, however grudgingly, the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. And for his pains in disagreeing with the US, he just barely survived a coup attempt which has US fingerprints all over it. Take note, Sweden!

As for rape, murder and theft, the US insists that states blessed with US troops sign "status of forces agreements", which give all troops immunity to local justice. Ask the Japanese about US occupiers and date rape.

Little Lithuania

Is polite little Sweden likely to give the finger to some future 'urgent' NATO request? Hardly. And what about more alarming NATO newbies right on Russia's doorstep, like Lithuania?

Au contraire, the Lithuanian government just welcomed some of the 40,000 NATO "spearhead" forces, rushed to bases in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, following the Ukraine coup in 2014.  Hey, who's doing the 'invading' here?

After the NATO betrayal of the 1997 agreement not to expand eastward, what are the Russians supposed to think? Ukraine was to be the final piece of the NATO encirclement puzzle. Brrrr.

Are the Russians right?

Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the disinformative reports, but are happy to pillory the Russians. Many non-Russian commentators, myself included, have been deconstructing this western anti-Russian bigotry for years. Are we all propagandists of Kremlin-inspired disinformation?

A weary  Russian Foreign Ministry official Maria Zakharova, said "Many Western countries every day accuse Russia of threatening someone.” What's a poor Russian to do?

Apparently, all the western hysteria just increases his/her support for Putin, whose popularity after 16 years is higher than ever (80%). Either all Russians are dupes, or they see western propaganda for what it is. They see Darth Vader wearing stars and stripes.

Certainly, WWIII is being (or will be, depending on how apocalyptic you are) fought in the first place in 'hearts and minds', and both the Americans and the Russians know it. “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals exceeds the force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Russian Armed Forces chief, General Valery Gerasimov, wrote in 2013.

If you are a russophobe you will agree with Patrik Oksanen, at Swedish newspaper group MittMedia: “The Russians are very good at courting everyone who has a grudge with liberal democracy, and that goes from extreme right to extreme left.” Their central idea is that “liberal democracy is corrupt, inefficient, chaotic and, ultimately, not democratic.”

But is it possible the Russkies are right? That "European governments lack the competence to deal with the crises they face, particularly immigration and terrorism, and that their officials are all American puppets?"

That the West, as depicted by Sputnik and RT, according to MacFarquhar, is "grim, divided, brutal, decadent, overrun with violent immigrants and unstable?" “They want to give a picture of Europe as some sort of continent that is collapsing,” Swedish Defense Minister Hultqvist complained to MacFarquhar.

Vladimir Kozin, a senior adviser to the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, called on the Swedes to keep their neutral status. “Do they really need to permit fielding new US military bases on their territory and to send their national troops to take part in dubious regional conflicts?”

Dmitry Kiselyev, Russia’s most popular television anchor and head of Sputnik, on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Information Bureau, defended Russia's attempt to win the world's hearts and minds: "The age of neutral journalism is over. If we do propaganda, then you do propaganda too,” he told western journalists.

Even as Swedes fret about the impact of joining NATO, NATO officially launched its "Cyberwarfare" campaign (read: against Russia) which NATO boasts as an "operational domain of war, just like land, sea and aerial warfare." This means that any cyber attack on NATO members can trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. WWIII anyone?

Kiselyev: “Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said on Rossiya 24. While the business of “persuasion” is also more expensive now, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”

*The 'time of troubles' is a turning point in Russian history, when there was no heir, and Poland invaded and occupied Moscow in the late 16th century. A popular resistance sprang up and pushed the Poles out, leading eventually to the rise of Moscow as the centre of a new state.
** Freedom, a far right nationalist party, won 37 seats in 2012. It spearheaded the violence in the 2014 coup, in which over 100 died. Three members held positions in the post-coup Ukrainian government. The party dropped to 6 seats in the late October 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election. It is open only to ethnic Ukrainians.
*** Crimea is 68% Russian, 16% Ukrainian, 11% Tatar

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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