Putin warns the West: Russia is ready for peace in Ukraine

Mar 19, 2024
Vladimir Putin (2023-02-09)

On the eve of the Russian election, Vladimir Putin exudes confidence, discounts nuclear war, but warns West on the dangers of escalation.  Meanwhile the mainstream western media obfuscates and misleads as usual.

There is no better purveyor of unobtrusive, misleading propaganda than Reuters.

With most mainstream Western media outlets the agenda is obvious even when somewhat hidden – ‘Gun-toting Kim Jong-un orders North Korea to prepare for war amid US-South Korea drills’ [The Independent] or ‘European Populists Join the Kremlin in Anti-Sanctions Fight’ [Foreign Policy] are typical examples. Sometimes, especially with opinion pieces, the propaganda is blatant –‘Europe bickers while the Russian threat grows’ [Washington Post] but usually there is some attempt at appearing impartial, or better still, speaking truth to power or, as the Washington Post proclaims on its masthead being inspired by the desire to inform the citizenry – ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’. Reuters tends to be a more sophisticated and devious operator.

Take, for instance, this article from 14 March headed ‘Putin warns the West: Russia is ready for nuclear war’. The unwary reader might well take this as meaning that Putin is threatening nuclear war. If the reader gets a little way into the article the message is slightly modified:

Putin, speaking ahead of a March 15-17 election which is certain to give him another six years in power, added that the nuclear war scenario was not “rushing” up and he saw no need for the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

However, the idea of threat has been lodged in the reader’s brain so the phrase ‘he saw no need for the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine’ could be interpreted as meaning that Putin would readily use nuclear weapons if his evil plans were thwarted.

But, in reality, he was saying something quite different. Looking into this discrepancy says a lot about not merely the Western media but also about the leader of Russia, and that of the United States.

The problem with analysing Joe Biden’s speeches, such as the recent State of the Union (SOTU) address for 2024, is that he says so little. Being a professional politician of many years’ experience – too many it is commonly argued – he is adroit at delivering vapid high-sounding rhetoric with little substance or connection with reality. Vladimir Putin presents the opposite problem. His speeches, often long, are measured and meaningful, packed with information on a variety of subjects. He is known as a master of detail, and whether one agrees with his arguments or not, his words deserve scrutiny and reward close reading. The density and length of his statements cause difficulties in the West, where the span of attention is daily shortening. The first half-hour of his famous interview with Tucker Carlson, when he delved into the history over centuries of the relations between Russia and what we now know as Ukraine, left many Western viewers bemused.

It is no surprise that the Reuters report on his pre-election interview with Russian journalist Dmitry Kiselev was reduced to excerpts. Brevity is not the only function, of course. Excerpting is also an act of interpretation, of constructing another layer of meaning around the subject’s words which can then become the reporter’s propaganda. It is noticeable that, as usual with Western media, no link is given to the Kremlin’s publication of the official translated transcript of the interview, although that could easily be done. Could it possibly be that the media does not want us to know what Putin actually says? This is certainly in line with an article in Foreign Policy where the writer expressed horror and outrage that 120 million people were exposed to a ‘propaganda event’ – the Carlson interview with Putin. Appearances to the contrary, and despite the good efforts of the media to protect us, we are being inundated with Russian propaganda it seems. However, brevity has its necessities – the Kremlin transcript is nearly 12,000 words, while Reuters lets us off with a little over 600. The interview of 13 March was in fact a discussion of Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly – the Russian equivalent to the SOTU – which totalled over 15,000 words (Biden’s was 8,000).

The Federal Assembly address dealt primarily with domestic matters, which of course reflected the concerns of the electorate, but the Kiselev interview veered more towards international affairs. Nevertheless, there is much in it about Russian society (demographics, the need to refashion the tax system in a progressive direction to make it more equitable, and to help families) and the economy; Russia has overtaken Germany in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms and is now the fifth largest economy in the world and is poised to overtake Japan.

On the issue of nuclear weapons Putin points out that the war in Ukraine has never posed sufficient threat for the question to be considered. Russia, along with other nuclear powers, sees such weapons as a deterrent, only to be used in extremis – ‘only be deployed should the Russian state’s existence be threatened’. The only country which has toyed with the idea of using them beneath this threshold in the past is the United States and there is a danger that the neocons out of desperation might end up doing that in respect of Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Putin shrugged off the suggestion that the US and Russia were playing a game of chicken. The US proxy war in ‘Ukraine is a matter of life and death for us, while for them it is a matter of improving their tactical position in the world.’ The unexpected, presumably forced resignation of Victoria Nuland, who was the architect of that policy, indicates that Putin is right, and that failure in Ukraine, though very damaging for the US position in the world, and especially in Europe, is not considered in Washington worth risking nuclear extinction over. China might be different.

But that leaves many options open. The Reuters article gave a link to one published in February entitled ‘Exclusive: Putin’s suggestion of Ukraine ceasefire rejected by United States, sources say’. This is in line with other articles in the Western media such as the New York Times and theWall Street Journal claiming that Putin is anxious for a ceasefire in Ukraine. However, if there is one thing clear about the Ukraine war it is that Russia is not interested in a ceasefire per se. Substantive negotiations are another matter and Putin has often said (and proved in Istanbul) that he is always open to that. But he has been deceived before, as he reminded Kiselev, in Minsk and in Istanbul, and will proceed cautiously. Why accept a ceasefire, or negotiations as a stalling tactic when Russia is methodically grinding the Ukrainian army down towards collapse, the Zelensky regime is fragmenting, the West can’t produce the weapons required in sufficient quantity and fatigue is settling in? As he told Kiselev:

For us to hold negotiations now just because they are running out of ammunition would be ridiculous. Nevertheless, we are open to a serious discussion, and we are eager to resolve all conflicts, especially this one, by peaceful means. However, we must be sure that this is not just another pause that the enemy wants to use for rearmament, but rather a serious conversation with security guarantees for the Russian Federation.

There are signs that the US is backing down over Ukraine, and the forces that want to disengage, unfortunately because they want to concentrate on war with China, are growing in strength; the defenestration of Nuland is an indicator of that. Perhaps as the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, and the election campaign heats up, the Biden administration will bite the bullet, and sue for peace.


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