One of the consequences of the near hysteria prevailing in the United States media and political class over a supposedly impending Russian invasion of Ukraine is that the readership of my website has increased many times over in the past several weeks as a confused public seeks expert opinions from those outside the hopelessly propagandistic, ideologically driven mainstream. Moreover, the specifically American part of that readership has run way ahead of the rest of the world, so that U.S. readers are now three or more times greater in number than the nearest ‘competitor,’ Canada, whereas the traditional ratio was 2:1. The other top numbers of visitors are also coming from English-speaking countries, namely the U.K. and Australia. The rest of the world means about 50 countries where internet visitors turn up daily in significantly smaller numbers, meaning an order of magnitude fewer. Those countries may be large, like China and India, or absolutely tiny like Fiji, Mali and Rwanda. Nonetheless, I remain impressed that the entire world has the interest and finds the time to search for nonconformist views on what Russia and the Collective West are saying and may soon be doing to one another.
With increasing ‘hits’ comes increasing numbers of comments, which on average represent 1% of the readership. I am appreciative of all comments which take issue with the logic of my essays or which provide supplemental information which I may have missed. I take these visitors as a proxy for the Vox Populi and they help guide my further research and writing.
I take special pleasure in the remarks left by publishers-authors of peer websites. . One such case occurred a day ago when www.breakingnews.com sent me a link to an online interview by the Russian state broadcaster Vesti FM dealing with Belarus, among other topics, that was posted on youtube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-rbYFMFjrw
The program, Solovyov LIVE, is a daytime show normally hosted by Vladimir Solovyov, the same presenter of late night political talk shows whom I frequently cite, though on the given day it was run by one of his assistants, a certain Golovanov.
What was remarkable in the given show was not the interviewee, the rather nondescript political scientist Mikheev, who is a frequent panelist on the evening talk show. Nor was it Golovanov himself. Rather it was the materials about Belarus that the production company prepared for the broadcast.
First, there was a video showing the Ukrainian spy drone that the Belarus military had brought down in the area of Brest, way inside their territory. Clearly the drone was operating in violation of all international rules.
The Minsk authorities had, of course, issued a stern protest to Kiev about this clear but inexplicable provocation. Golovanov, for his part, asked why the Kiev regime could be so stupid as to totally spoil relations with Belarus considering how Minsk had been a convenient intermediary with Russia ever since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russian involvement in the civil war that broke out in Donbas.
The host and his interviewee then answered the question, saying that the spoiling of relations must have been instigated by the United States. Washington seems to have a talent for pushing together countries which have separate grievances with the West and giving them common cause to work against American interests. Bad relations with Ukraine push Russia and Belarus much closer together.
Lukashenko had for years been sitting on two seats, flirting alternatively with the Kremlin and with Brussels. The attempted color revolution in his country a year ago, which was nominally promoted by Lithuania but surely scripted from Washington, put paid to that balancing act. Lukashenko by necessity threw in his lot with the Kremlin and has not looked back since, as the further materials presented on the Solovyov LIVE demonstrate.
For those who wonder how Washington could have so manipulated the Ukrainian leadership to arrange the break with Belarus, setting the stage for a joint Belarus-Russian invasion of Ukraine, I remind readers that the United States embassy in Kiev numbers over 900 staff, making it the largest U.S. diplomatic mission anywhere in Europe. Yes, CIA operatives are there in droves. But then it is easy to imagine that other bureaucrats sent by Washington and perched in the embassy control key ministries in the Ukrainian government today just as their counterparts did in Russia during the Yeltsin years.
Now for the second video shown on the Solovyov LIVE program: the meeting on Friday in Minsk between President Lukashenko and visiting Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu. Shoigu had come in connection with the pending start of massive Russian-Belarus war games, for which perhaps tens of thousands of Russian military personnel have been flown in, together with S-400 air defense missiles and other most recent weapons in the Russian inventory. Pointedly the exercises will take place in the southern sector, that is to say just to the north of the border with Ukraine, which is itself just 100 km from Kiev.
In the video, Lukashenko is thanking the Russians for sending in their troops and most advanced military hardware, because he feels that the southern flank of Belarus is now vulnerable and needs reinforcement. This will be the first time that Belarus military see the latest Russian equipment in front of them and not just in technical literature. The exercises will provide the setting for Russians to provide training on this equipment to their Belarus colleagues, who will then operate it when the Russians return to their home bases. Moreover, Lukashenko said he will be purchasing this equipment in greater numbers in the coming year.
Lukashenko then spoke more broadly of the Russian-Belarus alliance as creating a unified defense territory from Brest to Vladivostok. He made it clear that he intends to take concrete steps towards realizing the political integration with Russia that was sketched on paper two decades ago but had been dead letter.
From this the show moved on to deal with the old question of what would closer ties with Russia up to and including shared sovereignty bring to the principals. It was always doubtful that Lukashenko would agree to accept a second tier role in such a combined state. Now Golovanov and Mikheev were explaining the benefits to Belarus in broader terms than the immediate interests of one man. As they pointed out, in the old USSR Belarus had a negligible share of leadership positions at the All-Union level, whereas the Ukraine was heavily favored. Now that Ukraine is entirely out of play, some kind of merger with Russia would open up to the Belarus elites the possibility of playing leading roles in a country vastly larger than little Belarus.
From this perspective, the recent warnings to Belarus from the United States and the European Union not to get involved in any possible Russian attack on Ukraine would appear to be hopelessly ignorant of what they have wrought with their own hands: a Belarus-Russian union that was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And now, by way of the Belarus frontier, the Russians are capable of capturing Kiev within a day or two and liquidating the neo-Nazi forces that have held a knife to the throat of the civilian Ukrainian leadership before they know what hit them.
It would not be unreasonable to imagine that the departing staff from the U.S. and U.K. embassies in Kiev are not busy packing personal belongings before departure so much as burning all their incriminating office records.
We may take as a given that none of the foregoing statements by Belarus President Lukashenko, not to mention the interpretation of Belarus interest in a closer union, will appear in Western mainstream media. After all, they totally ignored the assassination plot against Lukashenko a year ago which was foiled by a joint Russian-Belarus intelligence operation and then featured on Russian state television. Not only the broad public but political elites in the United States will be clueless.
In my last article posted on this website, I mentioned that close monitoring of Russian electronic and print media is a large part of the added value I strive to bring to my readers. This point was picked up by a retired U.S. lieutenant colonel who wrote to me that he also closely follows Russian media. He explained that he takes Russian press articles and runs them through google machine translation to understand what is being said.
As the Russians would say молодец ! meaning “bravo.” Such monitoring is much better than just reading Sputnik or Tass English-language editions, because they are cut to size to suit Western audiences and do not have the richness of Russian-sourced news and commentary addressed to the home audience in Russia. Yet, from my experience, the richest vein of information ore is not print media but electronic media, meaning television broadcasts that are reposted on youtube, like the Solovyov LIVE show discussed above or the political talk shows that I usually mine. And all of these are in Russian language only, without a text to run through google.
One day, Russian news managers may understand that it would be a far better investment in Soft Power to translate and broadcast with English subtitles their best domestic television shows, rather than spend money on Russia Today and pay second quality ex-Canadian, British and American newscasters to produce programs for distribution in the West based on their own limited understanding of what constitutes news. Until then, I can only urge would be commentators to take Russian lessons and do their homework.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022