Question: There are so many myths about Russia in western mainstream media. Where do you start?
Answer: It is very important to understand how Russia is presented in the west’s media. Overwhelmingly, Russia functions as everything negative the west refuses to see in itself. Russia is the negative reflection of the west’s self-invented identity. Just about everything Russia and its president Vladimir Putin is accused of by the west, particularly the United States it itself is guilty of. Russia functions as a cultivated pathology in the western mind. Thus, Russia is not really a place and Putin is not really a person, both are constructs affirming the west’s sense of superiority and legitimizing its discursive hegemony. This pathology denies interrogation. Doing so would create doubt and doubt in turn would caste doubt on the west’s ontology about itself.
Q.: That is very theoretical! Let’s unpack some of this. For example, you say the west accuses Russia of things that itself is guilty of. Please expand on this.
A.: The most obvious example is the claim Russia wants to rebuild its lost empire. Western politicians repeat this over and over again and the media mindlessly echoes this message. However, where is the evidence backing this claim? After Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his military to attack South Ossetia in August 2008 did Russia invade Georgia and occupy the country? Of course it didn’t, though that could have easily been done. After the illegal and western-inspired regime change in Kiev in March 2014 did Russia invade Ukraine? Though it could have against little military resistance. The people of the Donbas and Crimea escaped from Kiev control. There is no evidence Russia forced these events to occur. What is true is that Russia reacted to events set into motion by the west. That is not empire building, that is counter-acting western aggression and projection of instability. On the other hand, the west led by Washington invades foreign countries, violates international law, commits extraordinary of terrorism and creates failed states. The west only has a lexicon of sins committed by others.
Q.: A favorite western theme leveled against Russia is its so-called information war against the west. I am sure you agree there is an information war. There are those who claim Russia is winning this war and that the west must up its game. What’s your take?
A.: The west sees this information war as a counter-offensive to what it describes as Russia’s propaganda assault on the west. This characterization obfuscates what is really happening. I said earlier Russia functions as a cultivated pathology in the western mind. What the west fears is not propaganda; it is terrified of any political and historical narrative it cannot construct, control, and propagate. RT – where I work – presents a counter narrative (and so does The Duran) to the west’s self-serving, sloppy and transparently stupid script written by Washington’s thinktankistan and repeated by its pliant corporate media. When this is challenged it is called propaganda. And let’s face it – protecting and furthering the west’s hegemonic narrative employs a lot of people – entire careers are built and sustained to ensure the public sphere is closed and polluted by the west’s own myths about itself.
Q.: Another favorite trope about Russia is that is it a revisionist power that refuses to accept the political outcome of the Cold War. How do you describe Russia’s foreign policy?
A.: The Cold War was not ended in the right way. The consensus narrative pushed by the west is patently incorrect. The Soviet Union was not defeated by the west. The Soviet Union exited that conflict of its own accord, foolishly believing the west’s kind words and intentions. The hubris that captured the western mind would later lead to numerous senseless wars. The American Empire became careless and lazy. The American military and its NATO supplicants are unable to win wars (and these are wars of choice!). Forced and attempt forced regime changes have led to disasters on a horrific scale. Russia (and China) has watched these events unfold with a great sense of anxiety. The foundations of the world order established after the Second World War now lay in tatters. It is no wonder Russia seeks to see the European security architecture re-cast. It is no wonder former friends and allies in the Middle East want to see Russia return to the region. It is no wonder more and more countries want to see the American hegemon restrained. Again this is Russia reacting to events and not the creator of political realities on the ground. It is the U.S. and its allies who are the reactionary powers of today.
Q.: Western baiting of Russia is not just focused on geopolitical issues. The western narrative deems Russia and Russians wonting when compared to the west. There is a build-in sense of moral superiority. How do you react to this?
A.: This is where and when the west’s self-righteous and hypocritical sense of political correctness shows itself to be totally bankrupt. Russian society is intensely conservative, self-consciously so and proudly embraced. Russians see cultural collapse in the west and they don’t want this to happen to them. The west claims it is morally and culturally superior – it prides itself on its definitions tolerance. However, there is no tolerance for those who deviate or do not accept these definitions of tolerance. This is the highest form of intolerance. Again the west cannot take a long and serious look at itself – it is too busy projecting all its failing onto to others.
Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His view may or may not reflect those of his employer.