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Meddling 101: This is how the US rigs elections in Russia, Georgia, and worldwide

As it turns out, Russia is a total amateur and the election meddling business

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(New Eastern Outlook) – Whenever national-level elections take place in any country, other countries have an interest in the outcome. Major powers want to make sure smaller ones continue to toe-the-line, or are ripe for conversion to their side of the argument. Smaller countries want to remain, or become, first in the queue when new aid or partnership arrangements are discussed. So every country tries to influence elections, in the same way they try and influence governments when they are in power.

Sometimes this attempt to influence takes absurd forms. At the 2008 US Presidential election Mikheil Saakashvili and his cronies in Georgia were openly canvassing for John McCain, and putting McCain bumper stickers on their cars. Very few Georgian citizens are able to vote in US elections, and those who can are not likely to be swayed by the antics of some other country’s president. Then when McCain lost, Saakashvili said how much Barack Obama had supported Georgia and spent three months running round the US trying to force him to meet him, while Obama’s agents tracked his movements and shepherded their boss out of any place Saakashvili turned up.

But for over two centuries it was Russia, not Georgia, which was thought to be the world leader in vote rigging. The classic example of a country influencing another’s election was held to be the Russian army surrounding the Polish nobles who were electing their new king in 1764. Though the Russians didn’t actually surround the field as depicted, this behaviour resulted in an association being made in the public mind between “Russia” and “rigged elections”. The long years of Russian domination of Eastern Europe under the Soviet system only magnified this perception.

So perhaps it is surprising that the Russia-hating West is only now accusing The Kremlin of rigging a Western election, despite the hundreds we have seen in Western Europe since then. As a result of the allegations against Donald Trump, and the widespread desire to pin anything on him which might remove him from office, the hand of Russia is now being seen everywhere: for example, links have been alleged between The Kremlin and Robert Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica, which has targeted articles in this journal, even though Mercer’s politics are far removed from Putin’s.

But is rigging elections a uniquely Russian phenomenon? Is it even a largely Russian trait? If you want to know about rigged elections, you need to ask those who know. You won’t have any difficulty understanding the answer because these experts speak English, after a fashion. What Russia did in 1764 has been developed into such a sophisticated weapon by its enemies that it is like comparing a bicycle with a motor car.

Blank cheques for marked ballots

When Watergate was being investigated one of the key figures in the scandal was the lawyer Don Segretti, who had run the dirty tricks campaign undertaken by Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President. Amongst other things, Segretti had produced faked letters on stolen notepaper which smeared every serious Democratic candidate and caused each one to drop out, one by one. Segretti himself regarded this behaviour as inconsequential, compared with what he had been doing in college whilst studying for a career serving justice.

In consequence Nixon ran against George McGovern, the opponent he had wanted all along, who could be presented as a wild, anti-American radical out of touch with “decent” people. Nixon won by a landslide, and only when the actions of people like Segretti become known was he forced to resign.

Segretti was sent to prison. But apparently he is still seen as a good man to have around, even today. He lives in Orange County, California, and as recently as 2000 was the co-chair of the presidential campaign of – you guessed it – John McCain.

Five years before he had stood for election as a judge in the county, and had to withdraw when he realised people had still not forgiven him for Watergate. That didn’t stop McCain believing him to be a suitable person to help his own ambitions, aided by a strange silence from the Senate’s Ethics Committee.

The US and its compliant allies don’t rig elections by sending the army to surround the polling stations. They send the army in if the results are not to the White House’s liking, as in Ukraine, Iran and many other places.

But there are many ways to skin a cat. The Western world is able to identify alleged election rigging because most of the examples it has seen are not Soviet, the sort of thing you would expect in a dictatorship you don’t agree with, but American, and therefore attract greater suspicion and comment.

Bend it, break it

A common rigging tactic is limiting choice. In any “reconstruction”, it is the “liberators” who decide which parties are allowed to stand for election. Those they deem unacceptable are treated as anti-state forces which should not exist. Yet nevertheless the world is told that the options available represent the entire political spectrum, and thus the government is a product of democratic choice.

Uganda is one place where this has happened again and again. The old president is removed, and then his supporters are declared enemies and either excluded from participating in elections or massacred. When that still doesn’t work, other methods are used.

The 1980 elections were held after the overthrow of the notorious Idi Amin, who had alienated all Western nations. The West wanted his predecessor Milton Obote to return, rather than the once-dominant Baganda people, represented by the Democratic Party, being allowed to run the country. Though the Democratic Party got fractionally more votes than Obote’s UPC it won 25 fewer seats because many UPC candidates were elected unopposed. Strangely enough, they had stood in Baganda areas known to be Democratic Party strongholds.

But often restricting choice has the opposite effect. You end up with a bunch of people all as bad as each other, because no one has ever had to respond to public opinion. In such cases, the opposite is done: a new saviour is parachuted in from nowhere as the favoured son of the Western sponsors who provide the only way out of the mess the politicians are alleged to have made, though it was those who restricted public choice who actually created this problem.

Spinning Yeltsin

Russians remember who gave them Yeltin, and how they did it. There was even a movie made about it. Even today the media is speaking of how highly paid and catered US advisors used polling company methods, focus groups, negative campaigning and rigging polls to ensure that Yeltsin won that election. This was followed by the wholesale looting of Russia under the guise of market economics, conducted by hired gun economic advisors, often funded by USAID and the World Bank. So this practice isn’t going to end anytime soon, if ever.

Writing the book again

In this field as in any other, if you want to see what the US wants to do anywhere given the chance you look at what is happening in Georgia. Georgians are used to both these methods being used. After the overthrow of the first democratically elected Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, with Western help, all the parties which supported him boycotted subsequent elections.

When the West got tired of its poster boy Shevardnadze it promoted Saakashvili to replace him, and after him Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was only necessary because no opposition politician in situ had any credibility. In all three cases, the public was left in no doubt what the West wanted and would get. Elections were meaningless, because the people would have to kick their Western sponsors out to change anything, and no one knows how to do it.

Jeffrey Silverman, Veterans Today Bureau Chief in Georgia, has seen it all. This is what he had to say about the forthcoming Georgian elections in a recent interview with the Georgian media:

“Whoever has the most money and government support will win, and that is already decided. Like it was before, with the UNM, the Georgian Dream has all the material resources it needs because it is the majority party. The margin of victory will not be large, but just enough for the winning party to claim “free and fair” elections.

“Georgian politics are really much more complicated than that, but much of the problem as to why “multi-party democracy” does not work in Georgia derives from who controls the media and the people’s level of education. Real issues are not being discussed, and elections are more a beauty contest about who has the best looking family and most impressive dog. Debate is non-existent or superficial at best.

“The US government gave too much money and trust to so-called “democratic organisations”, and then put “all its eggs in one basket” after the 2003 Rose Revolution, which was more a staged performance than anything close to a revolution. That is where most of the problem started with elections. For all practical purposes, Georgia still has a single party system. They can pretend to be different but they are all the same trash, “იგივე ნაგავი“– and that is the civilised translation.

Khurcha Incident

“I have seen with my own eyes how election fraud is carried out, as I was once an election monitor in Zugdidi with the Human Rights Centre in May 2008 and also was involved in investigating the Khurcha Incident together with the Georgian Human Rights Centre Norwegian Helsinki Committee. This investigation was the basis for the UN conclusion which confirmed that the attack was planned.

“The US and UNM worked hand in hand to provide a distraction from their stealing of the election back in 2008, and could have started a war over Abkhazia in the process. Let’s not forget what happened, and how the Potomac Institute, a Washington-based think tank, was involved in rigging elections in Georgia. I have written several reports and articles on this topic, and personally know many details which would seriously impact Georgia’s attitude towards the United States if totally made public.

“Democratic elections have never been a priority of the United States. It puts its own National Security Interests first, which is why it was so willing to support and turn a blind eye to election fraud and human rights violations. Just look at its track record in South America for starters, and they is no question as why they so hate the US government.

“Once the UNM got into power it cut back on funding independent NGOs and put money into government pockets. Much of the money stolen from various US-sponsored programmes was used as payoff for election fraud. That practice goes back to the period of Shevardnadze and the Citizens Union: even food aid, delivered under the American “Food for Peace Program” and other mechanisms of assistance to IDPs, was distributed during election rallies as part of the US government efforts to influence elections.

Care International and UMCOR were two of the NGOs much involved in such schemes. I worked with another part of the US government, providing information, about such schemes, Office of Inspector General, OIG. They were able to investigate such manipulations, and found that many of these were organised by the US State Department and the CIA. However, nothing could be done but to move but were not able to do anything about it.

Free from political bias

Keep in mind; he adds that, “Assistance to Georgia is supposed to be free from political bias, at least in theory. But in practice a Georgian NGO could lose its funding if it started asking questions about the government in office. Having purchased the government it wanted, the UNM, the US was not going to have the Georgian people complaining about its choice. USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, is especially guilty of providing the means to meddle in the democratic process, but it is only one organisation at the top of a long list: for example, the NDI, National Democratic Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy, NED, are simply fronts for manipulating and changing governments.

“One only has to compare the reports published by NDI with those of the OSCE and local NGOs, like the Human Rights Centre, to get a full picture of how far the US government is willing to lie about election processes and try and whitewash massive corruption. If you also look at the media coverage, especially in the English language press, you get a full picture of how the US supported the UNM over other parties, and either ignored or under-reported intimidation of opposition parties and voters, faked election lists, people voting at different polling stations on the same day, and how the electoral commissions were packed with people close to the ruling party”.

Pattern perception

Hillary Clinton has emerged from hiding to make a series of statements about how and why she lost the presidential election to Trump. She has even begun to admit she might have made mistakes in that campaign.

But no matter what Clinton apologises for, she will never admit that one of the reasons for her defeat was that her own supporters had seen how she won the nomination. Long before it was mathematically certain, the press insisted she would be the candidate, and she had only got to that position by excluding registered voters in various states who supported Bernie Sanders. This may be OK in Third World countries the US sponsors, but not the US itself. However obnoxious Trump was to many, Hillary’s vote rigging made her the devil they knew only too well.

Why did she think she could get away with it? Because the US has made rigging votes in other countries a standard official practice. Getting the result which suits the US is more important than how it is done. As a political insider and former Secretary of State, Clinton would know the fine details of such schemes as well as anyone.

Duck Test

Next time you hear people talking about mysterious Russians rigging elections, ask how they know. The rest of the world can only identify vote rigging because they have seen it so often in the Western-backed countries they are more familiar with – and as Americans say, if it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Americans wrote the play book as how to rig elections.

Credit: Seth Ferris

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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Photos of new Iskander base near Ukrainian border creates media hype

But research into the photos and cross-checking of news reports reveals only the standard anti-Russian narrative that has gone on for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News obtained satellite photos that claim that Russia has recently installed new Iskander missile batteries, one of them “near” to the Ukrainian border. However, what the Fox article does not say is left for the reader to discover: that in regards to Ukraine, these missiles are probably not that significant, unless the missiles are much longer range than reported:

The intelligence report provided to Fox by Imagesat International showed the new deployment in Krasnodar, 270 miles from the Ukrainian border. In the images is visible what appears to be an Iskander compound, with a few bunkers and another compound of hangars. There is a second new installation that was discovered by satellite photos, but this one is much farther to the east, in the region relatively near to Ulan-Ude, a city relatively close to the Mongolian border.

Both Ukraine and Mongolia are nations that have good relations with the West, but Mongolia has good relations with both its immediate neighbors, Russia and China, and in fact participated with both countries in the massive Vostok-2018 military war-games earlier this year.

Fox News provided these photos of the Iskander emplacement near Krasnodar:

Imagesat International

Fox annotated this photo in this way:

Near the launcher, there is a transloader vehicle which enables quick reloading of the missiles into the launcher. One of the bunker’s door is open, and another reloading vehicle is seen exiting from it.

[Fox:] The Iskander ballistic missile has a range up to 310 miles, and can carry both unconventional as well as nuclear warheads, putting most of America’s NATO allies at risk. The second deployment is near the border with Mongolia, in Ulan-Ude in Sothern Russia, where there are four launchers and another reloading vehicle.

[Fox:] Earlier this week, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said authorities of the former Soviet republic are being “controlled” by the West, warning it stands to lose its independence and identity as a consequence. “The continuation of such policy by the Kiev authorities can contribute to the loss of Ukraine’s statehood,” Mr Patrushev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, according to Russian news agency TASS.

This situation was placed by Fox in context with the Kerch Strait incident, in which three Ukrainian vessels and twenty-four crew and soldiers were fired upon by Russian coast guard ships as they manuevered in the Kerch Strait without permission from Russian authorities based in Crimea. There are many indications that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko, to create a sensational incident, possibly to bolster his flagging re-election campaign. After the incident, the President blustered and set ten provinces in Ukraine under martial law for 30 days, insisting to the world, and especially to the United States, that Russia was “preparing to invade” his country.

Russia expressed no such sentiment in any way, but they are holding the soldiers until the end of January. However, on January 17th, a Moscow court extended the detention of eight of these captured Ukrainian sailors despite protests from Kyiv and Washington.

In addition to the tensions in Ukraine, the other significant point of disagreement between the Russian Federation and the US is the US’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Russia sees this treaty as extremely important, but the US point of view expressed by John Bolton, National Security Adviser, is that the treaty is useless because it does not include any other parties that have intermediate range nukes or the capability for them, such as Iran, North Korea, and China. This is an unsolved problem, and it is possible that the moves of the Iskander batteries is a subtle warning from the Russians that they really would rather the US stay in the treaty.

Discussions on this matter at public levels between the Russian government and the US have been very difficult because of the fierce anti-Russia and anti-Trump campaigns in the media and political establishments of the United States. President Putin and President Trump have both expressed the desire to meet, but complications like the Kerch Strait Incident conveniently arise, and have repeatedly disrupted the attempts for these two leaders to meet.

Where Fox News appears to get it wrong shows in a few places:

First, the known range for Iskander missiles maxes at about 310 miles. The placement of the battery near Krasnodar is 270 miles from the eastern Ukrainian border, but the eastern part of Ukraine is Russian-friendly and two provinces, Donetsk and Lugansk, are breakaway provinces acting as independent republics. The battery appears to be no threat to Kyiv or to that part of Ukraine which is aligned with the West. Although the missiles could reach into US ally Georgia, Krasnodar is 376 miles from Tbilisi, and so again it seems that there is no significant target for these missiles. (This is assuming the location given is accurate.)

Second, the location shown in the photo is (44,47,29.440N at 39,13,04.754E). The date on the “Krasnodar” photo is January 17, 2019. However, a photo of the region taken July 24, 2018 reveals a different layout. It takes a moment or two to study this, but there is not much of an exact match here:

Third, Fox News reported of “further Russian troops deployment and S-400 Surface to air missile days after the escalation started, hinting Russia might have orchestrated the naval incident.”

It may be true that Russia deployed weapons to this base area in Crimea, but this is now Russian territory. S-400s can be used offensively, but their primary purpose is defensive. Troops on the Crimean Peninsula, especially at this location far to the north of the area, are not in a position strategically to invade Kherson Oblast (a pushback would probably corner such forces on the Crimean peninsula with nowhere to go except the Black Sea). However, this does look like a possible defense installation should Ukraine’s forces try to invade or bomb Crimea.

Fox has this wrong, but it is no great surprise, because the American stance about Ukraine and Russia is similar – Russia can do no right, and Ukraine can do no wrong. Fox News is not monolithic on this point of view, of course, with anchors and journalists such as Tucker Carlson, who seem willing to acknowledge the US propaganda about the region. However, there are a lot of hawks as well. While photos in the articles about the S-400s and the Russian troops are accurately located, it does appear that the one about Iskanders is not, and that the folks behind this original article are guessing that the photos will not be questioned. After all, no one in the US knows where anything is in Russia and Ukraine, anyway, right?

That there is an issue here is likely. But is it appears that there is strong evidence that it is opposite what Fox reported here, it leaves much to be questioned.

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