How the West helps Putin suppress the truth about Russian military intervention in the Ukraine



Stephanie Bolzen und Julia Smirnova, “Warum Russland im Informationskrieg vorn liegt Die Nato wirft Russland gewaltige Truppenpräsenz in der Ostukraine vor. Putin dementiert, der Westen ist hilflos. Warum werden Geheimdienst-Beweise nicht genutzt, um Druck auf den Kreml auszuüben?,” Die Welt, 1. Februar 2015 (13:27 Uhr).

We have commented earlier on Barack Obama’s “phantasmagoric” world, in which the choice of words defines reality.

See “Barack Obama’s phantasmagoric world, where the choice of words defines reality,” The Trenchant Observer, September 5, 2015.

We have pointed out how newspapers like the Wall Street Journal help Vladimir Putin in carrying out his “stealth” war against the Ukraine, by never reporting the facts of the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, but rather stating that NATO or other allied sources “charge” Russia with specific acts of military aggression, always dutifully noting that Russia rejects the charge and maintains it has no forces in the Donbas.

See “Go for Putin!,” The Trenchant Observer, November 12, 2014.

When does that Russian denial, which is contrary to all known and directly observed facts, cease to be “news”? If it’s not news, why is the Wall Street Journal reporting it?

What ever happened to the duty and moral obligation of newspapers to report to their readers the facts of what is going on in the world?

Such reporting is totally at odds with the kind of “he said, she said” jounalism which all too often has become the rule, even and egregiously in countries where there is freedom of the press.

Now Stephanie Bolzen in London and Julia Smirnova in Moscow have in Die Welt (Berlin) published a comprehensive overview of how Putin and Russia have used the diffidence of leaders like Barack Obama (who until quite recently refused to characterize the Russian invasion of the Donbas as an invasion) and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal to his own advantage in winning the propaganda war against the West, obfuscating the stark and unambiguous facts of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Moreover, the U.S. and allied military and intelligence agencies have a huge array of information, based on concrete facts, which they could bring to bear in rebutting Putin’s assertions and lies. Why don’t they?

After he is retired, we can ask U.S. General Philip Breedlove for his full account of the facts of Russian aggression. Breedlove is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. He obviously would like to tell us many more of the facts of Russian military intervention in the Ukraine than his superiors in Washington seem to want to allow.

These little lies have their cost: Over 5,000 people have been killed in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Ukraine since the invasion of regular Soviet military forces took place there in August, 2015.

“In war, the first casualty is truth,” Aeschylus, the famous Greek playright, was perhaps the first to observe.

The problem with Obama’s and the Wall Street Journal’s diffident and even dainty approach to the truth about the Russian-Ukrainian war is that Western leaders become confused by their own politically-motivated “dances” with the truth. In this, they resemble their Russian counterparts who, deprived of the truth and served up a daily feast of grotesque lies and distortions, may also have difficulty understanding what is going on in the Ukraine.

To be sure, this is as Putin would have it. But it is also true that Barack Obama did not want the American people to hear from the government that Russia has invaded the Ukraine.

Hillary Clinton explained the logic behind this kind of verbal legerdemain: If we called what is going on in the Darfur region of the Sudan “genocide”, she said on a TV talk program, then there would be great pressure to take action to do something about it.


That is why the voters in democracies need to know the truth, and choose their leaders and representatives on the basis of the realities they understand which are based on truthful statements by their leaders, and full and truthful reporting by their press.

It is time for the president of the U.S. and other Western and allied leaders to describe what they see in the world in real terms, expressing the truth of what they understand and believe based on the facts available to them, or which might be obtained with some effort–a little “shoe leather” as journalists used to put it.

Unless we call things by their real names, we are lost.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.