Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A state built on lies

Today four Moscow McDonalds restaurants in Moscow have been told to shut on spurious public health grounds. Have any Muscovites fallen ill as a result of eating dodgy hamburgers? Sorry - that's not the issue. Russia is drawing itself into a new cold war with the West; there's no greater icon of American culinary hegemony than McDonalds - so the Kremlin tells Russia's pliant food hygiene watchdog Rospgniepritrebgosvneshgnobnadzor to shut them down forthwith. "Round up the usual suspects". "Right away, Mr Putin."

I'm having trouble imagining Britain's Food Standards Agency being told by No.10 to close down Russian-owned restaurants in London in retaliation for Moscow's intransigence vis-a-vis the integrity of Ukrainian borders. But that's because the Food Standards Agency is not a marionette controlled by Mr Cameron, nor is it a tool to be wielded in the furtherance of foreign policy.

I'm having similar trouble imagining Poland's Sanepid closing down Babuszka restaurant on ul. Krucza (which serves excellent Siberian mutton pelmeni with cream) for sanitary reasons as an expression of Poland's solidarity with its Ukrainian neighbours. Sanepid can make up its own mind as to what constitutes a risk to public health - it does not take instructions from Mr Tusk.

Russian trucks bearing 'humanitarian aid' for the beleaguered cities of Eastern Ukraine were found by Western journalists to be army trucks hurriedly painted white. When asked why the trucks were half-empty, the Russian authorities brazenly said it was because the trucks were new, and could not carry full loads while they were running-in. The trucks then returned full of machine tools from Ukrainian factories that Russia wants to see on its side of the border.

Russia has been claiming that the soldiers fighting against the Ukrainian army are 'separatists' armed with whatever they could find in the local military depots they had seized; they are not being supplied by Russia - despite large numbers of detailed reports from Western media documenting convoys of armoured fighting vehicles and troop transporters moving across the border into Ukraine from Russia. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses such reports as 'delusions' and 'fabrications'. He is lying into your face. And he knows it. And you know it. And his usefulness as a diplomat furthering Russia's foreign policy aims has been totally compromised.

Russian paratroopers captured by Ukrainian forces 20km inside Ukraine claim they blundered into the country by accident - they were on exercises in Russia - shurely shome mishtake. Imagine Polish paratroopers on manoeuvres in south-west Poland stumbling on foot as far as Česká Lípa, passing Nový Bor on the way, without thinking that something is a teeny-weeny bit amiss. We, the Western world, are expected to believe those lies (piled on top of all the other lies, such as 'no Russian army units took part in the annexation of Crimea' and 'Ukrainian fascists crucify Russian babies').

At least 400 Russian soldiers have died in the fighting, according to the association representing their families. Their bodies are being buried in secret, their families are told they died in mysterious circumstances while on duty in Russia. Journalists covering this story are being threatened with beatings and worse. The Kremlin should complete the lie by saying that the soldiers ate poisoned hamburgers.

Lies and camouflage are part of the same Soviet military thinking. Red Army soldiers cover themselves with patterned material to deceive the enemy; their leaders lie to deceive the enemy. This is maskirovka. The lies end up deceiving their own people until they can be made to believe that black is white. A lovely term coined by Ben Judah, mendocracy - rule based on lies - fits the Putin regime as well as it did the USSR, 1917-1991.

The Soviet Union was a state built on a lie. "Comrade - is the report true that on Red Square in Moscow, they are giving away cars?" "Well, nearly right, comrade - it's Leningrad, not Moscow; on Palace Square not Red Square - and it's bicycles rather than cars, and they're not giving them away, rather they are stealing them." Vladimir Putin, born and raised a true son of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, learned how to lie blatantly and use falsehood as a policy instrument.

Western media should note this and stick to the truth. When quoting Putin, it should use the following formulation: ' "Our budget is not falling apart at the seams. It is strained but it is balanced and completely realistic," he lied.'

Unfortunately, strong states are built on high levels of social trust, and blatant falsehoods eventually contradict themselves. Lavrov ends up looking a fool; the West no longer treats him seriously; Putin will end up the same laughing-stock among his own citizens that Brezhnev did towards the end of his reign.

"Comrade - could communism work in the Sahara?" "Yes comrade - but after a year, sand would be rationed, and after two years, it would only be available to Party members and their families."

This time last year:
Asphalt for ul. Poloneza (to Krasnowolska at least)

This time two years ago:
A welcome splash of colour to a drab car park

This time three years ago:
To Hel and back in 36 hours

This time five years ago:
Honing the Art of the Written Word

This time six years ago:
Of castles, dams and brass bands


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Michael. Just waiting for the Russian trolls to explain to you the error of your ways. Look out for Geoff from Chalfont St. Peter!!

Alexander said...

Our German and French “European friends” are still selling cars, machines and guns to Putin, and giving him the money by buying his oil and gas. Even after 200 Western Europeans died , there are a few hollow angry words for the masses from those leaders. So, who’s fooling who ?
Btw, why did no independent journalist ever dig into all the good things Merkel did before 1989 ?

Regards, Alexander