Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Power Vertical

When In Doubt, Blame The West

Russia's chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselev blamed the West for the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.
Russia's chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselev blamed the West for the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.
By Brian Whitmore

So Russia went there after all.

The crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt on October 31, which killed all 224 people on board, was more than the worst aviation disaster in the country's history.

Once it became clear that the cause of the crash was probably terrorism, it also became a messaging nightmare for the Kremlin's propaganda machine.

Since Russia's Syria campaign began, Kremlin officials and the state media have been framing it as a painless war that was boosting Moscow's international prestige. All patriotic citizens needed to do was sit back and enjoy the grainy footage of terrorists being obliterated by Russia's shiny new military machine.

The deaths of hundreds of Russian civilians threatened to change that, especially after Islamic State claimed responsibility and the evidence that a bomb -- and not technical failure -- destroyed the aircraft mounted.

Suddenly the Syria campaign wasn't cost-free anymore.

So Russian state media did what came naturally: they blamed the West.

Sputnik got the ball rolling with a piece on November 6 claiming that "British officials have made an unseemly leap to speculate on a terrorist plot in the Russian airliner crash over Sinai last weekend." 

The story concluded: "The confidence by which these assessments of terror methodology are being made raises an even more troubling, darker question: was it really terrorists, or was it British MI6 agents palming the deed off as terrorists?"

On the same day, the conspiracy website published an article claiming that Russia had captured two "CIA assets who are believed to have masterminded the downing of Flight 9268." 

And then came Dmitry Kiselyov.

On his flagship news show Vesti Nedeli on Russian state television, the bombastic pundit suggested on November 8 that it was suspicious that after two years of U.S. air strikes against Islamic State, no American passenger planes have been targeted. And yet a Russian civilian aircraft was downed after just 40 days into Russia's military campaign in Syria.

Kiselyov went on to suggest that the United States and its allies cut a deal with Islamic State "not to touch the civilian aircraft of the Western Coalition." He added that "dividing terrorists into good ones and bad ones is standard practice for the West. If the terrorist is targeting Russia, he's a good terrorist and even a supporter of democracy." 

Writing on his blog, Anton Shekhovtvov, a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and a research associate at the Kyiv-based Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation noted that "this version may seem absurd to everyone who is not prone to conspiracy theories, but it is also extremely dangerous. It means that, indeed, the consolidation of Putin's criminal regime at home is far more important for the Kremlin than the international cooperation, and that Moscow is ready to escalate its war on the West."

The Kremlin could have used the downing of Flight 9268 to repair its relations with the West, Shekhovtvov noted. They could have made the argument that: "the Russians are fighting the war on international terrorism, and Russia and the West are in this together, hence Russia is no longer a pariah state, so do lift the sanctions and accept us to the club of the global powers."

But, of course, they chose another route.

"The Kremlin keeps on instilling anti-Western hatred into the Russian society by feeding it with conspiracy theories, and this hatred may lead to psychological acceptance of even more aggressive approach towards the West," Shekhovtvov wrote.

"As Voltaire wrote, 'those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.'"

Blaming the tragedy of Metrojet Flight 9268 on the West might work at home. But that will do little to change the dynamic that Moscow has set in motion with its Syria campaign.

"The Kremlin’s propaganda channels feted the air strikes against Syrian rebels as a sign that the country was once again a geopolitical force to be reckoned with," veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of "The New Cold War," wrote in The Telegraph.

"But the reckoning may be a bloody one. Russia is now firmly [and probably irrevocably] positioned as an enemy of conservative and radical Sunni Muslims."

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Frank from: Germany
November 09, 2015 19:47
The Americans and Europeans have no doubt that the events of 9/11 was the handiwork of the CIA. The so-called "terrorism" in the Middle East is also the handiwork of the CIA and Mossad. Therefore why Russians and Europeans should have a doubt about another possible crimes of the West?
In Response

by: Limes from: EU
November 10, 2015 10:56
The Russians have no doubt that the apartment bombings in Buynaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in September 1999 was the handiwork of the FSB. The bombings were blamed on Chechen rebels and used as a pretext for the Kremlin to launch a second war against Chechnya. Putin was put in charge of that war, achieved overnight popularity. [Theory of Russian government conspiracy]

The so-called "terrorism" in the Middle East is also the handiwork of the CIA and Mossad. Therefore why Russians and Europeans should have a doubt about another possible crimes of the West?
In Response

by: Ian Hague from: New York
November 10, 2015 15:01
Huh? I will give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you are being facetious.
In Response

by: DL
November 10, 2015 15:50
wow... hold ur horses! who have 'no doubts' - ur fellow patients in psych clinic?
In Response

by: Ben Thayer from: Donthat
November 10, 2015 16:41
I must flee to the my belief lies nowhere within that realm, but I understand your, albeit flawed logic trail.
In Response

by: Danram from: Houston, Texas, USA
November 10, 2015 19:02
I hate to break this to you, Frank (or Dmirty, or Ivan, or Boris, or whatever your name really is at The Troll Farm in St. Petersburg), but the only Americans and Europeans who seriously believe that 9/11 was the work of the CIA are the same very small fringe group of uber-paranoid idiots who believe that the moon landings were staged and that AIDS is a CIA-plot to de-populate poorer countries. In other words, the true nut jobs.

But then again, you poor Russians have been so thoroughly brainwashed by the Kremlin's propaganda machine that you'd probably believe in the Tooth Fairy if Putin said so.

And you seriously think of yourselves as a "great nation"? LOL!
In Response

by: Jblue
November 11, 2015 09:54
You are disillusioned

by: Justin from: London
November 09, 2015 19:53
America needs to back off, Americans do not own the rights to the world! Everyone is sick to death of the American war machine. The mouth piece politicians, get out of Europe! Get out of the Middle East! And mind your own business! Even American citizens are fed up of it. We in Europe do not need or want America interfering that goes for all of Europe, East and West, we are fine having Russia as a neighbor. It's not a problem, just because some jumped up American politician says it's a problem doesn't make it true. If our own governments are dumb enough to back another crazy illegal American war, they will be thrown out by their own people!
In Response

by: Arnas
November 10, 2015 12:41
you are a loonie! Talking nonsense.
In Response

by: Ian Hague from: New York
November 10, 2015 15:12
Troll. Ukrainians feel differently. So do the Balts, the Poles, the Romanians, the Croatians, the Slovenians, the Germans, the Scandinavians, the Georgians and many others.

The US and Europe are a transnational community with a security alliance. I have seen no European state express a desire to leave that alliance. As long as they want us there, we will be there. I imagine this alliance will outlast the Putin regime and whatever other cryptofascist regime comes after it.
In Response

by: Ben Thayer from: Donthat
November 10, 2015 16:44
Finally a voice of reason....finally a representative of the EU has given us the will of millions.
In Response

by: John (UK)
November 11, 2015 09:12
You do not speak for everyone in Britain or the UK thank you very much. PUTIN is a major threat to peace and security that needs handling not ignored while he plunders other countries because he believes that Obama and Cameron are weak. That's my opinion I would not presume to speak for everyone!

by: Jack from: US
November 10, 2015 02:40
it is not a secret US and British are training and arming jihadists in Syria. The ISIS is nothing else but what used to be called "Free Syrian Army" - the creation of US government and its Turkish and Saudi minions.
So would it be a surprise to anyone that one of those US-trained jihadists planted a bomb on the airplane? Sooner or later they will end up blowing US airplanes too, but it does not concern Hillary or McCain
In Response

by: Ian Hague from: New York
November 10, 2015 15:06
If by "secret", you mean a claim so dubious and tendentious that no serious person talks about it, then it is very much not a secret. The US is training anti-Assad sunni groups that are explicitly not jihadist. When Assad is gone the Syrians themselves can sort out whether they will have a more islamic style of governance or not. They will be making a choice.

by: Joni Pelkonen
November 10, 2015 09:20
" Russia is now firmly [and probably irrevocably] positioned as an enemy of conservative and radical Sunni Muslims."

It has been that for decades. Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, support of serbian nationalism during Yugoslavian civil war, invasions of Chechnya, violent suppression of islamism in southern parts of Soviet Union and now Russia, open and violent anti-islamic racism in russian society have been already well enough to do that.
In Response

by: Ben Thayer from: Donthat
November 10, 2015 16:48
"It has been that for decades"......I believe the keywords here are " firmly and irrevocably". Point of no return, so to speak. Now they are globally ensconced.

by: Kestutis
November 10, 2015 11:23
Idiots who write comments about CIA making 9/11 need to back up. Ou, wait they can't, Kremlin is paying them to write...

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence
November 10, 2015 13:27
I see that the Power Vertical has become a magnet for Russian trolls. In the atmosphere of hatred and paranoia which the Kremlin-supported media have fostered over the past few years, the greatest danger may be that the Russian leadership has come to truly believe its own propaganda.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
November 11, 2015 11:07
The Power Vertical has always been a magnet for trolls. I consider it a badge of honor -- and a source of amusement.
In Response

by: Ruben from: UK
November 11, 2015 17:18
Brian Whitmore, why do you accept any criticism as a kind of the Kremlin troll? Do you think of yourself a great genius out of any criticism? Or what??? What kind of delusions of grandeur? And what kind of exceptional journalist are you? You have no right to accuse the reader of anything! Just do your job, which is to write the way as you were ordered by your owners in Washington.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
November 11, 2015 17:42
Ruben, dude. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Through your nose. That's it. Zen baby. I know, being a troll can be stressful. But you need to think about your health.
In Response

by: Jan Mareš from: Prague, Czech Republic
November 11, 2015 19:07
Brian Whitmore, well, I accuse the US administration of supporting terrorism in the Middle East. I accuse it of destructive policy in the Middle East. Do you want to say now that I'm saying it as a troll of the Kremlin? Do you want to argue that I can not say this opinion on my behalf as a reader? Do you want to blame me on this as the author of this article? Can you say that? And then I will think about how should I act further according to the law...

by: Lea
November 10, 2015 13:31
Sounds like most people understand role that mercenaries play in US hegemony. I do not believe our elected government know everything.
A coup in US after ww2 and infiltration of certain people in government has left little power in hand of president.

by: Lea
November 10, 2015 13:37
You are accusing Russia of the very thing west is doing. It is a tactic used as Reagan did during Cold War. Americans at large lost all trust in government .who is running America is yet to be known. I bet infiltrated agents in government and secret agents of others manipulate reality to suit their purpose. September eleven was beginning .

by: Rimantas
November 10, 2015 15:21
USA are not perfect, but it's the only country firmly behind democracy.

by: Mino Lidel from: Seattle
November 10, 2015 15:46
There may be more to it.
Iran via Hamas have supported Sinai Province, the ISIS-associated organization which has claimed responsibility for the downing of 9268.
So it could be that Russia is engaging in a bit of pre-emptive muddying of the water because it knows the investigation will implicate Russia's closest ally in the region, Iran.
Something I find interesting is that Russia started spreading disinformation about the downing of 9268 within hours of the crash (initially various claims that the pilot had reported technical errors), suggesting that they very early knew what had happened, and that it wouldn't look good for Russian adventurism in the Middle East.
In Response

by: Dmitriy from: Guess.
November 14, 2015 11:58
Yep. It's true. - Misinformation was.
Comments page of 2

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or