High Cost of Bad Journalism on Ukraine

Exclusive: By driving a wedge between President Obama and President Putin over Ukraine, America’s neocons and the mainstream media can hope for more “shock and awe” in the Mideast, but the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill, including $1 trillion more on nuclear weapons, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The costs of the mainstream U.S. media’s wildly anti-Moscow bias in the Ukraine crisis are adding up, as the Obama administration has decided to react to alleged “Russian aggression” by investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

On Monday, a typically slanted New York Times article justified these modernization plans by describing “Russia on the warpath” and adding: “Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington’s escalating confrontation with Moscow.”

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

But the Ukraine crisis has been a textbook case of the U.S. mainstream media misreporting the facts of a foreign confrontation and then misinterpreting the meaning of the events, a classic case of “garbage in, garbage out.” The core of the false mainstream narrative is that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis as an excuse to reclaim territory for the Russian Empire.

While that interpretation of events has been the cornerstone of Official Washington’s “group think,” the reality always was that Putin favored maintaining the status quo in Ukraine. He had no plans to “invade” Ukraine and was satisfied with the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, when the crisis heated up last February, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Rather than Putin’s “warmongering” as the Times said in the lead-in to another Monday article the evidence is clear that it was the United States and the European Union that initiated this confrontation in a bid to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the West’s orbit.

This was a scheme long in the making, but the immediate framework for the crisis took shape a year ago when influential U.S. neocons set their sights on Ukraine and Putin after Putin helped defuse a crisis in Syria by persuading President Barack Obama to set aside plans to bomb Syrian government targets over a disputed Sarin gas attack and instead accept Syria’s willingness to surrender its entire chemical weapons arsenal.

But the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies had their hearts set on another “shock and awe” campaign with the goal of precipitating another “regime change” against a Middle East government disfavored by Israel. Putin also worked with Obama to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, averting another neocon dream to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

The Despised Putin

So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons’ “enemies list” and some prominent neocons quickly detected his vulnerability in Ukraine, a historical route for western invasions of Russia and the scene of extraordinarily bloody fighting during World War II.

National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, one of the top neocon paymasters spreading around $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers’ money, declared in late September 2013 that Ukraine represented “the biggest prize” but beyond that was an opportunity to put Putin “on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

The context for Gershman’s excitement was a European Union offer of an association agreement to Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but it came with some nasty strings attached, an austerity plan demanded by the International Monetary Fund that would have made the hard lives of the average Ukrainian even harder.

That prompted Yanukovych to seek a better deal from Putin who offered $15 billion in aid without the IMF’s harsh terms. Yet, once Yanukovych rebuffed the EU plan, his government was targeted by a destabilization campaign that involved scores of political and media projects funded by Gershman’s NED and other U.S. agencies.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, reminded a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.” Nuland, wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, also showed up at the Maidan square in Kiev passing out cookies to protesters.

The Maidan protests, reflecting western Ukraine’s desire for closer ties to Europe, also were cheered on by neocon Sen. John McCain, who appeared on a podium with leaders of the far-right Svoboda party under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. A year earlier, the European Parliament had identified Svoboda as professing “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.”

Yet, militants from Svoboda and the even more extreme Right Sektor were emerging as the muscle of the Maidan protests, seizing government buildings and hurling firebombs at police. A well-known Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader, Andriy Parubiy, became the commandant of the Maidan’s “self-defense” forces.

Behind the scenes, Assistant Secretary Nuland was deciding who would take over the Ukrainian government once Yanukovych was ousted. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland crossed off some potential leaders and announced that “Yats” or Arseniy Yatsenyuk was her guy.

The Coup

On Feb. 20, as the neo-Nazi militias stepped up their attacks on police, a mysterious sniper opened fire on both protesters and police killing scores and bringing the political crisis to a boil. The U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych for the killings though he denied giving such an order and some evidence pointed toward a provocation from the far-right extremists.

As Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in another intercepted phone call with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Asthon, “there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”

But the sniper shootings led Yanukovych to agree on Feb. 21 to a deal guaranteed by three European countries France, Germany and Poland that he would surrender much of his power and move up elections so he could be voted out of office. He also assented to U.S. demands that he pull back his police.

That last move, however, prompted the neo-Nazi militias to overrun the presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and force Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives. Then, rather than seeking to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, the U.S. State Department promptly declared the coup regime “legitimate” and blamed everything on Yanukovych and Putin.

Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, was made prime minister and the neo-Nazis were rewarded for their crucial role by receiving several ministries, including national security headed by Parubiy. The parliament also voted to ban Russian as an official language (though that was later rescinded), and the IMF austerity demands were pushed through by Yatsenyuk. Not surprisingly, ethnic Russians in the south and east, the base of Yanukovych’s support, began resisting what they regarded as the illegitimate coup regime.

To blame this crisis on Putin simply ignores the facts and defies logic. To presume that Putin instigated the ouster of Yanukovych in some convoluted scheme to seize territory requires you to believe that Putin got the EU to make its reckless association offer, organized the mass protests at the Maidan, convinced neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to throw firebombs at police, and manipulated Gershman, Nuland and McCain to coordinate with the coup-makers all while appearing to support Yanukovych’s idea for new elections within Ukraine’s constitutional structure.

Though such a crazy conspiracy theory would make people in tinfoil hats blush, this certainty is at the heart of what every “smart” person in Official Washington believes. If you dared to suggest that Putin was actually distracted by the Sochi Olympics last February, was caught off guard by the events in Ukraine, and reacted to a Western-inspired crisis on his border (including his acceptance of Crimea’s request to be readmitted to Russia), you would be immediately dismissed as “a stooge of Moscow.”

Such is how mindless “group think” works in Washington. All the people who matter jump on the bandwagon and smirk at anyone who questions how wise it is to be rolling downhill in some disastrous direction.

But the pols and pundits who appear on U.S. television spouting the conventional wisdom are always the winners in this scenario. They get to look tough, standing up to villains like Yanukovych and Putin and siding with the saintly Maidan protesters. The neo-Nazi brown shirts are whited out of the picture and any Ukrainian who objected to the U.S.-backed coup regime finds a black hat firmly glued on his or her head.

For the neocons, there are both financial and ideological benefits. By shattering the fragile alliance that had evolved between Putin and Obama over Syria and Iran, the neocons seized greater control over U.S. policies in the Middle East and revived the prospects for violent “regime change.”

On a more mundane level by stirring up a new Cold War the neocons generate more U.S. government money for military contractors who bestow a portion on Washington think tanks that provide cushy jobs for neocons when they are out of government.

The Losers

The worst losers are the people of Ukraine, most tragically the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, thousands of whom have died from a combination of heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian army on residential areas followed by street fighting led by brutal neo-Nazi militias who were incorporated into Kiev’s battle plans. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s ‘Romantic’ Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers.”]

The devastation of eastern Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Ukrainians out of their homes, has left parts of this industrial region in ruins. Of course, in the U.S. media version, it’s all Putin’s fault for deceiving these ethnic Russians with “propaganda” about neo-Nazis and then inducing these deluded individuals to resist the “legitimate” authorities in Kiev.

Notably, America’s righteous “responsibility to protect” crowd, which demanded that Obama begin airstrikes in Syria a year ago, swallowed its moral whistles when it came to the U.S.-backed Kiev regime butchering ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (or for that matter, when Israeli forces slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza).

However, beyond the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, the meddling by Nuland, Gershman and others has pushed all of Ukraine toward financial catastrophe. As “The Business Insider” reported on Sept. 21, “Ukraine Is on the Brink of Total Economic Collapse.”

Author Walter Kurtz wrote: “Those who have spent any time in Ukraine during the winter know how harsh the weather can get. And at these [current] valuations, hryvnia [Ukraine’s currency] isn’t going to buy much heating fuel from abroad.

“Inflation rate is running above 14% and will spike sharply from here in the next few months if the currency weakness persists. Real wages are collapsing. Finally, Ukraine’s fiscal situation is unraveling.”

In other words, the already suffering Ukrainians from the west, east and center of the country can expect to suffer a great deal more. They have been made expendable pawns in a geopolitical chess game played by neocon masters and serving interests far from Lviv, Donetsk and Kiev.

But other victims from these latest machinations by the U.S. political/media elite will include the American taxpayers who will be expected to foot the bill for the new Cold War launched in reaction to Putin’s imaginary scheme to instigate the Ukraine crisis so he could reclaim territory of the Russian Empire.

As nutty as that conspiracy theory is, it is now one of the key reasons why the American people have to spend $1 trillion to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, rather than scaling back the thousands of U.S. atomic weapons to around 900, as had been planned.

Or as one supposed expert, Gary Samore at Harvard, explained to the New York Times: “The most fundamental game changer is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible.”

Thus, you can see how hyperbolic journalism and self-interested punditry can end up costing the American taxpayers vast sums of money and contributing to a more dangerous world.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

24 comments for “High Cost of Bad Journalism on Ukraine

  1. frt
    September 24, 2014 at 06:48

    The US put into law the $1 trillion dollar nuclear re-armament program way before the February coup. Here’s an analysis of it from January 2014 (link via the Daily Mail):

    That the New York Times is rewriting the past demonstrates their duplicity not gullibility. That there are “experts” who regurgitate these talking points right on cue speaks to their socialization.

    Its much more sinister than group think, they’re justifying their actions in the past after the fact with lies about current events and their role in them.

  2. rus_programmer
    September 24, 2014 at 05:45

    I do not believe my eyes :o) Adequate article in the American edition, written by an American!
    Gratitude and respect.

  3. jill
    September 23, 2014 at 14:32

    America -lzhivaya country prides itself on other countries, start wars for their own benefit, kill innocent people, ordinary citizens of the United States, think of your country never had the war (in modern history), it is very scary when killing women, children, the elderly, when your home is destroyed when people are unemployed, homeless, without clothes and medicines, without a home, your government is spending American taxpayers’ money on foreign wars, only in order to extract a monetary profit for themselves, your sons are dying and maimed, for the sake of the American rich became richer …
    stop your president, allowing him to bomb foreign countries, you stanovitel accomplices kills civilians!

  4. Abe
    September 23, 2014 at 13:29

    Did Israel help US by downing Syrian jet?
    By Jonathan Cook

    Today the US – backed by “moderate” Arab states like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Jordan – started bombing territory in another sovereign state, Syria, without a UN Security Council resolution or a plausible argument that it is acting in self-defence. That makes it a crime of aggression, defined at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    In a sign that Obama’s war on ISIS in Syria could quickly be extended into a war against Syrian president Bashar Assad, Israel downed a Syrian jet inside Syria this morning with a US-funded Patriot missile. According to Israel, the Syrian plane had passed 800 metres into its territory before heading back into Syria, during what the Israeli media say was a sortie against “rebels” operating close to the Israeli border (that’s right – the people Obama is currently bombing but whose injuries are being mended in Israeli hospitals).

    Of course, we only have Israel’s word for it that the plane briefly crossed into Israeli territory, but watch to see how completely the western media will assume Israel’s story to be the only valid account.

  5. Vic
    September 23, 2014 at 11:33

    Wow!!!! “but the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill, including $1 trillion more on nuclear weapons, writes Robert Parry”
    How much Putin’s bonus ?
    I’m ready to buy bear, matreshka, balalaika, machine gun and post foto “ugly russian” on Facebook to increase it to $2trillion for 1% commission :)
    As usuall for all this theatre taxpayers are footing the bill around the world.

  6. Abe
    September 23, 2014 at 11:29

    Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate
    By Glenn Greenwald

    It was just over a year ago that Obama officials were insisting that bombing and attacking Assad was a moral and strategic imperative. Instead, Obama is now bombing Assad’s enemies while politely informing his regime of its targets in advance. It seems irrelevant on whom the U.S. wages war; what matters it that it be at war, always and forever.

    Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug, as it is what then justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

  7. Abe
    September 23, 2014 at 11:00

    True Heroes Behind Kiev Ceasefire
    By F. William Endahl

    Failing their first Color Revolution attempt to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, Washington covertly prepared the Maidan Square “revolution” of February 2014, installing a regime of overt psychopaths. Their ruthless war against their own people along the Russian border in eastern Ukraine as well as threats to cut Russian gas pipeline deliveries to western Europe were carefully designed to try to provoke Russia into a blunder that could give the pretext for NATO to act.

    We should all thank God it has not happened, and that Russia has acted with remarkable restraint in the situation. Instead, a rag-tag citizens’ militia across eastern Ukraine, fighting for their homes, their lands, for their families and friends, whether or not in part helped by Russians, have fought an incredible battle. It has been a battle to stop the insanity put in power in Kiev that US State Department neo-conservative Assistant Secretary Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland and CIA Director John Brennan and others in the Obama Administration have brought.

    The Washington war faction’s aim was and still is to advance a neo-conservative new war agenda, splitting Russia and Eurasia from the EU, especially from Germany, encircling and ultimately destroying the emerging threat of the Russia-China alliance that is called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the related BRICS organization. Finally with the declaration by Ukraine’s Poroshenko of a ceasefire, it is time to recognize the debt of gratitude all lovers of world peace and civilized people everywhere owe to the citizens of eastern Ukraine whose refusal to allow the destruction of their lives by a criminal band of US-financed barbarians in Kiev just might have helped avoid a world war.

    The most alarming facet of the crisis in Ukraine today is the near utter ignorance in Western Europe, because of a de facto NATO press censorship, of the true stakes of the war in Ukraine. It is the nothing less than the question of possible thermonuclear obliteration, not of Washington–whose warhawks initiated the expansion of NATO and the threat of nuclear First Strike–but of Western Europe. Such a war will turn western Europe, from Poland to the Czech Republic and beyond, into the nuclear battlefield of what will ultimately become a new world war. This is something which at least ought to deserve a sober and open debate in mainstream media.

  8. Martin P. Gottlieb
    September 23, 2014 at 08:57

    “So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons’ “enemies list” “.

    Robert – At the time of the MH-17 shoot down, there was a VERY brief story that it was intended to kill Putin himself. According to the story, he was returning from a Latin American economic summit and his airplane flew through the same corridor over the Ukraine about ten minutes before the Malaysian jetliner. The Ukrainian fighter pilot mistook the Malaysian commercial flight for Putin’s plane.

    Do you know any more about this assertion and do you give it much creditability?

  9. Yar
    September 23, 2014 at 02:59

    Paranoia uber alles.
    Paranoia can divert from inner conflicts – this is true for individuals and for states.
    (It dismiss all doubts in self-goodness).
    It also can enrich some influental warmongers.
    Paranoia is almost invincible.
    And a voice of reason is hopeless.
    Clinical fact.

  10. Abe
    September 22, 2014 at 23:47

    And so it begins:
    A systematic campaign of airstrikes to degrade, destroy and ultimately behead Syria

    How many heads does it take to buy a $607,000 Tomahawk cruse missile?


  11. Joe Tedesky
    September 22, 2014 at 22:56

    Now that the USA has starting bombing raids over Syria should we expect to see terrorist getting busted inside continental US borders? What about that AUMF authorization?

    • Abe
      September 22, 2014 at 23:10

      The Syrian government was willing to cooperate in coordinating strikes on Islamic jihadists which the country has been battling against for over three years, but US officials rejected any possibility of such cooperation.

      Any strikes on Syrian soil without Damascus’ consent will be considered an act of aggression, Syria has warned.

      Russia has repeatedly warned that Washington should respect the sovereignty of Syria in its attempts to deal with the Islamic State.

      Moscow previously expressed concern that US airstrikes may target not only the Islamic State, but also government forces loyal to President Assad.

      In a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that airstrikes on terrorist targets in Syria should not be carried out without the consent of the Syrian government.

  12. W. R. Knight
    September 22, 2014 at 22:11

    The other (unmentioned) benefit for the neocons and the 1% is that they will be able to purchase the entire country at fire sale prices after the Ukrainian economy collapses.

    • Abe
      September 22, 2014 at 22:44

      EU Realty says, “We’re out of northeast Adriatic coastal properties, but could I interest you in a picturesque coal mine in Donbas?”

  13. Abe
    September 22, 2014 at 21:27

    Dutch MH17 Investigation Omits US “Intel”
    By Tony Cartalucci

    In the wake of the MH17 tragedy, the West would rush through a series of sanctions against Russia as well as justify further military aid for the regime in Kiev, Ukraine and the literal Neo-Nazi militant battalions serving its pro-Western agenda amid a brutal civil war raging in the country’s eastern most provinces. With sanctions in hand, and the war raging on in earnest, the MH17 disaster dropped entirely out of Western narratives as if it never occurred. Surely if the West had solid evidence implicating eastern Ukrainian rebels and/or Russia, the world would never have heard the end of the MH17 disaster until the truth was fully aired before the public.

    When Dutch investigators published their preliminary report, the West merely reiterated its original claims, simply imposing their contradictory nature upon the report – most likely believing the public would never actually read its 34 pages.

    For example, Reuters in a report titled, “Malaysia: Dutch report suggests MH-17 shot down from ground,” would brazenly claim:

    “Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 broke apart over Ukraine due to impact from a large number of fragments, the Dutch Safety Board said on Tuesday, in a report that Malaysia’s prime minister and several experts said suggested it was shot down from the ground.”

    The title of Reuters’ propaganda piece directly contradicts its first paragraph which reveals “experts,” not the actual Dutch Safety Board report, claimed it was “shot down from the ground,” while the report itself says nothing of the sort. The experts cited by Reuters in fact had no association whatsoever with the preliminary report and instead are the same mainstay of cherry picked commentators the West constantly defers to while building up and perpetuating utterly fabricated narratives to advance its agenda globally.

    • toby
      September 23, 2014 at 10:03

      That would be the NWO and debt based money.

  14. toby
    September 22, 2014 at 20:40

    Is there anyone who has not kissed the wall for Israel….just one real person? I was disappointed in Rand Paul with his “Stand with Israel” legislation that says to me, ‘I have SOLD OUT my honor and learned nothing from my father’.

    • Yaj
      September 22, 2014 at 21:09


      What does the coup in Ukraine and various lies told about it by the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post have to do with Israel?

      Answer with specific checkable references.

      • Where-Wolf
        September 23, 2014 at 03:08

        Oh please.

        What does every coup and foreign policy blunder of the last 67 years not have to do with Israel.

        Answer with specific checkable non hasbarat references.

      • Hillary
        September 23, 2014 at 09:33

        U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is a super neocon married to
        Robert Kagan co-founder of the Project for the New American Century,

      • September 23, 2014 at 09:58

        Destabilizing the entire middle east, seizing control by a coup with US neocons and warmongers has not exactly been a secret for Israel, AIPAC and BibiN.

        Stick your specific checkable references in your specific ahole….

      • Tom Welsh
        September 24, 2014 at 11:30

        Who died and made you God? Who are you to demand these things? Actually, who are you?

    • Abe
      September 22, 2014 at 22:25

      Like Rand Paul, the Times and the Post, the commenter’s remark is an irrelevance.

      Poroshenko told the joint session of Congress that Ukraine is “just like Israel,” and has just as much right to mercilessly bomb civilians and receive U.S. subsidies.

      AIPAC surely is unconvinced that Israel ought to share the wealth. I’m sure that position will be reflected in any “Stand with Ukraine” aid packages.

    • Dave
      September 23, 2014 at 15:53

      Isn’t it a little strange how frequently commenters on this site post anti-Israel comments, even on articles that have nothing to do with Israel or the Middle East?

      It’s almost as if they want to enable critics to slander Consortium News as “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”, like this guy tried to do to Common Dreams:

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