Western coverage of last week’s summit in Uzbekistan brings us face-to-face with the extent to which Americans are not supposed to see the world turning.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
Only in America, Land of Opportunists, can you awaken on an early autumn Sunday to a headline such as this in our once-but-no-longer newspaper of record: “The U.S. Vowed to Defend Central American Democracy. Autocrats Had Other Plans.”
Sit with this for a few moments, readers. Let yourselves laugh, or do the other thing, or maybe you will do some of both, as I did.
Now we can consider how the Western press reported the summit of non–Western powers in Samarkand last week and what went on when Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, met with Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, his Chinese and Indian counterparts.
Once again we find that The New York Times is perfectly willing to tell us the nighttime is not dark, the sky is not blue, and water does not run from faucets. Once again the elite cliques the Times speaks for do not want us to understand the world as it truly is.
The gathering last Thursday and Friday in Uzbekistan was the 22nd session of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a conference of Asian and Central Asian nations China set in motion in 2001 — or in 1996, if we count a modest forerunner called the S–5. At present the SCO has eight members — China, Russia, the Central Asian republics, India and Pakistan — plus the old Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and lots of observers and “dialogue partners.”
Last week’s summit was notable for a few reasons. As was anticipated, Iran and Belarus were welcomed as new members, which will expand the SCO to 10 when they fully accede. The Islamic Republic’s membership is especially significant, as it brings Iran into what amounts to an increasingly influential coalescence of Eurasian nations, aligns it with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and Moscow’s Eurasian Economic Union, and opens it to new means of transcending Washington’s persecutory sanctions regime.
It is also worth noting that Turkey was in attendance as one of nine dialogue partners. Ankara’s intentions are not yet clear, as it is rarely clear what President Recep Erdogan will do next, but finding the inconstant Erdogan in a forum of non–Western powers raises questions as to the medium-term allegiances of a longtime U.S. ally, a NATO member and an applicant for European Union membership.
The world turns, after all, whether or not Americans are supposed to notice.
The very biggest deals in Samarkand last week were the talks Putin had individually with Xi and Modi. Remember from here on out, the Pope isn’t Catholic and bears don’t defecate in the woods.
The Putin–Xi talks were the umpteenth encounter between the two — they must be up around 40 summits by now — but it was their first face-to-face since Russia intervened in Ukraine last February and marked Xi’s first journey outside China since the Covid–19 pandemic hit in 2020.
Here is how the Times began its report — from a great distance, as it had no one in Samarkand — under the headline, “Putin Nods to Xi’s ‘Concerns,’ and the Limits of Their Cooperation”:
“Rather than put on a show of Eurasian unity against the West as Russia struggled to recover from last week’s humiliating military retreat in northeastern Ukraine, the two leaders struck discordant notes in their public remarks — and Mr. Xi made no mention of Ukraine at all.
‘We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis,’ Mr. Putin said in televised remarks at the start of the meeting. ‘We understand your questions and concerns in this regard.’ ”
Questions and concerns, limits, discordant notes: Wow. There is trouble in River City. What we have here, the Times wants us to know, are signs of a major breach in the much-remarked Sino–Russian partnership. We’re back with Vlad the Isolated. Xi’s preoccupation was to calm the nerves of the others in attendance, nervous as they were that the megalomaniacal Russian leader was coming next for them:
“China is seeking to offer rhetorical reassurances to former Soviet republics in Central Asia that have been made uneasy by the Ukraine war — an invasion that signaled to some that Mr. Putin is prepared to use force to try to rebuild the Soviet empire.”
What a mess it must have been in Samarkand. A ghoulish wannabe czar, his best friend giving him the silent treatment, knees knocking all around the conference table.
Everyone climbed on board for this one. The Wall Street Journal: “Russia’s Vladimir Putin Says China’s Xi Jinping Raised ‘Concerns’ on Ukraine War.” Politico: “Putin admits China has ‘questions’ and ‘concerns’ about Ukraine War.” CNBC: “Putin admits China has ‘concerns’ over Ukraine invasion.”
I’ve always loved mainstream media for their diversity, their courageous determination to think things through for themselves and call ’em as they see ’em.
These same publications and networks set to once more after Putin and Modi conferred. “I know that today’s era is not of war,” the Indian PM remarked. “Today we will get a chance to discuss how we can move forward on the path of peace.”
Isolating Russia on World Stage
Wow again. In two sentences Modi “underlined Russia’s widening isolation on the world stage,” the Times reported. And then:
“The televised critique by Mr. Modi at a regional summit in Uzbekistan came just a day after Mr. Putin acknowledged that Xi Jinping, China’s leader, had “questions and concerns” about the war.
Taken together, the distancing from Mr. Putin by the heads of the world’s two most populous countries—both of which have been pivotal to sustaining Russia’s economy in the face of Western sanctions—punctured the Kremlin’s message that Russia was far from a global pariah.”
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Once again, Western media reported this like a well-rehearsed church choir. Reuters had it that Modi “assailed” Putin on the Ukraine question. Newsweek — those delicate people — noted that Modi “skips hug with Putin.”
Putin the Unloved, Putin who is a pariah after all. What is more, it looks as if China’s and India’s cooperation since the Feb. 24 intervention may be on the way to drying up. I’ll bet Putin wishes he never went anywhere near Samarkand, disastrous as his time there proved.
Let us follow my old rule: We read The New York Times to find out what we are supposed to think happened. Then we must go in search of what happened.
In this case we need go no further than the Kremlin web site, which is very good with its translations and transcripts of major occasions, and a few Indian and Chinese sources.
Here is the Kremlin.ru readout of the Putin–Xi encounter and here is its readout of the Putin–Modi exchange. Here is a report on the former in Global Times, the English-language newspaper published by People’s Daily, and here is New Delhi’s account of Modi’s conversation with Putin.
These readouts and reports line up well, each confirming the accuracy of its counterpart. What we find, first, is that the quotations the Western press seized upon and ran frenzied miles with were taken radically out of context with the perfectly evident intention of misleading readers and viewers.
We find, second, third, and fourth, expressions of friendship, pledges of solidarity, and declarations of commitment to the common cause of constructing the new world order Putin and Xi have spoken of, together and separately, since that remarkable document they issued jointly on the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February.
Xi to Putin, according to Moscow’s readout:
“In the face of ongoing formidable global changes that have never been seen in history, we are ready to work with our Russian colleagues to set an example of what a responsible global power is and assume leadership in order to bring the rapidly changing world onto a path of sustainable and positive development.”
Here is Modi to Putin, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs:
“The relationship between India and Russia has deepened manifold. We also value this relationship because we have been such friends who have been with each other every moment for the last several decades and the whole world also knows how Russia’s relationship with India has been and how India’s relationship with Russia has been and therefore the world also knows that it is an unbreakable friendship.”
And so on in many variations throughout these documents. The Global Times headline: “Xi, Putin meet at SCO summit, forging closer ties amid U.S.–caused world turbulence.”
What is there to say about what we are supposed to think happened and what was said in Samarkand and what actually transpired? I have two nominees.
One, never in my long decades in the Great Craft have I seen such brazen editorial corruption as we have here. The reports we read in the Times and all the publications that follow the Times’ lead like pilot fish alongside a whale are 180° upside down from the readily available truth. Lies, obfuscations, omissions, and the like are nothing new in traditional media. This seems a new low.
Two, the reporting on the Samarkand conference — as against from it — brings us face to face with the extent to which Americans are confined in a state of ignorance in matters of global importance. We are not supposed to see the world turning.
The SCO is dedicated to Eurasian unity and is of a piece with the famous World Island thesis of Halford MacKinder, who postulated in 1904 that the Eurasian landmass was destined to emerge as “the geographical pivot of history.” The Eurasian Economic Union, the Belt and Road Initiative, the SCO: These are the organizational hardware as this turn of history’s wheel comes to be.
Of this we read next to nothing last week — passing remarks and no more, and certainly no substantive analysis. The Putin–Xi and Putin–Modi talks could not be ignored in this fashion, so they had to be distorted quite literally beyond recognition.
Both of those bilaterals were, in fact, key setbacks for Washington — and hence, of course, the distortion. The Biden regime has long fantasized that it can disrupt the waxing partnership between Moscow and Beijing. The U.S. has deluded itself even longer that New Delhi, which honors Nehru’s principle of nonalignment as if it is a sacrament, can be turned against Beijing and Moscow alike.
What we’ve just watched is the extent of these delusions. Let us, then, simply extend these delusions further, for those purporting to lead our republic simply cannot handle the 21st century as it unfolds before us, and we must not see what they refuse to accept.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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