Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Putin Dispatches Journalists to the Donbass: Will Troops Follow Or Is This All About Russian Domestic Affairs?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – The major military exercise Vladimir Putin announced earlier and that has sparked concerns that it is a preparation for a new military move against Ukraine concludes today (, raising new questions about what the Kremlin leader intends and will do next.

            One new indication is provided by the fact that Moscow has sent into the Russian-occupied portion of the Donbass a group of journalists from Zvezda television, a network that has regularly promoted Russia’s war against Ukraine ( and

            In normal military operations, the journalists come only after the troops; but in Putin’s “hybrid” war which has made propaganda a centerpiece of his operations, the reverse has often been true; and that makes this new report by Dmitry Tymchuk worrisome, albeit not definitive as to what the Kremlin will do next.

            Indeed, as Russian commentator Vataly Shchigeltsky points out, what Putin is doing may have far more to do with domestic Russian conditions than with any plans to attack. As he writes, “there is no war but there are all the conditions of wartime,” something that generates patriotic fervor and support for the leader (

            “Talk about a possible war in the near future seems empty,” he says. “There is no reason to attack Russia, a country which is rapidly being destroyed by the hands of its very own ‘elite.’ And it is senseless for Russia to go on the attack,” given its defeats and the price it is paying for them.

            But the Russian elite has a compelling reason to gin up wartime emotions: It is only way it can “extend” its rule by justifying in the minds of its own members and the Russian population at large the self-imposed isolation of the country from the outside world, “following the behests of Antonio Salazar,” the Portuguese fascist leader.

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