James Miller writes: Ever since it became clear that Russian forces were operating in Crimea, it’s been a pretty safe assumption that almost any information flowing out of Moscow has been BS used to justify Russia’s Ukrainian land grab.
But Russia had been slowly choking off dissent and independent media long before its takeover of Crimea — it’s just that the Kremlin accelerated the process once the crisis began. And that was no accident, as the dissemination of propaganda is a crucial part of Moscow’s strategy to gain control of eastern (and perhaps the rest of) Ukraine.
On the surface, it appears that Vladimir Putin is poised to use the same strategy he employed in Crimea. Soon after then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine, spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces) airborne units joined with personnel from the Black Sea fleet who were already stationed on the Crimean peninsula, then proceeded to capture government buildings, erect checkpoints, and eventually gain control of the entire region. With the peninsula under Russia’s military control, Moscow installed allies in the Crimean government, held a referendum, and used the result — an unconstitutional sham in which even children voted — to justify the official annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation.
A close look at what’s been happening in eastern Ukraine reveals key differences, however. For starters, eastern Ukraine didn’t already have Russian military installations and troops stationed there. In addition, eastern Ukraine is much larger, with a far bigger population. Traditional thinking holds that in order to control a region that large, Russia would need a full-scale military invasion — and with tens of thousands of troops and armored vehicles stacked up just a few miles from Ukraine’s border, many observers are waiting for those forces to inevitably pour in.
But that may never need to happen, because Russia has a weapon at its disposal in eastern Ukraine that has arguably proved more effective than all of its military hardware could have ever been. This weapon has already defeated anything the interim government in Kiev — or the entirety of the international community, for that matter — has wielded against it.
That weapon is the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. [Continue reading…]