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By Jason Michael
GOING BY THE COMMENTS on a recent Random Public Journal blog post, ‘Bleakest Forecast,’ there are a number of people in the Scottish independence movement who are unwilling to accept the growing case against Vladimir Putin’s Russia – that it has meddled in Western elections and that it is behind the dark money which has flooded into US and UK political campaigns. “I’ve always enjoyed your careful and thoughtful analysis of events and attitudes. Until now,” commented Gordon G., “For a minute there I thought I was reading The Guardian.” It is always encouraging, as a blogger, to have the support of regular readers, and their criticisms are important.
Those of us writing in the alternative media do what we do because of our growing suspicion of the mainstream media. Having someone comment that our work reminds them of the media outlets they have grown tired of is worrying, but – at the same time – we can only work with the information we have. Alternative media becomes as much a part of the modern crisis in media the moment we begin inventing news or playing the game of telling our readers what they want to hear. Sometimes, then, this means publishing articles which echo “the narrative” of the mainstream because – and to put it simply – a broken clock is right twice a day.
James is a Met police officer turned whistleblower turned journalist who has entirely crowdfunded his work covering… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) July 16, 2018
It has become impossible, given the facts, to deny the extremely high probability that the Russian Federation has been behind a long-running and well-orchestrated online and off-line effort to destabilise democracy in the United States and the European Union. The evidence of intelligence agencies in the US, Israel, Estonia, Germany, France, Ukraine, and elsewhere all point in the same direction; that Russia has been creating backchannels in the West through which to fund disruptive political campaigns and has been supporting these with a highly sophisticated strategy involving the use of fake social media accounts, bots, and trolls.
Even from inside Russia we are getting the same. Ludmila Savchuk, a St Petersburg-based investigative journalist, confirmed the existence of government-sponsored “troll farms” when she went undercover to work for one – the Internet Research Agency. According to Issie Lapowsky, a writer for Wired, this shadowy online-influence operation – which was closed down after the election of Donald Trump – came under international scrutiny after Facebook disclosed that it and similar Russian operations had placed in excess of 5,000 “phony political ads on its platform during the 2016 election.” Along with Putin’s admission in Helsinki that he had directed his people to assist in getting Trump elected, the evidence is overwhelming. Russia has attempted to influence the outcome of a number of Western democracies by nefarious means.
Some in the independence movement in Scotland find this evidence difficult to accept, and understandably so. Thanks to The Guardian – which is by no means the worst – and other mainstream media outlets Russia has been turned into a bogeyman. Throughout the independence campaign the unionist media in the UK worked tirelessly to smear the Yes campaign, the SNP, and the independence movement with unsubstantiated links to the Putin regime. Russia Today (RT) was one of the few international media outlets to give the independence debate the balanced coverage the BBC refused to give it, and Alex Salmond’s decision to host his show on RT has been used as proof of such links. Not to mention the dubious Skripal-Novichok debacle, Scottish independentistas have become sick fed up of this anti-Russian narrative.
Alex Salmond is facing new calls to quit his chat show on a Kremlin-controlled TV station after it was found guilty… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
The Times of London (@thetimes) July 17, 2018
Notwithstanding this, however, the Russophobic smokescreen cast by the BBC and the rest of the British media takes nothing from the probability that Russia – as an autonomous global political actor – has indeed been working to undermine democracy in the West. In saying this I am not saying that the Western construction of a Russian bogyman isn’t true. Both can be true. What is being said here is that we must be prepared to assess the evidence in each case.
Putin’s Russia is by no means a righteous victim of US and British propaganda. Just as the European Union, the US, and the UK have their own geopolitical interests, so too does Russia. When it comes to the game of propaganda, counter-propaganda, fake news, and misinformation they are all as bad as one another. Yes, RT may have thrown the Scottish independence movement a few bones, and Russia’s meddling in the Brexit referendum may prove to be to our benefit, but we cannot afford to be uncritical the methods. The crippling of democracy in the UK – the fullest consequences are not yet known – won’t be a good thing for the UK or for an independent Scotland.
Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014 Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) succinctly summed up the heightening standoff between Russia and the West:
On the one hand, the West clearly intends to continue to promote its policy of preventing Russia from regaining its superpower status, mainly by removing areas formerly in the Soviet Union from the Russian sphere of influence and absorbing them in the Western system, preferably by non-violent means. On the other hand, Russia’s conduct in response to these trends creates new challenges that make it necessary to restrain it, preferably without being drawn into an all-out conflict. Therefore, the Western response, comprising various economic and political sanctions, at this point appears to be the best possible option.
Few readers of this blog will view Israel as a neutral observer, and rightly so. But we cannot dispute the State of Israel’s consistency when it comes to looking after what best suits Israel. This is a state that will invariable turn its international affections on a dime to ensure its own status quo is preserved. It acknowledges what the West – the US and the EU – has been doing to frustrate Russia’s ambitions, while recognising that the Russian Federation is responding.
Mission deep into Syria revealed after Israeli operatives say President's leak 'confirmed our worst fears'. The hi… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
EssenViews/Commentary (@essenviews) November 23, 2017
Russia is of course responding and it is doing this because its return to “superpower status” depends on it recovering the Ukraine and this – as the INSS puts it – “extends to other states formerly part of the Soviet Union.” Achieving this means that Putin must weaken the resolve of the West to resist Russian expansion into former Soviet possessions, and the best way to do this is to disrupt their politics and weaken their alliances. Regardless of what the US, the UK, and the EU are doing to Russia, this is what Russia is doing in the West – and it’s not good for us.
This is not about me being Russophobic. It is not about my failure to see the nastiness of British and US foreign policy. Regular readers will know I am no fan of the United States’ own form of global expansionism. I am committed to the breakup of the United Kingdom. With regard to these positions, surely I must consider Russia an ally – my enemy’s enemy is my friend and all that? No, not at all. This is not good Realpolitik. In fact, it invites disaster.
Gaining independence is what we are all about, but that independence is about bringing a democratic Scotland into the community of free states. We may have real issues about our history under London rule, but Putin’s Russia – as the Ukrainians, the Chechens, and the Georgians will tell you – is a completely different beast. What his project seeks to do is undermine our democracy and disrupt the healthy running of our civic and state apparatuses to the point of chaos. This may result in our independence, but what sort of state would that be? What condition would the rest of the UK be left in, and would that ensure our long-term peace and the peace of Europe? I seriously doubt it. What Russia is doing – and it is doing it – is for its own benefit.
Russian Foreign Policy