"’Foiled again!’ rose the cry from those expecting Russian President Vladimir Putin to step out of character and risk war, just as he finally succeeds in getting the U.S. to take Russia’s security concerns seriously – and even address them." Today we can simply recycle the above lede sentence from our article four weeks ago: Godot Likely To Arrive Before Russia Invades Ukraine.
New this time, and so far unique, is the lack-of-spin headline and lede that the AP promptly used yesterday in reporting on the significance of the talks held in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. (Headline and lede sentences follow.)
Russia ready to discuss confidence-building measures, Putin says after talks with Germany’s Scholtz
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow is ready for talks with the US and NATO on limits on missile deployments and military transparency, in a new sign of easing East-West tensions. The statement came after Russia announced it is pulling back some troops from exercises that have raised fears of a potential invasion of Ukraine.
Has AP Learned a Lesson?
Over recent weeks, AP’s ace reporter Matthew Lee and colleagues had been repeatedly led down the White House garden path by the likes of broken-record "the-Russians-are-coming-and-it-could-be-Wednesday" national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Might it be that, this time, at least one AP honcho became so weary of this drivel, that s/he decided to go ahead and publish before receiving the customary Guidance Memo from the powers that be, telling the Establishment media how to spin major events?
This time, the "guidance" came from President Joe Biden himself, who stuck to Sullivan’s ad-nauseam alerts that a Russia invasion "remains distinctly possible."
Reuters, too, apparently got the Memo in time and dutifully reported:
The Kremlin sought to portray its moves as proof that Western talk of war had been both false and hysterical.
"February 15, 2022 will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed. Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot fired," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Russia’s defence ministry published footage showing tanks and other armoured vehicles being loaded onto railway flatcars. But Western military analysts said they needed more information to judge the significance of the latest troop movements.
Putin With Scholz
At yesterday’s press conference, Chancellor Scholz at times played straight man for Putin, calling the announcement of the Russian troop pullback a "good signal" and agreeing that diplomatic options are "far from exhausted", as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reported to Putin on Monday. Here’s what’s important (and was given appropriate prominence in AP’s reporting).
Putin at the presser with Scholz:
"… as [Lavrov] reported yesterday, the [US and NATO] responses still contain a number of considerations that we are not only ready to discuss but that we have actually suggested to our partners over the years. I am referring to our proposals on European security, certain weapons systems, notably, intermediate and shorter-range missiles, and military transparency. We are ready to continue this joint work. … [Emphasis added.]
So far, the NYT has omitted that statement by Putin, which, coming yesterday together with the troop pullback, is highly significant. That the Times "forgot" to include it is yet another sign that even the most sensible, rudimentary negotiations on key matters of concern to Russia will be resisted tooth and nail by the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Congressional-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank) complex in which the NYT is right there in the middle, the fulcrum – the key "M."
Still, some Times editor apparently insisted on slipping in the important acknowledgment by Mr. Biden today that:
"Neither the US or NATO have missiles in Ukraine. We do not, do not have plans to put them there as well." [Emphasis added.]
Biden made this commitment to Putin during the telephone call of Dec. 30 that Putin had urgently requested. It amounts to a major concession and enabled Moscow to conclude that at least one or two of Biden’s retinue – or Biden himself – have their heads screwed on right.
In sum, at the risk of boring Antiwar.com readers who have heard this many times before, this issue represents the most fruitful negotiating path. A key remaining question is whether the MICIMATT can thwart it. All in all, yesterday gave a glimmer of hope that if others of the MEDIA follow AP’s example, US citizens will become better informed of the realities and thus be chary of giving credulity to officials like Jake Sullivan. As President Eisenhower warned 61 years ago, only "an informed citizenry" can prevent inordinate accretion of power by the MIC, the Military-Industrial-Complex.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).