Musings on Contemporary Waffle
Even more fascinating as a study in delusion than Vladimir Putin’s quest to recreate the power and glory of the Soviet Union, is his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, the “Knight of Nyet”. Mr. Lavrov can be counted on (and is, of course, counted on by Mr. Putin) to say exactly what we all eventually find out to be untrue.
Did Russia have anything to do with influencing the referendum for independence in Crimea? Nyet. Did Russia have anything to do with the sniping in Kiev in February? Nyet. Did pro-Russian “rebels” (is there no word for “cowboy” in Russian?) shoot down a passenger plane out of the sky over “disputed” Ukrainian territory? Nyet.
But the disinformation from Russia about its influence – or supposed lack of any influence – on events taking place in eastern Ukraine has stretched credibility to a point where the Russian reaction can be taken almost as a parody of itself.
It really is becoming as bizarre as the old Russia of Soviet times, when nothing ever made sense, logic had no place, and evidence presented by the outside world was the work of spies and colluders.
As Moscow and self-styled Prime Ministers of bits of eastern Ukraine formulate their predictable responses to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the world seems to have already pieced together much of what probably happened.
The eyes and ears of a connected world that can still share information freely has already discovered the boasting of a pro-Russian rebel “leader” that his men shot down a “military transport plane” that we now know to be flight MH17 with 298 innocent civilians on it.
We already have the follow-on discussions among rebel commanders and Russian operatives, a macabre Abbott-and-Costello-like depiction that admits to no military plane, no military equipment, and no military personnel raining down from the sky — just a lot of “women and children”.
To a military man, women and children are a clear sign that you are dealing with civilians. These newly-minted rebel leaders have obviously been trained sufficiently to spot the difference, I suppose, but not, apparently, to hold their tongues in the event that they are speaking via unsecured communication links.
Then, pictures and video quickly emerged of the actual BUK missile launcher that probably downed the passenger plane, brought over from Russia for the benefit of the rebels, as this extended video suggests. The BUK was said to have already been moved back across the border into Russia, where it will presumably disappear forever.
We learned all of this in under 24 hours. But Mr. Lavrov and the whole Russian fairy-tale spawning apparatus will be telling us that the sky is not blue, has never been blue, and never will be blue. Suspicions about Russia’s culpability are rejected as variously “unfounded”, “deplorable”, “despicable”, “unacceptable”, or the catch-all of “the work of Ukrainian and Western agitators”. We will be told anything that sounds sufficiently indignant to match Russia’s view of itself as a great nation unstoppable towards greater glory.
What country other than a few strange places like North Korea and Belarus still talks and acts like this? The mixture of solemnity with hubris and self-confidence with insecurity is a study in the sublime leading to the ridiculous. With Russia’s economy the size of Italy’s, the US has taken the correct attitude in regarding Mr. Putin’s Russia not as a great world power but as the regional power that it is.
Mr. Lavrov is not a stupid man. But as a public servant of Vladimir Putin’s government, he has the ignoble task of being the official disseminator of all of this drivel.
But no one else has to believe this Knight of “No”. Rarely has the world stood in such brisk and unified denunciation of one country’s conduct. There is nothing great enough in Russia’s history to counteract, let alone justify, its role in what was an ignoble, macabre achievement indeed, the tragic mistake of shooting down a civilian jet.
And given Russia’s inability to say anything that actually makes any sense to anyone in the wake of this event, one can only fear what will happen tomorrow, and what we will be told about it by Mr. Lavrov, while Mr. Putin remains in charge.