Dangerous Propaganda

BERLIN/WASHINGTON | | russische-foederation

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - The German news magazine "Der Spiegel" reported in its latest edition that the German chancellery is accusing NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, of making "dangerous propaganda." According to the German government, Breedlove is completely exaggerating Russia's military activities in Eastern Ukraine. He claims having detected Russian military equipment, including tanks and air defense systems in Ukraine. Germany's foreign intelligence agency BND, however, could neither detect these in their own satellite imagery nor acquire adequate information from its allied US intelligence services. Breedlove has also completely exaggerated the number of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border. However, the German government has also repeatedly used this type of propaganda, for example during the aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999. The German government's criticism of Breedlove, reported by "Der Spiegel," reflects the strategic differences between Washington and Berlin. Germany's "dual strategy" approach toward Russia, taken from the West's cold war strategy, is incompatible with the policy of unbridled aggression, championed by the war hawk wing of the US establishment. Breedlove, who is now being criticized by Germany, is a representative of this group.

The Chancelleries Accusations

The German chancellery is accusing NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, of making "dangerous propaganda," as the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" reported in its latest edition. According to the article, Breedlove is completely exaggerating Russia's military activities in Eastern Ukraine. Berlin has been internally voicing this criticism since some time, which is also shared by other NATO-members. At an internal meeting last week, ambassadors of several NATO countries sharply criticized the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) for his public appearances.[1]

Purely Fictitious

Based on information obtained in German government circles, "Der Spiegel" gives several examples of Breedlove's assertions, which obviously contradict reality. In late March 2014, the top NATO European commander declared, Russia had amassed 40,000 soldiers at the Ukrainian border ready to attack. Intelligence services of other NATO countries, however, reported a considerably lower number of Russian soldiers and that nothing about their composition pointed toward aggressive intentions.[2] OSCE information in November 2014, to the effect that combat troops and tanks of unknown origin were moving around in Eastern Ukraine, was interpreted by Breedlove as a border-crossing movement of Russian troops, without providing any proof. According to "Der Spiegel," NATO's European commander's allegations made soon thereafter alleging a presence of Russian tanks and air defense systems in Ukraine have been confirmed neither by the German intelligence services' own satellite data nor by information from its allied US intelligence services. The same applies to Breedlove's most recent statements alleging the presence of Russian combat troops, artillery battalions and more than 1000 combat vehicles on Ukrainian territory. These allegations seem purely fictitious.[3]

German War Propaganda

Berlin's complaints of Breedlove's propaganda, throwing a spotlight on NATO and its member countries' credibility, should not be misunderstood as a rejection in principle of political propaganda. German governments have repeatedly faked allegations to justify political and military aggression. The 1999 aggression against Yugoslavia is a prime example. Just before NATO's attack, the German government dramatized an alleged "ethnic cleansing" in Serbia's Kosovo province - in open contradiction to OSCE findings and those of experts within its own defense ministry. The "ethnic cleansing" allegation was used to justify aggression against Yugoslavia, which was launched March 24, 1999. Other important German milestones in legitimizing the use of force had been suspicious from the outset, for example the allegation that the "Račak massacre," in mid January 1999, had been an execution of defenseless civilians by Yugoslav government units. There was absolutely no proof for the alleged Serbian "Operation Horseshoe" to expel Kosovo Albanians, which had been used by the German government in the spring 1999 to justify NATO's attack on Yugoslavia. (german-foreign-policy.com reported [4]).

Strategic Differences

The German government's current criticism of NATO's European commander's presumed lies is due to inner-western power struggles. Germany is using a "dual strategy" in the Ukraine conflict, based on the western model of its Cold War approach. Moscow should be put under pressure and at the same time develop ties to the West through certain forms of cooperation. The West applied a similar approach, based on division of labor, and won the Cold War. Recently, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, had explicitly promoted this "dual strategy." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) However, this strategy runs counter to plans championed by the war hawk wing of the US foreign policy establishment, which is seeking President Vladimir Putin's overthrow at any price and therefore wants to escalate conflicts with Moscow. Germany sees its policy toward Russia being systematically threatened and is therefore beginning to confront this wing by exposing manipulations by one of its representatives, SACEUR Philip M. Breedlove.

Collateral Damage

An unintentional, and yet inconsequential collateral damage caused by Berlin's criticisms of Breedlove, has resulted from the fact that once again reporting on Ukraine and Russia in Germany's media is being placed in the spotlight. Numerous media have relied - and still relies - on statements issued by Breedlove and other US military spokespersons as proof of their allegations about Russia's role in Eastern Ukraine's civil war. Whoever had relied on the March 31, 2014 report by WDR radio's Washington correspondent Ralph Sina, had also heard Breedlove's fable of 40,000 Russian troops at the Ukrainian border, which, according to the Chancellery is greatly exaggerated. Sina had even embellished his report by adding "indications from US intelligence services," according to which, "numerous members of elite and special forces" were among the Russian troops, who "had been furnished conspicuously large quantities of supplies over the past few days." Sina even found it newsworthy to repeat the statement of unnamed US intelligence operatives, who claimed Russia's President Vladimir Putin reserves for himself the option of "invading East Ukraine at any time."[6]

Without Basis

With Breedlove's credibility in doubt, the basis for Sina's report has also collapsed. The same holds true for NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe's demands, transmitted via "Bild-Zeitung" to the German public on May 12, 2014. "Russia's illegal military actions," particularly its stationing of "40,000 soldiers" at the Ukrainian border, have "created a new security situation in Europe," the general claimed and called for "the defensive alliance, NATO, to adapt to this new situation."[7] One of the results of this "adaptation" was the creation of NATO's "Spearhead," a rapid response force aimed at Russia, in which Germany is currently playing a commanding role.[8] The combination of obviously false allegations and their uncritical incorporation into mass media reporting has greatly facilitated the imposition of NATO's aggressive policy toward Russia.

Without Proof

Similar reports are still being propagated. This not only includes Breedlove's new allegation, "the Kremlin" has now "moved more than 1000 combat vehicles, air defense and artillery into the secessionist areas of East Ukraine,"[9] a claim Berlin has exposed as purely fictitious. In the middle of last week, quoting USAEUR Commander Gen. Ben Hodges, it was reported that Russia was supporting "the separatists in East Ukraine" with nearly 12,000 soldiers. "Another 50,000 Russian soldiers" are being held in reserve for the case that the separatists "suffer a serious defeat and the Ukrainian Army gets the upper hand,"[10] also without verifiable evidence. Still these allegations are being propagated further at face value, even though they are liable to lay the groundwork for further escalation of tensions between NATO and Russia. An eventual change of course for the German media in the aftermath of the latest "Spiegel" revelations is yet to be noticed.

Other reports on the role of the media in the conflict with Russia can be found here: The Free World, Crisis of Legitimacy and From Račak to Maidan.

[1], [2] Immer wieder Kopfschütteln. Der Spiegel 11/2015.
[3] Christoph Herwartz: Deutschland legt sich mit der Nato an. www.n-tv.de 07.03.2015.
[4] See From Račak to Maidan.
[5] See War by Other Means and Der Gipfel von Minsk.
[6] Ralph Sina: NATO-General bricht USA-Besuch ab. www.tagesschau.de 31.03.2014.
[7] Karolina Pajdak: 5 Fragen an den obersten Nato-General. www.bild.de 12.05.2014.
[8] See Ein Ring um Russland (II).
[9] Stefan Koch: Transnistrien könnte nächstes Kreml-Opfer sein. www.haz.de 26.02.2015.
[10] USA: 12.000 russische Kampftruppen in Ukraine. www.n-tv.de 04.03.2015.