“I’m rubber, you’re glue” seems to have been President Putin’s favourite saying as a kid. For instance, he alluded to it when the American president called him a killer. But this seems to be less than a saying and more of a principle on which the entire Russian propaganda is based. In psychological terms, this is called “projection”: when a person transfers their pathological behaviors onto others. In this case, we are talking about countries and peoples: Russian propaganda’s favorite thing to do is to attribute their own flaws and crimes to Ukrainians.
Based on the data provided by the Strategic Communications Department of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we analyzed how this has been done in connection with the joint military drills “United Efforts 2021.”
This time, the NATO-Ukraine joint exercise caused a real outburst of lies.
Russian Doll Fake
Russian propaganda has portrayed Ukraine as an aggressor country ready to unleash a nuclear world war through provocations using civilians. And it engendered a Russian doll fake of sorts: a fake within a fake.
Russia itself regularly fantasizes about a global nuclear war: now they are talking about the US turning into “radioactive dust, now about how “we will go to paradise as martyrs, and they will just kick the bucket.” The Gleiwitz incident (when German soldiers dressed in Polish uniforms organized a provocation which eventually led to World War II) should not even be mentioned, since dress-up seems to be the hobby of the Russian army, if anything, considering how Russian soldiers are regularly “not there” even though they are actually there.
The main source for dozens of defamatory articles was the “secret protocols” of the drills, allegedly stolen by a group of hackers. Apparently, the authors of this story were thinking of the real secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: we remind you that following the occupation of Crimea, Moscow started extolling this document whose existence it had previously denied, and they even farcically tried to recreate it, suggesting that Ukraine be divided among Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Apart from the aforementioned “projections,” this campaign is very clearly absurd: the Kremlin refers to documents allegedly stolen by hackers that actually do not contain any confirmation of the fakes that Russia is spreading. No plans for an aggressive war, no provocations, no use of the civilian population as a “human shield.” This makes sense because otherwise, nobody would have believed in their authenticity. So, this is a sort of Russian doll fake: fake “secret protocols” which should look more or less convincing are used to come up with completely fantastic stories, one stranger than the other.
“This is something different”
Russian propaganda: “The Ukrainian military, together with its allies, is exercising not defensive but offensive actions.”
Participants of the military drills United Efforts 2021 practiced planning and conducting offensive defense actions. This is open information. Defending on the offensive is a well-known strategy, an old military rule that should not be surprising in any way. No secret protocols are needed to take the word “offensive” and blow it out of proportion until it appears that Ukraine is intending to wage an aggressive war.
We read what happened at the Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises West 2021: “The ground group completed the defeat with large-scale offensive action.”
In addition, “In Russia, they claim that West 2021 is a defense exercise. However, according to the scenario, out of seven days, the military will be working on defense only for three days. The remaining time, they will practice offence.”
“You Just Wait”
Russian propaganda: “The Ukrainian military will practice an invasion of Belarus.”
Since the summer of 2020, the policy of Belarus, which previously maintained the appearance of a neutral attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, has undergone radical changes. Painfully familiar words about “Bandera's Ukraine", seasoned with various images, and strange calls to “return to the family” appeared on Belarusian television. In early September this year, the self-proclaimed President Lukashenko threatened to “cross the border” and “return Ukraine.” Like, “you just wait, you’ll see.” At the end of the month, he alleged to “opening the Ukrainian front” together with Putin. He was referring to the fact that the United States allegedly establishes military bases in Ukraine. However, there are no foreign military bases in Ukraine, while the Russian military presence has significantly increased in Belarus.
Ukraine did not give any reasons for such statements, because it has never threatened Belarus.
Of course, Lukashenko's aggressive rhetoric, coupled with hints of some joint military action with Putin over Ukraine, could not help but cause concern and caution.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Major General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, spoke about the danger of large-scale aggression by Russia, in particular with the possible use of the territory of Belarus. And that we need to be ready for this.
Who is sick?
In addition to blatant allegations that Ukraine was going to start a world nuclear war or attack Belarus, the propaganda spread numerous smaller fakes.
Russian propaganda: “During the drills, Ukrainian military servants got sick with the coronavirus en masse... However, despite the threat of spreading the infection, the Ukrainian leadership is taking risks and continuing its training, trying to justify the confidence of the NATO leadership.
We remind you that during the West 2021 drills, information was spread about the virus in the Russian army, but they immediately pointed the finger at Ukraine.
"Information about allegedly ill Russian servicemen at the West 2021 exercise was disseminated from the territory of Ukraine."
“The Ministry of Defense of Belarus has refuted a fake decree where the agency allegedly reports the spread of “a new threatening variant” of COVID-19 among Russian military servants who arrived in the republic for the West 2021 exercise, stating that the epidemic situation among the exercise participants is regular and does not require additional measures.”
“Women and Children Ahead”
Russian propaganda: “Ukrainian Armed Forces are planning to use civilians as a ‘human shield’... Ukraine will establish filtration camps for Donbas residents... Ukrainian army is practicing actions to suppress the civilian population.”
All the quoted statements were made based on those same “secret protocols.” As mentioned above, the papers do not contain anything remotely similar. This “document” spread by the Russian propaganda only contained information on the establishment of temporary camps to house fugitives from the area of hostilities.
In reality, during the United Efforts 2021 drills, there was only one episode involving imaginary civilians: according to the scenario, the military servants allegedly encountered a blocked road and a crowd of “outraged locals,” played by OPFOR military servants. As reported by the press service of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the paratroopers were supposed to unblock the road and continue movement into the required location.
“The paratrooper commander also turned out to be a diplomat, and while his soldiers took up the defense and closely monitored the situation, the officer entered into negotiations with the protest leader. It turns out that the locals were frightened by the presence of the military and suffered from a lack of drinking water and food. Maroon berets were able to not only diffuse the conflict and continue movement but also to share food and water from their own stocks with the ‘locals,” gaining people’s support. This scenario is quite typical for modern military conflicts,” reports the news agency under the Ministry of Defense.
As for the “projection,” which fully manifested itself here, we should remind you of Putin’s statement that “women and children will stand in front, and we will be behind them, and let them try to shoot at women and children.” Also, about the shooting from residential buildings in Donetsk.
It would also be relevant to mention statements common during the Russian-Chechen war: “There are no peaceful Chechens, they are all terrorists, including children...”, “If a sniper is shooting from the rooftop, you should roll out a tank and hit the ground floor of this house until it falls together with this sniper. The fact that not only militants but also peaceful Chechens are dying, well, the one who started the whole thing should think about it.”
In that war, 150,000-160,000 people died, most of them civilians.
To sum up, Ukraine’s military drills United Efforts 2021 provoked an outburst in response in Russia. The accusations reached the level of fantasy unseen since 2014. This may very well be a tantrum out of helplessness.
Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security
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