Last week a story emerged from Eastern Ukraine that sent chills. Journalist Maxim Tucker wrote that there were very real fears that the 'rebels' were building a 'dirty bomb'.
With the help of Russians, nuclear scientists supposedly, a repository of radioactive waste had been opened and there was 'chatter' about why. This, Tucker explains in this BBC interview, could mean that they were interested in building a psychological weapon, a fear weapon.
This would hardly be the first time that concern has surrounded the remains of the Soviet atomic programme - Barack Obama zeroed in on it as a priority years ago. Only last December seven men were arrested in Moldova suspected of smuggling nuclear material from Russia.
A nuclear fog hangs over the whole situation with Ukraine, Russia and the West
In March Russia's Ambassador to Denmark threatened that country with Russian nuclear weapons if it joined NATO's missile defence system. Putin himself said in April that he put Russia's nuclear arsenal on standby when he believed 'the life of ex-Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych had been in danger'. And in April his Foreign Ministry accused the Ukrainian government themselves of building a dirty bomb.
Last month Andrei V. Kozyrev, a former Russian foreign minister, wrote in the New York Times that "things may even come to nuclear blackmail, as has been hinted." There are a number of scenarios being played out, not in the fevered imaginations of the mentally disturbed but by serious experts, which include a Russian atomic bomb going off.
The context for all this is a supposed threat to Russia. According to reports from Moscow the fever in which much of the Russian public seriously believe that the United States and the 'gay' Europeans are going to invade is not confined to the lumpen, the vatniks, but infects the Gucci loving, London mansion owning elites and the siloviki, the spooks and former spooks who run Russia.
When crowds mass in Armenia to protest a hike in electricity prices it is Americans doing down Russia in its 'sphere of influence'. When the people of Macedonia rose up against corrupt and authoritarian leaders they could not be doing it themselves they had to be paid by the CIA (or possibly on drugs).
Most famously, of course, the people of Ukraine - right and left wing - did not overthrow one of the most corrupt regimes in the world using their own agency. Oh no, it was all plotted from Langley (read Jim Kovpak's fabulous satirical takedown of this notion).
This fog, this miasma, in which serious people as well as idiots dream of men and women gathering in smoke-free bunkers in Whitehall and Brussels and DC (quite possibly sitting next to the luxury homes of Russian politicians whose corruption they happily tolerate) to plot against Russia has now reached the mainstream of Western politics.
|Source: Atlas of Prejudice|
It has infected both the mainstream French right and the French socialist left, and the Socialist German left.
And the possible leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has the fever too.
This is why a long standing supporter of CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, can see the nuclear sabre rattling (alongside the talk of 'colour revolutions' threatening Russian interests, of Russia being 'surrounded') as rational, as "provoked".
Using the classic Soviet propaganda technique of 'projection' - creating confusion by accusing someone of doing exactly what you are doing - Corbyn can claim that:
The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.Leaning, as Russian propagandists and Kremlin trolls do, on a particular reading of history Corbyn can note that "Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history" and unwittingly echo Igor Strelkov, the FSB colonel and former Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) 'Minister of Defense', who told Der Spiegel:
Kiev is a Russian city. I want a new Russian domination, which is historically justified. The Ukraine has been and remains a part of Russia. My dream is that Russia re-establishes its natural borders as they were in 1939.Corbyn can claim that "Ukrainian politics are divided between Ukrainian and Russian-speaking people", which is simply not the case as anyone who visits Kyiv could tell him as the language spoken there is Russian. This plays into the Kremlin myth, and the reason given for invading Crimea, of Russian speakers being oppressed. He can repeat Kremlin memes that a glorious future awaits as Russia can form an alliance with China, a "Russia-China bloc", and screw the Americans (rather than the reality of Russia being forced to accept bad terms because it has no other choice).
He can claim that Ukraine has "been put under enormous pressure to come into the EU and NATO military orbit" when the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) was refused by the West in 2008. Immediately after the Maidan the new government said it did not want to join NATO, it was only last October after the Russian invasion that Ukraine said it wanted to join and non-aligned status was only revoked at the end of last year.
Why did Ukraine do that? Because non-alignment had "proved to be ineffective in guaranteeing Ukraine's security and protecting the country from external aggression and pressure." This is the same reason that Baltic states joined NATO as soon as they could - because they knew Russia was a threat, because Russia had repeatedly demonstrated that it was a threat, not because they had 'pressure' put on them or because of some "attempt to encircle Russia" or an "ambition of NATO expansion further eastwards", let alone for "more NATO or US-run bases in the region" (there are no NATO bases).
Russian imperialism - not mythical 'pressure' - is the reason why a majority in Ukraine now want to join NATO and it is also the reason why a majority of the public in Sweden also now support NATO membership. Even in Finland support for NATO membership is going up.
He also believes that some sort of deal was made after the Soviet Union collapsed that NATO would not 'expand eastwards'. This is not true, there is no evidence of any promises or whispers or anything else. It is an urban myth reminiscent of another one confidently repeated by, amongst others, Putin, that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that Siberia's vast natural resources were too important to the world for Russia to unfairly control on its own. Sounds about right to you? Well the source is not some FSB secret recording but a mind reading project. Yes, Russian spooks read Albright's mind and now Putin mouths the results.
I would throw in a jibe at this point about Corbyn believing that water 'retains a memory' but, to be fair, he is hardly the only one.