Look Who’s Spreading Disinformation on Ukraine

Image by Alex Shuper.

‘Black kettle’ Tony Blinken’ accused Russia of spreading propaganda to mislead the Americans and Europeans, while hiding US decision to escalate the confrontation in Ukraine

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a set of whirlwind meetings in several European NATO countries, warned against Russian propaganda programs he accused of spreading “misinformation and disinformation” about US intentions to escalate the conflict by allowing Ukraine’s military to use longer-range US missiles to strike targets as much as 200 miles inside of Russia — something that the Biden administration had since the start of that war had not allowed, correctly fearing that it could lead to a larger and possibly nuclear war.

Blinken’s lie, though, was that at the time he was accusing Russia of dishonesty, he himself knew that the decision had already been made by President Biden to do exactly that: authorize Ukraine to strike Soviet air bases, missile launch sites, troop concentrations and staging areas well inside the Russia’s borders using missiles supplied by the US.

This inconvenient truth was exposed by Politico, which ran a story on May 30th disclosing the secret Biden decision, which followed intense lobbying of the president by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Sec. Blinken himself, as well as by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and various Ukrainian military leaders.

From the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over two years ago, Biden had made it clear that no US troops would be sent to fight for Ukraine, and no US weapons would be used against Russian territory. Nothing would be done that could risk turning the conflict into a head-to-head battle between US and Russian forces, because it was felt (correctly!) that such a situation could quickly lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

What changed to make Biden suddenly stop worrying about taking the first steps up what Pentagon strategists have, since the early days of the nuclear era in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, referred to as the “nuclear ladder” of tit-for-tat nuclear escalation?

Clearly it was the fact that Ukraine has begun losing the war. It’s out of ammunition, out of anti-aircraft missiles, short of troops, is facing a mass flight of draft-age men from the country’s recently expanded conscription efforts, and it is loosing ground around Kharkiv , Ukraine’s second-largest city of 1.5. million located near the Russian border in eastern Ukraine.

Additionally, it has become evident that the supposedly marvelous US weapons (as well as some widely banned ones like anti-personnel shells, rockets and bombs, and depleted uranium shells) have not turned the tide against Russian forces as optimistically predicted.

The reality is that this idea of attacking Russian targets — for the moment only in Russian territory relatively close to Kharkiv, but perhaps later much more deeply inside Russia — is nothing short of terrifying.

Russia, remember, has a nuclear arsenal of ICBM missiles and nuclear warheads that closely matches the US nuclear arsenal in number and destructive power. For 75 years since the Soviet Union successfully tested its own first nuclear bomb in August 1949, that rough parity has been able to prevent the wartime use of any third nuclear weapon against another nation since the bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Nothing has changed in those anxious years. Russia may be much weaker in many ways than the Soviet Union was, though the USSR’s military was never as powerful or advanced in its nuclear capability as the US’s forces. Still through all those decades, the ability of both nations to wreak unimaginable catastrophe on the other should even a fraction of its missiles reach their targets has over and over proven to be a compelling reason for even hotheads in both capitals, Washington and Moscow, to stay their hands during a crisis.

What seems different this time is that with Russia’s military proving weaker and less capable than expected in its war with Ukraine, and with the US bent on draining Russia further by simply helping keep the Ukrainians from losing, Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun stating clearly that if Russia is threatened by Western powers — including by weapons supplied by Western powers — it will if necessary turn to nuclear weapons.

That is where the “escalation ladder” comes into play.

As played by Pentagon strategists, the war games are basically a game of nuclear chicken:

One country, its forces pinned down and in danger of losing, launches a “small” so-called tactical nuke, which could be anywhere from a few kilotons equivalent in TNT, to 300 kilotons ( about 20 times the size of the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945). Whether such a first shot destroys a battalion, an air base, or is an air-burst that destroys all electronic systems, that turn to nukes presents the other side with a bleak choice: sue for peace, or respond in kind with a nuclear shot targeting the other side.

In many of those games, the second country to go nuclear decides it has to up the ante to show it’s willing to stand firm and go on offense, which then makes it up to the initial nuclear attacker to make its own decision to sue for peace, respond in kind and seek negotiations, or go up the next rung on the ladder with a bigger blast or a strike an a significant city.

The process of ascending the escalation ladder in these games is often quite rapid, moving from bigger and deadlier back-and-forth exchanges to a full-scale nuclear apocalypse within hours or days because of a fear on both sides that the other side could launch a full-scale attack and knock out most of its ability to retaliate.

Most ordinary people are aware of this instinctively. That’s why Biden tried to keep his decision to change his policy and to allow Ukraine to start using US-supplied weapons to hit Russian targets across the Russian border from Kharkiv a secret from the US public. (It certainly wouldn’t after all be a secret to the Russians!)

I haven’t found a poll yet that asks Americans if they support the US’s permitting Ukraine’s military to hit targets inside of Russia’s heartland, but I think it’s clear from the months-long blocking of military aid to Ukraine by the Republican-led House of Representatives, that a huge swath of Republican voters would oppose the idea. Also, Donald Trump is polling slightly ahead of Biden lately, which could be either despite or perhaps even because he does not favor military aid for Ukraine.

I also think Biden and his campaign strategists know that a broad swath of Democratic and independent voters are opposed to the US’s doing anything that would make nuclear war with Russia more likely. (It’s certainly not a great way to win the youth or the millennial vote!)

Will Biden, having now approved crossing one of Putin’s “red lines,” go further and allow deeper strikes with US-supplied missiles at targets in Russia?

Perhaps, but the immediate criticism of a Ukrainian attack (not with a US weapon, but rather a Ukrainian drone) on a radar station used as part of the Russian nuclear early warning system, with an order to Ukrainian forces not to do such a thing again, suggests that total madness hasn’t yet taken over at the Oval Office and the White House War Room.

The problem of course is that Biden is widely being viewed internationally as a push-over. Israel i Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ignoring Biden’s warnings not to attack Rafah, even bombing that lone-remaining still surviving city at the “Strip’s” western border with Egypt after being presented with Biden’s negotiated cease-fire deal proposal — a proposal that Netanyahu has dismissed out of hand as “not achieving our goals.”

What if Ukraine gets longer range US missiles, and then takes shots at critical targets deep inside Russia despite a lack of US approval?

*. * *

Meanwhile, try this experiment, suggested by Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Herman:

Take a story in the US media like this one about the US approving Ukraine’s use of US longer range missile to strike military targets deep inside Russia. Now wherever you see Russia, substitute US, and wherever you see US, substitute Russia. And for good measure, where it says Ukraine, replace it with Cuba or Venezuela. Now read it and see if you think youd ever see that article in a US newspaper or magazine.

There is simply no way that the US would for even an hour allow Cuba or Venezuela to launch a Russian-provided short-range missile to strike any target, let alone a military one, in Florida or one of the other states along the Gulf Coast. Either country would be blitzed by an all out attack of rockets and bombers. Yet the idea of the US sending rockets to Ukraine to do exactly that to Russia is presented in the American news media as perfectly logical and safe!

What could possibly go wrong?

This article appears in ThisCantBeHappening.Substack.com, the new site for ThisCantBeHappening!, where you can read all of Dave’s articles, as well as pieces by the other members of the TCBH! Collective (once they’ve figured out how to post on the new site). For the time being the site is free, but we urge readers to sign up for a paid subscription to support our work.

CounterPunch contributor and founder of ThisCan’tBeHappening!, DAVE LINDORFF co-produced the 2023 Stevee James-directed feature-length documentary film “A Compassionate Spy” on the life of teenage Los Alamos spy Ted Hall and his wife of 51 years, Joan Hall, now streaming on Hulu, Youtube, Apple TV, Vudu and Google Play. His latest book,“A Spy for No Country” (Prometheuis Books, 2024) was published in January.