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Russia is gearing up for war again, local experts, state media propagandists, and government officials are all saying. The fight will begin once again on the real-world battlefield of Ukraine. But it will extend much, much further. And the real enemy? Thousands of miles from Kyiv.
“Everything will start in Ukraine,” predicted Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of world politics at Moscow State University, appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev this weekend. “We will be forced to step onto the battlefield in a fight for which they think we’re not ready,” he added. The host asked: “A fight against whom?” and Sidorov clarified: “Against the collective West.”
The fear-mongering propagated by Russian state media aims to prepare the population for the consequences of the Kremlin’s actions, while preemptively placing most of the blame upon the United States. Russian experts fear that to make Russia pay for its election interference, hacking and other malign activities, the Biden administration might declare Russian President Vladimir Putin a “persona non grata,” and impose a total trade embargo upon Russia. Preparing for the worst and never willing to admit responsibility for its actions, Russian diplomatic sources told TASS that Russia’s ambassador to the United States will return only if “Americans do at least something” to normalize relations between the two countries.
The Kremlin commented with great alarm about the possibility of the United States establishing a military presence in Ukraine, although no such plans have been announced. “They want to destroy us,” hyperventilated Dmitry Kulikov, appearing on The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev. “It’s in their nature,” agreed Soloviev, adding: “You can’t turn a wolf into a vegetarian.” The host further claimed that Russia “will be destroyed very quickly” if it “loses Donbas”—a Ukrainian territory that is not Russia’s to lose or to keep—because “Putin’s electorate won’t stand for it.”
Rather than to risk Putin’s eternal presidency, Soloviev suggested that the fight over Ukraine’s Donbas will end in a “nuclear conflict” between Russia and NATO. Senior military analyst Mikhail Khodaryonok, a former colonel from the Soviet air defense force, opined: “I think that any conflict could be stopped by the threat of at least a tactical nuclear strike from our side. The main question is how convincing our message will be.”
Khodaryonok then proposed launching a limited nuclear strike in neutral ocean waters as a warning shot to the West. “Perhaps we should start by doing that right now,” Soloviev suggested. “It’s not only probable, but very likely indeed,” Khodaryonok confirmed. The potentially devastating consequences of such a reckless approach didn’t seem to bother the professional performers of Putin’s propaganda machine.
“We’ve been in the state of Cold War since 2014, and have been following the formula of [Commander Mikhail] Kutuzov”—the Russian commander who repelled Napoleon’s invasion—“I don't presume to win, I’ll try to outwit.” That is the policy of the Russian Federation that we’ve been implementing since 2014,” said Andrey Sidorov on Soloviev’s show.
Referring to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Sidorov outlined the Kremlin’s strategy: waiting for Ukraine to make the first move, then promptly retaliate. (In reality, the Kremlin consistently blamed Ukraine for escalating tensions within its own territory, while feeding and arming the insurgency and prolonging the bloody conflict on its neighbor’s land.) In an ongoing ploy to eventually annex Ukraine’s Donbas, Moscow proceeded to issue Russian passports to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Eastern Ukraine, with plans to flip more than one million Ukrainians to Russia’s side.
As a Russian proverb goes, “There is no free cheese, except for the mousetrap” and the passports came with strings attached. Russia’s proxies controlling the so-called “people’s republics” in Eastern Ukraine have just commenced mandatory military draft. Russia’s top propagandist, Dmitry Kiselyov, proudly announced the draft last Sunday on his weekly program, Vesti Nedeli. Recipients of Russian passports in Eastern Ukraine will be expected to fight and die for their new Motherland. Based on their recent passport applications, newly-minted conscripts won’t be hard to find.
Seeking plausible deniability in an attempt to avoid the harshest U.S. sanctions, the Kremlin will most likely continue to fight the war against Ukraine via proxies. When the time comes, pro-Russian forces will stage a provocation and step in to “defend” Russian citizens from the Ukrainian government.
America’s response to Russian aggression had been uneven under former U.S. President Donald J. Trump, with his administration sending weapons to Ukraine while Trump tried to make that aid contingent on political help against Joe Biden, his political opponent. State media experts acknowledged that things would have been quite different if Hillary Clinton won the electoral college—and not just the popular vote—in 2016.
“The same state of war that we have right now would have started within the first 6 months of the Clinton presidency,” asserted Dmitry Kulikov—member of the Zinoviev Club, instituted by the Kremlin-controlled media giant Russia Today—said on Soloviev’s show. He added: “America was much stronger then.” The host, Vladimir Soloviev, pointed out: “And Russia wouldn’t have had four years.” Kulikov emphatically agreed: “That’s why they [Americans] are furious with Trump. He stole those four years from them and gave them to Russia and China.”
Under Biden, such games appear to be over. Instead of laughing about Trump’s embarrassing subservience to Putin, experts and pundits on state TV are grim-faced as they anticipate harsh measures against the Kremlin by the Biden administration. Even Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded RT and Sputnik, whose bombastic anti-American rhetoric fills the air on multiple state media programs, admitted that Russia is not immune against U.S. sanctions. Appearing on the talk show Our Truth that aired on television channel NTV, controlled by state-owned Gazprom Media, Simonyan conceded: “There could be sanctions that would cause us to end up living like we’re in Iran... We have vulnerabilities, as you know.”
Fears of additional sanctions are holding Moscow back from overt aggression, but the inflammatory anti-American rhetoric is being ratcheted up across all of the Kremlin-controlled state media. Duplicitous claims that Russia wants peace with America and loves its people are now being replaced with raw admissions of hostility and ill will. The host of Russia’s 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, claimed that the Russians can’t stand U.S. politicians, but love ordinary American people. He was cut off by his wife and co-host, Olga Skabeeva, who proclaimed with brutal honesty: “Let’s be real, we don’t love the American people either.”