President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to speak on Thursday, in preparation for Jan. 10 talks, convened to address Putin’s demand for “security guarantees” that aims to stymie NATO’s ability to carry out its functions in Europe. Moscow’s elite diplomats and talking heads are openly discussing Russia’s goals and strategies. Arguing for America’s total capitulation, with the Kremlin allegedly planning to offer no concessions or guarantees, Russian experts propose a plan to make such an outcome acceptable to the general public in the U.S. by waging an aggressive international info-campaign.
Russia’s state TV propagandists express their delight in seemingly having the likes of Tucker Carlson in their corner, praising his coverage as the prime example of Russia’s successful influence operations abroad. Carlson’s talking points often sound identical to those pushed by the Kremlin’s propagandists—or by Putin himself.
During one of his broadcasts on Fox News in December, Carlson argued that “NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin.” He worried about the possibility of “a NATO takeover of Ukraine,” and described the 2014 Maidan Revolution as a U.S.-organized “coup in Ukraine.” He also baselessly accused Joe Biden of fomenting “a hot war with Russia.” The very next day, translated quotes from Tucker Carlson’s show were widely broadcast on Russia’s state television. After watching Carlson’s remarks during the live taping of 60 Minutes, Igor Korotchenko, member of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Public Council and editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine said: “Excellent performance, with which we can only express solidarity.”
Carlson’s claims that the U.S. is pushing the world to the brink of a nuclear war with Russia fit squarely within the Kremlin’s current propaganda offensive. During Tuesday’s live broadcast of The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, host Vladimir Soloviev expressed his concerns about convincing Americans that the fears of war are real: “Americans change their behavior only when there is an existential threat to their population… Their memory of WWI is much greater than that of WWII, because of the numbers of those who perished and the difficulty of that war. We often think of Americans as the mirror image of ourselves and our concerns. They only look like us. Their mentality is completely, absolutely different.”
Political scientist and Professor of Communications Dmitry Evstafiev articulated the fear tactics, meant to convince everyday Americans to surrender U.S. interests in order to avoid war with Russia. He said: “Just look at how much they [the U.S.] started to talk about peace lately. There is only one way to balance that. We need to start talking about war with American and European societies. American and Western societies don’t understand what a war with Russia would mean. They think that a war would take place somewhere far off, but we should explain that it will come up close. A war is very comfortable when a drone flies over and kills someone, but no, a bomber plane will come and kill you… A coffin draped with a stars-and-stripes flag should arrive… to an American city. In this context, we should start a very serious conversation with Western societies—not about peace, but about war.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov is set to represent Russia during the talks concerning the so-called “security guarantees” sought by Moscow. His comments ahead of the meeting provided a revealing glimpse into the Kremlin’s belligerent attitude.
Sitting down with a reporter on Tuesday, Ryabkov threatened the United States: “An abyss between what is desirable and necessary for the collective West—as opposed to what we need—keeps deepening and widening. A bridge could be built upon the platform that we proposed. If that bridge doesn’t get built, fortress walls will be built instead, with cannon balls raining down from them and hot tar pouring down onto their heads. People who say that Russia should be placed in the corner, like a misbehaving pupil, underestimate what might happen next. They’ve lost their grip on reality and common sense. I hope they haven’t lost their sense of self-preservation.”
Like Ryabkov, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scoffed at the possibility of Russia being punished by additional Western sanctions. During his appearance on Monday’s broadcast of Soloviev’s online show Soloviev Live, Lavrov dismissed the idea that Russia could be cut off from the world’s banking systems or otherwise isolated. He also pointed out that high-ranking members of Russia’s military will participate in the upcoming January talks with the United States: “The military will be represented at a high level in our delegation. We asked [the U.S.] to confirm whether we were correct by our understanding that the same would be done on their part.” Lavrov added that Russia wasn’t planning to offer any concessions, claiming that it has already given up too much over the last decades.
Hosting 60 Minutes on Wednesday, Evgeny Popov marveled: “It seems to me that our diplomats never spoke to the United States so harshly.” Andrei Bezrukov, a Russian spy whose life story served as the inspiration for the hit TV show The Americans, replied: “The balance of power has changed. Twenty years ago we couldn’t talk to them this way… Now we can show them something and they understand that. The new balance of power—including military power—is what brought them to the negotiating table.” Vitaly Tretyakov, dean of the Moscow State University's School of Television, concurred: “Nothing in the history of the world ever happens without military force… Pacifists don’t determine world politics… Our Foreign Affairs Ministry was so cultured for the past 20 years, now it’s hard for Americans and other westerners to fathom that it stopped being so civil. Its formerly cordial demeanor sank into oblivion.”
Moscow’s approach to the upcoming exchange apparently hinges on the perception of invincibility and the idea of Russia’s “military superiority.” Offering no concessions, the Kremlin expects to get them from the United States by evoking the threat of World War III as the sword of Damocles that hangs over the world’s head. Moscow’s elite propagandists are hard at work, gaslighting domestic and foreign audiences.
Appearing on the state TV program 60 Minutes on Tuesday, military expert Korotchenko predicted: “January is becoming a key month that will determine the course of humanity’s modern history… These three summits will determine what will happen next. Whether we will directly move on to WWIII… or the red lines will be acknowledged and we will cement the status quo, where the interests of Moscow and NATO will be balanced. The main thing is, Russia will no longer retreat.”
The stream of demands accompanied by nuclear threats continually emanates from Moscow. During last Friday’s broadcast of 60 Minutes, State Duma deputy Mikhail Delyagin asserted: “Nuclear mushroom may rise over Ukraine, but the NATO flag may not.”