“Does Putin intend to go to war with Ukraine?”, asks Owen Matthews (contributing editor and former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek) on the pages of The Spectator during the fifth consecutive year of the Russian war against Ukraine. One valid question indeed. But the “expertise”, naturally, doesn’t end there. “Both with authoritarian tendencies and both facing sagging popularity at home,” writes Matthews further about Ukrainian and Russian presidents. If anything, the only “both” that applies here is that both of these statements are factually incorrect. Both authoritarian? Based on what evidence? Sagging popularity? Over what time period?
The only thing that is clear from this line of argument is that the author is mired in the “both sides” journalistic fallacy. That is coincidentally enough is one of the favorite methods of Russian disinformation technique. If you are not an attentive reader, or if you simply not acquainted with the issue you can learn that they “have swapped trading insults for exchanging bullets across the Strait of Kerch.” There are two problems here. First – only Russia is firing anywhere near the Kerch Strait. Second – Russia has occupied Crimea, so now its troops are sitting on both sides of the strait.
And it was only a first paragraph. There is no point in keeping dissecting this piece of “journalism” any further, but if you are to continue reading, you will learn that “war would suit both presidents’ short-term interests”, “it is Poroshenko who has most to gain from the exhilarating distraction of war”, Ukraine is a “chaotic and corrupt bureaucracy” and, of course, “partisan commanders and soldiers lounge in Kiev bars dressed in their self-designed uniforms and carrying Kalashnikovs, their jeeps parked haphazardly across the pavement in open contempt of the authority of police.”
The only question left to ask is – What is that with many western journalists that were working in Russia or for Russia? For Matthews, who writes in one of his books about Russia that his “father – followed a lifelong passion for Russia and moved to Moscow to work for the British embassy” and that “he fell in and out with the KGB”, the answer may be some sort of odd sentimental reminiscences. But what makes the others so diligent apologists of the Russian imperialism?