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(Note from the Editors: This article is Part I of a series of six which will be published on a weekly basis; A version in Spanish is available at Amanece Metrópolis)

Bad omens for peace. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that “there is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years … NATO allies are preparing to provide support over a long period of time”. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that “our commitment is to be there for you until the fighting is done”.

We are in a “very dangerous moment”, according to George Beebe (former director of Russia analysis for the CIA and former special advisor on Russia), who notes that the trend on the part of both Russia and the US is toward escalation, which significantly increases the likelihood of a “direct clash” between the two countries.

Avril Haines, head of U.S. intelligence, has said that Putin could go so far as to use nuclear weapons if he thinks he will lose the war. Moscow has acknowledged that it could use them in the event of an “existential threat” and has simulated nuclear attacks on the EU border. The White House ignores the risks of escalation and chooses to simply send troops to Eastern Europe and another $40 billion to Ukraine.

Russia continues to ravage Ukraine, spread its propaganda, repress internal dissidents and foster the fragmentation and polarisation of societies in different parts of the planet.

Meanwhile, Washington is also on a propaganda campaign to spread its version of the war in favour of its own interests. Since 2013, US propaganda has framed Russia as holding the exclusive responsibility of the conflict — a barbarian decision taken by madman Putin — and has silenced its underlying causes and the role played by Western governments, US-backed NGOs or the Nazi Azov militia in Ukraine. The hegemonic mainstream media ignore and attack those who question the official narrative and propose to discuss seriously about peaceful solutions.

The same as the European leaders, who launch the desperate cry of those who know they are losers because they decide to submit to US interests. Boris Johnson overacts to symbolically lead the warmongering hysteria.

The world economy is in shock and people across the globe suffer. The Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, already asked (European) citizens to turn off the heating in winter. Western propaganda simply ignores the deadly effects of the war in the Global South and obscures the responsibility of the West and the possibility of reaching diplomatic solutions.

The US strategy of non-negotiation, expansion, economic sanctions, and military and economic support for Ukraine has not had the pretended effect of deterring Putin or strengthening Kiev’s position in the face of possible negotiations. On the contrary, it is only serving to prolong the conflict, increase the death toll, and intensify the danger of further, potentially nuclear, catastrophe.

There is still a need to pursue diplomatic avenues to build peace and resolve the underlying conflict. In contrast to war propaganda, peace journalism prioritises stopping the war, minimising casualties, avoiding nuclear escalation and, at the structural level, reorganising geopolitical relations.

From this point of view, some key questions arise. Russia is guilty of a criminal and bloody invasion, but what have the US and Europe done? Do they have any responsibility in the gestation and resolution of this war? They can choose at any time to say cease-fire and negotiation now. Why don’t they do it? And, how do these powers frame their role in the war?

Russian leaders claim to be fighting for a new world order in which Russia, in alliance with China, can create the Greater Eurasia. They conceive of Ukraine’s as an existential war in which defeat for Russia is unthinkable. They have expressed their aim to militarily take over eastern and southern Ukraine. They propagate ultra-nationalist speeches and deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation.

Despite Moscow’s imperial rhetoric and brutality, it may be in Putin’s interest to reach, sooner or later, a negotiated way out of the war. Moreover, he knows that the US is much more powerful in the international order and is capable of setting limits to its ambitions. There is a window of opportunity to stop the war and the killing if Putin believes that Russia will not be weakened.

The US and Europe need to reflect further, take responsibility and make a shift in foreign policy towards Russia and Ukraine and, in more general terms, world geopolitics.

This is the opposite of what is happening. The White House has acknowledged that its goal is not only to support Ukrainian independence, but to “weaken” Russia, make it “pay the price for aggression” and that an independent and sovereign Ukraine survives Putin. Washington is going to “intensify” an international campaign to win “today’s fight and the struggles to come”. Rhetorical and military escalation. The goal is not peace, but “breaking the back” of Russia, in the words of Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe. There are some winners. Arms and fossil fuel companies are getting richer. Russia doubles its revenues from the sale of such fuels to the EU.

Brzezinski’s strategic goal of weakening Russia and controlling Eurasia has long prevailed. According to Hillary Clinton, his strategy for Afghanistan is the model to be followed in Ukraine — that is to finance, arm, and advise the invaded country until it can expel the invader. This involves bleeding the invaded country dry. The price to pay. In the words of veteran diplomat Chas Freeman, Washington is determined to fight “to the last Ukrainian”.

A clash between two imperialisms, where the larger one dominates the global game, while the smaller one launches a strategic war. The latter one aspires to build an empire and the former wants to maintain and expand its own. In between, the Ukrainian people.

Noam Chomsky has said that “this is the most dangerous yet easiest conflict to resolve”. The end of the war depends on Putin achieving his goals by force, on his military defeat … or on the US and Russia agreeing to negotiate viable solutions. There is no cease-fire in sight and no victory for any side in the short term. Does peace have a chance?

This article begins a series of six contributions guided by the aspiration for peace and the key question of looking behind propaganda into what the West is doing and can do. This first contribution has presented the context, the questions and the framework of the analysis.

The second article in the series presents the historical process of escalation prior to the Russian invasion. It is worth recalling the Two Plus Four Agreement whereby Russia agreed to the reunification of Germany and its membership in NATO in exchange for NATO not expanding eastward. However, from 1997 onward, the US promotes NATO expansion, discards diplomatic solutions and later begins to arm, finance and train Ukraine as if it were “an extension of NATO”.

The third contribution focuses on the moments immediately prior to the invasion, when the US refused to negotiate with Russia over Ukraine’s non-incorporation into NATO, offering instead disarmament measures in exchange for Russian de-escalation, which Moscow ruled out.

The fourth contribution deals with the possibilities of stopping the war and resolving the underlying conflict. It discusses the Minsk agreements, a status of neutrality for Ukraine and other proposals that could serve as a basis for building a lasting peace. These are viable proposals that would make it possible to reach a ceasefire and advance the transformation of Russia-Ukraine, US/NATO, Europe relations.

Analysing these geopolitical relations allows for a better understanding of the propaganda distributed by both sides, the subject addressed in the fifth article, based on the differences and similarities in media systems, communication strategies and contents.

The last contribution in the series highlights key features of peace journalism as an alternative to war propaganda. It points out the limits set by the hegemonic media system for the professional practice of such journalism and recognizes the importance and merit of the work of reporters in the field.

Part II in this series will be published next Tuesday, 14 June.

(Featured Image: “What did you learn from Iraq ?” by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Author

  • Joan Pedro-Carañana is in the Department of Journalism and New Media of the Complutense University of Madrid. He has a European doctorate in Communication, Social Change and Development. His interest lies in the role of communication, education and culture both in the production of hegemony and in emancipatory social change. He is co-editor of El Modelo de Propaganda y el Control de los Medios, The Propaganda Model Today: Filtering Perception and Awareness, and Talking Back to Globalization: Texts and Practices. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Latin Union of Political Economy of Communication, Information and Culture (https://ulepicc.es/).