Thursday, May 03, 2018

"Moscow Times" op-ed on Russia's public position on the Syria War

I've never been hair-on-fire alarmed over the existence of RT, which is now conventionally described in the US as "the Russian propaganda channel." Which in great part it is. There are some shows that RT has run that can't be shoe-horned into that mode. And with the start of Putin's second Presidency, RT did take a turn toward more consistently promoting Russian government positions.

I'm all for critical reading and paying attention to the quality of sources. FOX News is Republican Party propaganda, and I always take that into account when using them as a source of information. Because of their status promoting Republican partisan ideology, they are a good bellwether for the direction the Republican Party is going on particular issues. But they also do report real news. If someone is being interviewed on FOX News, the interview itself and the content of it are news. For factual description of events, i.e., a big part of what we call news, I generally don't rely on solely a FOX News report. But even there, news reporting by FOX local affiliates is more straightforward reporting, not necessarily subject to the same intensity of an ideological agenda sa the FOX national news.

All this is by way of introduction to a quote from the Moscow Times. As of today, Wikipedia's entry on the Moscow Times says:
The Moscow Times is an English-language weekly newspaper published in Moscow, with a circulation of 55,000 copies. It is distributed free of charge at places frequented by English-speaking tourists and expatriates such as hotels, cafés, embassies, and airlines and is also available by subscription. The newspaper is popular among foreign citizens residing in Moscow and English-speaking Russians. In November 2015 the newspaper changed its design and type from daily to weekly (released every Thursday) and increased the number of pages to 24.

The newspaper regularly publishes articles by prominent Russian journalists such as Yulia Latynina and Ivan Nechepurenko. It has served as a 'training ground' for foreign correspondents, including Ellen Barry, who later became New York Times Moscow bureau chief and won a Pulitzer Prize.
The April 19 edition had the following op-ed by Maxim Trudolyubov, In Syria, Moscow Is Defending a Narrative, Not a Country:
Last week there was a lot of talk in Russia of a new “Cuban crisis,” evoking the breathtaking showdown between the U.S.S.R and the United States in 1962 over Moscow’s installation of nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba. In response to Russian bravado, President Donald Trump tweeted about America’s “nice, new and “smart”!” missiles.

But behind the smokescreen of the American president’s flamboyance and Moscow’s World-War-III innuendo, both sides have shown cool-headed restraint. The United States and Russia quickly moved to de-escalate as soon as the operation was over. Military and diplomatic contacts continued.

Given the circumstances, it is a good outcome. But for the Kremlin, it is bad television. Moscow wanted an engrossing new story about an evil aggressor deterred by a righteous Russia.

Commentators on Russia’s state-run television had few comforting stories to tell apart from praising Syrian air defenses, all Soviet designs from the 1970s, doing a superb job shooting down Western missiles. Syria intercepted 71 out of 103 cruise missiles fired by the U.S. and its allies, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

The U.S. military denied the claim. A military representative stated that the Syrians launched around 40 surface to air missiles after the last U.S. missile hit its target. At no time, he added, were Russian air defense systems engaged. The U.S. did acknowledge that they did not strike all the sites believed to be involved in Syria’s chemical weapons program.
I found the op-ed helpful in providing some insight into what Russia's official narrative on Syria might imply.

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