Russia and Australia could be partners, so why is Canberra fixated on a non-issue like Crimea?
Editor's note: This is an excellent case study in how the U.S. and U.K. have manufactured Russian "crimes" like the "shootdown" of MH17 and the "annexation" of Crimea to create excuses for a permanent state of hostility towards Russia. When will Australia and other nations stop taking marching orders from Washington?
Last week ABC correspondent Philip Williams interviewed Russia's ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov. You might think this would have been a regular occurrence over the last five years, such that it wouldn't be worth mentioning - but think again!
Instead we should wonder what exactly prompted the ABC to seek the viewpoint of Russia's representative here, and to allow listeners to hear it at a time when "talking to the Russians" seems to be a capital offence - the interview coincided with the mass media hyperventilation over Jeff Sessions' conversations with Russia's US ambassador. Is it possible that the 'Independent' National Broadcaster decided to take this daring step on its own, perhaps from cumulative guilt over so many years depriving its listeners of Russia's opinion?
As suggested by John Helmer's recent article about Australia's legal opinion on MH17 - which apparently found that there was insufficient evidence on responsibility for the atrocity to categorise it as an act of terrorism by the Russian State - something else may be going on here. According to Helmer, whose sources are highly credible, Australia's current Attorney General George Brandis has presented this considered legal opinion in the context of compensation payments to the relatives of the 38 Australian victims in the MH17 crash in secret. This allowed PM Malcolm Turnbull - who replaced the pugnacious and intemperate Tony Abbott as party leader in 2015 - to hold the line in public about Russia's responsibility for the downing.
Although that "line" is now Australia's line, and Turnbull may not have had much choice, he seemed quite comfortable spinning the lie on Russia and MH17 last week after another member of Parliament dared to say something positive about Vladimir Putin. In the pathologically anti-Russian and anti-Putin atmosphere pervading Australian society and media such comment is toxic, and anyone seen not to condemn it will be under suspicion of being a "Russian sympathiser". Terrible!
The politician who made such sensible but toxic observations, not just about the character of Russia's President but about his questionable responsibility for bringing down "the plane that killed 38 Australians" was, of course, Pauline Hanson. Hanson's "One Nation" party is in the same populist and "right-wing" style as Marine Le Pen's party, or for that matter Donald Trump's party. It's a strange perversity of today's Anglophone cultural landscape that ordinary common sense seems to be confined to people of this persuasion. As Vladimir Putin himself has noted of Western journalists, they don't seem to have much common sense, but having Pauline Hanson's glowing endorsement isn't likely to encourage them to think more sensibly!
So what of Philip William's conversation with the Russian ambassador in Canberra? What should we conclude from the focus of the interview, which was almost entirely on Ukraine? Although things might be at something of a turning point in Donbass, and NATO forces are massed on Russia's borders, it is Syria which has been the focus of anti-Russian rhetoric in our news recently, along with the daily updates on the Trump adminstration's Russian contacts.
Could it be that this interview was a way of reminding the already well mis-tutored audience of the key points on Ukraine that they need to know by heart? Rather than seek the Russian viewpoint, Williams' object seemed only to provoke denials that no-one would believe or understand. Crimea was "annexed" he said - Russian forces were there, and armaments - and:
"Are there any circumstances that you can imagine, that Russia would agree to hand back Crimea to Ukraine, as demanded by Australia?"
How to explain that Russia didn't take Crimea, so clearly there could be no such circumstance? What possible excuse does Australia, which shares no known border with Crimea, have for making such a demand? Are we not demanding that Crimeans vote to be governed by Kiev once more? (Like we demand that the Syrians vote to be governed by a coalition of head-choppers?)
Williams continued - MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile brought from Russia he said, with indignant confidence:
"Now you saw the report - clearly identifying that the missile launcher came from Russia and returned to Russia?"
But it wasn't the Dutch Safety Board report that said this - it was Eliot Higgins! Higgins who was so good at his armchair blogging that he now hasa a leather armchair with the Atlantic Council, and presumably a generous allowance from GCHQ.
So it was Higgins' word against that of the Russian Society of Engineers, the Chiefs of Defence and Intelligence, the Russia President and ministers, and the Ambassador's. But their observations on the Ukrainian Army's deployment of BUK launchers in the area, or of the radar observations of Ukrainian fighter jets, or of the US' failure to supply its incriminating satellite observations to the enquiry... well that's just not credible. Incredible in fact!
The point about all this is that the possibility of improvement in Russian-Australian understanding is now limited, not by the position and viewpoint of the Australian government or of informed advisers and legal authorities, but by popular sentiment. And that popular prejudice against the Western corporate media's creation - "Putin's Russia" - constantly stoked with "fakebook" stories and armchair bloggers' tweets, and the casual mendacity of Prime Ministers, is now quite impervious to rational expositions of the truth - whether they come from common politicians or refined ambassadors.
The "annexation" of Crimea and "Russia's shootdown" of MH17 are manufactured "outrages" created to make detente with Russia an impossibility. So why is Australia playing along?
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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