Let us start with two definitions from German Wikipedia:
“Information warfare is a term for the targeted use and manipulation of controlled information in order to gain an advantage over competitors and opponents in business or politics. It also includes influencing the media through false information (fake news), partial information or propaganda with the aim of manipulating the media in one’s own interest.”
“Atrocity propaganda is a form of political propaganda in which an attempt is made to defame an opponent by attributing to him or her atrocities or misdeeds that have been invented or not committed by him or her, or by deliberately distorting actions undertaken by him or her, thus scandalising them. It is a common tool of psychological warfare and can be used in war to motivate one’s own forces and population or to influence world opinion.”
Atrocity propaganda is a special form of information warfare. It is a branch of “cognitive warfare” of “strategic communication”1. Like information warfare, atrocity propaganda has existed since wars began, and in fact everyone knows that it exists. Nevertheless, atrocity propaganda is practised in every war. It is possible because, as a rule, in a war no independent and objective verification is possible and because an emotional ground has been created for it beforehand. The atrocity propaganda is preceded by other types of information warfare, so that a fair amount of uncertainty and fear as well as hatred has been created for the one against whom the subsequent atrocity propaganda is directed, which in turn is intended to make people even more uncertain and to increase fear and hatred.
Atrocity propaganda is not a step towards peace. On the contrary, it serves to escalate a war. It is particularly perfidious because there are also actual atrocities in wars. The perfidy is increased even more when supposed “experts” express themselves in such times, pretending to be independent and objective, but in fact are neither.
Also, since 24 February 2022, one must assume all this. In concrete terms: The many years of work in our states on the image of Russia as an enemy and, above all, the demonisation of Russian President Vladimir Putin have prepared the ground for reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine to be believed – even if so far none of the claims have been proven by independent and objective investigations.
Allegations of Russian atrocities have become commonplace. Just one example among many: On 23 April, the Swiss “Tages-Anzeiger” stated – without any evidence – “That one should have sympathy for a dictator who massacres the civilian population in Ukraine and has targeted civilian objects bombed in order to achieve a maximum number of victims and refugees remains incomprehensible.” (emphasis km)
There are good reasons to suspect that the atrocity reports available so far are atrocity propaganda:
Anyone consulting not only our media and official statements, but also Russian media and Russian official statements – which are also (still) accessible in German – will quickly realise that the atrocity reports circulated in our country are countered by Russian statements which are factually formulated, substantiated and comprehensible. All this is no proof of the correctness of the Russian position, but it could nevertheless move us – if we are serious about the search for truth – to quote the rebuttals just as seriously and in as much detail as the claims about wartime atrocities. In this way, citizens in our countries who do not have the time or the opportunity to seek Russian statements could get a better picture.
It is understandable that the government of Ukraine, as a party to the war, will have no interest in an objective picture. However, the behaviour of the leadership of our countries only makes sense if one assumes that our countries are also parties to the war.
Representatives of institutions such as the OSCE or the International Criminal Court (ICC) usually present themselves as independent and objective and committed only to the law. In doing so, they want to give special weight to what they claim. But are both institutions so independent and objective? The ICC has forfeited its reputation for some time because it has never consistently investigated war crimes committed by members of NATO states. Why did the British chief prosecutor at the ICC immediately accuse Russia following the atrocity reports and the gruesome pictures from Bucha, but failed to immediately initiate investigations on the ground? Or why does the OSCE under Polish chairmanship investigate Ukrainian accusations against Russia rather than Russian ones against Ukraine? The spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry credibly explained this using the example of Kramatorsk in her briefing of 13 April.2
Finally, when looking at atrocity reports, the important question arises: Cui bono? – Who benefits?
In other words, why and for what purpose should Russian forces commit atrocities in Ukraine? What “benefit” would they get from it? And: who is really benefitting from reports of Russian atrocities?
Atrocity propaganda, according to Wikipedia, “is a common means of psychological warfare and can be used in war to motivate one’s own forces and population or to influence world opinion”. (emphasis km) Doesn’t this rather suggest that Russia cannot have any interest in atrocities committed by its armed forces? But others do.
Even those who accuse the Russian armed forces of atrocities are aware of this problem with their claims and therefore resort to auxiliary constructions. An example of this is the German historian Bernd Greiner, who had his say in an interview with the “Tages-Anzeiger” on 22 April. He is asked about the “usefulness of massacres and atrocities” and answers: “War crimes are part of psychological warfare. They push the purpose of every war to the extreme: to spread fear and terror. To threaten the living with the dead.”
But apparently all Russian statements on military action in Ukraine go in a completely different direction: The country is to be “demilitarised” and “denazified” and the two Russian-recognised republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are to be protected from further Ukrainian attacks, but there is no mention of “shock and awe”3 among the civilian population. On the contrary, the civilian population is to be protected – as far as this is at all possible in a war. Even if one dismisses all Russian statements as propaganda: what logic is there in explaining that one does everything to protect civilians and at the same time spreads “fear and terror” and “threatens the living with the dead”?
For the Russians, the Ukrainians are a Slavic “brother nation”. Why and for what purpose would the Russian forces want to achieve a “maximum number of victims” among the Ukrainian civilian population? That makes no sense.
War against Russia “to the last Ukrainian”?
There are some voices, not only from Russia, who claim that the US government and NATO want to wage war against Russia “to the last Ukrainian”. Atrocity propaganda would fit such an inhuman strategy. And unfortunately, so would the indications that further, escalating stagings (“false flag operations”) are planned for further, even worse, atrocity propaganda.4
There are also growing indications that NATO states are already directly involved in the war, not only with arms deliveries but also with operations on the ground in Ukraine.5
The international “war council” held by the USA on 26 April at its military base in Ramstein, Germany, also points in the direction of further escalation and – practically – direct NATO involvement in the war.
Russia will take countermeasures. Not only against further atrocity propaganda, but also against the attempts of NATO states to further prolong the war in Ukraine with arms deliveries and other means. On 25 April, Russia’s foreign minister once again stressed Russia’s will to reach a negotiated settlement with Ukraine’s government. But he also spoke of how the danger of a Third World War is real if the NATO states do not stop actively escalating and prolonging the war. •
1 Cf. Current Concerns of 1 March 2022 (“Taking a stance against political lies”); www.zeit-fragen.ch/en/archives/2022/no-5-1-march-2022/taking-a-stance-against-political-lies.html
3 Other than the US troops in their 2003 war against Iraq. They openly termed their actions as “shock and awe”.
4 Thus since 24 February 2022 the Russian authorities have published statements on planned stagings e.g., by the Ministry of Defence on 23 April 2022. It “had information regarding the preparation of provocations by the United States with the goal to blame the Russian forces for the usage of chemical, biological or tactical nuclear weapons.” (cf. https://seniora.org/politik-wirtschaft/lagebericht-dringendes-briefing-des-russischen-verteidigungsministeriums-ueber-neue-provokationen of 24 April 2022)
5 cf. “are British special units active in Ukraine?”, Tages-Anzeiger of 25 April 2022. The article is referring to British newspapers openly reporting on operations by British special SAS commands.
km. Even though it literally says the German Bundestag welcomes “the Federal Government's support for Ukraine under attack while ensuring that neither Germany nor Nato becomes a party to the war”: Without Germany having been attacked, the Bundestag, with its motion adopted on 28 April 2022 by 586 votes to 100 with 7 abstentions, de facto declares Germany a party to the war. With all possible consequences. Unfortunately, only one of the opposition parties formulated this clearly: The motion was a “declaration of accession to war”.
One day earlier, the SPD, CDU/CSU, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and FDP had jointly introduced the motion in the Bundestag. In its diction, the motion is reminiscent of bad times in German history – a language of warmongering, but also of loss of reality. And all this with a mendacious hypocrisy full of empty words. Now – a little more than 80 years after the start of the German war of extermination against the Soviet Union – German tanks are once again to fire on Russian soldiers. A disgrace for a country to forget its history.
There is currently nothing to suggest that there are voices of reason and moderation within the established political class in Germany. This leads to fears of even worse things to come. What a turnaround can bring is not yet foreseeable. Peace will not be achieved in this way. Yet that is precisely what the majority of Germans are striving for.
km. Not only the German Easter marches have shown the great concern of very many people about the war in Ukraine that is not coming to an end and instead – not least due to the massive war effort of the NATO states – will escalate into a major European or even world war. Other prominent voices have also spoken out, including former high-ranking generals of the Bundeswehr such as Erich Vad or Harald Kujat.1 It is not possible to go into the multitude of these initiatives here. As a representative example, quotations from an open letter to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, which was published in the “Berliner Zeitung” on 22 April and whose co-signatories include the author of Current Concerns and Hans Christoph Graf von Sponeck, the former Assistant Secretary General of the UN.
The letter states, among other things:
"We are united in warning against an uncontrollable expansion of the war with unforeseeable consequences for the entire world and in opposing a prolongation of the war and bloodshed with arms deliveries. By supplying weapons, Germany and other NATO countries have made themselves a de facto party to the war. And thus, Ukraine has also become the battleground for the conflict between NATO and Russia over the security order in Europe, which has been escalating for years. [...] The war carries the real danger of an expansion and uncontrollable military escalation [...]. If responsible people, like you, dear Chancellor, do not stop this development, we will end up with another big war. Only this time with nuclear weapons, widespread devastation and the end of human civilisation. Avoiding more and more casualties, destruction and further dangerous escalation must therefore have absolute priority. [...] Arms shipments and navy leverage from NATO will delay the warfare and take diplomatic evaluation too far. [...]
The prevailing Logic of War must be replaced by a bold Logic of Peace, and a new European and global architecture of peace must be created, including Russia and China. Germany must not stand on the sidelines here, but take an active role.”
1 cf. Current Concerns No 9 of 26 April 2022 as well as the detailed interview with Erich Vad in Zeitgeschehen im Fokus of 24 April 2022 (https://zeitgeschehen-im-fokus.ch/de/newspaper-ausgabe/nr-7-8-vom-24-april-2022.html#article_1351)
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