9. US Media Hypocrisy in Covering Ukraine Crisis

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Russia’s occupation of Crimea has caused US corporate media and government officials to call for a stern US response. Secretary of State John Kerry declaimed the Russian intervention as “a nineteenth-century act in the twenty-first century.” What Russia’s US critics seem to forget, Robert Parry reported, is the United States’ own history of overthrowing democratic governments, including the illegal invasion of Iraq, which Kerry supported.

Corporate media also fail to acknowledge that Putin ordered the occupation of Kiev after a coup led at least partly by neo-Nazis—conditions arguably less criminal than the US invasion of Iraq, which the US legitimized with false claims. “If Putin is violating international law by sending Russian troops into the Crimea after a violent coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected president,” wrote Parry, “then why hasn’t the US government turned over George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and indeed John Kerry to the International Criminal Court for their far more criminal invasion of Iraq?” (In a similar vein, Noam Chomsky has written about the US occupation of Guantánamo in Cuba as another instance of the contradiction between the US position toward Russia and its own lack of respect for national sovereignty.)

Further, Ukraine’s democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled Kiev for his life after the coup and sought Russia’s help quelling the neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine, citing their oppression of the country’s native Russian population. It was only after this that Putin requested the Russian parliament’s permission to deploy Russian troops in to stop the expansion of neo-Nazi control to areas that have deep historical ties to Russia.

Nevertheless, while downplaying these details, US corporate media accuse Russia of violating international law. “The overriding hypocrisy of the Washington Post, Secretary Kerry and indeed nearly all of Official Washington, is their insistence that the United States actually promotes the principle of democracy or, for that matter, the rule of international law,” wrote Parry. “Those are at best situational ethics when it comes to advancing US interests around the world.” In a subsequent report, Parry wrote that, despite evidence to the contrary, US policy makers and corporate media have intentionally neglected to report that neo-Nazi militias played a central role in the February 22, 2014, overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. Parry reported, “The US media’s take on the Ukraine crisis is that a ‘democratic revolution’ ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, followed by a ‘legitimate’ change of government. So, to mention the key role played by neo-Nazi militias in the putsch or to note that Yanukovych was democratically elected—and then illegally deposed—gets you dismissed as a ‘Russian propagandist.’”

Parry is not alone in the view that US media outlets exacerbate conflict with propaganda to vilify Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. As Stephen Cohen reported, from coverage of living conditions and high terror tension at the Sochi Olympics to the bullying cruel regime of Putin and its strong arming of Ukraine, the US corporate media have painted Putin and Russia as public enemy number one, thereby reviving Cold War rhetoric and tactics. Putin and Russia are depicted as militant bullies, rather than a leader and a country trying to preserve control over strategic oil assets to maintain the country’s sphere of influence.

The corporate media’s coverage of Putin and the Ukraine is part of a larger pattern of bias identified by Cohen. He has described the positive US press coverage enjoyed by President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, at a time when “the US media adopted Washington’s narrative that almost everything President Boris Yeltsin did was a ‘transition from communism to democracy’ and thus in America’s best interests.” Whereas the US media presented Yeltsin as pursuing legitimate politics and national interests, the frame that US media now use to portray Putin and Russia is that Putin’s Russia has no legitimate politics and national interests, even on its own borders, as in Ukraine. “American media on Russia today,” Cohen wrote, “are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.”

A resurgence of cold war rhetoric may make better sense against the backdrop of geopolitical oil interests, as analyzed by Nafeez Ahmed. As he reported, Ukraine finds itself between the two superpowers and their ongoing struggle for influence in the Eurasian oil market. Russia’s Gazprom Company already controls roughly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. In 2013, Ukraine signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with US-based Chevron in hopes of ending its dependency on Russian gas by 2020. Professor R. Craig Nation, director of Russian and Eurasian Studies at the US Army War College, stated in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) publication, “Ukraine is increasingly perceived to be critically situated in the emerging battle to dominate energy transport corridors linking the oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian basin to European markets.” The Obama administration has since spent over $5 billion to “ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.” For those who are pondering whether we face the prospect of a New Cold War,” Ahmed concluded, “a better question might be—did the Cold War ever really end?”


Robert Parry, “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy,” Consortium News, March 4, 2014, http://consortiumnews.com/2014/03/04/americas-staggering-hypocrisy.

Stephen F. Cohen, “Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine,” Nation, March 3, 2014, http://www.thenation.com/article/178344/distorting-russia.

Nafeez Ahmed, “Ukraine Crisis is about Great Power Oil, Gas Pipeline Rivalry,” Guardian, March 6, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/06/ukraine-crisis-great-power-oil-gas-rivals-pipelines.

Student Researcher: Bryan Brennan (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)