By Jeremy Kuzmarov
When Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a revolt against Vladimir Putin on June 23, Beltway pundits became euphoric, predicting Russia’s descent into a civil war and the potential end of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum penned a hasty article in The Atlantic entitled: “Russia Slides Into Civil War: Is Putin facing his Czar Nicholas II moment?”
She was referring to the last Romanov czar who was overthrown in the Russian Revolution.
Both McFaul and Applebaum’s predictions, of course, proved to be false.
On the afternoon of June 24 news broke across the U.S. that Prigozhin had struck a deal with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to end his protest and go into exile. At the time, the Russian military was eviscerating Ukraine’s NATO-trained army after it had launched a much hyped counteroffensive, inflicting casualties at a 10-to-1 ratio.
McFaul and Applebaum’s commentaries were emblematic of an intellectual elite that has repeatedly misled the public while helping to mobilize public opinion against Russia by demonizing Putin and valorizing Ukraine, despite the strong influence of neo-Nazis there.
In May, Applebaum, a member of the the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA offshoot, predicted a decisive Ukrainian counteroffensive that would storm through Russian defenses, not only “liberating” Crimea but also encouraging regime change from Moscow to Venezuela.
Like her others, this prediction too has proven to be wrong. It does, however, fit a historical pattern by which government-connected intellectuals lend support for U.S. foreign policy objectives even if they are totally unrealistic.
One hundred years ago, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz published a study of The New York Times’s coverage of the Russian Revolution, “A Test of the News.” Lippmann was a famous newspaper columnist and Merz was, ironically, the future editor of The New York Times.
The two concluded that the Times’s coverage was “almost always misleading” and that the reporters could “fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.”
Most egregious was the fact that the editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened. They further predicted the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than 91 times in three years.
This sounds familiar to our own times when Beltway pundits and other media have been blaming Russia for atrocities in the war that were committed by Ukraine, while reporting ceaselessly on Putin’s alleged megalomania and imminent demise.
In reality, Putin has sustained considerable support within Russia because of the transformation of its economy from the Wild West days of the 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin had opened the country to foreign economic plunder, and because of his ability to withstand sanctions through strengthening regional economic relations and build-up of local industry.