I grew up hating America. I lived in the Soviet Union and
was a child of the cold war. That hate went away in 1989,
though, when the Berlin Wall fell and the cold war ended. By
the time I left Russia in 1991, the year the Soviet Union
collapsed, America was a country that Russians looked up to and
wanted to emulate.
Twenty-three years later, a new version of cold war is back,
though we Americans haven’t realized it yet. But I
am getting ahead of myself.
Russia invaded Crimea and staged its referendum, I thought
Vladimir Putin’s foreign excursions were over.
Taking back Crimea violated plenty of international laws, but
let’s be honest. Though major powers like the U.S.
and Russia write the international laws, they are not really
expected to abide by those laws if they find them not to be in
their best interests. Those laws are for everyone else. I am
not condoning such behavior, but I can clearly see how Russians
could justify taking Crimea back — after all, it used
to belong to Russia.
I was perplexed by how the Russian people could possibly
support and not be outraged by Russia’s invasion
of Ukraine. But I live in Denver, and I read mostly U.S. and
European newspapers. I wanted to see what was going on in
Russia and Ukraine from the Russian perspective, so I went on a
seven-day news diet: I watched only Russian TV —
Channel One Russia, the state-owned broadcaster, which I
hadn’t seen in more than 20 years — and
read Pravda, the Russian newspaper whose name means
"Truth." Here is what I learned:
- If Russia did not reclaim Crimea, once the new,
illegitimate government came to power in Ukraine, the Russian
navy would have been kicked out and the U.S. navy would have
started using Crimean ports as navy bases.
- There are no Russian troops in Ukraine, nor were there
ever any there. If any Russian soldiers were found there (and
there were), those soldiers were on leave. They went to
Ukraine to support their Russian brothers and sisters who are
being abused by Ukrainian nationalists. (They may have
borrowed a tank or two, or a highly specialized Russian-made
missile system that is capable of shooting down planes, but
for some reason those details are not mentioned much in the
Russian media.) On November 12, NATO reported that Russian
tanks had entered Ukraine. The Russian government vehemently
denied it, blaming NATO for being anti-Russian.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was not downed by Russia or
separatists. It was shot down by an air-to-air missile fired
by Ukraine or a NATO plane engaged in military exercises in
Ukraine at the time. The U.S. has the satellite imagery but
is afraid of the truth and chooses not to share it with the
- Ukraine was destabilized by the U.S., which spent $5
billion on this project. As proof, TV news showed a video of
Senator John McCain giving a speech to antigovernment
protesters in Kiev’s Maidan Square. It was
followed by a video of Vice President Joe Biden visiting
Ukraine during the tumult. I wasn’t sure what
his role was, but it was implied that he had something to do
with the unrest.
- Speaking of Joe Biden, I learned that his son just joined
the board of Ukraine’s largest natural gas
company, which will benefit significantly from a destabilized
- Ukraine is a zoo of a country, deeply corrupt and overrun
by Russian-haters and neo-Nazis (Banderovtsi —
Ukrainian nationalists who were responsible for killing
Russians and Jews during World War II).
- Candidates for the recent parliamentary election in
Ukraine included Darth Vader (not kidding), as well as a gay
ex-prostitute who claims to be a working man’s
man but lives in a multimillion-dollar mansion.
I have to confess, it is hard not to develop a lot of
self-doubt about your previously held views when you watch
Russian TV for a week. But then you have to remind yourself
that Putin’s Russia doesn’t have a
free press. The free press that briefly existed after the
Soviet Union collapsed is gone — Putin killed it. The
government controls most TV channels, radio and newspapers.
What Russians see on TV, read in print and listen to on the
radio is direct propaganda from the Kremlin.