NATO, Russia, and the View from Mars
Robert Heinlein’s classic novel Stranger in a Strange Land tells the story of a human, born and raised on Mars, who comes to Earth and struggles to understand the world around him. The protagonist of the novel, having no knowledge of the planet, is susceptible to misunderstanding issues based on a literal interpretation of all he sees and reads. Were he to come to the US or Europe today and pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, what would he think of Russia and its ambitions? Conversely, would he even encounter the word NATO? And would he have any concept of the fact that NATO is by far the most dominant military force in the world?
Obscuring the Truth with Media ■ The onslaught of Western propaganda in recent months has attempted to portray Russia as an aggressor – an imperial nation with designs on Ukraine and its other neighbors. Russia is presented as a belligerent actor using its military to menace former Soviet republics in order to reconstitute its former glory.
However, this narrative conveniently leaves out the fact that it is NATO, not Russia, which is actually escalating military tensions throughout the former Soviet space. While the US and European media build the myth of “Bad Vlad” and Russian imperialism, NATO is quietly deploying troops and hardware to critical locations, providing material support to nations along Russia’s borders and those of its allies, and generally raising the stakes and inviting the possibility of war. With headlines such as “Putin’s imperial project threatens European values” (Financial Times), and “Putin’s Imperial One-Man Show” (New York Times), the Western media has done yeoman’s work for Washington and Brussels, establishing the narrative that it is Russia that is an imperial aggressor seeking regional (global?) domination through military force. These media outlets frame the discussion as to the degree to which Russia seeks hegemony, not whether or not this is truly the case.