by Bryan MacDonald
Halloween may have been almost two months ago, but Newsweek has held back the horror until Christmas: “PUTIN is PREPARING for WORLD WAR III… YEAH, THAT’S BAD NEWS,” it bellows in its latest cover story, with capital letters sprinkled around to make things extra scary.
The whole setup screams “get them to the nuclear shelter now” because big bad Vlad (sic) is going to unleash hell. Except, he’s not. And Newsweek knows he’s not. We know this because the shower of amateurs who run the piss-poor magazine have exaggerated a lengthy diatribe based on a conversation with a single named source.
And who is this prophet of doom? Is it a high-ranking whistleblower from inside the Kremlin or perhaps even General Gerasimov himself, armed with his “doctrine?” No, instead it’s a columnist for a Russian opposition newspaper, who used to work for a lobby group in the United States, which has been accused of spreading anti-Russian propaganda by the foreign ministry in Moscow.
The usual nonsense
It’s all so depressingly predictable. But it’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Can we imagine the pitch, for a moment? It must have gone something like this:
Owen Matthews (the author): “Good morning, editor, I have a huge scoop. You see, Putin is preparing for World War Three.
Editor: “Wow, Owen, that’s amazing. What are your sources?”
Matthews: “Well, I have two unnamed British guys who are not authorized to speak, so you will have to take my word on it, and a Russian bloke who writes for the Novaya Gazeta paper, which publishes three times a week.”
Editor: “That sounds legit, Owen. It’s so well researched that I am going to make it the cover story.”
And this is a prime example of how pathetic Western media coverage of Russia is right now. We get half-cocked stories, quite obviously made to suit the agenda of newsdesks in London, New York, and Washington. Usually based on obscure or anonymous sources.
In the past month, we’ve already had two classic examples of shambolic and embarrassing reportage. The UK Independent was first out of the blocks, promoting a threadbare ‘scoop,’ based on a Moscow rumor, about how Vladimir Putin was “tired” and “considered leaving the presidency:” it was published a few weeks before he announced his intention to run for another six-year term. And then Foreign Policy’s Moscow correspondent moaned that it was impossible to cultivate sources in Russia before the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that she’d never even tried to contact their press secretary since receiving accreditation.
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) December 6, 2017
While those two incidents can be put down to incompetence, and reporters being out of their depth, Newsweek has jumped the shark completely. They offer no evidence that Russia is planning for World War Three, save for a few lines from Pavel Felgenhauer, who used to write for the Moscow Times and has been associated with America’s Jamestown Foundation.
Felgenhauer is no Nostradamus either. You see, back in 2008, he told German state-broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Moscow would be dragged into “a prolonged and difficult war” after Mikhail Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia because “it’s a logistical nightmare to try to take South Ossetia back from Georgia’s quite good military.” But, ultimately, it took Moscow’s forces just two days to remove all Georgian soldiers from the restive province.
As it happens, Newsweek, since its 2014 reincarnation, has consistently published nonsense stories about Russia. A prime example coming in the summer of 2015, when they alleged Moscow was helping east Ukrainian rebels to build a “dirty bomb.” A widely debunked piece of piffle the magazine has never retracted. And, incidentally, the author now handles communications at George Soros’ Open Society, which tells its own tale.
So, what’s behind Newsweek’s incessant anti-Russia stance, and its reliance on poorly researched articles to drive home its agenda?
Perhaps it’s related to an unusual partnership with NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct. Because, for the past couple of years, Newsweek has been publishing advertorials from the notoriously Russophobic lobby group.
As it happens, the Atlantic Council’s activities are funded by military contractors Lockheed Martin Corporation and the Raytheon Company; the Ukrainian World Congress and United States Department of State. In other words, the very same sort of entities which benefit, in terms of relevance or profits, from presenting Russia as a threat. Just fancy that!