Mark Nuckols

The Kremlin is showing its true colors. If there were any doubts, they should have been removed by one starkly threatening pronouncement on Russia state television. On prime time TV, Dmitry Kiselyov menacingly stated to his audience that “Russia is the only country in the world capable of turning the United States to radioactive ash.” Kiselov styles himself as a journalist, but in fact he is a Kremlin appointed mouthpiece, and such a provocative statement could only be made with prior Kremlin approval.

Before the present Ukrainian crisis Kiselyov had distinguished himself for proclaiming that gay people should not be allowed to be organ donors, and if they die in a car crash, their hearts should be burned and buried rather than donated to patients needing transplants. This is part and parcel of Kremlin strategy, whipping up popular sentiment against perceived internal and external enemies of Russia. Russian state media also demonizes so-called “fifth columnists,” anyone opposed to either the Kremlin’s domestic repressions or foreign military adventures.

Last month Russia invaded a neighboring country, Ukraine, and aims to annex a sizable portion of its territory. In 2008, Russia attacked another neighbor, Georgia, and de facto annexed sizable portions of its territory. In both cases, Russia claimed that it was acting to protect civilian lives of Russians or holders of Russian passports. Russia pursues the exceptional policy of issuing its passports to citizens of other countries, which then supplies a pretext to invade to protect “its” citizens. It is no idle exaggeration to compare this to Hitler’s claims to protect ethnic Germans by annexing the Sudetenland in 1938.

During the invasion of Georgia, state media broadcast non-stop hysterical accusations of genocide against the population of South Ossetia, one of the provinces Russia ultimately annexed. In fact, approximately 120 people were killed as a result of Russian-Georgian combat, but none were shown to be victims of deliberate killings.

Likewise, in Ukraine, Russia falsely claims to be acting to “protect” Ukrainian citizens against their own government. In the 22 years Ukraine has been independent, there is no record of domestic repression against citizens in Crimea or eastern Ukraine, contrary to the wild claims Kremlin propaganda. According the Kremlin, Russia invaded Crimea to protect residents against the violent designs of “neo-Nazi and fascist hooligans.”


Mark Nuckols

Mark Nuckols teaches law and business in Moscow. He has a JD from Georgetown and an MBA from Dartmouth. He has lived in Eastern Europe for most of the last 20 years, including Russia, Ukraine, Slovenia, and Georgia.