The coverage of the Ukraine war by the Western media is both exhaustive and done with empathy for ordinary civilians caught in the war zone. The conflict is portrayed as a modern version of the biblical David versus Goliah battle. A helpless small country being crushed by a predatory neighbour.
With a few notable exceptions, events are not being placed in the correct historical context. The Western narrative is that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a “thug, dictator and murderer”. Initially, after taking over Crimea in 2014 and ahead of the military action recognising the break-away pro-Russian Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
What is often forgotten is that the assurance of security guarantee given by Western leaders to Russia’s former President Mikhail Gorbachev that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or NATO, a trans-Atlantic military alliance to fight the Communist Bloc, will not expand and take in the Eastern bloc countries as members.
NATO was an alliance to fight expansion of Communism into Europe. With the defeat of Communists and the breakup of the former Soviet Union, there was no threat to Europe. However, the Cold War mind-set continued to prevail in Europe. Neither President Bill Clinton nor his successors or European leaders were ready for that. The rapid expansion of NATO to all former Communist countries like Poland, Hungary and Romania have been given a go-by by the majority of the Western media.
But papers like the Britain’s Guardian are an exception. In an opinion piece on Monday, Ted Galen Carpenter wrote : ``The west’s new cold war with Russia has turned hot. Vladimir Putin bears primary responsibility for this latest development, but NATO’s arrogant, tone‐deaf policy toward Russia over the past quarter‐century deserves a large share as well. Analysts committed to a US foreign policy of realism and restraint have warned for more than a quarter‐century that continuing to expand the most powerful military alliance in history toward another major power would not end well. The war in Ukraine provides definitive confirmation that it did not.’’
The international press dominated by the US and British newspapers and channels have more or less followed the Cold War mindset of Joe Biden’s administration. Liberals have grown up in a tradition of anti-Communist rhetoric and this is reflected in the coverage of this first war in Europe since the second great war.
The Western media is always more anti-Russia than anti-China. China’s President Xi Jinping is criticised, but never in the tone and tenor reserved for Vladimir Putin.
The other sad fact is that some journalists on the ground have not been able to hold back their natural racist mind-set. Sympathy is overflowing for Ukrainian civilians forced to flee across the border to other European countries. The fact that Ukrainian refugees are fellow Caucasians makes it difficult for some reporters to hide their prejudice.
Take the example of CBS news. This is not coming from the right wing stable of Fox News. Here is what senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata tweeted, live from Kyiv: “Now with the Russian’s marching in, it’s changed the calculus entirely. Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee the city. There will be many more, people are hiding out in bomb shelters,” he added “But this isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city where you wouldn’t expect that hope that it's going to happen.”
And then there was NBCs Kelly Cobiella, who said : “Just to put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria, these are refugees from neighbouring Ukraine. That, quite frankly, it is part of it. These are Christians, they are white, they’re very similar to the people that live in Poland.”
David Sakvarelidze Ukraine’s deputy chief prosecutor, said in an interview on the BBC : “It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed.’’ It is a chilling echo of Nazi propaganda that the blue-eyed blonde Aryan race was superior to the rest.
Al Jazeera’s English commentator Peter Dobbie’s remarks were equally biased. “What is compelling is that just looking at them, the way they’re dressed. These are prosperous, middle class people, these are not obviously refugees trying to get away from areas in the Middle East that are still in a big state of war. These are not people trying to get away from areas in North Africa. They look like any European family that you would live next door to.”
Both CNBC the US network and Al Jazeera the Doha based news channel have apologised for the insensitive references by their senior correspondent and news anchor.