On 14 January, a breaking news story from the New York Times informed its readers: “U.S. Says Russia Sent Saboteurs Into Ukraine to Create Pretext for Invasion.”
Unsurprisingly, Washington “did not release details of the evidence it had collected.” Why did the NYT not question the withholding of evidence? Why even deign to report what so easily could be dismissed, by definition, as hearsay? Is that because the White House is a paragon of truth-telling? Did its erroneous reporting by disgraced writer Judith Miller that Iraq possessed weapons-of-mass-destruction precipitating a US-led invasion not teach NYT a lesson?
Nevertheless, the NYT chooses to lend credence to the anti-Russia accusation. It sources Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, who “said the Russian military planned to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February. She said Moscow was using the same playbook as it did in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, a part of Ukraine.”
What does it say about the NYT when it unquestioningly quotes a person or entity? One might well surmise that the NYT has accorded its imprimatur that what has been said is an unquestionable fact. What about relevant background information that is omitted by the NYT?
Since when does a referendum in which 97% of the population chose to join Russia rather than remain a part of Ukraine? Why does this expression of the democratic will constitute an annexation? The US tried to have the referendum ruled illegal in the United Nations Security Council but this was, predictably, quashed by a Russian veto. China abstained noting that Crimea is not a superficial consideration and that there is a “complex intertwinement of historical and contemporary factors.” And how could the UN go against self-determination for Crimea when that principle is enshrined in Article I of the UN Charter? UN secretary-general António Guterres said the principle of self-determination “remains both a source of pride for the Organization and a crucial pillar of its work going forward.
Why does the NYT not mention how Crimea became a part of Ukraine in the first place? Is it not pertinent that Crimea became a part of the Ukraine as result of a transfer from Russia by the USSR in 1954? When Ukraine departed the USSR did it still merit keeping Crimea and the Sevastopol Naval Base important for Russian security?
Is it not crucial to mention that the Crimean referendum only took place after a US-instigated coup that toppled the elected government in Ukraine and saw Neonazis assume governmental office in Kyiv?
Is it journalism to quote a Pentagon official as saying the intelligence about the operation is “very credible”?
The NYT relates that the refusal to reveal evidence is “for fear of alerting the Russian operatives whose movements are being tracked”? What kind of excuse is that? If indeed any of this “intelligence” is true, then the operatives must now know that they were tracked?
Despite all the aforementioned, the NYT seems cocksure about their reporting: “The American allegations were clearly part of a strategy to try to prevent an attack by exposing it in advance.” Those clever Americans thwarting a Russian attack and saving Ukraine without having to fire a shot. Cough, cough.
Among the Russian demands from the nugatory Brussels talks, the NYT notes, without further comment: “Russia has also demanded that the United States remove all of its nuclear weapons from Europe, and that Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, three surrounding states that once were part of the Soviet empire, never join NATO.”
The current editors at the NYT should know well the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet the NYT did not connect the dots to Soviet nukes in Cuba and American nukes in Europe. Why were American concerns about nukes across the pond in Cuba a grave security threat while nukes in Europe on Russia’s front porch are not a security threat to Russia?
As a matter of principle, the US-NATO side ought best to consider the security concerns of all actors. And while all the actors are considering, a suggestion: consider declaring continental Europe a nuclear weapon-free zone. It should help anxious Europeans should sleep a bit easier.