The Babchenko Case, Post-Truth World and New American ‘Imperialism’ - ANALYSIS - EXCLUSIVE | Eurasia Diary -

27 May, Monday

The Babchenko Case, Post-Truth World and New American ‘Imperialism’ - ANALYSIS - EXCLUSIVE

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On May 29, Ukraine staged the murder of a Russian journalist, Arkady Babchenko, in Kiev which caused new tension between the West and Russia, as it raised a lot of questions. First question was who is going to take advantage of this "fake news"? How will be the reputation of both Ukrainian government and media after this issue in the country? How much was it harmful for trustworthiness of the local media and for journalist himself? 
Political analyst Bruno Surdel commented on Eurasia Diary’s question on this issue. 
Bruno Surdel: On May 30, I realized we live in a ‘post-truth’ age. It happened when I watched on my TV screen the scene with Arkady Babchenko who had been ‘raised from the dead’ and showed up alive at a news conference in Kiev. The ‘heroes’ who granted him a ‘new life’ were the head of Ukraine's SBU security service, Vasyl Hrytsak and the prosecutor general – Lutsenko. The next my thought was, however, that we also reached an era of post-journalism. I agree with Reporters Without Borders:  Babchenko’s ‘murder’  was just ‘part of an information war’ between Ukraine and Russia. 
Information war is nothing new, for sure, and both sides are quite good at it. What is fascinating, the former Russian and now Ukrainian journalist who played the main part in the ‘sting operation’ has had an interesting record as a soldier and ‘mercenary’ in Chechen wars, then war correspondent and investigative journalist. Now he says, he may dance on Putin’s grave in the future… He seems to think he has become a ‘hero’. Is this journalism at its best? I doubt it. 
The hoax he took part in, was not necessarily designed to (‘just’) save his life: it has very many layers, including what the Kremlin has called as ‘propaganda’. The question is: was Babchenko used or abused as a kind of useful ‘tool’ or anti-Russian weapon by the Ukrainian security service? If they (Ukrainians) staged the death of that Russian dissident journalist to achieve some PR goals, I’m not sure they got what they really wanted. Some may say: the Russians were right when they had warned beforehand it could be a ‘provocation’.
But Ukrainian officials: Hrytsak and Lutsenko claim faking the killing of Babchenko helped them to foil a Russian plot to assassinate not only him but also other – 30 or so - Russian and Ukrainian politicians and journalists as well. We learned that one of them reportedly was the famous "Echo of Moscow” journalist - Matvey Ganapolsky… The Ukrainian prosecutor general announced also that they got a ‘list’ of potential victims, as many as 47… So more than 30.
Furthermore, the businessman allegedly responsible for ‘plotting the killings’ had also been trying to arrange ‘arsenals’ of weapons to do his ‘job’. That’s a kind of political thriller and something very serious, indeed. OK, but should we trust those revelations are ‘real’ and not just another stunt and weapon in external and internal Ukrainian conflicts? Unfortunately, I’m not sure, especially, when I hear that the ‘would be’ murderer has been collaborating with Ukrainian security service since the very beginning and that the abovementioned businessman received his ‘license to kill’ from a ‘private Putin fund’ and that also he ‘was in touch’ (as Borys Herman claims) with the Ukrainian counterintelligence. That’s too much…
Who is going to take advantage of all this? Yes, this is Moscow. Out of the sudden, for many people – especially abroad - Russian president Vladimir Putin has become a kind of ‘victim’ of a Ukrainian ‘plot’. The situation is grotesque and tragic in the very same time. And it may support the Kremlin’s narrative of the conflict in the eastern Ukraine – however absurd it might be. 
This time, the Ukrainian government probably went too far in its efforts to ‘outsmart’ the Russians. For sure, many Ukrainians are proud of their SBU secret service and what they had ‘achieved’. No doubt about it as this was likely one of the stunt’s goals. But people abroad, in particular those who do know much about the Russia – Ukraine conflict and its background – they may be rather skeptical and wary in their reading of the Ukrainian government’s intentions.
However, when it comes to Ukraine’s media and their narrative of the staged killing, one cannot forget that this was Ukrainian authorities who had confirmed Babchenko’s ‘death’. So I’m not that ready to blame them. After all, there is still a bloody, cruel war in the east of Ukraine. It’s hard to paint the full picture without that very truth. 
Eurasia Diary: International Federation of Journalists described this case as "intolerable" and "inadmissible", while the Western media blamed Russia, and Russia called the staged assassination "anti-Russian provocation", as Skripal case still remains uncertain. The arrest of Bill Browder in Spain was also another reason for the west to keep accusing Russia. Last two cases caused tension between Russia and the West. How much Babchenko case will affect the "Cold War" between Russia and Europe?
Bruno Surdel: As I mentioned before, we live in strange and dangerous times. The US president Trump withdrew from the JCPOA – so-called Iran Nuclear deal and moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
On the other hand, he decided to threat with a global trade war both the West with his close allies and the East with the next superpower ‘in waiting’ – China. This is not the kind of ‘Cold War’ we got accustomed to in the 20th century.
This is an ‘imperial’ and ‘unipolar’ way of thinking and dealing with issues and countries perceived as a kind of ‘problem’ for the United States. This is ‘old-fashioned’ school of making foreign policy in our globalized world. But yes - it may work to some extent.
However, the side-effect - I’m sure the American administration doesn’t want - may be some tactical rapprochement between Europe, Russia and China against all odds – including the Skripal case. That’s nothing stable, but anyway it may happen.
On the other hand, however, we do not know what intelligence the Western countries have received relating to the Babchenko case. We do know nothing sure or certain, just conflicting narratives of interested ‘parties’. Nothing more, unfortunately. Most likely, however, the Babchenko case has good chances to strengthen ‘alert’ lights in Western capitals. I mean alleged Kremlin ‘threat’ and ‘meddling’.
Interviewed by Farid Hasanov
Bruno Surdel is a member of the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw.  Graduated from the University of Warsaw. 2011 - 2016 he was a lecturer at the Zirve University in Gaziantep - Turkey. Several times visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing - National Institute of International Strategy; in Shanghai: Shanghai International Studies University, and Renmin University (Beijing). He attended many international conferences on Asia and the Middle East. He has conducted research on international security in Turkey - Middle East - China, with particular focus on Syria and Iraq (political Islam, terrorism). His research interests involve also the New Silk Road initiative (OBOR). Twitter: @BrunoSurdel


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