If You Think the U.S. Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipeline, You’re Consuming Too Much Propaganda

Russian Propaganda is Working Even Though They Are Losing the Ukrainian War

Oct 11, 2022. | By Will Hurd

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5 min read

It's been seven months since Russia’s most recent invasion of Ukraine and Russian propaganda is working surprisingly well despite their military setbacks.

Putin’s military and intelligence apparatus are experts in creating propaganda designed to misinform and manipulate public opinion. Recent examples have generated global debates on American involvement in sabotage, whether the Pope was advocating for appeasement, and if Elon Musk should stick to just talking about Mars. 

Putin has shown the ability to have success in the information war despite Russia losing the actual war. Putin’s successes raise serious questions about whether our Ukrainian brothers and sisters would be enjoying even more success on the battlefield  if the world was better able to counter Russia's disinformation campaigns. 

America Did Not Blow Up Nord Stream

On September 26, 2022 the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines exploded, draining gas into the Baltic Sea off the coast of Denmark and Sweden. 

These pipelines, primarily owned by the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, are the single largest source of Russian natural gas to Europe. The EU is heavily reliant on Russian gas -- last year, they received about 40 percent of their entire natural gas supply from Russia.

The Nord Stream pipelines have been at the center of geopolitical tensions because Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in retaliation against Western sanctions imposed after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

On the day the pipelines exploded, seismologists registered explosions in the area prompting police in several countries to launch investigations. After a preliminary investigation, Sweden’s domestic security agency said it had strengthened suspicions of sabotage. 

The Nord Stream pipelines have been at the center of geopolitical tensions because Russia cut gas supplies to Europe in retaliation against Western sanctions imposed after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

If you think the U.S. blew up the Nord Stream pipelines, then you need to stop consuming Russian propaganda. The Biden Administration won’t even sell fighter jets to Ukraine because they are worried about the Russians escalating attacks. And this Administration is having a difficult enough time of getting Europeans to stand together on energy policy. They wouldn’t blow up Russian property that was vital to our European allies’ energy needs.  

Ukrainians Are Not Against Peace

Americans doing the dirty work for Russian propagandists and trying to sow seeds of doubt within the American electorate is the most direct and egregious case of Putin winning the propaganda game. However, there are more recent, subtle examples of Russian disinformation themes being perpetuated by important people unwittingly. 

During a recent celebration of mass, Pope Francis appealed to Putin to stop the war but he also encouraged Ukrainian President Zelensky to be open to serious peace offers. I recognize the Pontiff as one of the great moral authorities in our world but implying that the Ukrainians are somehow not open to peace is a dangerous idea to put in people’s heads. This suggests that the Ukrainian people are complicit in the destruction caused by this war. 

The Ukrainians people didn’t start the war. They are just trying to protect their independence. All that needs to happen for the killing to stop is for Putin to stop his warmongering.

Zelensky Should Not Cede Land

Another example of an influential person unwittingly pushing Russian propaganda was the World’s richest man, Elon Musk. The soon to be owner of Twitter tweeted “Ukraine-Russia Peace,” followed by four main points: “Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people. Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake). Water supply to Crimea assured. Ukraine remains neutral.

As John Gabriel wrote in an opinion piece about Musk’s Ukraine-Russia Peace deal, “Musk’s ideas were very naïve, didn’t accept the reality of Russia’s and Ukraine’s leadership, or the passionate feelings of citizens on both sides.”

Having one of the world’s most followed social media influencers push the idea that Ukraine should willingly give up part of their lands to end the fighting, reinforces Russian propaganda. 

Military Losses = Inner Circle Drama

Russia Map

Despite victories in the propaganda space, Putin has suffered stunning defeats on the battlefield. Ukraine’s counter-offensive on its eastern and southern fronts has overwhelmed Russian forces. Thousands of people have been liberated from dozens of towns and villages in the parts of Ukraine that Putin illegally tried to annex as part of Russia. 

These spectacular failures by Russian forces are causing cracks within Putin’s inner circle. As the Institute for the Study of War explains in their assessment of the Russian campaign, “word of fractures within Putin’s inner circle have reached the hyper-patriotic and nationalist blogger crowd … undermining the impression of strength and control that Putin has sought to portray throughout his reign.”

Troop Mobilization fueled Public Outrage

In late September 2022, Putin declared a partial military mobilization forcing the conscription of 300,000 Russians who had previous military experience. This need to force former soldiers to return to the military is a clear sign that the primary challenge of the Russian military after seven months of war is a basic one – manpower.

In the weeks following Putin’s pronouncement, the EU has seen a 30% increase in Russians traveling to the EU, and countries that border Russia like Georgia have seen Russians waiting in line for 4-5 days to cross a land border.

Within hours of Putin’s proclamation, Russians began protesting this troop mobilization. Protests were held in 43 different cities immediately after the announcement, and Radio Free Europe reports that Russia continues to crackdown on the spreading anti-mobilization protests as draft criticism grows.

Talk of Nukes is a Sign of Desperation

President Biden is correct in his assessment that the world is the closest it’s been in a really long time to a nation deploying a nuclear weapon. We should accept the reality that Putin would use nuclear weapons – it’s part of Russia’s formal military doctrine. However, we should also realize that while a nuclear weapon could cause serious death and destruction, it doesn’t help control territory. That’s why manpower is so important. 

President Biden is correct in his assessment that the world is the closest it’s been in a really long time to a nation deploying a nuclear weapon.

A rational person in Putin’s shoes would think two things: 

  1. Most of the countries who haven’t opposed our invasion of Ukraine would likely change that position after a nuclear weapon was used, and 
  2. The existing manpower problems we are already dealing with would prevent us from being able to capture and hold additional territory resulting from a nuclear strike. 

But Putin is not a rational operator. Preventing the use of nuclear weapons would require neither appeasing Putin nor pressuring Ukraine to give up territory.

To make Putin think twice about nukes, he must be shown that the world is 100% behind Ukraine winning the war by reclaiming all their territory, and that the use of a nuclear weapon would be met with a swift worldwide response resulting in Putin no longer being in power.

Bottom line

Despite Russia's clear defeats in the Ukrainian war, their propaganda is still managing to sow doubts and divisions among the general public. This is dangerous and can have far-reaching consequences. It's important that we stay informed and aware of what's happening so that we can counter Russian disinformation effectively. 

If you're interested in reading more about topics like these, please click on the links below:

Preventing Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine from Becoming a Long, Protracted War

To Understand the Border Crisis, We Must Understand Asylum

What if the Cuban Missile Crisis Went Hot?

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