What is being covered this week?
The war in Ukraine rages on
Misinformation and Disinformation Campaigns
President Zelensky Update
President Putin Update
Possibility of WWIII?
Misinformation and Disinformation Campaigns (The West), Pt. 2
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War in Ukraine:
Do you have any updates for how things are going in Ukraine?
There have been multiple surprises during the first week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. First, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a terrible miscalculation that the Ukrainian military and civilians would lay down arms and allow the Russian military a swift victory. That did not happen. It appears the opposite has been true; as there are reports that Russian troops being engaged by Ukrainian forces are surrendering upon first contact and telling the Ukrainian troops they did not even know an invasion would happen.
Those reports are unconfirmed as of right now. Even if the statements were made, I would hold off on believing that completely because it could be something said to boost the morale of the Ukranians that have these Russian soldiers held captive.
Misinformation and Disinformation Campaigns:
Let's talk about the misinformation campaigns going on right now.
It appears that both sides are participating in a war of misinformation. From Russian television broadcasts talking of Ukrainians killing Russian civilians to the need to denazify Ukraine. And then the Ukrainians promoting an exaggerated story of war heroes.
Can we talk the Ghost of Kyiv then? Is he real or fake?
Probably a little bit of both. And for those of you listening unaware of who the Ghost of Kyiv is the nickname given to a disputed and unconfirmed pilot credited with shooting down six Russian planes in the Kyiv offensive on 24 February 2022. The only official source to broadcast his accomplishments comes from the Security Service of Ukraine’s Facebook page. It credits the pilot with 10 air-to-air take downs. That would make him the first recorded fighter ace of the 21st century.
Do you believe the stories?
I don’t believe that it was one pilot, and there are a lot of publications that back that up. Task & Purpose, a US military online publication, argued that it was unlikely six Russian aircraft were downed in total on one day---Let alone by one pilot. What should not be glossed over is how the Ghost of Kyiv has been credited as a morale booster for Ukrainians, and helped bolster optimism in the face of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What about the “Ukrainian Reaper”? Has that story been corroborated?
There has been no real confirmation of the Reaper's existence. Right now, he and the Ghost of Kyiv are mostly considered an urban legend---spread by Ukrainian supporters on social media.
That doesn’t mean we won’t talk about it here. The Ukrainian Reaper has been credited with 20 sniper kills. There is also a photo being disseminated of Volodymyr Vist, a Ukrainian soldier that people claim to in fact be the now legendary sniper.
The fog of war complicates things a bit when talking about factual reporting. This is especially true today with social media and 24/7 news. I am still skeptical either is a real person, but the misinformation has been pretty effective in boosting morale of the Ukrainian people.
President Zelensky Update
So, the Ghost of Kyiv isn’t real, the Ukrainian Reaper isn’t real. Are you going to tell me, my man Volodomyr Zelensky isn’t real?
Oh no! Zelensky is definitely real, and the true hero of this whole conflict. I loved his quote to the US when they tried to evacuate him: "The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride." This week he spoke to Ukrainians fighting Russian troops and told them, “The time will come when we will be able to sleep. But it will be after the war, after the victory in a peaceful country, as we need.”
When was the last time a leader stepped up in the way he has? A lawyer, turned comedian, turned President of a country. Those are all facts. The images of him in full gear standing, on the streets of Kyiv will be ones for the history books. Sorry to the future generations who will have to study geopolitics from 2016-2022 and beyond. Those will be some wild lessons in the classroom.
President Putin Update:
Now that we have discussed how brilliant Zelensky has been, do you want to talk about the other president involved in this situation?
Not really. But I know this is not about me or us, and that the listeners want all the information we can give so, let’s do it.
Ok, tell us your thoughts on Putin so far.
Much like most megalomaniacs, he has miscalculated almost every aspect of this invasion. He was assured that all Ukrainian military and civilians would welcome the incoming Russian Army with open arms, and lay down their weapons to allow a peaceful occupation of the country of Ukraine. As of today, that has not happened. The exact opposite has been true. The people of Ukraine have fought tooth and nail against Russian forces and have not let them advance along the timeline they expected. Let this be a warning to any authoritarian government looking to take over sovereign land---the people just want to be left alone.
Can you talk more on Putin’s mental stability? After all, he is the leader of a nation with advanced hypersonic and nuclear capabilities.
The more Putin is backed in a corner, the more realistic a nuclear attack on Ukraine, the EU, and the US becomes. Putin has aligned himself with a group of “Yes Men” who would be hard pressed to prevent him from launching ballistics, hypersonic, or nuclear weapons. The closer he gets to that decision, the more likely it is that NATO and the US will have to provide military troops to stop him.
Possibility of WWIII?:
So, that is World War three right?
Well, yes. We also have a few different avenues to WWIII, and I’ve discussed this with a couple of journalists lastt week. The nuclear aspect, obviously, is the most dangerous. Also, there have been a lot of requests for NATO or the US to establish a “no fly zone” in Ukraine. While that may sound like the right thing to do, there is more nuance to the discussion than just being on one side or the other.
What would a "No Fly Zone" involve?
A "no fly zone" implemented by NATO or the US would effectively force those nations to join the war militarily. A "no fly zone" is not an arbitrary aircraft repellant. It actually takes military equipment in order to execute. If a "no fly zone" is announced over Ukraine, NATO and the US will have to provide military aircraft to protect the skies by either being a show of force that prevents Russian backed aircraft from entering Ukrainian airspace; or by actually utilizing munitions to repel any Russian aircraft that does enter Ukrainian airspace. This puts any nation firing on Russian aircraft at war with Russia, and the conflict could quickly get out of hand. With Putin putting his nuclear arsenal on alert, the West will be very careful to be only as involved as necessary to prevent an all out nuclear war.
Also, we would not just be talking about military planes patrolling the skies. The resources needed to effectively run flight operations are vast. For one thing, you need refueling equipment, logistics, and multiple take-off and landing points. All of that is not just equipment either. People will need to be associated with all these pieces of equipment. Those people will be soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Seaman deployed in combat with a near-peer adversary. If a pilot has to eject and finds themselves in hostile territory, personnel recovery operations are implemented. This calls for even more resources, so the pilot does not find him/herself taken prisoner--- or worse--- dead at the hands of an adversary. The first US death in this conflict will be a watershed moment for some Americans.
Misinformation and Disinformation, (The West) Pt. 2:
Now, Russia is king of the misinformation and disinformation realm. How has that been going during this conflict?
I would say it has been going very poorly as far as the West is concerned. I cannot speak to how things are going inside of Russia, but it has been promising to see multiple state media organizations state that talking heads at RT, formerly known as "Russia Today", have resigned from their positions.
Hasn’t "Russia Today" been banned in a few countries now?
Yes, it has. The UK has banned its broadcast entirely. At least one American provider, DirecTV, has removed its channel from their programing. However, it is not just tv and radio broadcasts. The misinformation coming directly from Moscow has been effectively thwarted by an incredible group of global Open Source aficionados. One that we have spoken about often, Bellingcat, has been at the forefront of attacking Russia’s false flag operations. They provide free up-to-the-minute analysis of all information being broadcast from Russia.
Putin was not ready for this global attack on his misinformation campaign and how effective it would be in emboldening most of humanity to speak out against the invasion. The president was assured that these false flag operations would increase his standing in the world and there would be no push back against the invasion of Ukraine.
Can you give us the top 5 disinformation narratives Putin has attempted?
Russia is an Innocent Victim---
Sure. I will quote information directly from the US State Department memo on Russian disinformation. Let's start with “Russia is an Innocent Victim.” Russian government officials have falsely portrayed Russia as a perpetual victim, and its aggressive actions are supposedly a forced response to the alleged actions of Ukraine and its democratic allies and partners. To further these claims, Russia turns to one of its favorite labels to attempt to hit back: “Russophobia.” For example, Russia claims that the international community’s negative reaction to its invasion of an independent country was simply because people feared and hated Russia.
When history does not align with the Kremlin’s political objectives, Russian government officials and their proxy voices deny historical events or distort historical narratives to try to cast Russia in a more favorable light. It is also used to serve its domestic and geopolitical agenda. The Kremlin also applies this formula to the history of Ukraine’s statehood, NATO’s conduct during the collapse of the Soviet Union, its GULAG prison system, the famine in Ukraine known as Holodomor, and many other events where the Kremlin’s historical actions do not serve its current political goals.
The Collapse of Western Civilization is Imminent---
The next narrative is “The Collapse of Western Civilization is Imminent.” Russia pushes the false claim that Western civilization is collapsing. They say Western countries have strayed from “traditional values” because it works to ensure the safety and equality of LGBTQI+ people and promotes concepts such as female equality and multiculturalism. Russia has spoken of a decaying West since the 19th century.
Russia also uses the narrative that popular movements are actually U.S. sponsored Color Revolutions. Russia has accused the United States of either instigating uprisings or plotting these color revolutions in Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Ukraine, and throughout the Middle East and Africa. If a popular movement is pro-democracy and pro-reform and not deemed to be in Russia’s geopolitical interests, the Kremlin will often attack its legitimacy and claim that the United States is secretly behind it.
Can you explain what a color revolution is though?
It is just the media’s term to describe various protest movements and accompanying attempted or successful change of governments that took place in several countries of the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and People's Republic of China during the early 21st century.
Reality is what the Kremlin says it is---
The fifth and most dangerous narrative is that reality is whatever the Kremlin wants it to be. The Kremlin frequently tries to create multiple false realities and insert confusions into the information environment when the truth is not in its interests. It is often intentionally confusing. Russian officials make arguments designed to try to shift the blame away from the Russian government’s role, even if some of the narratives contradict one another.
For example, Russia attempted to assassinate former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, England on this date in 2014. In the four weeks following that incident, Russian state-funded outlets RT and Sputnik disseminated 138 separate and contradictory narratives via 735 articles. Russia has used the same technique of flooding the information space with many false claims following other events as well. They used this technique during aftermath of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and Russia’s 2008 invasion and ongoing occupation of Georgia, to distract conversations from their role in the events. Again, the purpose is to confuse and distract people and manipulate the truth to suit Kremlin interests.
History's Mysteries: The White Mouse
She was known as the white mouse. Nancy Grace Augusta Wake was a nurse and journalist who joined the French Resistance and later the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II, and briefly pursued a post-war career as an intelligence officer in the Air Ministry.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 30 August 1912, Wake was the youngest of six children. She was Māori through her great-grandmother, who believed to be one of the first Māori women to marry a European.
After reaching Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive and was trained in several programs. Everything she did, she did well. Training reports record that she was "a very good and fast shot" and possessed excellent fieldcraft. She was noted to "put the men to shame by her cheerful spirit and strength of character.”
She is most well known for her bike ride to Chateauroux in France. It was occupied by German forces. The first part of her journey was fairly easy as she criss-crossed the countryside on back roads where there would be few German soldiers who themselves feared ambush. Just 40 km in to her journey Nancy said that her legs felt like hot lead. As she came within 50 km of her destination there were many German checkpoints, so she rode into the city indirectly. As she came close, she passed a checkpoint, waving that she was happy to stop, and they just simply waved her on.
Her mission was to find a radio operator with German codes and the nearest SOE radio and operator were in Châteauroux. Once her mission was complete she then had to return and did so via the most direct route because she was completely exhausted.
Wake claimed that she participated in a raid that destroyed a Gestapo headquarters, killing 38 Germans. This has not been corroborated. At one point, Wake said she discovered that the men were using three girls as prostitutes and mistreating them. She coerced the marquis to release the women. She provided them a wash and new clothes. Nancy Wake set two of the girls free, but she suspected that a third was a German spy. After interrogating and exposing her, Wake ordered the resistance group to shoot the informer. They did not have the heart to kill her in cold blood, but when Wake insisted that she would perform the execution, they capitulated. Nancy Wake claimed that the spy girl spat and stripped naked in front of her before facing the firing squad. Wake showed no regrets for the execution.
She wasn’t messing around was she?
As we have seen through the past week, war is hell. But her greatest achievement even in her mind was that famous bike ride. Where she rode 400 km in 72 hours and successfully delivered the radios and codes to the Allied forces.
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Tiana, thank you so much and until next week, stay safe out there.