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Stories about the Russia you thought you knew

  • 06 November 2019


Russia and the West: The Last Two Action-Packed Years 2017-2019, Tony Kevin, self-published, 2019. Tony Kevin's latest work is actually a compilation of two essays (largely overlapping in subject matter — since they are both online elaborations of a lecture given to the Independent Scholars of Australia, Canberra branch) and an extended preface.

A casual reader, picking the work up without much background knowledge on the events which it covers, might assume that the work was alarmist conspiracy theory, so wildly is it at odds with the standard fare which one reads in the papers about Russia and contemporary politics in general.

Frighteningly, it is not. Its author is a respected diplomat who formerly served in Moscow, and a prize-winning author. Its central thesis — that the Western public have been systematically sold lies about Russia and about Western foreign policy in general — is held, not only by longstanding and serious Russia scholars like Stephen F. Cohen but also by other Western academics and diplomats such as Patrick Armstrong, Paul Robinson and Craig Murray, all of whom (like Kevin himself) have extensive experience and expertise in the post-Soviet space.

In his main essay, to make his case, Kevin begins by discussing the manufacturing of propaganda narratives and the demarcation of 'acceptable' worldviews beyond which no dissent is tolerated. As he points out, this is hardly a new phenomenon:

'People who work or have worked close to government — in departments, politics, the armed forces, or top universities — mostly accept whatever they understand at the time to be "the government view" of truth. Whether for reasons of organisational loyalty, career prudence or intellectual inertia, it is usually this way around governments. It is why moral issues like the Vietnam War and the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq were so distressing for people of conscience working in or close to government and military jobs in Canberra. They were expected to engage in "doublethink" as Orwell had described it ...'

Kevin then carefully dissects the stories about Russia and allies which we think we know: the Ukraine crisis, the sad story of the Skripals and the poison gas attacks by the Syrian government on civilians. In doing so, he exposes the gaping holes in the narratives which are obscured by the repetitive hammering of the official lines.

The value of Kevin's work is not in the debunking of the narratives. Others have done this before. Craig Murray, in