Russia Today and the Great Game

Reeling from the tensions in Ukraine, two American news readers bucked the Russia Today line and have become part of the story. RT America anchor Liz Wahl simply made a brief announcement and resigned. But according to the Daily Beast, her decision may not have been that sudden:

Wahl later told The Daily Beast that she had been planning the move for some time, saying that her editorial independence had been repeatedly compromised by her superiors and that employees at RT who deviated from the Russian government’s ‘narrative’ were punished.

I know that feeling. Instead of resigning, anchor Abby Martin criticized the Russian invasion during her Breaking the Set show, essentially daring RT to censor her.

Abby Martin, who works as a news anchor in Washington, told viewers that “Russia was wrong”. She admitted that she did not “know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region”. “But what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer,” she said on her Breaking the Set show. “All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome to a terrible situation… until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it.”

I caught an NPR interview of Abby Martin by Bob Garfield on Sunday evening, which is also on YouTube. Garfield introduced her as a former Occupy activist and 9/11 Truther. According to wikipedia, she covered Occupy Oakland extensively as a journalist, and her footage of the brutal police clubbing of an unarmed protester was used in a suit against the Oakland PD. She also founded Media Roots, serves on the board of Project Censored and co-directed 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film.

Garfield suggested that Martin’s announcement seemed disingenuous – “there is gambling going on here” – because she worked for a Kremlin-funded channel that puts a “Putin-friendly gloss” on everything reported. Martin shot back that Garfield was working for a news org that takes money from oil companies, and omits news about events in the Gulf of Mexico. She asserted that “all of us in media understood that payment comes from somewhere,” and that there was a lot of self-censorship going on. Garfield claimed there was no self-censorship on his end of the mic, but said, “I certainly get that you believe that a big swath of Western media is sort of corporate-funded propaganda, including NPR”. Martin asked, “Why do I have to work for RT to tell the truth about the US establishment …?

Wahl and Martin (and Garfield) are almost certainly pawns, but so are most of us that listen to the news and try to make sense of it all. One does have to drill down to find stories that go beyond bad Yanukovych or bad Putin, but – the former Energy Bulletin – regularly drills for energy-related stories. At the Guardian, Ukraine crisis is about Great Power oil, gas pipeline rivalry:

Russia’s armed intervention in the Crimea undoubtedly illustrates President Putin’s ruthless determination to get his way in Ukraine. But less attention has been paid to the role of the United States in interfering in Ukrainian politics and civil society. Both powers are motivated by the desire to ensure that a geostrategically pivotal country with respect to control of critical energy pipeline routes remains in their own sphere of influence.

… while Russia’s imperial aggression is clearly a central factor, the US effort to rollback Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine by other means in pursuit of its own geopolitical and strategic interests raises awkward questions. As the pipeline map demonstrates, US oil and gas majors like Chevron and Exxon are increasingly encroaching on Gazprom’s regional monopoly, undermining Russia’s energy hegemony over Europe.

Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia’s energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels. For those who are pondering whether we face the prospect of a New Cold War, a better question might be – did the Cold War ever really end?

At Common Dreams, Ukraine is about oil. So was World War I:

… the battle for the Persian Gulf is being carried out through its two regional powers, Saudi Arabia, the champion of Sunni Islam, and Iran, the torch carrier for Shi’ite Islam. … The U.S. backs Saudi Arabia, as it has done since 1945, when Roosevelt cut a deal with Ibn Saud to protect his illegitimate throne in exchange for the House of Saud only selling oil in dollars.

Iran, of course, is implacably hostile to the U.S. … Iran’s main ally in the region is Syria, which the U.S. has been trying to overthrow for three years by helping the al-Qaeda-linked rebels that are attacking Syria. Syria’s chief military patron is Russia

… the upheaval in Ukraine is really about the U.S. trying to weaken Syria’s patron, Russia. If Russia is weakened, Syria is weakened. If Syria is weakened, Iran is weakened. If Iran is weakened, the U.S. has a better chance of seizing control of the world’s largest reserves of oil. That is the Great Game that is going on here.

I’m not so sure whether Iran is implacably hostile or whether both sides have implacably opposed goals.


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3 responses to “Russia Today and the Great Game”

  1. cmaukonen says :

    I get a lot of good info from Roan Wolf’s Cyrano’s Journal.

    And Deena Stryker’s Otherjones blog.


  2. martinschwoerer says :

    Good summary of the situation. Thanks!


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