The reason we know Ukrainian officials are trying to goad the US into war is because that’s exactly what they say they’re doing. There is no ambiguity here — at this very moment, a furious multi-front lobbying blitz is underway to solicit full-fledged US military intervention in Ukraine, and therefore open warfare against Russia. To put it bluntly, a foreign country’s representatives are doing all they possibly can to instigate the closest thing anyone on Earth has ever experienced to World War III.
At the forefront of this campaign is the president, Zelensky, who’s been transformed overnight into an international folk hero. His nonstop lobbying offensive included a soaring address Friday to what some media outlets ludicrously described as an “anti-war rally” in Frankfurt, Germany. Such a description is ludicrous because the headline takeaway from the rally was Zelensky passionately condemning the alleged cowardice of NATO countries — for, as yet, refusing to launch a war against Russia. “All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you, because of your weakness,” he inveighed. In his pro-war advocacy, Zelensky uses the same clever euphemism that has now entered heavy circulation: “No Fly Zone.” At this point, everyone with a bare-minimum understanding of what a US-administered “No Fly Zone” would entail has readily acknowledged that it means direct war with Russia — and by extension a radically increased risk of nuclear annihilation.
Still, this is what Zelensky is calling for any chance he gets, in his true-to-form showbiz style. (For those unaware, his professional endeavors prior to assuming the presidency included a stint as “the Ryan Seacrest of Ukraine,” as VICE once put it, not to mention his role playing the character of “President” on a comedy TV show.)
During an interview with CNN last week, masterfully choreographed from his underground bunker, Zelensky was asked what he would tell Joe Biden ahead of the State of the Union speech. His answer: impose the No Fly Zone immediately. To dispel any concerns about the dangers of his demand, Zelensky added that it “does not mean dragging NATO into this war.” Well, phew! That’s a relief. “Frankly, you know, everyone is drawn into the war now,” he explained.
Unfortunately, if you actually examine the logic that’s operative here, your relief should quickly turn to dread. Zelensky is saying that NATO (or in other words, the US) has already been dragged into the war. World War III has already commenced, is what he’s saying. In which case, a “No Fly Zone” wouldn’t really be an escalation per se — it would just be a retaliatory strike in a war that’s already ongoing, whether we like it or not. That’s the argument.
In an op-ed generously facilitated by the New York Times last week, Zelensky’s chief of staff — also writing from the storied underground bunker, we’re told — laid out the logic even more clearly. He implored:
We are calling on the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. We recognize that this would be a serious escalation in the war and that it could bring NATO into direct conflict with Russia. But we firmly believe that Russia won’t stop at just Ukraine, which would potentially drag NATO into this conflict anyway. A no-fly zone would at least give Mr. Putin some pause.
There you have it: Americans shouldn’t fret about the dire implications of going to war with Russia, because they’ll inevitably be going to war with Russia anyway, so now it’s only a matter of getting one step ahead of Putin in his mad dash to conquer Europe.
Zelensky performed his well-rehearsed act yet again Saturday with another “emotional plea” for the No Fly Zone — this time delivered directly to 300 members of Congress over Zoom. Just a thought: maybe the guy furiously lobbying for World War III all the time isn’t necessarily a titanic moral hero whom we all must compulsorily venerate?
But in fairness to Zelensky, it’s not only him making these demands. It’s also huge cross-sections of Ukraine government and society; he’s just the chief spokesman. The Ukraine member of Parliament I personally interviewed for this very Substack a few weeks ago — who as of February 17 was saying that the biggest threat to the Ukrainian state was US-driven hysteria, not Russia — is now tearfully begging US politicians for a No Fly Zone. Ukrainian officials of every political persuasion are all over the place, reiterating the same demand. Even the former president Poroshenko, who had just fled the country after being charged with high treason by his former election opponent Zelensky, triumphantly returned to take up arms, and yes, add his booming “voice” to the No Fly Zone clamor.
In light of this extraordinarily up-front and audacious campaign by a foreign government to instigate WWIII, the US media must surely be treating their claims with extreme caution, right? You know, since this government could not be more clear about its desired policy intervention? Wrong! A whole lot of journalists — intoxicated by the Good versus Evil comic book story unfolding before their eyes — apparently believe their duty right now is to simply act as transmission devices for whatever propaganda material Ukrainian officials are pumping out, notwithstanding that such propaganda is overtly aimed at instigating WWIII.
Hey, NBC News: you ever think that a tweet from Ukraine’s foreign minister might not be sufficient to run with the claim that “Russian shelling of a nuclear power plant” was on the verge of causing a nuclear catastrophe “10 times worse than Chernobyl”? How about you, Independent? Or you, Piers Morgan? Because that’s an incredibly frightening claim — albeit exactly the type of claim one would expect Ukrainian government officials to frantically propagate, whether or not there’s evidence to back it up, considering their stated goal of emotionally compelling the US/NATO to impose a No Fly Zone on “humanitarian” grounds. Which would subsequently instigate WWIII. If I’m getting repetitive, that’s intentional. Why isn’t everyone repeating this right now?
None of which is to say that being generally “pro Ukraine” is somehow unjustified — the country has been invaded. The people are suffering. It’s bad. We all (should) agree on that. But the justifiability of being “pro Ukraine” doesn’t magically negate the obligation to be intensely skeptical of Ukrainian officials’ wild claims, especially given that these claims are explicitly tailored to instigate WWIII. Have you noticed that so many seasoned/savvy journalists claim to be aware that we’re engulfed in a “Fog of War,” meaning that propaganda is flying hot and heavy from all directions — but are nonetheless perfectly willing to just function as the Good Guys’ loyal propaganda peddlers? Even though we’re talking about propaganda designed to instigate WWIII?
Hey, everybody: Ukraine is actively goading the US into war, and two of its most effective weapons in accomplishing this task are 1) the fevered hive-mind mentality of journalists acting out a moral crusade fantasy, and 2) the fertile terrain of social media, which is systematically amplifying Ukrainian “voices” while systematically purging Russian ones. Whatever the wisdom of this algorithmic manipulation initiative — even if you’re in full support of it — how can you not also grasp that it’s necessarily going to create a massively distorted information environment? Why do you think we see constant media reports declaring with such confidence that Putin’s war plans are “unraveling,” while other analyses suggesting Russian forces have made “solid progress” are largely ignored? Do you think it might have anything to do with the fact that the entire US media/corporate/military/political apparatus is following this war with an explicit rooting interest in Ukraine, and a vehement cross-ideological animus for Russia? Again, however justified it may be to have a rooting interest in Ukraine, or to have animus for Russia, it’s stupendously unjustified to let those passions so skew reality that we’re being taken to the precipice of WWIII, a once-unthinkable notion.
While the Biden Administration has ostensibly said a No Fly Zone won’t happen, look at what has happened in just the past week. “NFZ” went from a self-evidently crazy idea to one that’s rapidly building momentum. Mega pundits like Bill Browder and Garry Kasparov — two of the absolute most central figures in shaping US policy and media perceptions as related to Russia — have issued NFZ demands, with Kasparov pleasantly expounding that he wants to send Russia “back into the stone age.” Add other vaunted experts like Kurt Volker to the pro-NFZ list. The former Commander of the Canadian military, himself calling for a NFZ, told the CBC that Putin plans to go as far as the English Channel — thus presumably conquering both France and England in the process. And it’s not just former officials and pundits. The current Prime Minister of Slovenia — a NATO member state as of 2004 thanks to the always-brilliant foreign policy maneuverings of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — also called for a No Fly Zone on Friday, though he said it would only be “limited” and “humanitarian” in scope. So don’t worry. “Europe is now in the same situation as Europe was in 1939,” the Prime Minister proclaimed, warning that the Baltic countries are next. (The US Ambassador to the United Nations even declared that Putin is threatening to invade Finland and Sweden.)
Polls are being published that show a growing number of Americans support a No Fly Zone, which likely owes in part to persistent confusion about what a No Fly Zone really is — the euphemism was invented for good reason. But it also shouldn’t be any surprise if the propaganda onslaught currently in full-force has had real effects on public opinion, complete with stigmatization of even mild dissent.
Whatever chance they get, Ukrainian journalists — or people who’ve been designated to pantomime as journalists — are imploring major officials in hyper-emotionalist tones to go the No Fly Zone route. A clip of Boris Johnson receiving one such plea went viral a few days ago. It happened again shortly thereafter, with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO.
Not to mention that the stated policy of the “West” is to engineer a sudden economic collapse in Russia, which seems to be proceeding apace. Are you confident in the stability of this situation?
I met a Ukrainian-American woman in the airport Thursday who had just booked a last-minute flight to Warsaw, in hopes of somehow helping a relative stuck in Ukraine get out of the country. As of around 48 hours ago, she had no real plan other than to rent a car and drive toward the border. She told me she used to go to school in Kharkiv, which has been the site of some of the worst devastation. She loathes Putin for reasons anyone would find understandable under the circumstances.
And she, too, said she wanted a No Fly Zone. I offered sympathy for her family’s misfortune, but nonetheless expressed reservations that a No Fly Zone would prompt World War III. And she gave me a retort that one now hears all the time: “World War III already started.” People are utterly convinced that Putin is hell-bent on invading as many more countries as he can, including NATO countries. I have no idea whether this is true. It seems implausible, but I truly don’t know. What I do know is that the logic of the theory is taking on a life of its own, and the momentum is all trending in one menacing direction.