Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront
Karl Marx’s oft-quoted phrase that history tends to repeat itself, first as a tragedy then as a farce, is definitely true when it comes to Western or West-sponsored “false flag” attacks against Russia. While their pace has not exactly slackened, it is becoming clear that there are only so many scenarios that can be plausibly enacted, and moreover the quality of the false flags does not appear to increase with experience. Rather, an opposite trend can be observed. Likely due to the Western governments’ and media uncritical acceptance, or, frankly, eager embrace, any bit of “fake news” that makes Russia look bad, the perpetrators no longer see it fit to endow their operations with even a modicum of plausibility. That’s understandable. After all, even if the infamous White Helmets were to commit a mass execution and post videos to their own social media channels, the West ignore it and accuse anyone drawing attention to the event as “playing into the hands of the Kremlin.
But this lack self- or externally-imposed quality control is now leading to such lapses that the “false flags” have to be quickly flushed down the proverbial memory hole, as they threaten the entire #RussiaDidIt narrative. The relentless propaganda barrage notwithstanding, Western public just might start wondering whether it’s been had. The first instance of a false flag sequel being substantially worse than the original was of Douma “chemical weapons” attack which was intended as a carbon copy of the Khan Sheykhoun one from a year earlier, with the aim of provoking a direct Western military intervention. It nearly succeeded—the post-Douma cruise missile strikes carried out by the FUKUSA coalition brought the world closer to World War 3 than Trump’s earlier strike on Shayrat. But the problem with Douma was that it, possibly as a result of the Skripal incident that took place only weeks earlier, appears to have been postponed for so long that by the time it happened, extremist forces were all but defeated and the Syria-Russia coalition quickly liberated the area in question. The subsequent testimony of “crisis actors” featured on White Helmet videos did so much damage to the narrative that Douma is hardly even mentioned by Western governments and media. OPCW’s ability to visit the site makes it impossible for it to write a report similar to the one that followed Khan Sheykhoun, which was based on “sarin samples” dutifully provided by jihadists, and without a single international inspector visiting the city.
The Babchenko case follows a similar pattern, as it appears to have been inspired by the Skripal case. Once again, the “long hand of the Kremlin” strikes, and kills someone who is instantly elevated from a has-been to a “stalwart Kremlin critic.” The usual US/EU suspects instantly voice outrage, there are calls for “independent investigations” which are odd on their face considering everyone concerned is already totally convinced #RussiaDidIt, a new round of sanctions and possibly diplomat expulsions follows, and all of it right on the eve of the 2018 World Cup to be held in Moscow.
But this time the “false flag” imploded even more rapidly and spectacularly than in the case of Douma when Babchenko appeared alive and well at a press conference where he explained the whole thing was staged by the SBU ostensibly to thwart an assassination plot. Except that the SBU seems to have forgotten to tell its “Western partners” about this stunt, who in the meantime were working themselves up into a lather about this latest Russian atrocity. So, what went wrong?
For starters, British intelligence services seem far more competent than their Ukrainian counterparts. While we’ll possibly never know who poisoned the Skripals, whether it was a British operation or merely an opportunistic exploitation of a “hit” by someone else, possibly an organized crime group, it’s nevertheless clear the British services instantly established hermetic informational bubble around the Skripals. It should be a matter of concern that, when needed, Western services can instantly intimidate the media, first responders, even the police, and compel them to toe the official line even when it flies in the face of their own first-hand knowledge. Here, Britain’s little known Defense and Security Advisory Media Notice (DSMA-Notice), formerly known as the D-Notice, has really shown what it can do. While perceived as the lesser cousin to that other highly effective means of stifling free speech, the Official Secrets Act, it is nevertheless more dangerous since it can be imposed on individuals who have no access to official secrets. The net result is that the Skripals have become non-persons as far as the British media are concerned, and have been “disappeared” for all intents and purposes as their whereabouts are unknown—and this in the country which invented Habeas Corpus—and have no contact with the outside world.
Ukraine plainly lacks these highly refined tools of a “Western democracy”, which is likely responsible for the Babchenko case self-destructing as rapidly as it did. It’s just that that Ukraine lacks, or no longer has, the ability to suppress information about its secret operations which take place in Kiev and other populated areas. While the MH17 incident could be efficiently covered up by the SBU because it took place in a warzone with a limited number of perpetrators, witnesses, and bystanders, it’s an entirely different matter in Kiev. The SBU after all attempted to stage a fake murder, an act that would quickly draw in the local police, emergency health care, the coroner’s office, in short, the entire machinery of a modern state which is supposed to care when people living with its borders die a violent death. It’s that machinery that the Poroshenko regime’ special services do not appear to control with the efficiency of its British counterparts. Its DSMA Notice function is performed by the neo-Nazi thugs from Azov, Right Sector, and C14. While excelling in brutality, they clearly have a thing or two to learn about about efficiency from the British services. Babchenko’s appearance at the press conference is difficult to explain unless one considers the strong likelihood officials at one of the Ukrainian agencies listed above realized something was not right with the story, and there was the threat SBU’s clever little plot would be blown by the still not fully suppressed Ukrainian media. Had that happened, the damage to the SBU and Poroshenko would have been far greater. The hastily concocted “sting operation” story was just an effort to make the most out of a bad situation.
In the short term, the effect of the Douma and Babchenko fiascoes will be a slightly greater caution in jumping at #RussiaDidIt stories. Western publics are not comprised of fools and ignoramuses, and the Western media are polling at record mistrust levels for a reason. In the longer term, it will undermine the West’s trust in Poroshenko and his gang that couldn’t shot straight, possibly to the point of starting to think of an alternative. Whether this will affect the Russia-West relations is another matter. A lot here depends on whether Western officials pushing #RussiaDidIt stories are true believers or cynical opportunists. If the former, these cases may persuade them there’s merit to what Russian officials have been telling them. If the latter, it will take a far greater crisis to befall the West before the policies change.