Western warnings of an ‘imminent’ Russian invasion of Ukraine have grown more insistent in recent weeks with different voices, from the media to politicians, needlessly stoking the fires of war with their aggressive and inaccurate rhetoric.
Part of the reason for this is because the grainy satellite images of Russian troops poised on Ukraine’s border, just waiting for their orders to attack, conformed so well to every western stereotype: an aggressive Russia under a dictatorial leader, ready to bully, if not annihilate, poor little – well, actually not so little – Ukraine and snuff out its entirely legitimate aspirations to join the western world. You did not need to know anything about Russia or even to have a very good idea of where Ukraine is, let alone its history, or what it looks and feels like, to speak pretty confidently about Russia’s malign intentions.
If the media were amplifiers, those talking up the danger, at the start at least, have chiefly been US and UK politicians. President Biden might have seemed at times unclear about whether an invasion really was a prospect – and if it was, whether it would really be that big a deal – but his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, was in no doubt, and did his best to keep him on the straight and narrow.
In the UK, the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, wildly inflated both the number of Russian troops on the border – ‘hundreds of thousands’ she told the BBC Today programme, when the very highest estimate at the time was 125,000. She also gave the impression, deliberately or not, that Russia had already tried to replace the elected government in Kyiv and mounted ‘false flag’ attempts to tempt Ukraine into war – when US intelligence reports at the time suggested such heinous deeds were only a prospect.