2016.07.26 On Journalistic Integrity

Last night (Sunday, June 25) I posted a comment on Deena Stryker's article "Trump/Putin Part 1" and added a link to Paul Craig Roberts' article "Armageddon Approaches ," which is headlined this morning on OEN and which I thought supported my point that Europeans, at least Germans, were still a long way from acting independently of the US. Roberts writes: "Eric Zuesse reports on a German newspaper leak of a Bundeswehr decision to declare Russia to be an enemy nation of Germany."

I clicked on the link to Zuesse's article, which was indeed alarming. The headline is "Germany Preparing for War Against Russia." The first sentence reads:

"According to a report issued on June 6th in German Economic News (Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, or DWN), the German government is preparing to go to war against Russia, and has in draft-form a Bundeswehr report declaring Russia to be an enemy nation."

However, Zuesse provides no direct link to this "report," so I had to search for it on the DWN website, and found it here. This article is unsigned, in German, and has a quite different headline, namely: "Merkel Declares Russia a Rival of Germany." The word "Rivale" means the same thing as the English equivalent, and does not mean or imply anything like "enemy." The rest of this article, which Roberts refers to as a "newspaper leak," is not about the German "White Paper 2016," which had not yet even been published, but about a Twitter message posted by Alexei Puschkow, who, according to DWN and duly reported by Zuess, had read a draft copy of this document provided by Russian intelligence. Zuess reports this much accurately:

"DWN says: 'The Russian secret services have apparently thoroughly studied the paper. In advance of the paper's publication, a harsh note of protest has been sent to Berlin: The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, Alexei Puschkow, has posted the Twitter message: "The decision of the German government declaring Russia to be an enemy shows Merkel's subservience to the Obama administration."'"

Deciphering this quote-within-a-quote, it means that Puschkow, who according to the German Wikipedia article about him "is known for his sharp and often polemical criticism of European and American policies," made this comment based on something he heard or read from Russian intelligence agents who somehow supposedly got hold of a "draft" of the official German document which would not be published until more than a month later (July 13).

Now, let's summarize, because it is confusing.

Zuesse writes on June 6 about "Germany Preparing for War Against Russia," citing a "report," published on the same day, in German, about a Twitter message by Alexei Pushkow, who had supposedly read a "draft" of an unpublished official German document given to him by Russian intelligence that, in Pushkow's words, declares Russia to be an "enemy" of Germany.

Roberts writes on July 24 about "Armageddon" approaching, citing Zuesse's June 6 article, referring to it as a "report" on "a German newspaper leak of a Bundeswehr decison to declare Russia to be an enemy nation of Germany." The link that Roberts provides is not to the "leak," however, but to Zuesse's article, which does not provide a link to what he is "reporting" on either, and which turns out also not to be a "leak" at all but merely the report of a Twitter message by Pushkow.

Note that during all of this "reporting," none of the "reporters," neither Roberts nor Zuesse nor his source (DWN), nor even, as far as we know, DWN's source, Pushkow, have actually read the document that they are talking about, the German White Paper 2016, because it was not published until July 13 (in German and English, here). Roberts is the only actor in this chain of rumor-mongering (to put it mildly) who could definitely have read what they are all talking about, but I doubt very much that he did because he does not quote from or link to it but refers only to Zuesse's article, and Zuesse definitely had not read it.

If either Zuesse or Roberts had actually read the document, they could have had plenty to say about it (e.g., see the wsws.org critique), but I doubt that they would have indulged in the same degree of hyperbole if they had actually read it because it simply does not express the extreme position that Roberts, following Zuesse, following DWN following Pushkow's Tweet, attributes to it.

So what does the 144-page German White Paper actually say about Russia? It is not fascinating reading and contains no surprises, reiterating and emphasizing Germany's commitment to NATO and its "close security partnership with the United States" (p. 23 and passim), but it does not say that "Germany is preparing for a war against Russia" (Zuesse) or anything about a "decision of the German government declaring Russia to be an enemy" (Zuesse quoting DWN quoting Alexei Pushkow's Tweet) -- or in fact anything like that.

It does say a number of things that deserve serious critique, but nothing on the order of the exaggerated "reporting" of Roberts and Zuesse. For example:

"Russia is openly calling the European peace order into question with its willingness to use force to advance its own interests and to unilaterally redraw borders guaranteed under international law, as it has done in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. This has far-reaching implications for security in Europe and thus for the security of Germany.

"The crisis in and surrounding Ukraine is the concrete manifestation of long-term internal and external developments. Russia is rejecting a close partnership with the West and placing emphasis on strategic rivalry. Internationally, Russia is presenting itself as an independent power centre with global ambitions.

"This is reflected, for example, by an increase in Russia's military activities along its borders with the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). In the course of extensively modernising its armed forces, Russia appears to be prepared to test the limits of existing international agreements. By increasingly using hybrid instruments to purposefully blur the borders between war and peace, Russia is creating uncertainty about the nature of its intentions. This calls for responses from the affected states, but also from the EU and NATO.

"Without a fundamental change in policy, Russia will constitute a challenge to the security of our continent in the foreseeable future. At the same time, however, Europe and Russia remain linked by a broad range of common interests and relations. As the EU's largest neighbour and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has a special regional and global responsibility when it comes to meeting common challenges and managing international crises. Sustainable security and prosperity in and for Europe cannot therefore be ensured without strong cooperation with Russia. It is therefore all the more important that, in our relations with Russia, we find the right balance between collective defence and increased resilience on the one hand, and approaches to cooperative security and sectoral cooperation on the other.

"What is important for the common security space of our continent is thus not the development of a new security architecture, but rather respect for and consistent adherence to existing and proven common rules and principles (pp. 31-32)....

"The renaissance of traditional power politics, which involves the use of military means to pursue national interests and entails considerable armaments efforts, elevates the risk of violent interstate conflict -- even in Europe and its neighbourhood, as is illustrated by the example of Russian actions in Ukraine" (p. 38)....

"Cooperative security is particularly important with regard to those states that traditionally have had a complex relationship with NATO. For a long time, Germany has been working towards establishing particularly cooperative relations with the Russian Federation and played a key role in the adoption of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997 and the creation of the NATO-Russia Council. Germany continues to support the long-term goal of a strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. For the time being, the Russian Federation's current policies, which are reflected in the annexation of Crimea and the present doctrine declaring NATO a threat, necessitate a dual approach: credible deterrence and defence capability as well as a willingness to engage in dialogue (p. 66)....

"The German Government will and is determined to " promote in NATO a dual approach to Russia consisting of credible deterrence and defence capability as well as a willingness to engage in dialogue and attempts at cooperative security"" (p. 69).

Now, does any of this sound like Germany is "preparing for war with Russia," as Eric Zuesse claims? Does it sound like Armageddon is therefore just around the corner, as Paul Craig Roberts claims?

No. The journalistic integrity of Eric Zuesse and Paul Craig Robert must therefore be questioned -- and, one might add, the exceptional decision of OpEdNews to allow Roberts to publish his articles on the OEN website while disallowing comments. If comments were allowed, I would be challenging Roberts directly instead of in this article.

Does any of what I have quoted above sound as if Germany is becoming more independent of the United States? Certainly not.

So the point I was trying to make in my comment on Deena Stryker's article -- that Germany is not growing any sort of demonstrable backbone in opposition to US policy (despite the remarks of Foreign Minister Steinmeier's re the NATO "saber-rattling" in Eastern Europe, which I reported on here and here ) -- is not supported by Roberts' article, which turns out to be a shoddy misrepresentation of the facts, but it is supported by the facts themselves as expressed in the German White Paper: Germany is NOT "preparing for war with Russia," as Zuesse and Roberts falsely contend, but it is not distancing itself from Washington, either. On the contrary, and regardless of what the German population might think, the German White Paper purports to show that Washington and Berlin are of one mind.

This is something which deserves scrutiny and discussion, but the misrepresentations of fact by Roberts and Zuesse emphatically do not.

Finally, I want to say that it pains me greatly to make this criticism of Paul Craig Roberts, whom I have praised repeatedly in comments on OEN. I was responsible for getting him and Noam Chomsky together for a Rob Kall podcast (see here , here , and here ). Anybody can make a mistake, and I still agree with most of what Roberts writes (just as I agree with most of what Chomsky writes), but mistakes are mistakes and have to be corrected. (I have documented my quarrel with Chomsky in my book Looking for the Enemy, and I think I won the argument, but I can still respect him and admire him.)

I think Roberts on the whole, this article about "Armageddon" notwithstanding, is correct about the planet-threatening warmongering hype against Russia that permeates the US and European mainstream media. Thus it pains me doubly to point out his journalistic failings here, but it must be done, and I do so as much out of my continuing respect for Paul Craig Roberts as for the truth, which allows for no compromise.