Letter From the Editors

If Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is to be believed, every single action the West has ever taken is actually a false flag operation. In a column penned for Izvestia, Lavrov starts with the ruses he says the US pulled in Iraq (Colin Powell and his vial of anthrax) and Syria (where he accused the US of staging incidents to justify air strikes), and moves smoothly into – you guessed it – the conflict in Ukraine. According to him, the West began pulling stunts there in 2014, when it allegedly orchestrated a revolution “under Russophobic and racist slogans,” and followed up with more stunts in subsequent years, when it supposedly did everything it could to scuttle the Minsk agreements, which Lavrov calls a “hoax.”

Shifting to the present day, Lavrov asserts that the massacre in Bucha and the siege of Mariupol were “clearly staged,” and that Vladimir Zelensky is no more than a Western puppet who “gets rapped on the knuckles” when he “suddenly proposes something sensible.” In sum, Lavrov says, “it is high time to start playing honestly, not by shell game rules.” But couldn’t the same be said of Russia?

Meduza’s interview with Noam Chomsky provides a curious juxtaposition to Lavrov’s column. While condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chomsky, a prominent American progressive, also puts some of the blame on the West for ignoring the warnings of former Soviet and Russian leaders that “Ukraine***should be surrounded with red flags for NATO.” Chomsky says there are now two options: to continue the war in the hope that Ukraine will “endure,” or to stop “sabotaging a diplomatic solution and start working on a peace treaty whose terms and conditions are acceptable” (even if ill suited) to both sides. This begs the question: Are the views of progressive Westerners closer to Lavrov’s views than we care to admit?

Lavrov, however, is not the only politician calling the kettle black. In Ukraine, the pro-Russia party Opposition Platform for Life, which was shut down in the spring, is currently appealing the ban on its activities. As Russian Senator Andrei Klimov explains, “Everything that is currently happening in this domain is not based on the Constitution that used to apply there [i.e., Ukraine]. What is happening in Kiev is determined by the decisions of Western handlers. And sometimes it also depends on the wishes of the Ukrainian bosses.” But isn’t this a move from Russia’s very own playbook? After all, banning political parties, or at least making it impossible for them to participate in elections, has become something of a political pastime in that country.

Meanwhile, as false flags seem to be going up all over the place, Izvestia reports that no flags or banners were raised in Tehran to welcome the Russian and Turkish leaders to a trilateral summit, to avoid alerting local residents to the presence of foreign delegations. The summit was intended to address the situation in Syria, but Ukraine quickly became the focus as Putin discussed blocked grain shipments from the country with Erdogan and the sale of drones to be used in Ukraine with Raisi.

As Russia seeks foreign support for its special operation, Zelensky is battling problems within his own government: He recently announced the dismissal of two high-ranking law-enforcement officials, saying their agencies are riddled with pro-Russia collaborators. The next day, however, he walked back this statement and said that the dismissals were only temporary. Russian political analyst Andrei Kortunov called the clarification a “PR stunt”: “Perhaps he did not want his opponents, including those in the Kremlin, to put a spin on his personnel decisions and say, ‘Look, Zelensky’s team is falling apart.’ ”

With the people who should be working to end the war seemingly only concerned with stunts, ruses and hoaxes, it’s hard to understand how diplomacy can help. Instead, it may indeed be the case that Ukraine will just have to “endure.”