TASS is the official state newspaper of Russia and one of the largest news agencies in the world. Two items in TASS caught my attention today.
The first concerns the existence of U.S. Department of Defense biolabs in Ukraine. Rumors of this possibility began circulating on the Internet almost as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine. The rumors were often dismissed as pro-Putin propaganda. Until yesterday, when Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland confirmed the rumors.
This is a propaganda scoop for the Russians. Just as we used Weapons of Mass Destruction as a pretext for invading Iraq, Russia can now plausibly claim that biological WMD were a valid pretext for invading Ukraine.
The second item is almost as significant as a propaganda ploy. It concerns the publication by Russia of secret Ukrainian military orders for an invasion of the Donbass region. From Russia’s point of view, the planned invasion, if real, would be a legitimate excuse for Russia’s own preemptive invasion of Ukraine.
Caveats and nuances obviously apply to the second item. As propaganda, though, it is easy to see how publication of the Ukrainian orders could bolster public support for Putin within Russia.
My point in all of this is to make clear that Putin is not likely to be weakened by public opinion in his own country. Also, I recommend learning a lesson from these two stories: Don’t believe everything you learn from media.