During a speech at the EU Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg clearly and repeatedly acknowledged that Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine because of fears of NATO expansionism.
His comments, initially flagged by journalist Thomas Fazi, read as follows:
The background was that President Putin declared in the autumn of 2021, and actually sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign, to promise no more NATO enlargement. That was what he sent us. And was a pre-condition for not invade Ukraine. Of course we didn’t sign that.
The opposite happened. He wanted us to sign that promise, never to enlarge NATO. He wanted us to remove our military infrastructure in all Allies that have joined NATO since 1997, meaning half of NATO, all the Central and Eastern Europe, we should remove NATO from that part of our Alliance, introducing some kind of B, or second class membership. We rejected that.
So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his borders.
Stoltenberg made these remarks as part of a general gloat about the fact that Putin invaded Ukraine to prevent NATO expansion and yet the invasion has resulted in Sweden and Finland applying to join the alliance, saying it “demonstrates that when President Putin invaded a European country to prevent more NATO, he’s getting the exact opposite.”
Stoltenberg’s remarks would probably have been classified as Russian propaganda by plutocrat-funded “disinformation experts” and imperial “fact checkers” if it had been said online by someone like you or me, but because it came from the head of NATO as part of a screed against the Russian president it’s been allowed to pass through without objection.
In reality Stoltenberg is just stating a well-established fact: contrary to the official western narrative, Putin invaded Ukraine not because he is evil and hates freedom but because no great power ever allows foreign military threats to amass on its borders — including the United States. That’s why so many western analysts and officials spent years warning that NATO’s actions were going to provoke a war, and yet when war broke out we were slammed with a tsunami of mass media propaganda repeating over and over and over again that this was an “unprovoked invasion”.
It would have been so very, very easy to prevent this horrific war. Off-ramp after off-ramp after off-ramp was passed to get us to where we’re at now. Chance after chance after chance to avoid all this pointless death and misery was passed up, both before 2014 and every year since. The US-centralized power structure knowingly chose this war, and it did so to advance its own interests. If people really, deeply understood this, the entire western empire would collapse.
It’s the damnedest thing how you’ll get called a Kremlin agent for saying that this war was provoked by NATO expansionism and that it serves US interests, even when NATO openly says this war was provoked by NATO expansionism and US officials keep openly saying that this war serves US interests.
The latest entry in the latter category came in the form of a Thursday tweet by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which reads, “Standing with our allies against Russian aggression isn’t charity. In fact — it’s a direct investment in replenishing America’s arsenal with American weapons built by American workers. Expanding our defense industrial base puts America in a stronger position to out-compete China.”
When official authorized narrative-makers acknowledge these things it’s okay, but when normal human beings do it it’s Kremlin disinformation. This is because when the authorized narrative-makers do it they’re doing it to advance the information interests of the US empire — to explain to war-weary Americans how this war benefits their country, or to mock Putin’s failure to stop the enlargement of NATO — whereas when normal people do it it’s to establish what’s true and factual.
This all happens as a study sponsored by the EU with a group funded by US oligarch Pierre Omidyar is being circulated by mass media outlets like The Washington Post finding that Twitter under Elon Musk has not been doing enough to censor “Russian propaganda” on the platform. This would put Musk in violation of the European Union’s Digital Services Act, which requires platforms to restrict such materials.
As Glenn Greenwald has noted, the Digital Services Act defines “Russian propaganda” so extremely broadly that it includes “ideological alignment with the Russian state” in the category of materials that must be censored, which includes people who “parrot the Kremlin’s narratives through originally produced content or by spreading Kremlin aligned narratives to different target audiences and languages.”
Anyone who speaks out against US foreign policy relating to Russia online is always immediately accused of “parroting Kremlin narratives” by empire apologists mindlessly regurgitating what they’ve been told to believe by outlets like The Washington Post, whether they have anything to do with the Russian government or not. I myself have no affiliation or interaction with the Russian state whatsoever, yet I receive many of these accusations every single day online just for criticizing US foreign policy.
If I were the NATO Secretary General publicly gloating about how Putin’s efforts to stop the expansion of NATO have failed, it would be fine for me to acknowledge that NATO expansion provoked this war after our refusal to prevent a needless conflict. But because I am harming the information interests of the western empire instead of helping them, that makes me a Russian propagandist.
This isn’t because the definition of “Russian propaganda” is flawed, but because it is working exactly as intended. The push to marginalize and eliminate “Russian propaganda” has never had anything to do with fighting the actual materials put out by the Russian state (which have essentially zero meaningful existence in the western world); the push has always been about stomping out opposition to US foreign policy.
Like so much else in this world when examining the behavior of power, it’s ultimately all about narrative control. The powerful understand that whoever controls the dominant narrative about world events actually controls the world, because real power isn’t just controlling what happens but controlling what people think about what happens. That’s the real glue holding the US-centralized empire together, and the world will never have a chance at knowing peace until people start bringing consciousness to it.