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Media Amplifies Ukraine’s Battle Successes

The recent exuberant coverage by the U.S. media touting that Russia is experiencing a rout at the hands of Ukraine is primarily an effort to deflect attention from domestic miseries.

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Corporate media has been enamored by Ukraine's military successes last week. Given Ukraine's pounding since it pushed Russia out of Kyiv, any news that cataloged positive information about Ukraine was welcome.

The New York Times has been particularly effusive in its praise. No longer shy about keeping American involvement in the war under wraps, the Times has gone out of its way to showcase how effective the United States has been - guiding Ukraine each step of the way, sharing intelligence, and drawing blitzkrieg battle plans.

In a classic before-and-after narrative, corporate media is bending over backward to push the story that Ukraine, which lost most of the Donbas region, was demoralized. But thanks to the Biden administration's global leadership and generous multi-billion dollar arms package, Russia was "experiencing a rout."

History of wars is replete with attacks and counter-attacks, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict is no different. We are delighted that Ukraine can claim back territory and, even better, to see that Russia has begun to acknowledge its losses publicly.

But skeptical at the media's use of hyperbole adjectives such as "Russia's stunning retreat" or "Russia's front lines have collapsed," we attempted to peel the onion to understand the story better.

An August 24 NPR report provided us with crucial data. In February, Russians controlled around 17,000 square miles of Ukrainian land, according to Ukraine's mission to the U.N. Six months into the full-scale invasion, Russia had expanded its territory in Ukraine almost threefold. In June, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia had occupied 20% of the country or about 47,000 square miles.

The BBC reported that Ukraine has retaken more than 6,000 sq km (2,317 sq miles) from Russian control in September.

So, of the 30,000 square miles of new Ukrainian territory Russia has taken since February 24, Ukraine has reclaimed 2,317 square miles - about 7.7% of the land. While this is excellent progress, Ukraine must recover 92% more territory to bring it to the pre-war status quo. This fact did not particularly square with the hype of Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic, who thundered, "It's Time to Prepare for a Ukrainian Victory!"

And then there are inaccuracies in media data. The Times reported an entirely different number saying that Ukraine retook 3,400 square miles, an area 46% higher than the BBC noted - and the Times report came out a day earlier than the BBC. But the clever piece of the narrative was in this statement: "Ukraine captured more territory in the last week than Russia did in five months." If this sentence was intended to capture Ukraine's momentum, we get it, but the statement was dishonest by deliberately excluding the period when Russia recorded huge territorial gains earlier in its campaign.

Recently, Victor David Hanson, the American military historian, opined that Russia, the bigger, richer aggressor of Ukraine, “is not up to the combined resources of the United States, along with the nations of NATO and the European Union.”

It is well accepted that the “special military operation” against Ukraine has, in fact, drawn Russia into a proxy with the U.S. and by extension the NATO. So far, nothing has gone as predicted. Ukraine did not fold as Moscow expected. Russia failed in annexing over half the country as it had hoped.

But, the outcome is far from clear. The critical question is whether the Russian President will cut his losses and call a truce. Or will the autocrat leader once again portray the international support extended to Ukraine as “anti-Russia sentiment of the West” and continue to whip up support for his near-insane plans? If the war escalates, will the U.S, the EU, and NATO be drawn into a direct conflict with Russia?

With the war still raging and no end in sight,  what is behind –American media propaganda that touts a victory for Ukraine is near?

Domestically, the Biden administration is failing on nearly every front. The legislative success of the thoroughly misnamed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 ran into a brick wall when Fed officials disclosed that further interest rate tightening was essential to curb runaway inflation. Bloomberg reported that "Nomura economists changed their forecast for the Fed's September meeting from 75 to 100 basis points, writing that "a more aggressive path of interest rate hikes will be needed to combat increasingly entrenched inflation." We noted how Janet Yellen has played Nero, trumpeting policies that don't work in the real world.

The White House has faced setback after setback in foreign policy, as we noted this week. The situation in Ukraine is fluid, with Russia engaging in a natural gas war as winter approaches. With little to show, America has already committed over $60 billion to the war effort. NBC News raised a trial balloon here by noting that the winter could also provide Moscow with opportunities to cut down Western military support. The administration was desperate to show that its war effort was succeeding after all. And the media, ever ready, obliged.

So, far from recording Ukraine's successes on the battlefield, the aggressive media campaign is intended to extract continued support from Americans who have long moved on from the war. The media narrative bolsters the military-industrial complex, attempting to sell more HIMARS missiles, armored vehicles, and artillery. As the NBC News story says in a plug for the military industry, "in the long run, Ukraine needs to replace its old Soviet warplanes with Western ones and adopt longer-range ground-based air defenses." "If the House fell to the Republicans, further military aid to Ukraine could be in doubt, especially if the economy worsened."

For the next four weeks, expect Ukrainian successes to dominate the front pages. The White House badly needs such coverage, and the media is there to provide it.

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