When Russia invaded Ukraine six months ago, Kremlin propaganda rested on a few “basic arguments”, says Stanislav Kucher in Grid. In the words of popular TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov, Moscow’s goals were “the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine” and ending the “genocide” of Russians in Donbas. The message that the war was about Ukraine, and Ukraine only, was “pounded relentlessly” by the Russian propaganda machine. But in recent weeks, there has been a frightening shift. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov now says the war is “not about Ukraine at all… it’s about the world order”.
Russia’s new enemies are “the demons well west of Kyiv”: the US-led western alliance. The Ukrainian “Nazis”, according to Kremlin mouthpiece Radio Sputnik, were “trained for eight years by all of Europe and all of America”. When high-voltage pylons were blown up in the Russian city Kursk, a Kremlin journalist wrote that the real perpetrators must be “Western instructors”. This new narrative helps Putin explain why the initial invasion stalled: America is a mightier foe than the “non-state” of Ukraine. And it has raised the stakes even higher. This is now a “war of civilisations” – and it won’t be over until Western countries “surrender unconditionally” and cease meddling in Russian internal affairs. As a guest on Solovyov’s programme put it recently: either Putin triumphs, “or World War III begins”.