This is a republication of a post authored by Andrew Korybko, which was first published in OneWorld. It has been adapted with full permission obtained from the author.
American officials and those media outlets that align with their worldview have hitherto claimed that US-led Western support for Ukraine was predicated on some shared commitment to “democracy”, “human rights”, and the “rule of law”, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III just discredited those unconvincing information warfare narratives following his visit to Kiev. The declining unipolar hegemon’s top military official declared that “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine. So it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”
This exposes the fact that the US’ true strategy all along has been to exploit Ukraine as a launching pad for waging a proxy war on Russia, which is exactly what President Putin revealed on 24 February when announcing his country’s ongoing special military operation in that former Soviet Republic. The purpose was never to uphold subjectively defined “values” in accordance with the Neo-Liberal school of International Relations but to maximize America’s power at its Russian rival’s expense like that subject’s Neo-Realist school teaches. Awareness of this actual proxy war aim should prompt a fundamental rethinking of perceptions about US policymaking whereby those who assumed that Democrats are more ideological in formulating foreign policy than Republicans should now realize that they were wrong.
Observers shouldn’t forget that while administrations change and those who prior presidents appointed to lead various departments are replaced by whoever their successor nominates, the rank and file of its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) almost entirely remains the same. So-called “policy pivots” happen from time to time for reasons of strategic convenience, sometimes influenced by the plans that whichever particular president and their team might have, but which are made possible by the fact that the “deep state” practices what can be described as “dual-track policy formulation”. What’s meant by this is that its rank and file usually forecast multiple scenarios in order to segue between them as seamlessly as possible as needed.
In practice, this explains the policy flip-flops between the Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations towards the Iranian nuclear deal, which were radical enough between each leader’s time in office that it was impossible to pull this off perfectly without some serious international disruptions. Nevertheless, these policy changes were still implemented precisely because of the “deep state’s” “dual-track policy formulation”. In the context of the Ukrainian conflict, there was always the possibility in theory of the US reaching a deal with Russia to responsibly regulate their rivalry in Europe through a series of pragmatic mutual compromises, but at the same time, preparations were made in case this didn’t happen, as ultimately occurred following the anti-Russian “deep state” faction’s return to power.
In pursuit of regaining their traditional position of policymaking prominence, they set into motion a sequence of Polish-supported events that placed everything on its present trajectory that inevitably led to Russia being compelled to ensure the integrity of its national security red lines in Ukraine in particular and the region more broadly through kinetic means. Once that became the obvious outcome in hindsight, the US accelerated its efforts to first wage a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine and then evolve that campaign to waging a proxy war on it through that country. Since the onset of hostilities, the US never sincerely intended to defend “democracy”, “human rights”, and the “rule of law” there since such were consistently ignored for “political convenience” by the US itself since the 2014 “EuroMaidan” coup.
Be that as it is, an artificially manufactured alternative reality (“alt-reality”) was presented to the Western public in order to mislead them about this proxy war’s intended purpose, which eventually became more explicit as evidenced by three interconnected events. These are US spies admitting to NBC News that they’re waging information warfare against Russia (including through the deliberate spread of disinformation); another US intel source telling CNN that everything that Ukrainian President Zelensky says is literally part of an “information operation” (which they nevertheless said was justified), and finally Lloyd’s latest admission about the US’ true strategy towards this conflict. All of this is intended to reshape public consciousness in a way that leads to people accepting this objective reality.
Those steps had to be taken in the way that they were because the public wasn’t yet prepared to acknowledge the truth behind the Ukrainian Conflict, nor to accept that their “deep state” is meddling in the media. These facts contradict the very same “morals”, “ethics”, and “principles” that Americans had been indoctrinated for decades to believe that their self-proclaimed “democracy” stood for. That hasn’t been the case for a while if it ever was at all, but this alt-reality persisted because it was “politically convenient” for domestic and international reasons. At home, it kept the population generally supportive of their political system in the face of challenges from others abroad while serving to mislead naïve members of the foreign audience into thinking that the US was something that it wasn’t.
What it all comes down to is “perception management”, which has been practiced from time immemorial but was rarely acknowledged by those doing so because it was considered “immoral”, especially in the modern era. That’s all changing though since the reality of the Great Power competition that characterizes the ongoing global systemic transition towards multipolarity has made this impossible to deny, especially since others like Russia and China have succeeded in making the US’ own targeted audience aware of the fact that they’ve been deliberately misled in multiple ways over the years. Instead of counterproductively clinging to the discredited narrative that no such manipulative “perception management” is being practiced on its own people, the US decided to shift gears.
The emerging narrative is that the “deep state” openly meddles in the media in order to advance the government’s self-interested Neo-Realist strategy of maximizing its power at the expense of its rivals, but this is now suddenly presented as something virtuous since it supposedly enables the US-led West to uphold its people’s “(admittedly imperfect) democratic way of life” from Russia and China’s so-called “authoritarian threats”. It only took two months for the official narrative to change so radically, which was made possible by the unprecedented information warfare that the US simultaneously waged against Russia and its own people. This all happened so swiftly that few have yet to realize what just occurred, but it certainly deserves further reflection by all Americans.