5 February 2022   Leave a comment

On 3 February there was a remarkable press briefing at the US State Department. The State Department representative, Ned Price, made an opening statement alleging that Russia was developing a propaganda video which would suggest that NATO forces had attacked the separatists in eastern Ukraine. This video would be a “false-flag” operation which the Russians would then claim gives them the right to protect those separatists against “NATO-Ukrainian” forces. The press did a great job of demanding evidence that this US assertion was true, as this lengthy exchange suggests:

QUESTION: Thanks. Okay, well, that’s quite a mouthful there. So you said “actions such as these suggest otherwise” – suggest meaning that they suggest they’re not interested in talks and they’re going to go ahead with some kind of a – what action are you talking about?

MR PRICE: One, the actions I have just pointed to, the fact –

QUESTION: What action? What —

MR PRICE: The fact that Russia continues to engage in disinformation campaigns.

QUESTION: Well no, you’ve made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?

MR PRICE: What we know, Matt, is what we – what I have just said, that they have engaged in this activity, in this planning activity —

QUESTION: Well, engage in what – hold on a second. What activity?

MR PRICE: But let me – let me – because obviously this is not – this is not the first time we’ve made these reports public. You’ll remember that just a few weeks ago –

QUESTION: I’m sorry, made what report public?

MR PRICE: If you let me finish, I will tell you what report we made public.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR PRICE: We told you a few weeks ago that we have information indicating Russia also has already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine. So that, Matt, to your question, is an action that Russia has already taken.

QUESTION: No, it’s an action that you say that they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that. And I’m going to get to the next question here, which is: What is the evidence that they – I mean, this is – like, crisis actors? Really? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now. What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?

MR PRICE: Matt, this is derived from information known to the U.S. Government, intelligence information that we have declassified. I think you know —

QUESTION: Okay, well, where is it? Where is this information?

MR PRICE: It is intelligence information that we have declassified.

QUESTION: Well, where is it? Where is the declassified information?

MR PRICE: I just delivered it.

QUESTION: No, you made a series of allegations and statements —

MR PRICE: Would you like us to print out the topper? Because you will see a transcript of this briefing that you can print out for yourself.

QUESTION: But that’s not evidence, Ned. That’s you saying it. That’s not evidence. I’m sorry.

MR PRICE: What would you like, Matt?

QUESTION: I would like to see some proof that you – that you can show that —

MR PRICE: Matt, you have been —

QUESTION: — that shows that the Russians are doing this.

MR PRICE: You —

QUESTION: Ned, I’ve been doing this for a long time, as you know.

MR PRICE: I know. That was my point. You have been doing this for quite a while.

QUESTION: I have.

MR PRICE: You know that when we declassify intelligence, we do so in a means —

QUESTION: That’s right. And I remember WMDs in Iraq, and I —

MR PRICE: — we do so with an eye to protecting sources and methods.

QUESTION: And I remember that Kabul was not going to fall. I remember a lot of things. So where is the declassified information other than you coming out here and saying it?

MR PRICE: Matt, I’m sorry you don’t like the format, but we have —

QUESTION: It’s not the format. It’s the content.

MR PRICE: I’m sorry you don’t like the content. I’m sorry you —

QUESTION: It’s not that I don’t like it or —

MR PRICE: I’m sorry you are doubting the information that is in the possession of the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: No, I —

MR PRICE: What I’m telling you is that this is information that’s available to us. We are making it available to you in order – for a couple reasons. One is to attempt to deter the Russians from going ahead with this activity. Two, in the event we’re not able to do that, in the event the Russians do go ahead with this, to make it clear as day, to lay bare the fact that this has always been an attempt on the part of the Russian Federation to fabricate a pretext.

QUESTION: Yes, but you don’t have any evidence to back it up other than what you’re saying. It’s like you’re saying, “We think – we have information the Russians may do this,” but you won’t tell us what the information is. And then when you’re asked —

MR PRICE: Well, that is the idea behind deterrence, Matt. That is the idea behind deterrence.

QUESTION: When you’re asked – and when you’re asked —

MR PRICE: It is our hope that the Russians don’t go forward with this.

QUESTION: And when you’re asked what the information is, you say, “I just gave it to you.” But that’s not what —

MR PRICE: You seem not to understand —

QUESTION: That’s not the way it works.

MR PRICE: You seem not to understand the idea of deterrence.

QUESTION: No, no, no, Ned. You don’t – you seem not to understand the idea of —

MR PRICE: We are trying to deter the Russians from moving forward with this type of activity. That is why we are making it public today. If the Russians don’t go forward with this, that is not ipso facto an indication that they never had plans to do so.

QUESTION: But then it’s unprovable. I mean, my God, what is the evidence that you have that suggests that the Russians are even planning this?

MR PRICE: Matt, you —

QUESTION: I mean, I’m not saying that they’re not. But you just come out and say this and expect us just to believe it without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true – other than when I ask or when anyone else asks what’s the information, you said, well, I just gave it to you, which was just you making a statement.

MR PRICE: Matt, you said yourself you’ve been in this business for quite a long time. You know that when we make information – intelligence information public we do so in a way that protects sensitive sources and methods. You also know that we do so – we declassify information – only when we’re confident in that information.

QUESTION: But Ned, you haven’t given any information.

MR PRICE: If you doubt – if you doubt the credibility of the U.S. Government, of the British Government, of other governments, and want to find solace in information that the Russians are putting out —

QUESTION: Solace?

MR PRICE: — that is for you to do.

QUESTION: I don’t want – I’m not asking what the Russian Government is putting out. And what do you – what is that supposed to mean?

MR PRICE: Shaun.

QUESTION: Does the government have the video? Because U.S. officials are describing very specific scenes, but do they actually have a video?

MR PRICE: The fact that we are able to go into such great detail – obviously, I am not going to spell out what is in our possession, but I will leave – I will leave it to you – I will leave that to your judgment, to your imagination.

QUESTION: Ned, there are no facts that you’ve spelled out.

QUESTION: Whether they use it “in the coming days” – do you have evidence this was intended to come out in the coming days?

MR PRICE: We’ve said, Ben, for some time now that the Russians have positioned forces, they have undertaken preparations, that if Putin decides to move forward with an invasion they’re positioned to do so. They are poised to do so.

QUESTION: You just said – you said “in the coming days.” I mean, was that a timeline that you felt that this was going to happen imminently?

MR PRICE: Well, we know what they are planning for. We know the contingencies that they have engaged in. And again, these are the kinds of steps that they are poised to undertake if that decision is made. Our goal in all of this is to deter an invasion, to deter this type of activity. So we certainly hope it doesn’t take place. We are making clear what we know so that in the event it does take place it will be clear to the world what this actually was and what it was not.

QUESTION: And the pre-positioned teams, when do you suggest they were pre-positioned? Is it going back months, I mean, or was this a more recent sort of deployment?

MR PRICE: Well, this was something that we made public several weeks ago now. So several weeks ago we said that information available to us indicated that Russia had already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Was it recent at that point? Because if they had come across just a few weeks ago, that would be a Russian aggression across the border, which you’ve warned time and time again would result in severe consequences.

MR PRICE: Ben, you know that the sort of hybrid activity that we’ve been pointing to, much of it has been going on since 2014. Obviously, we’re very attuned to any Russian aggression against Ukraine that may take place in this atmosphere given the heightened tensions.

I admire the tenacity of the press. I have vivid memories of controversies over the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the US-Vietnam War and the weapons of mass destruction controversy in the US-Iraq War of 2003. In both cases assertions were made by the US government that subsequently turned out to be false. Mr. Price apparently has forgotten that many US citizens have memories similar to mine. It is unfortunate that the US Government continues to forget its obligation to be truthful and that such behavior only corrodes the legitimacy of government actions.

Posted February 5, 2022 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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