U.S. officials, the Wall Street Journal, and the rest of the mainstream press are up in arms over the arrest by Russian officials of 31-year-old WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich. The Russians are charging Gershkovich with spying, a charge that the Journal and the U.S. government are vehemently denying. U.S. officials and the U.S. mainstream press are saying that Gershkovich is nothing more than a “political hostage.”
Of course, the denials that Gershkovich is a spy are meaningless. If Gershkovich was recruited by the CIA while in journalism school as part of an updated Operation Mockingbird, the last thing he would do is reveal that fact to his superiors at the Wall Street Journal. Spies know that they are supposed to keep their spy status secret, even from their employers.
Moreover, if Gershkovich does in fact work for the CIA, everyone knows that the CIA is going to lie about it. After all, let’s not forget that the official policy of the CIA is to lie if it is in the interest of “national security.”
Is Gershkovich actually a U.S. spy? Not likely, but only because a spy would not be so naive as to go gallivanting around Russia writing critical articles about Vladimir Putin, the Russian regime, and the adverse consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and think that there would be no adverse consequences for doing so.
What did Gershkovich and his bosses at the WSJ think — that Putin was going to award Gershkovich the Russian Good Journalism Prize for the critical articles he has been writing, while, at the same time, having a grand old time in Russia socially cavorting with Russian friends?
My gosh, this is a regime that is estimated to have lost some 200,000 Russian soldiers in its war with Ukraine. Many, if not most, of those deaths can be attributed to U.S. weapons of war, not to mention U.S. intelligence assistance and U.S. training. Indeed, U.S. officials are now preparing to send battle tanks to Ukraine, which will be used to kill even more Russian soldiers. It is not unreasonable for Russian officials and the Russian people to conclude that it is the U.S. government that is waging war against Russia by using Ukraine as its agent.
Every one of those dead Russian soldiers had a family and friends, who are now grieving the loss of their loved ones, just as American families and friends grieve when U.S. soldiers are killed in some U.S. foreign war of aggression.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, as president of Russia, Putin has to deal with the psychological, emotional, and political consequences of those deaths. What person in Russia in his right mind is going to be writing critical news stories about Putin and the Russian regime in that context and not think that there are going to be adverse consequences for doing so?
Keep in mind that we are not talking about a regime that is widely known for its commitment to principles of free speech. In fact, most everyone, including Gershkovich, knows that the Russian regime is jailing Russian citizens for daring to criticize the war effort. Why in the world did Gershkovich and the Journal think that Russian officials were going to treat an American journalist differently? Just because he is an American?
Moreover, let’s keep something important in mind — something that U.S. officials and their acolytes in the mainstream press don’t acknowledge but that most people around the world fully understand. It was the Pentagon, operating through NATO, that ginned up this crisis, with the aim of reinvigorating its old Cold War racket and, in the process, giving Russia another “Vietnam,” just like when U.S. officials provoked the Soviets into invading Afghanistan in 1979.
Just as U.S. officials did back in 1979, U.S. officials and their acolytes in the mainstream press are now celebrating the fact that those 200,000 Russian soldiers have now been killed in Ukraine. They call it “degrading” Russia. And they’re surprised that Russian officials have gone after Gershkovich, a reporter for the conservative Wall Street Journal?
Just consider the last article that Gershkovich wrote before being taken into custody. It’s entitled “Russia’s Economy Is Starting to Come Undone.” The entire thrust of the article is that Putin’s war is taking Russia down.
And yet they’re surprised that Gershkovich has been arrested? Oh sure, they can exclaim all they want about what a courageous journalist Gershkovich is. Fine, that’s true. But no reasonable persons should be shocked and outraged when he’s arrested by the authoritarian regime that he is criticizing from inside that country. To think that he was going to be given carte blanche to write whatever he wanted with impunity is the height of naiveté.
Consider Edward Snowden. He’s an American living in Russia. I’ll bet that he opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian arrests of war critics, and the mass surveillance that comes with the Russian national-security state.
What is Snowden publicly saying about all this? What is he writing on the Internet about it? What is he saying in articles published in the U.S. or elsewhere?
Answer: Nothing. Snowden is saying nothing. And why is that? Because Snowden isn’t naive. He knows when and where to pick his battles. He knows that if he says anything critical about Russia while he is there, Russian authorities will send him packing to the U.S. (or worse), where, ironically, U.S. officials would do the same thing to him that Russian officials are doing to Gershkovich.
After all, what did Snowden do to merit criminal charges in the U.S.? All he did was publish truthful evidence of criminal activity on the part of the U.S. national-security state. But no one could be shocked or surprised when U.S. officials went after Snowden with the same vengeance that Russian officials have gone after Gershkovich. That’s the way national-security states operate.
For that matter, look at what U.S. officials have been doing to Julian Assange for reporting criminal activity on the part of U.S. national-security state officials. They have been obsessively going after him for years with maximum vengeance, just as Russian officials are going after Gershkovich.
No national-security state — Russia, U.S., Cuba, North Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, or other — will tolerate people like Gershkovich, Snowden, and Assange.
Moreover, don’t forget the people that U.S. officials targeted for criminal prosecution for giving speeches or writing articles that criticized President Wilson’s intervention in World War I, including perspectives that challenged the moral legitimacy of forcing Americans through conscription to fight, kill, and die in that intervention. Those victims weren’t doing anything more than Gershkovich has been doing.
Moreover, let’s not forget how U.S. officials mistreat Russian citizens, such as Maria Butina, the young Russian woman who was incarcerated and deported on bogus charges of failing to register as a Russian agent after she was caught “infiltrating” the National Rifle Association to advocate in favor of gun rights.
The big lesson to be learned here is not the totalitarian practices of foreign regimes. Russia’s arrest of Evan Gershkovich should not surprise us one bit. It’s how national-security states, including both Russia and the United States, operate. The big lesson to be learned is how the Pentagon and the CIA are experts in ginning up crises that not only justify the ever-increasing looting of American taxpayers to fund all these destructive and highly dangerous interventionist antics but also make it unsafe for Americans who are living, traveling, or working overseas, as Evan Gershkovich has now discovered.
Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.