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Russia's Useful Idiots, - Petro Oleshchuk


Many well-known people promote openly pro-Russian opinions in the information space. Petro Oleshchuk, an expert at the United Ukraine think tank, writes about this in his article for The Gaze. The text of the article can be found below.


Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, sentiments in support of Ukraine have dominated the Western countries, as repeatedly recorded in relevant opinion polls. At the same time, there is a considerable number of people, including well-known personalities, who promote openly pro-Russian views in the information space.


It would be too easy to declare them all the Kremlin’s "agents of influence", as many of these people have been repeating the same narratives for quite some time. Now, however, they started mentioning Ukraine. Obviously, the war, among other things, has revealed some of the problems in the civilized world, including the discrepancy between the positions of many well-known experts, scholars, and opinion leaders and the current world realities.


"Realism", "Left" and "Right" Intellectuals

For over a year and a half of the full-scale war in Ukraine, several well-known figures in the United States alone have allowed themselves to make ambiguous statements about the future of Ukraine. For example, John Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is a well-known representative of the realistic school of thought in the international relations theory. He previously blamed the West and so-called NATO expansion for the current war rather than the Kremlin, saying it is difficult to imagine Ukraine winning the war and regaining all the lost territory, including Crimea. Mearsheimer's realism is based on the fact that Russia is bigger than Ukraine, has more artillery, and therefore will certainly win.


Among the well-known "left-wing" intellectuals, there are also advocates for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Earlier, the American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky justified Russian aggression against Ukraine, hinting that Russia is allegedly threatened by NATO. Chomsky also said that a nuclear war could break out over Ukraine. He is actively spreading the Russian propaganda narratives that NATO and the United States are to blame for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and he believes it is necessary to recognize Russia's occupation of Crimea and autonomy in the Donbas. It is worth recalling that Chomsky also justified the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and refused to call the 1995 massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) genocide. In fact, for decades he has been using any excuse to criticize the United States and its foreign policy. Ukraine serves as another pretext to accuse the United States of "aggressive plans" and "attacks."


On the "right" flank, one can also find supporters of justifying Russian aggression. Ben Shapiro is one of the most famous conservative intellectuals in the United States. Initially, he took a moderate position and accused the Democrats and Joe Biden of lacking the political will to stop Russia, but generally supported assistance to Ukraine. Later, however, he wrote a column suggesting Ukraine's territorial concessions to Russia were not such a bad idea to avoid a nuclear war. Finally, Shapiro's position became the following: the main US goals in Ukraine have already been achieved, and financial assistance to Ukraine should be stopped because the war could last for a very long time.


Of course, one cannot fail to mention businessman Elon Musk, who has long been extremely critical of US support for Ukraine and has, in fact, turned his own resource "X" (formerly known as Twitter) into the main tool for spreading Russian disinformation in the West.


Whitewashing Problems

Despite the fact that all of the positions described above are very different, there are certain common features that unite them, and which can be the basis for erroneous judgments by reputable researchers.


First, all of them are clearly engaged in "fitting" their analysis to predefined concepts. For Mearsheimer, international relations are a sphere of active actions only on the part of the "great powers". He continues to stand by this despite any other facts that could dispute his concept.


For the "leftist" Chomsky, the main problem is "US imperialism." He will not under any circumstances deviate from the thesis he has determined in advance. For the conservative Shapiro, the main source of "evil" in the United States is the Democratic Party, and he will use any reason to criticize the main ideological opponents of his own political position.


In short, a large number of public intellectuals remain biased and ideologically driven researchers on Ukraine and Russian aggression.


Secondly, Ukraine has long been a topic of political struggle in the West, especially in the United States. The decision to provide assistance to Ukraine after the start of full-scale Russian aggression was made by the administration of Democratic President Joseph Biden, and now this assistance is strongly associated with the Democratic Party. Accordingly, a number of Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have begun to criticize aid to Ukraine, viewing it as part of a political struggle and criticism of the Democrats. Republican Musk also fits into this scheme. While supporting Trump, he criticizes aid to Ukraine.


At the same time, starting with simple criticism of the aid, Biden's opponents begin to look for "arguments" for this criticism, finding them in numerous political speculations or propaganda messages actively spread by Russia. This is how the issue of aid to Ukraine becomes part of the political struggle in the United States.


Thus, not everyone who speaks out on the Russian-Ukrainian war is an unbiased researcher, even among well-known and reputable people. The war has become firmly embedded not only in the lives of people in the West, but also in local political struggles and in the competition between various opinion leaders. Accordingly, the nature of the discussion is changing in the direction of losing intellectual content in favor of the political situation. All this constitutes a separate problem that should not be ignored.


Source: "The Gaze"

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