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Propaganda on Parade

prop030409.jpgNot a bad observation from Stratfor about the use of the Iskanders in Kaliningrad as a fake bargaining chip – and an excuse to reject Obama’s missile overture:

Remember Cold War propaganda? It was certainly on parade in Spain, not just in the shaping of a press conference where the quid pro quo comments garnered such attention, but in a phalanx of “deals” that the Russian delegation signed. (…)

Not to be outdone, the Russian state press had its own response to the New York Times leak on the quid pro quo of BMD for Iran. Editorials expounded that there was no deal to be had because the Russians had already suspended their plans to deploy nuclear-tipped Iskander missiles to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Since the Russians had unilaterally declared this, there was no need for BMD.

This issue is primarily one of fine print. While the Iskanders havebeen tested, there is no evidence that any have actually been deployed– to Kaliningrad or elsewhere — and even less evidence that theRussians have figured out how to mate a nuclear warhead to themissiles. Put simply, the Russian “concession” sounds great to theuntrained ear — no nukes in Europe — but the Iskanders are not yet areality, let alone a bargaining chip.

Propaganda and disinformation are as much part of Russia’snegotiating package as its nuclear capabilities and Latin Americanpopulist movements. Russia never really abandoned the tool, but wehaven’t seen such aggressive message-planting for quite some time. Thenagain, the stakes haven’t been this high in a while.