A televised debate on a war to end all wars (including those waging it): a group comprised of military experts, political scientists, and other non-identified participants appear on Russian state television to debate the use of nuclear weapons to assert Russia’s threat to the US. It’s long known that the US and NATO’s military aid to Ukraine has enraged Putin. It’s also known that Russia’s leader has hurled thinly-veiled nuclear threats to nations supporting its opponents. But this debate seems centered on the actual execution of a small nuclear attack on US soil. Seriously?
Our questions: Is this a real debate or a staged threat? Was it aired to be discovered by the West, its intended viewers being the US and NATO allies, or was it aimed at Russian viewers to “theatrically” express the state’s sentiment (minus action)? Do the views of those in the pro-nuclear camp truly express how they perceive the US or do they want the US to think that Americans are being perceived in such a manner (though Russians don’t really hold those views)? Is this another attempt to shape the American psyche, a kind of psychological warfare such as the one Russia successfully waged during the 2016 election?
Our thought bubble: Notice how the sentiment of the characters matches the look of the characters. Notice the clarity, flow, and timing of the comments and (structure of) ideas. Is it loosely scripted? Remember, the medium is the message, and the content may be in the gesture. Or, Putin somehow thinks that pushing the doomsday button once (both sides annihilated) constitutes a win by virtue of the outcome not being a one-sided loss.
A group of Russian officials who appeared on state television held an intense discussion on how best to show the U.S. the full extent of the threat Russia poses to its national security.
The group, identified as a military expert, multiple political scientists and a member of the State Duma, argued over whether Russia should threaten the U.S. with nuclear war or by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, among other suggestions.
Julia Davis, a reporter with The Daily Beast, shared a clip of the exchange with English captions on Twitter on Tuesday. Newsweek was unable to confirm whether the state television discussion also took place on Tuesday.
Top Kremlin propagandists encountered some unexpected resistance from state TV pundits, irritated by ongoing attempts to scare the West with nuclear strikes [no one is buying it] and bluffing about manufacturing some version of the Cuban Missile Crisis [just a pipe dream].
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) June 14, 2022
Since Ukraine was invaded in late February, the U.S. has drawn Russia's ire over aid, including weapons, to Ukraine and packages of unprecedented sanctions against Russia. The full context surrounding the state television discussion was not immediately clear, but the clip began with a man, identified as military expert Alexei Leokov, saying that "Russia should get used to becoming an empire.
"Since we're an empire, we should act like an empire," he said.
Andrey Gurulyov, a member of the State Duma, then chimed in to suggest that weapons, presumably Russia's, should "pose a threat, first and foremost, to the territory of the United States of America, and not only nuclear weapons."
"They should understand there could be a strike against Miami, Texas or any other state," Gurulyov said. "Then, they'll tuck their tail in. They aren't very brave over there. This is our truth and what we should aspire to and confidently move toward that."
Dmitry Drobnitsky, who was identified as a political scientist, then suggested that U.S. elites "for the most part" don't feel very vulnerable, and that they don't believe Russia would strike.
"There is only one way to convince them, which would be to launch a Sarmat [missile]," he said. "I understand the desire of many to go to heaven, but I'm in no rush to go there."
Another man floated the idea that Russia could "place something serious" in Nicaragua, but Drobnitsky interjected to say that "there is not one in Latin America" that Russia can rely on apart from "Cubans and Chileans." Drobnitsky added that they should stop talking about Latin America and said that any moves involving the region were "just fantasies."
Another man who had not spoken yet in the clip—neither his name nor position were specified—said that some say a Sarmat missile "works well against sanctions."
Dmitry Abzalov, another political scientist, responded that "they're convincing everyone that the Russians wouldn't move on that," in a seeming reference to U.S. officials.