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Patrick Lawrence: The Imaginary War

It began when the Biden regime and the press misrepresented Russian aims in Ukraine. All else has flowed from it.
President Joe Biden departs after delivering remarks on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Thursday, February 24, 2022, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

By Patrick Lawrence / Consortium News

What were the policy cliques, “the intelligence community” and the press that serves both going to do when the kind of war in Ukraine they talked incessantly about turned out to be imaginary, a Marvel Comics of a conflict with little grounding in reality? I have wondered about this since the Russian intervention began on Feb. 24. I knew the answer would be interesting when finally we had one.

Now we have one. Taking the government-supervised New York Times as a guide, the result is a variant of what we saw as the Russiagate fiasco came unglued: Those who manufacture orthodoxies as well as consent are slithering out the side door.

I could tell you I don’t intend to single out the Times in this wild chicanery, except that I do. The once-but-no-longer newspaper of record continues to be singularly wicked in its deceits and deceptions as it imposes the official but imaginary version of the war on unsuspecting readers.

As Consortium News’s properly suspecting readers will recall, Vladimir Putin was clear when he told the world Russia’s intentions as it began its intervention. These were two: Russian forces went into Ukraine to “demilitarize and de–Nazify” it, a pair of limited, defined objectives.

An astute reader of these commentaries pointed out in a recent comment thread that the Russian president had once again proven, whatever else one may think of him, a focused statesman with an excellent grasp of history. At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the Allied Control Council declared its postwar purpose in Germany as “the four D’s.”  These were de–Nazification, demilitarization, democratization and decentralization.

Let’s give David Thompson, who brought this historical reference to my attention, a deserved byline here:

“Putin’s reiteration of the de–Nazification and demilitarization principles established from the Potsdam Conference is not just some quaint tip of the hat to history. He was laying down a marker to the United States and the United Kingdom that the agreement reached at Potsdam in 1945 is still relevant and valid ….”

The Russian president, whose entire argument with the West is that a just and stable order in Europe must serve the security interests of all sides, was simply restating objectives the trans–Atlantic alliance had once signed on to accomplish. In other words, he was pointing out said alliance’s gross hypocrisy as it arms the ideological descendants of German Nazis.

From left, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Josef Stalin during the Potsdam Conference, 1945. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons)

I dwell on this matter because the imaginary war began with the Biden regime’s and the press’s quite irresponsible misrepresentations of the Russian Federation’s aims in Ukraine. All else has flowed from it.

You remember: Russian forces were going to “conquer” the whole of the nation, wipe out the Kiev regime, install a puppet government and then drive on to Poland, the Baltic states, Transnistria and the rest of Moldova, and who could imagine what after that. De–Nazification, we can now read, is a phony Kremlin dodge. 

Next Edition 

Having lied outright on this score, the next edition of the comic went onto the market. Russia is failing to achieve its imaginary objectives. Low morale, desertions, poorly trained troops with not enough to eat, logistical failures, lousy artillery, inadequate ordnance, incompetent officers: The Russians were riding for a fall on Ukrainian soil.  

The corollary here was the heroism, courage and battlefield grit of Ukrainian troops, least of all, the Azov Battalion, who were not any longer neo–Nazis.  Never mind the TimesThe Guardian, the BBC and various other mainstream publications and broadcasters had earlier told us about these ideological fanatics. That was then, this is now.

The problem at this point was there were no battlefield successes to report. The defeats, indeed, had begun. In May, roughly when the Azov Battalion, heroic and democratic as it is, was forced to surrender in Mariupol, it was time for — this just had to be — Russian atrocities.

We had the theater and the maternity hospital in Mariupol, we had the infamous slaughter in Bucha, the Kiev suburb; various others have followed. Just what happened in these cases has never been established by credible, disinterested investigators; plentiful evidence that Ukrainian forces bear responsibility is dismissed out of hand. But who needs investigations and evidence when the brutal, criminal, indiscriminately ruthless Rrrrusssians, must be culpable if the imaginary war is to proceed?

My unchallenged favorites in this line come courtesy of CNN, which went long this spring on allegations — Ukrainian allegations, of course — that Russian soldiers were raping young girls and young boys right down to months-old infants. Three such specimens are herehere and here.  

The network abruptly dropped this line of inquiry after the senior Ukrainian official disseminating these allegations was removed from office because the charges are fabrications. A wise move on CNN’s part, I think: Propaganda does not have to be very subtle, as history shows, but it does have its limits. 

Just after the atrocities narrative had ripened, the Russians-are-stealing-Ukrainian-grain theme began. The BBC offered an especially wonderful account of this. Look at this video and text presentation and tell me it isn’t the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, as many holes in it as my Irish grandma’s lace curtains.

But at this point, problems. Russian forces, with their desertions, antiquated guns, and dumb generals, were taking one city after another in eastern Ukraine. These were not — the fly in the ointment — imaginary victories.

Out with the war-is-going-well theme and in with the brutal Russians’ indiscriminate use of artillery. This was a “primitive strategy,” the Times wanted us to know. In the awfulness of war, you simply don’t shell an enemy position as a preliminary to taking it. Medieval.

Lately, there’s another problem for the conjurors of imaginary war. This is the death toll. The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission reported May 10 that the casualty count to date was in excess of 3,380 civilian fatalities, bumped up in June to 4,509, and 3,680 civilians injured. (And both sides shoot and kill in a war.)

Goddamn it, they exclaimed on Eighth Avenue.  That is nowhere near enough in the imaginary war. Desperate for a gruesomely high death toll, the Times, on June 18, published “Death in Ukraine: A Special Report.” What a read. There is nothing in it other than innuendo and weightless surmise. But the imaginary war must grind on.

The Times’s “special report”— dum-da-da-dum — rests on phrases such as “witness testimony and other evidence” and “the thousands believed killed.” The evidence, to be noted, derives almost entirely from Ukrainian officials — as does an inordinate amount of what the Times publishes. 

There is a great quotation:  “People are killed indiscriminately or suddenly or without rhyme or reason.” Wow. Is this damning or what?

But another problem. This observation comes from one Richard Kohn, who is emeritus at the University of North Carolina. I hope the professor is having a good summer down in Chapel Hill.

In late June, Sievierodonetsk fell — or rose, depending on your point of view — and in short order so did Lysychansk and the whole of Luhansk province. Now come the ’fessing up stories, here and there. The Ukrainian forces are so discombobulated they are shooting one another, we read. They can’t operate their radios and — an artful back flip here — they are running out of food and ammunition and morale. Untrained soldiers who signed up to patrol their neighborhoods are deserting the front lines.  


There are the holdouts. The Times reported last week that the Ukrainians, done for in Luhansk, are planning a counteroffensive in the south to reclaim lost territory. We all need our dreams, I suppose.

To the surprise of many, Patrick Lang, the ordinarily astute observer of military matters, published“Unable to even fix its own tanks, Russia’s humiliation is now complete” on his Turcopolier last Friday. The retired colonel predicts the Russians are in for “a sudden reversal of fortunes.” No, I’m not holding my breath.

Have you had enough of the imaginary war? I have. I read this junk daily as a professional obligation. Some of it I find amusing, but in the main it sickens when I think of what the American press has done to itself and to its readers.

For the record, it is hard to tell exactly what occurs on Ukraine’s tragic fields of war. As noted previously in this space, we have very little coverage from professional, properly disinterested correspondents. But I offer here my surmise, and it is nothing more.

This war has proceeded, more or less inexorably, in one direction: In the real war, the Ukrainians have been on a slow march to defeat from the first. They are too corrupt, too mesmerized by their fanatical Russophobia to organize an effective force or even to see straight.

This is not a grinding war of attrition, as we are supposed to think. It has proceeded slowly because Russian forces appear to be taking care to limit casualties — their own and among Ukrainian civilians. I put more faith in the U.N.’s numbers than in that silly, nothing-in-it “special report” the Times just published.

I do not know why Russian forces approached the outskirts of Kiev from the north early in the conflict and then withdrew, but there is no indication they intended to take the capital. There were battles, but they were certainly not “beaten back.” That is sheer nonsense.

I await proper investigations — admittedly unlikely — of the atrocities that have certainly occurred but without, so far, any conclusive indication of culpability.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, remarked recently Russia’s objective remains to take most of Ukraine. In a speech at the end of June in Ashgabat, the Turkmenistan capital, Putin appeared notably at ease and asserted, “Everything is going according to plan. Nothing has changed.” The objective, he said, remained “to liberate Donbass, to protect these people, and to create conditions that would guarantee the safety of Russia itself. That’s it.”

Putting these two statements side by side, there is vastly more evidence supporting Putin’s than there is for Haines.

Intentionally or otherwise — and I often have the impression the Times does not grasp the implications of what it publishes — the paper put out a story Sunday headlined, “Ukraine and the Contest of Global Stamina.” The outcome of this conflict, it reported, now depends on “whether the United States and its allies can maintain their military, political and financial commitments to holding off Russia.”

Can they possibly not understand down on Eighth Avenue that they have just described Ukraine as a basket-case client? Do they know they have just announced that the imaginary war they have waged these past four and some months is ending in defeat, given there is no one in Ukraine to win it?

Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site


  1. It was made clear by Russia almost at once that the move near Kiev was a “feint” to keep the forces of the VSU busy while the Russians went towards Donbass. The “vehicles abandoned” were those of no further use.The “west” knows nothing about Russian warfare and assumes it is shock and awe and destruction like the USA, while Russia tried to avoid civilian casualties or damage. Russia is NOT the one destroying Ukraine.

  2. Author should read Scott Ritter to explain brilliant Russian moves to fake Kiev attack and use this deception to secure Zaporogia NPP, all ports on Azov sea, secure Russia-Crimea strategic land corridor and strategic canal in Kherson area that delivers 90% of Crimean water. All in 15 days.

    Putin is mostly not lying to public but his General Staff are masters of military deception.

  3. Sadly, this author’s argument (that Putin is just reviving a 4D Potsdam strategy to bring stability to Ukraine) breaks down from the get-go and reveals itself for what it is, another Putin apologia.

    Potsdam was the three powers agreement to attempt to reassemble Europe after Germany had started a world war that resulted in 55 million deaths and was defeated by the Allies after six years of carnage.

    Ukraine did not start any war, did not invade anyone and did not ask Russia to de-nazify it.

    Ukraine has had internationally recognized boarders for thirty years that Putin recognized, in a written treaty, 25 years ago.

    The only reason Putin does not control the entire country right now is that his initial war planning was flawed in the design and in the execution.

    Stalin believed Hitler had limited ambitions. We shouldn’t make the same mistake about Putin.

    1. Yes while the US and it’s stooges send more advanced weapons to the Ukraine the Ruskies intensify their offensive using more lethal weaponry that will result in the destruction of the Ukraine, I think that’s a paradox of some sort. Intriguing that many people refer to anyone with a differing viewpoint regarding this tragedy as a Putin apologist, and comparing this to Hitler is rather weak, a more poignant comparison would be the US invasion of Iraq, that I could relate to.

  4. yes, the hypocrisy of this American moment w/ its faux journalism will go down in history.
    how incompetent can we get

  5. Is the author aware of his own “spin?” Probably not. There is a mountain of evidence that the Russians are committing war crimes. And the nonsense of justifying Putin’s invasion as being, somehow, the result of NATO’s move east. Putin is vicious at home, as his army is in the Ukraine. We are not blameless, but peddling nonsense is not helpful.

    1. HS.

      It seems that it is you not author who believe your own spin as all the accusations of Russia committing war crimes are unsubstantiated and coming from Ukrainian Nazi propaganda.

      Don’t take Russians word for it but don’t take Ukrainian lies as biblical truths.

      Listen to pro Ukrainian Pentagon report that already in March and April concluded that they see so far no evidences of Russia engaging in any war crimes in Ukraine.

      That report was compiled after Bucha incident which investigation was suppressed by Zelensky regime as he refused to allow access to witnesses, bodies and forensic evidences by pro Ukrainian EU police experts who wanted to objectively investigate that crime for prosecution in war tribunal.

      And what about Ukrainian woman a member of Zelensky administration condemned and fired by Ukrainian parliament for lying about alleged Russian rapes of children and women that never happened according to SBU investigation.

      Another suposedly Russian war crime of exploding ballistic missile Tochka U in the rail station full of evacuees. It turned out to be a war crime committed by Ukrainian military as western reporter who was at the scene made video showing fragments of Tochka U’s missile with Ukrainian serial numbers while simple ballistic analysis pointed to launch location deep into Ukraine controlled territory.

      You seems to act like Ukrainian troll who refuses to consider reality of predictable in the first day of war, inevitable AFU defeat when NATO refused imposition of No fly Zone over Ukraine while NATO military advisors fled Ukraine and NATO ships fled Black Sea in near panic.

      Ukraine was lied to and they were betrayed and sacrificed for NATO (US) own interests to arm Europe adequately to defeat Russia in the near future.

      Neocons dreamed about poor but militarized Europe for decades, as they’ve thrown Ukrainians under the bus like they always do as they won’t give up on warmongering delusion unless they are politically culled.

      One day Washington neocons and their puppet Zelensky will pay for Ukrainian blood spilled senselessly as they chose hopeless needles war over peace of Minsk agreements.

      1. Thank you Kalen, for pointing out these truths. The war fever in the west has most people mesmerized and believing the west’s military greatness, stupid war propaganda, and as sheep follow these ignorant leaders to our doom. Critical thinking is out the door as the emotional high of war replaces any intelligent thought that would have sought to prevent this long before it happened Minsk I and II were the missed off ramps as Biden sleep walks us with the rest of the western leadership to Armageddon.

      2. I don’t understand the Biden sleepwalking reference, he was hair on fire proclaiming that Russia would invade Ukraine.

        Minsk I and II were good faith efforts at establishing a status quo peace in the Donbas but they and the whole situation were too complicated and had two many trip wires to be self sustaining.

        And Putin never really wanted to see success, claiming he was a mediator.
        It would be as if Lincoln had to negotiate with South Carolina and Great Britain over the slavery question.

        In any case, Putin recognized the disputed territory as independent countries strangling Minsk in its crib. He even said so.

        You can add up all the mistakes made by everyone going back 500 years but in the end, there is no war in Ukraine except for the ambitions of one man, Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s mistake.

    2. @herb steiner
      honorable effort, but as ye will see this is a site where russian shills shill to other russian shills. Kalen is one of the serial liars who stink up this site. but do understand that almost no one here is a person with integrity, or in search of truth. let’s just take ‘rosemerry’ who parrots the russian propaganda lie that the failed attack on Kyiv was a ‘brilliant feint’ yeah it was truly brilliant to have close to 1000 of yer most modern tanks destroyed without achieving anything other than a string of war crimes which are well documented now .
      oh, kalen will stink in with ‘azov, azov,azov, except he cannot procduce a single eye-witness, while there are hundreds of witnesses who saw folks get picked up by russians, then, next thing ye know, them found dead in mass graves…
      see, rosemerry, kalen, paul&hater, rob roy, jeff, maverick, etc, all they ever do is feed ye the official kremlin propaganda points, and they dominate this site to the point where i advise ye to go somewhere else . see. ye don’t get paid to make valid points, but kalen gets paid to stink up yer mind.
      they all studied Goebbels well – repeat yer lies ad nauseam and some will stick…
      don’t waste yer time here, go to some forum that ain’t lousy with russian shills who stink so loudly they drown out all else.
      Kalen, ye are a stinking liar that’s all i have to say to ye.

      1. Thanks, Arvo. Most of it sounds untrue to me, but I don’t have the residue of knowledge to back up my feeling. I am a leftie but I try to base my opinions on fact. Is there another site youi would recommend?


  6. It is hard to dispute that NATO (i.e. the US), has prodded the Russian bear one too many times. Prior to our intervention in Ukraine in 2014 (never mentioned when there is non-stop bleating about Russian intervention in our elections), there seemed to be relative stability in the region. So once again, our neo-con geniuses have ignored the oft-mentioned unintended consequences of their non-stop invasions, esp., since 2001. But having said that, we are witnessing endless war crimes in Ukraine, with, as usual, mostly the innocent suffering. Putin may be a crafty politician, but his slaughter and destruction is the work of a deeply disturbed megalomaniac, who cares for little apart from his place in the pantheon of past czars.

    1. Are you kidding me?

      How many posts to this site make some claim that the US deposed a Ukrainian president and placed its puppet on the throne in 2014, like it was Joseph Arbenz being taken out by the CIA in 1954 Guatemala.

      If we intervened in the 2014 election we wasted our money and efforts as Russian aligned candidates barely registered in double figures.

      Not mentioned is that Victor Yankovich, a Putin lapdog, the supposedly deposed president, was elected in a bogus election where his opponent was poisoned with dioxin by the KBG.

      During the Orange Revolution, Yanukovich fled the country and he was removed by the Ukrainian parliament by a 75% vote.

      Yanukovich has been convicted of treason and sentenced to 15 years.

      While president, Yanukovich jailed his other main opponent, Yulia Tymenshenko.

      Putin recognized Petro Poroshenk as the validly elected President of Ukraine in 2014.

      Please add some facts to your opinions.

      1. Are you an amnesiac?

        These are facts: It was US organized coup that overthrew Yanukovitch in February 2014.

        Have you heard Nuland phone conversations with US ambassador Pratt and Lithuanian diplomat long before Yanukovitch was overthrown by CIA infiltrated SBU and presidential guard. They discussed future Ukrainian cabinet by name while legal President was still in office.

        Exactly those people emerged as PM, Yatsyniuk and others in post coup government.

        Have you heard her bragging how US spent over a $billion for regime change in Ukraine. Later US senators like McCain or Durban as well as Biden openly told Ukrainian PM who to hire and who to fire. What is it but running Ukrainian government from Washington DC.

        Do you remember famous “F..EU” ?

        Nuland said that referring to US government disregard toward already being finalized talks and peaceful agreement between Yanukovitch and parliamentary opposition guaranteed by representatives of EU from Germany and Poland about new elections planned for September2014 on a subject of Ukraine EU integration process when all Ukrainians not only Maidan thugs would have had their vote.

        US, Germany and Canada meddled in Ukrainian politics since 1991 propping up Nazis and feeding Ukrainian oligarchy. The from the start US insisted on Ukrainian independence against majority of Ukrainians, (28+ millions) who wanted a form of association with Moscow.

        Yeltsin an architect of dissolution of Soviet Union was open to Ukrainian investments in Russia helped to make Poroshenko a media and candy tycoon in Russia and Ukraine.

        Putin started some political concerns only after NATO invitation for Ukraine to join in 2004.

        Ukraine was divided by outside forces along NATO expansion push that threatened Russian national security interests including Russian fleet naval bases in Crimea.

        There was never peace in contemporary Ukraine a country that sprung out of dead corpse of Soviet Union and has not even been property born as independent state yet.

        BTW: Poroshenko election was unconstitutional as Yanukovitch was not properly impeached, as many political parties were delegalized leaving millions without their political representation and Part of Donbas and Crimea constitutionally still part of Ukraine and did not vote.

      2. Your post has too much disinformation to respond to all.

        So, you can start by sending us some evidence that NATO invited Ukraine to join in 2004 or at any other time.

        Please, describe what is the proper birthing procedure for an independent nation. Is a Declaration of I dependence enough? How about PUTIN’s written recognition?

        Do you think that the CIA got all those Ukrainians to take to the streets in 2014. And did they buy the 328-0 impeachment vote in the Ukrainian parliament. And did they pay Putin to recognize Poroshenko.

        And whose fault is it that Donbas and Crimea did not vote in the 2014 election. PUTIN’s maybe?

        It’s helpful to remember that maybe a third of the colonists fought for the British including 5,000 slaves. The New United States in 1776, represented close to or actually were a minority party in America.

        Who knows, some states, like Crimea, might have voted to stay part of Britain. The big difference, of course, is that in 2014, when the Crimean vote was taken, they had been part of the Ukrainian nation for 25 years.

        It would have been like allowing South Carolina to secede by vote in 1812 because they wanted to be part of Britain. (Which they did not) Well, they tried it in 1860 and it didn’t work then. You can’t secede from your family, even if you are Elon Musk’s daughter.

  7. Patrick is not the only one with Imagination.

    So, imagine after this hot summer (using up energy for A C) a cold brutal winter with devastating economic catastrophe in Germany and France due to lack of Russian gas and oil. Before spring, Europe will force UKRAINE to a surrender against the protests of Biden, but because GOP regained both Houses, Ole Joe is impotent to further his proxy war. The disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and another disaster in Ukraine in the span of 2 years will easily defeat the Democrats that wasted more billions on war when billions are needed to fix American infrastructure.
    If GOP turfs Joe next spring, Trump’s Vengeance will be staggering. Much chaos will envelope the globe as best bud, Vladimir will dictate the direction of Europe.

    The turmoil within America will distract from focusing on foreign affairs.
    I got ta stop smoking that good stuff that causes imagination to run wild.

  8. Bravo to WDD who reminds us of the true genesis of today’s events. You can be a progressive, deeply suspicious of the neocons, but not see Putin as Jimmie Durante.

  9. @herb steiner
    not that it matters in this stinking cesspool of disinformation, but what the stinking liars like kalen always conveniently forget is that within a couple of months after the thoroughly, deeply, evidently and documentedly CORRUPT president Yanukovich vacated his post [yes, ye read right – he FLED cause he could not even trust his own security anymore, he FLED, he wasn’t ‘deposed’ that’s just kalen lying, and he wasn’t ‘replaced’ by Yatsyniuk, cause ‘Yats’ was ‘prime minister’ while the power rests in the ‘president’ [yes, kalen, these are big words ye don’t fully understand and i sympathize]], anyways, less than 2 months later the Ukrainian people ELECTED a PRESIDENT in free and fair elections, so this bullshit of the U.S. ‘installing a government in a ‘coup’ is just the kind of stinking bullshit kalen specializes in…
    so, kalen, do stink back with more lies. i will ignore ye for ye have no honor

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