“Soviet Tanks” or “Russian Tanks” were a key part of Cold War propaganda. In each instance of Soviet intervention, the western media portrayed it as “Soviet Tanks” rolling in, an image crafted to appeal to middle class elements, artists, and intellectuals around the world.
The image of “Soviet Tanks” was perfect. A tank is a cold metallic machine. The image of it as a “freedom crusher” and “dream destroyer” was a perfect ideological tool in demonizing the USSR. It seems like something directly from an Ayn Rand or George Orwell novel.
Phillip Bonosky, a US journalist who lived in Kabul during the Afghan War, described the role of the international press when Soviet troops first arrived. In his book “Afghanistan: Washington’s Secret War” he described how in Kabul there was only one Soviet Tank. This single Soviet Tank, sitting in a park in downtown Kabul, became the image of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. This tank was surrounded by TV crews from throughout the western world, while the actual actions and statements of Soviet and Afghan officials were ignored.
Leftists in the western countries who dared defend the Soviet Union or its allies were labelled “tankies.” The Tianamen incident in 1989, which was highly distorted in western press, also involved a lot of Tank imagery.
US backed dictators around the world have used tanks to suppress uprisings and protests. Despite the slaughter of students in South Korea, western media never speaks of “South Korean Tanks.” They don’t speak of Pinochet’s tanks in Chile.
Western media also doesn’t emphasize on the Tanks from western Ukraine, filled with ultra-rightist Neo-Nazis, that currently rolling into the eastern part of the country.
By portraying whatever regime the US is fighting at the current moment with Tanks, the propagandists can erase all the actual people involved. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states did not merely result in a reduction in Soviet military hardware. It resulted in extreme poverty. Sex trafficking, drug addiction, unemployment, and other horrors have risen in Eastern Europe with a vengeance.
Millions of people across Bush’s “New Europe” are suffering in horrific conditions, as western financial powers ravage and impoverish the countries. The crisis of austerity beginning after the financial collapse has intensified this suffering.
However, western TV audiences are largely unaware of the mass impoverishment of Eastern Europe since the events 1991, as NATO marches eastward. All they recall is a lot of CNN video of what was called a “glorious revolution.”
In the current crisis, western media has erased the real suffering going on East Ukraine. As people are blockaded, unable to get food, medical care, and other things they desperately need, the western media demonizes Russia for sending a humanitarian caravan.
Tank Propaganda in the 21st Century
In modern times, warfare isn’t fought primarily with Tanks. The 21st century battlefield primarily consists of drones, cruise missiles, fighter helicopters.
Regardless of the reality of modern warfare, the propaganda value of “Russian Tanks” still exists. It should be no surprise that the Kiev Junta is now claiming that “23 Russian Tanks” crossed its borders.
The fascists in Kiev cannot provide any evidence of this. No satellite photos have been provided. The Russian government has made clear that no such border crossing took place.
Russia’s military power is very well recognized. If Russia were actually conducting an invasion of East Ukraine, everyone would know about it. There would be no room for speculation, doubt, or hypothesis.
As people are dying and suffering in East Ukraine, as the US backed junta pours on repression, violence, and blockade in the name of “Anti-Terrorism”, Russia has dared to send a humanitarian convoy to those in need.
As expected, western media isn’t talking about human needs and the actual situation. Instead, its talking about tanks.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.