Propaganda Digest: This is our weekly analysis that exposes the most exaggerated, misleading, and outrageous rhetoric from recent Russian media sources, aimed at promoting critical thinking to better debunk the manipulation of Russian propaganda.
Topic: ATACMS delivery to Ukraine and a successful first employment
On October 17, President Zelensky confirmed that Ukraine had successfully utilized the long-awaited ATACMS, striking an airbase in the occupied territories of Berdyansk and Luhansk, resulting in the destruction of nine helicopters. In response to Putin’s comments downplaying the significance of this event, the Russian defense ministry later announced on October 25 that they had successfully intercepted two ATACMS missiles within the past 24 hours – the perfect time to take another look at the narrative propaganda pushed after Ukraine’s acquisition of ATACMS.
Take note: a development that had previously been regarded as one of Putin’s ‘red lines,’ not worth crossing due to fears of escalation, has been left unanswered.
Vladimir Putin, Russian President
“If Russia has lost the war, the US president should take his ATACMS and instead visit Russia for pancakes. Providing ATACMS will only prolong Ukraine’s misery.”
Debunked:The Russian army will be forced to relocate ammunition depots and command posts tens of kilometers back and redeploy tactical aircraft as a result of ATACMS systems. As a result, American missiles will indeed prolong the suffering of the Russian occupiers, rather than the Ukrainian army.
Andrey Gurulyov, Member of the State Duma
“Today, the Ukrainians are fighting with American weapons rather than Soviet weapons – the ATACMS was provided by the Americans. Does it make a difference – no? Will it make a difference? No. […]We will learn, and even if we cannot, we will adjust to it. Our air defense personnel learn quickly and know how to get the job done.[…]This is a ballistic missile, not a cruise missile, and so follows a ballistic trajectory. I believe we will be able to work it out, and the speeds are fine for us to shoot it down.”
Debunked:The successful defeat of Russian aircraft at the airports of Berdyansk and Luhansk on October 17 disproves the Russian Armed Forces’ ability to easily shoot down ATACMS. Furthermore, the recent high rate of fire on Russian air defense positions in Ukraine has significantly reduced Russia’s ability to cover the most critical logistics and military facilities.
Vladislav Shurygin, ‘military analyst’
“We keep making the same error. For the past year and a half, we’ve been at war. Where are the airfield defenses? Where are the standard gabions that protect aircraft from shock waves and shrapnel? Where have all the anti-drone systems gone? If we recalculate the cost of all our planes and helicopters destroyed on the ground by drones, saboteurs, and missile strikes, we’d have enough money for constructing concrete arch shelters on all airfields used for the SMO. But no! We prefer flat tires and the belief that “Khokhol [derogatory term for Ukrainian] is dumb and can’t do it!””
“The first strike was completely under American control, with the Americans carefully selecting the target and calculating all the nuances[…]. An effective ATACMS “presentation” was required, allowing the Sullivan-led Ukraine Situation Room to report on the new missiles’ high effectiveness.”
Debunked:A common Russian information warfare tactic is to attribute all of Ukraine’s military victories and achievements to the US, a formidable adversary. In fact, Russian experts remain silent about the fact that Washington provides Ukraine with only a small portion of the US Army’s total capabilities. The Russian-Ukrainian war has clearly demonstrated that, in terms of conventional weapons, Moscow lags far behind the West in terms of military and technological evolution. It is too late for the Russians to ask rhetorical questions like, “Where are the modern air defense, anti-drone systems, and airfield protection?” All of these tools have always existed only in the Russian military-industrial complex’s propaganda, but some people require a large-scale war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to wake up.
Igor Korotchenko, Russian ‘journalist’
“There are no universal solutions [to defend against ATACMS]. On the one hand, the deliveries [of these missiles] must be disrupted by destroying relevant infrastructure on Ukrainian territory, such as airfields, bridges, and decision-making centers in Kyiv and elsewhere.
Debunked:Russia failed to destroy the military infrastructure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the 20 months of its full-scale invasion, so the latest threats are reminiscent of the historical idiom about China’s Last Warning.
Sergey Markov, Russian ‘political scientist’
“The enemy is cunning and sneaky. They secretly transferred ATACMS missiles, which surprised all of us. Nobody ever warned us. The Ukrainian Armed Forces then unexpectedly attacked our helicopters. Nobody saw it coming.”
Debunked: Ukraine’s Armed Forces and partners achieved the effect of complete surprise during the ATACMS attack on October 17. Another failure of Russian military intelligence.
Rostislav Vladimirovich Ishchenko ‘Russian political scientist ‘
“The first time, almost a year ago, they said that ATACMS missiles were used during the shelling of Crimea. Then they found out that they were not used. The United States then refused to supply them, although they said that Biden would still think about it and would probably give consent, but so far there was no agreement. If they do have ATACMS and this first shelling was true [use of ATACMS], then soon there will be a second and a third. That’s how we will really know.”
“They are no more dangerous than the existing missiles [In Ukraine’s arsenal]. The range of France scalp and Britain storm shadow is the same as these missiles given [ATACMS]. So far, it has only increased Ukraine’s arsenal and made it more difficult to destroy them if they are launched, but it has made no difference. We have long stated that the West does not believe Ukraine can win.”
Debunked:The range of ATACMS missiles may be expanded in future Ukrainian arms packages. The maximum range could potentially be increased to 300 km, which is twice the radius of the Ukrainian Air Force’s current cruise missiles. As a result, the transfer of ATACMS demonstrates the West’s willingness to continue long-term support for Ukraine, and the initial deliveries are only a prelude to the Russians’ burning rear.
Sergei Mikyheyev, ‘‘Russian political Scientist’
“The leadership of Ukraine seems to believe that they are safe in doing so, and have no reason not to deliver these [ATACMS] missiles. There have been no practical ramifications so far, which leads the US and Europeans to continue providing more. This is why I think our logic is kinda stupid. It sends a message to the Americans that there will be no repercussions. It will start with just 2 or 3 missiles, but over time, this could escalate to 30, 40, and eventually even 300 or 400.”
Debunked: For so long and so hard, Russian propagandists have been convincing their audience of the Russian army’s invincibility that they appear to have believed in their own myth. But they now have no choice; they must explain why Russia has nothing to respond to the supply of American missiles, which are now three decades old.