From $10 toothpaste to $125 oil as propaganda war spreads

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Even Putin was no match to Zelensky in propaganda war on the social media.

Colgate-Palmolive CEO Noel Wallace has warned American consumers to get ready to pay 10 bucks for a tube of toothpaste. Consumer goods companies like Colgate started increasing prices last year as a result of rising war material costs and labour shortages due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the Russia-Ukraine war will certainly escalate the rising costs of consumer products.

Adding fuel to the fire is the oil prices, which hit the highest level since June 2014 when the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures jumped a whopping 11.5% to US$106.78 per barrel on Tuesday. The Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, also hit an 8-year-high when it skyrocketed to US$107.57, a price last seen in July 2014 – when Barack Obama was the US president.

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Is it a coincidence that whenever a Democrat sits in the Oval Office, the oil prices hit the roof? The crude oil first breached the US$100-mark last Thursday when Russia invaded Ukraine, creating fears of supply disruptions from Russia, a major exporter. Tuesday’s decision by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves will only make the situation worse.

The US agreed to release about 30 million barrels. But the 60 million barrels would do little to calm the commodity market as the number is equivalent to just six days of Russian production or about 12 days of Moscow’s exports. It won’t fix the problem if the war prolongs, which appears to be the case now. Even before the invasion, the global oil market had been tight.

Morgan Stanley predicts that the oil could easily go as high as US$125 per barrel. Less than a week since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, Americans are already feeling the immediate impacts of higher oil prices – averaging US$3.619 a gallon of gas on Tuesday. If Putin’s evil plan was to drag the war to inflict more damages, he has done an excellent job.

From the moment the war began, the propaganda war machine has shifted to top gear as all the Western news media attack Putin and Russia. While Putin was compared to Adolf Hitler, Zelensky was praised as the greatest hero. The Ukrainian government has accused the Russian of targeting civilians, but the Russian said the Ukrainian was using civilians as human shields – a normal tactic used by terrorists.

The terms that the US had used during its previous invasions in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan – “military operation, surgical strikes, peacekeeping” – have now become “unprovoked invasion, brutal war, war crimes” just because Russia has invaded Ukraine. But the conflict has bred more than just propaganda war. News media have also deliberately spread fake news.

Just three days into the war, the West and Ukraine celebrated their victory with claims that more than 3,500 Russian soldiers have been killed while hundreds have been captured, surrendered, or even fled the war. Russia was also said to have lost 14 airplanes, eight helicopters, 102 tanks, and 536 armed vehicles. Ukraine, meanwhile, has lost almost zero soldiers, except 40 civilians, including children.

Five days into Russia’s invasion, the news media trumpeted Ukrainian claims that 5,300 Putin’s troops have been killed. Under the leadership of Rambo Zelensky, the invincible Ukrainian military has taken out 29 aircraft, 191 tanks, 816 armed vehicles, 291 other vehicles, 74 guns, 21 rocket systems and whatnot. Again, Ukrainian troops did not suffer any casualties.

The most hilarious propaganda was perhaps a 22-second video circulating on Facebook showing a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter pilot shooting down a Russian Su-27 fighter jet. The Ukrainian hero has even earned the title “Ghost of Kyiv” for single-handedly terminating six Russian warplanes in a single day. As it turned out, it was created in the video game Digital Combat Simulator – a free online game.

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Since the defeat of Donald Trump, business has been bad for the American news media until the Ukraine invasion. Unverified video clips shared on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites were slapped with a CNN logo, among others, and passed as news to attract millions of eyeballs. Even Zelensky has been using social media to create fake news.

On the very day (Thursday) Putin launched his “special military operation”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told all and sundry that all 13 Ukrainians were brutally killed in an attack on Snake Island. As part of the propaganda to boost the morale of his troops, Zelensky said all those who were killed defending the island would be awarded the title of “Hero of Ukraine”.

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Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, was occupied by Ukrainian soldiers before the invasion. However, as it turned out, all the troops are still alive and kicking. They are being held prisoners after surrendering – voluntarily – to Russia. So, they did not defend the island till their last breath as claimed, let alone were killed by Russian air and sea strikes as widely reported by the West.

Exactly how did Ukraine manage to count Russian dead bodies at a time of war is quite a mystery. As Western news media continue to celebrate how so-called Ukrainian artillery and drones wiped out columns of Russian tanks, as if the Russian war machines and troops were amateurs, amusing stories have begun over a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy outside Kyiv.

The US defence, apparently mocking Putin, said the Russian troops are not only struggling with logistical challenges and are stalled as they head toward Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, but also struggling with shortages of food and fuel. Despite Russian’s so-called low morale and incompetence, interestingly, the West and Zelensky are warning that Kyiv is under siege.

To make it more dramatic, the Russian Air Force, initially predicted to dominate the Ukrainian air space, has been almost non-existent. If indeed the Russian fighter jets and drones have all been eliminated, it means the Ukrainian air force is extremely powerful. Hence, the burning question – why haven’t they bombed the 40-mile-long “sitting duck” Russian military convoy?

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The contradiction did not end there. A US official told news media that Russia could seize Kyiv and Ukraine in four to six weeks. In fact, the US, UK, and Western powers now believe the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to last at least 10 years. But if Putin’s minions and war machines were indeed inferior as reported, why can’t the Ukrainian, and even American troops, move in to finish off the Russians in a month?

Could the Russian military convoy slow down within 15 miles of Kyiv because Putin is dragging his feet on purpose? It could be a tactic to extract concessions from Zelensky over the negotiation table. It could also be a strategy to prolong the damages to the financial markets as well as to boost the price of crude oil and agricultural products. At the same time, Putin wanted to create a refugee crisis for NATO.

Remember, the US and Europe sanctions have excluded Russian oil. To a banker, the economic sanction that saw the exclusion of Russian banks from the SWIFT is largely symbolic. That’s because SWIFT is just an international payment “messaging” system. Essentially, Russian banks could still arrange payments because SWIFT plays no role in payment execution.

It’s also not a coincidence that Biden was provoking the war at a time when his approval rating dropped to a record low 37%, and Putin was looking for a war to boost his image before the upcoming 2024 presidential election. Actually, before the war began, there were speculations that both Biden and Putin had agreed – quietly – to split and divide Ukraine through a war.

Zelensky, formerly a comedian, knew better than anyone the power and influence of social media due to his background in the entertainment industry, the same way Trump had used Twitter to build his Captain America image. Even the Russian supremo Putin was no match to Zelensky in propaganda war on the social media. Media like CNN and BBC gladly help Ukraine spread fake news.

It screams double-standard and hypocrisy that the Western powers suddenly do not recognize freedom of expression and speech. Not only the European Union has shutdown Kremlin-backed media outlets like RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik, they are also looking to turn off the websites and social media accounts. Both media have been accused as propaganda tools to disseminate pro-Russian rhetoric. – Finance Twitter