Is the State Department running out of ideas for strongly-worded statements condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine? On Wednesday, Foggy Bottom resorted to Russian literary references in its effort to dispel the Kremlin’s justifications for intervening in the Crimean peninsula.
"The world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, ‘The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions,’" reads a State Department fact sheet. The release goes on to dispel the Russian government’s claims that Kiev is trying to destabilize Crimea, endanger Russian-speaking citizens, and undermine Russian bases among other things.
The quote in question comes from Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novella Notes from the Underground, a story about an embittered civil servant in St. Petersburg. It’s not the type of thing you typically see in an official government release, but then again, U.S. press releases were beginning to get a little repetitive a week after Russian strongman Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops streaming into the Crimea region of Ukraine, allegedly on humanitarian grounds.
The new sheet, titled "President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine," does its best to dispute Putin’s suggestions that ethnic Russians are under threat in Ukraine, to take one example.
"Outside of Russian press and Russian state television, there are no credible reports of any ethnic Russians being under threat," reads the release. "There has been no surge in crime, no looting, and no retribution against political opponents."
If the release is an appeal to Putin, who may or may not be a huge Dostoyevsky fan, U.S. diplomats may still want to focus less on winning over Russia’s famously combative leader and more on winning over the European allies who have yet to back the Obama administration’s call for punitive sanctions against Moscow. Just sayin’.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |