The Russian Military Asked Me to Publish Its Propaganda

On Friday, March 20th, I spoke at the University of the District of Columbia Law School in Washington, D.C., as part of a series of teach-ins about peace organized by SpringRising.org. While there, a young man in a suit with a Russian accent approached me. He gave me his card, which says at the top “Embassy of the Russian Federation.” It identifies him as a Major and as The Air Attaché Assistant. His name: Alexsei G. Padalko. The card includes the address of the Russian Embassy in Washington, two phone numbers, a fax number, and a gmail email address. His name appears on lists of diplomats on the websites of the Russian Embassy and the U.S. State Department.

Alexsei bought one of my books, which I signed, but he said he had another he hadn’t brought with him and wanted signed, and he wanted to discuss working together for peace. I said I’d meet him the next day at a coffee shop. When we met, he began talking about having information about Ukraine. He wanted to slip me articles already written and pay me to publish them under my name. He claimed a personal interest in peace and a desire to keep this secret from his employers. It was fine to email him, he said, but he’d have to give me the articles in person. I told him that I would not post articles as by me if not by me, and I would not post them with a pseudonym for someone working for the Russian (or American or any other) military, but if he wanted to give me information to report on under my name in articles I researched with multiple sources, I would keep the confidentiality of any source entirely. I, of course, had told him I wouldn’t take any money for anything. And he didn’t explain where the money would have come from. He said the information was not secret. He had no interest in using secret email. Nothing was less than above board, he said. But then why the secrecy? And who would be writing the articles? (This man’s English was not up to the job.) I told him what I considered proper journalistic behavior and he expressed surprise and concern that I would bring up journalism since I was a blogger. Apparently a blogger is someone you can feed propaganda to, while a journalist is someone who’s out to get you. I tried to tell him I was actually interested in communicating the facts about Ukraine to the U.S. public and that I thought that doing so would benefit both Russia and peace. We parted with the understanding that I would email him a time to meet in Washington, and that he would give me information that I could use as a reporter.

I gave it some thought. I could not believe that he was acting against the wishes of his employers. Where was the money to have come from? Who was writing the articles? Why so openly give me his card and meet with me? And what would he want known in the interests of peace that his employers wouldn’t? No, he was doing his job. I decided that I would avoid any of the secrecy, and if he wanted to tell me anything that I could report he could do that openly. I would, of course, seek to confirm it with other sources, give the State Department its chance to comment, and report it.

Later that same day I emailed him this:

“Alexsei,

“I’d like to write an article on Ukraine that includes Russian points of view, regarding any of the following: the history of NATO expansion, the coup, Malaysian Flight 17, Crimea, recent conflict, U.S. and NATO allegations, possible peaceful resolution.

“If you or anyone you know can provide any perspective on the matter, please just email or call.”

He replied:

“No problem, deal”

Late that night, I wrote:

“Also, would Ambassador Kislyak like to explain Russia’s view of Ukraine on a radio show that airs on lots of stations? See http://TalkNationRadio.org I’m the host, and the shows are pre-recorded by telephone at the guest’s convenience. An interview can be anywhere from 1 to 28 minutes. I recommend 28 minutes. I would simply ask him for his view of the situation in Ukraine and let him talk. You can just let me know a day and a time and a phone number.”

Alexsei has not yet replied to that offer.

Now, I’d like to call the Russian Embassy’s main number and ask to be connected to Alexsei and make sure it’s the same person. But a friend warns me that doing so produces “meta-data” to be used in framing people with crimes. And I don’t seriously doubt the man’s identity.

I write this in order to protect myself from any misunderstanding or frame-up, and in order to offer my unsolicited advice to the Russian government: My friends, independent media and small media outlets that are interested in the truth and in considering your points of view are in that position because of their honesty. When you approach them with secrecy and money you ruin the opportunity to have information shared in a credible and effective way. I and countless other bloggers and freelancers who could never bring ourselves to write the Pentagon propaganda that passes for journalism in major U.S. newspapers are not on your team. We’re on the side of truth and the side of peace.

Many of us are well aware of the lie that NATO and the U.S. told Russia upon the reunification of Germany to the effect that NATO would not expand eastward. We’re outraged by the expansion to your borders. We condemn the U.S.-backed violent coup in Kiev. We denounce the Nazi and foreign-imposed government of Ukraine. We oppose the U.S. arms shipments, the U.S. “National Guard” now guarding the wrong nation, the war games, the baseless characterizations of Russia’s behavior, the lies about your aggression.

But you can’t fix lies about your aggression by behaving aggressively. If the truth is on your side, don’t imagine that it can’t be reported and understood at least by some.

I’m aware that most of the military commentators in U.S. media outlets are in the pay of the U.S. military or its private contractors or their think tanks. I’m aware that matters of life and death cause rash decisions. But I encourage you to openly publish your views and to send them to me and anyone else open to them. I encourage you to place guests on my and other radio shows. Don’t give those who have twisted reality beyond recognition an excuse to accuse you of the same.

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  • Dr Smileyface

    Mind-blowing, and you can’t verify if the man you met was the man named on the card…

    Congrats for bravely exposing this event.

    • elmysterio

      Why is that mind blowing? The western governments have been feeding stories to “journalists” for years and years to help indoctrinate the public towards the government’s desired point of view. Why then, is it shocking that Russia would want to counter some of that propaganda in the western media with their own?

  • Tabby

    Look at the picture
    https://www.facebook.com/alex.padalko
    was it this guy ?

  • Pluto

    So, what have we learned here?

    We know all about your journalistic integrity, and lack of journalistic instinct. We have learned the name of your contact, which assures us that he will never contact you again. We have learned a new technique for cya behavior in a police state.

    You could have told the same story, above, with inserts of information that he was passing you. You could have informed your audience about the issue itself, while clarifying it was a view presented to you. It was a rare moment of political anthropology. You could have let your audience weigh the information and decide for themselves its value. (You did not have to accept the money or expose his name in doing so.)

    You could have written one of the more unique and effective stories to date on the issue along with the meta of information-delivery during one of the most intense periods of “atrocity propaganda” that Americans have experienced since the beginning of WWII. (See Sefton Delmer.) Your voice means something, if you choose to use it.

    Such is the nature of missed opportunities. On the other hand, I do enjoy and appreciate your blog.

    • USA_objector

      No, David had to put it all out there in case it turns into a frame-up. The pay for play is exceptionally suspicious.

  • clarioncaller

    What is in the BEST interests of our sovereign nation should be tantamount. If the State is acting in a way that undermines our security, we must change direction and personnel. This author has it right; do everything in the open. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • Most residents in Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) trust the current authorities and do not want to be part of Ukraine anymore, says a survey carried out by a group of sociologists from Donetsk National University.The opinion poll published by Donetsk news agency on Saturday says nearly 55.7% trust the authorities (42.1 out of them are convinced the power “does its utmost” and 13.6% are satisfied with its work) while 33.3% believe “it is still early to judge [the authorities’] work.”When asked what DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko should do for resolving military conflict, the overwhelming majority of the respondents – nearly 70% – replied that “he should seek reconciliation but be tough in sticking up for the DPR demands.” A relatively small percentage of respondents (13.6 and 11.9% respectively) have expressed more extreme opinions – either “to seek reconciliation and compromise” or “to act from the position of strength and to solve the conflict in a military way.” At the same time, only 19% of the polled see the future for Donbass within Ukraine but as a separate subject in the federation with a high level of political and economic independence while themajority (74.6%). cannot imagine their future as part of Ukraine. About 94.1 residents of Donetsk People’s Republic agreed fully or partially that combat activities in Donbass are Ukraine’s military aggression against its own citizens. At least 3,217 residents of the DPR cities and towns of Donetsk, Makeyevka, Gorlovka, Snezhnoye and Khartsyzsk have been polled.

    • mulegino1 .

      I’m surprised that Zhakharchenko’s popularity is not in the 90 percent range, considering what he and his colleagues- with Russia’s support no doubt- have achieved.

      Comparing people of this caliber to American politicians is like comparing Alexander Nevsky or Peter the Great to Peewee Herman or Spongebob.

  • Sasha

    I am afraid you fell victim of an elaborate hoax. It appears that what happened is that a US intelligence operative (most likely CIA) working on anti-Russian psyop tried to create a news story about Russian spies bribing journalists in the US, as part of the recently declared war against “Russian propaganda.”

    Does the person listed among the staff of the Russian Embassy match in appearance the person who approached you? Note that an embassy worker listed on the website is unlikely to try to break laws of the host country in such a brazen way, under his or her real name. That this person does not have the official embassy e-mail address is another dead giveaway.

    When intelligence operatives approach possible media assets, they never give them a real name and full contact info. What they do, is give you the wrong country of origin (for example, Belgium not Russia) and he would pose as a businessman, a private person (not as Russian military). Furthermore, before they give you such an assignment, they ask you to sign a secrecy agreement and they meet and talk with you not once but many times over the course of weeks and months, to see if you are trustworthy.

    The behavior of this “embassy employee” is screaming for you to expose him: the heavy accent and bad English, the name listed on the embassy website, no precautions and no attempt to ensure secrecy of your “arrangement,” flagrantly illegal assignment on first date, etc.

  • paul

    I don’t doubt that Russia might do this. I don’t think that should shock anyone. We know that journalism has apparently degenerated in the US to the point where planted corporate and government stories are basically a way of life. But I really question the face aspect of this story. It sounds like someone wanted to embarrass the Russian government.