July 25, 2022 - 9:22am

The Government of Ukraine has issued a blacklist of individuals who they judge to be “promoting Russian propaganda” — including a number of prominent Western intellectuals.

The “Center for Countering Disinformation,” established in 2021 under Volodymyr Zelensky and headed by former lawyer Polina Lysenko, sits within the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. Its stated aim is to detect and counter “propaganda” and “destructive disinformation” and to prevent the “manipulation of public opinion.”

On July 14th it published on its website a list of politicians, academics, activists that are “promoting Russian propaganda” — including several high-profile Western intellectuals and politicians. Republican Senator Rand Paul, former Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, military and geopolitical analyst Edward N. Luttwak, realist political scientist John Mearsheimer and heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald were all included on the list. The list does not explain what the consequences are for anyone mentioned.

The exact criteria for inclusion are also unclear, although next to each name the report lists the “pro Russian” opinions the individual promotes. For example, Edward Luttwak’s breach was to suggest that “referendums should be held in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions”; Mearsheimer’s breach is recorded as him saying that “NATO has been in Ukraine since 2014” and that “NATO provoked Putin.”

The relevant intellectuals were surprised and concerned to be included on a government blacklist in this way. UnHerd contacted Luttwak (an occasional contributor), Mearsheimer and Greenwald for comment.

Edward Luttwak strongly rejects being labelled a Putin acolyte. “From 24th February, day one of the war” he told UnHerd, he has “relentlessly argued that not just the US, UK, Norway and others should send weapons to Ukraine, but also the reluctant trio of France, Germany and Italy.

“I have personally lobbied defence ministers of NATO countries” to send more weapons as part of the war effort, “I am not exactly Putin’s most faithful agent,” he added.

“What happened is this. I said that there is a victory party and the victory party is not realistic… Their idea is if Russia can be squarely defeated then Putin will fall. But this is also the moment when nuclear escalation becomes a feasibility. It is a fantasy to believe Russia can be squarely defeated. In Kyiv they have interpreted this stance as meaning I am pro-Russia.”


American political scientist and expert in international relations John Mearsheimer also told UnHerd how disappointed he was to be labelled in this way:

“When I was a young boy, my mother taught me that when others can’t beat your arguments with facts and logic, they smear you. That is what is going on here.

“I argue that it is clear from the available evidence that Russia invaded Ukraine because the United States and its European allies were determined to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border, which Moscow saw as an existential threat. Ukrainians of all persuasions reject my argument and instead blame Vladimir Putin, who is said to have been bent on conquering Ukraine and making it part of a greater Russia.

“But there is no evidence in the public record to support that claim, which creates real problems for both Kyiv and the West. So how do they deal with me? The answer of course is to label me a Russian propagandist, which I am not.”


Heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald also rejected being called a Russian propagandist, telling UnHerd it was “standard McCarthyite idiocy”:

“War proponents in the West and other functionaries of Western security state agencies have used the same tactics for decades to demonize anyone questioning the foreign policy of the US and NATO. Chief among them, going back to the start of the Cold War, is accusing any dissidents of spreading “Russian propaganda” or otherwise serving the Kremlin. That’s all this is from the Ukrainians: just standard McCarthyite idiocy.

“The Ukrainians have the absolute right to pursue whatever war policies they want. But when they start demanding that my country and my government use its resources to fuel their war effort, then I, along with all other Americans, have the absolute right to question that policy or to point out its dangers and risks. I don’t care at all about Ukraine’s attempts to shut down debate in our country by smearing journalists and politicians who are questioning US/NATO policy as being Russian propagandists. That tactic is as inconsequential as it is cheap, tawdry, and discredited.”

The Ukrainian Government have been approached for comment.

is a reporter for UnHerd.