Russia is not the right-wing utopia that it is sometimes portrayed as. Neither is the United States the global capitol of degeneracy and evil.
However, the stories that people tell each other about different nations, and what they believe, matters a great deal. Stories are always simplifications, but they are the simplifications that people use to form their thoughts, shape their decisions, and frame their emotions.
Here’s the first one, from Novorussian propagandists:
In the video, President Poroshenko appeals to the audience by basically saying that his Ukrainians will get pensions and kindergarten, but the people that his country is constantly trying to get to sign ceasefires are going to get nothing.
A recent ad from the American army instead focuses on the individual, and the status that comes from service:
From 2011, a similar theme with a lite Hans Zimmer-style backing music:
These campaigns have often been criticized for focusing on you-you-you — they make a personal appeal that time in the service will benefit the soldier’s career. This is the opposite of what contemporary corporate motivation copy emphasizes — what leading corporations have found is that service to abstract goodness tends to attract higher quality candidates (at least according to the most fashionable management theories) than those motivated by personal gain.
So while Google tells recruits that they will change the world if they come to work for them, or organize the world’s information, the Army sells people on a mediocre benefits package with heavy obligations, a benefits package much worse than the one that Google or any other corporate employer above the mid-level offers.
When there is reference to a mission in American military propaganda, it’s usually towards some abstract sense of goodness that does not map with the American national interest. A combination of seven ad agencies at Interpublic have the Army contract, and the underlying concept of ‘Army Strong’ has remained consistent since around 2006.
By comparison, Novorussian propagandists are mostly volunteers, with inferior technical skills, but a more compelling message. There are certainly many American professionals working to support the Poroshenko government, but they must be having a lot of difficulty with coming up with a compelling pitch, because the government finds itself in an insupportable position.
They have a large budget, but the fundamental product is a piece of shit.
This is not really an accurate comparison, but intended to be a vague one: US communications firms helped with the overthrow of Ukraine, just as they did in Egypt and Libya, along with US technology companies lending their platforms and technical expertise in consultation.
They can bring greater flash, create facile taglines, and get people to tweet support for something, but they can’t bring forth the kind of motivation that results from an enemy invading your territory and shelling your town, nor can they call forth an authentic sense of justice, or a a sense of outrage that can lead people to volunteer for a dangerous war.
The other big difficulty that consulting Americans must have is that it’s generally a terrible idea to bring in foreigners to try to move a culture that is entirely foreign to them. The Novorussians know how to speak to their own people. The Americans don’t even know how to speak to the Ukrainians who are in their own camp, and most probably have no language skills and must go through interpreters.
Americans barely even know how to speak to other Americans anymore without sending one faction or the other into rage spasms.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t even know enough about anything to realize how badly US foreign policy is collapsing by any metric right now. What the general thinking public enjoys is participating in these hashtag campaigns, like the ones decrying Boko Haram or praising the Maidan protesters, without actually considering that there are real people whose lives are being affected by the reckless destabilization campaigns.
The problem is similar with the inability of the pro-war American factions to raise the kind of support that they were once able to: they have burned their credibility on a series of counter-productive interventions which has made it impossible for the state to use conscription to meet its political goals. It is also becoming impossible for it to put its volunteer military into real danger, also, because of a lack of public support for the danger.
Knowing this lack of resolve, the rivals the US has can chip away at its territory and influence with something close to impunity, alternatively convincing credulous think tankers that they are ‘moderate rebels’ of one kind or another to receive foreign aid and weapons besides in return for pretending to fight.