By Thomas Theiner
The German weekly Der Spiegel has always been notorious for its biased reports, but a recent article in its print edition reaches new heights of propaganda and defamation.
Currently, Der Spiegel is toeing the Kremlin line and publishing one report after another, besmirching Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the Ukrainian government, while whitewashing Putin’s actions and ideology. Their recent article, “Halbautomatische Gewehre: Ukraine wickelt Waffengeschäfte über Deutschland ab” (Semi-automatic rifles: Ukraine concludes weapon deals through Germany) is a blatant example of their malicious attitude towards the truth.
Based on flimsy information, the article reports that the Ukrainian state company Ukroboronprom exports semi-automatic rifles to Germany, but already in the first paragraph Der Spiegel sets the tone by asking, “Are the guns employed in the Syrian war?” and proceeds to link Ukraine with a German jihadi and his selfie with a severed head in Syria.
The only established fact in the entire article is that, “Ukroboronprom exports semi-automatic SKS Simonov rifles to Germany”. Remember this is THE fact. From there, the fantasyland of Der Spiegel begins. Instead of mentioning that the SKS is an obsolete Soviet rifle introduced in 1945, which no army in the world employs anymore, or reporting the number of rifles in question, Der Spiegel continues by stating that, “The Foreign Office conceals where the guns end up in Germany. The guns, it says elusively, are delivered to Germany ‘for the purpose of modification.’” Note the implication that the Foreign Office ‘conceals’ information and the insertion of the negative assertion that the Foreign Office answers ‘elusively’.
So far this is typical of Der Spiegel’s tendentious ‘reporting’, but next we enter into pure fantasy as it states that “The American Think-Tank Jamestown Foundation (http://www.jamestown.org/aboutus/), which traditionally is rumored to have close relations with US intelligence services, believes that the weapons are delivered from Germany to Syrian rebels. Jamestown assumes 54,000 small arms alone for the years 2011 and 2012. These could have been used for ‘covert operations’ in Syria”.
The Jamestown Foundation never made the link between SKS rifles and Syria, only Der Spiegel made this connection. Tellingly, Der Spiegel linked to the “About us” page on the Jamestown website, as linking to the real report would have shown that Germany – yes that is the country of Germany! – was the buyer of 53,800 rifles in 2011, but the report does not say what type of rifles were purchased. Was it SKS rifles? Neither the Jamestown Foundation report nor its source, a 2012 report by the Gorshenin Institute, make any connection between SKS rifles, the purchase of 54,000 rifles by Germany, and Syria (http://gorshenin.eu/media/uploads/013/23/01695039abbc.pdf).
To sum up the first half of the article, Jamestown does not say the 54,000 rifles are SKS rifles, it does not say these rifles are destined for Syria, however, it does say that Germany was the buyer of these rifles and Der Spiegel – surely by accident – fails to mention this relevant fact and also that Germany adamantly refuses to deliver weapons to the Syrian rebels, has never done so, and does not grant licenses to do so. Now halfway through the article, do you think it can get even more ludicrous? This is Der Spiegel, so it surely can and does!
The next paragraph cites the response by the Foreign Office that it is unaware of any rifles being brought to Syria via Germany and that neither the military intelligence service, the external intelligence service, nor the German military are involved in acquiring the SKS rifles. But, that does not stop Der Spiegel from going to a Stalinist Member of Parliament, who besides being enthralled by Putin also staunchly supports Assad, and asking for her opinion:
“Die Linke Foreign expert Sevim Dagdelen finds the lack of knowledge of the government worrying: ‘It is scandalous, that the government can not disclose anything about the destination of these weapons.’ Even more severe, Berlin ‘cannot remove the doubts that these weapons have been passed on to Islamist warriors for a regime change in Syria’”.
Der Spiegel then links the words “an islamistische Gotteskrieger” to another of its articles about a German fighter in Syria posing with a severed head.
Remember, the article began with the fact that an unknown number of militarily obsolete semi-automatic rifles were delivered to Germany for modifications – a transaction in which no German government entity is involved. Then, it proceeds to lump Germany’s purchase of 54,000 rifles of an unknown type in 2011 together with a baseless conspiracy that these rifles could end up in Syria, where rebels behead people, and all the while forgetting that Germany does not export weapons to conflict zones, does not arm the rebels and that the SKS is an obsolete rifle that has little value to the Syrian rebels, who get brand new automatic rifles without a semi-public detour through Germany.
Once again, Der Spiegel has proven that serious journalism is not one of the ideals it strives to one day achieve. It ignored the most basic of questions: “Why would one of the most advanced small arms producers in the world modify an obsolete rifle model in Germany with its rigid and restrictive export controls and its reluctance to arm the Syrian rebels, when it could deliver advanced assault rifles directly to Türkiye without any risk of exposition in the German press?” – and instead opted to link Ukraine to radical Islamists beheading people in Syria based on fiction and fantasy to advance its West-hating agenda. Needless to say, the SKS rifles were delivered under the Yanukovych regime, but Der Spiegel uses this story in yet another one of its many attempts to discredit the current interim government in Kyiv.
I could now say, “Shame on you, Spiegel”, but as there is no shame left at Der Spiegel, just hate for the West and its values, I just wish for them to experience Putin style press freedom for a day…
Edited by Andriy Shymonyak&Alya Shandra
Thomas Theiner is a writer and production manager. He has previously lived in Kyiv for 5 years and worked at a subsidiary of Ukraine’s biggest film company.