5 December 2022,
„Last night around 10 pm Bulgarian time the American TV channel Fox News aired an interview recorded at the beginning of this year with US general Jack Keane, commander-in-chief of the US air force, who said the following:
“We made Ukraine go to war with Russia for just 66 billion dollars and I think that is a huge success for our foreign policy”.
In his view “the investment” in Ukraine is extremely beneficial because in return for a relatively small amount for our interests the war against Russia is being fought on Ukraine’s territory, using their own military power and means, he added further.
Later on in the interview he mentioned Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, emphasising that it was planned for those countries to also join the war if Ukraine failed to hold its current positions.”
The quote above is from a Facebook post by Vazrazhdane MP Tsoncho Ganev. In it he also adds that the interview with Jack Keane was removed from the Fox News website soon after it was aired. Ganev’s post has so far provoked over 1000 reactions, nearly 250 comments and has been shared more than 1200 times by individual Facebook users and groups.
Factchek.bg reviewed Ganev’s claims and found out the following:
The MP’s post contains claims that are not true. General Jack Keane is not an acting military commander, the interview with him was not recorded at the beginning of 2022 and it was not removed from the Fox News platform after airing. On the programme the American military expert does not say that the US made Ukraine go to war with Russia, nor that there was a plan for Bulgaria to be dragged into the war. Fragments from the original conversation with Jack Keane have been circulating on Russian media and blogs with an altered content and manipulative titles. Those doctored versions have also been making their way into the Bulgarian media landscape.
The claims in Tsoncho Ganev’s Facebook post are based on an actual interview by business journalist Neil Cavuto on his daily programme on the FOX Business TV channel, which is past of the FOX News network. The talk with Jack Keane was a segment of the show that aired on 4 October under the title “Gen. Jack Keane: US’ $66 billion investment in Ukraine is well worth it.” The entire video is still available on the TV network’s website.
What was the context of Jack Keane’s words
Jack Keane is a retired US general, former deputy chief-of-staff of the US army and currently the president of the think tank Institute for the Study of War. In his capacity as analyst he is frequently invited by various media to comment on questions in the field of security and defence.
The topic of his conversation with Neil Cavuto’s on the 4 October programme was the US aid to Ukraine amounting to a total of $66 billion at the time, and to what extent that could be considered a justified expense. The full talk between the two goes on for 4 and a half minutes, part of which is taken up by the journalist’s questions and comments. Cavuto asks the expert for his view on statements on behalf of Florida congressmen saying the US should focus on fixing damages caused by hurricane Ian, rather than give away so much money to a foreign country. In response, the general defends his point that the aid to Ukraine is an investment into the national security of the United States. Here is what he says:
General Jack Keane: “Well, certainly the support among the American people to continue to help Ukraine is about 66% so it’s pretty solid. But there are people in the Congress and some of them are Republicans who have always expressed some concern about spending in terms of spending money on Ukraine. But you know we’ve got a 6 trillion dollar budget. It’s actually larger than that by a few hundred billion. And we’ve invested – and I mean invested – 66 billion dollars in Ukraine this year. That’s like 1.1%. And what are we getting for that investment?”
„We have Putin, who we were dismissing for years, and not taking seriously despite Georgia in 2008, despite Syria, despite Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014. Because he is a declining power, his economy is in the tank, he’s a one-commodity economy and we had a tendency to frankly not take him serious. Yet all the time he’s been talking about – Ukraine is a part of Russia and I’m gonna make it a part of Russia. President Si says the same thing about Taiwan by the way.”
“[What Putin says] also – and this is the important part – is that he’s designed to bring back under the umbrella of Russia the former Soviet republics that are now in NATO and that is largely the Baltics and particularly Poland and in lesser degree Romania. And we dismissed all of that. But I believe Putin has never given up on that.”
“So for 66 billion dollars what we’re getting is that Ukraine’s doing the fighting, they are literally destroying the Russian army on the battlefield, which would set them back for years and deny them the ability to ever accomplish under Putin any of his ambitions in terms of taking back some of the Soviet republics. And by the way if that happened, that would mean war with NATO and Russia. And the scale of that would be much greater than what it is right now and the risks certainly of nuclear war would be much greater. Something we have avoided all through the Cold War – a conventional war with two superpowers holding strategic nuclear weapons. So for this investment I think it’s well worth it.“
The host then goes on to comment that if the United States were to take away or reduce their support now, when Ukraine is making progress on the battlefield, this could be the end for the country. General Keane says the following in reply:
Jack Keane: “And where does Putin stop after he achieves a victory in Ukraine is my point. We are not doing the fighting and that’s critical to what’s happening here. Yes, are we funding it? But it’s an investment as far as I’m concerned. An investment in the security of our future.“
Jack Keane’s words do not include any claim that the United States made Ukraine go to war with Russia. He does not say that there are plans to involve Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in the war, as Tsoncho Ganev says in his Facebook post. In fact, the US general does not mention Bulgaria at all in his comments.
In his Facebook post the Vazrazhdane MP says also that the interview with Jack Keane was recorded at the beginning of the year. The claim advances the conspiracy theory that the amount of $66 billion was part of a plan on behalf of the United States’ from before the beginning of the war. That could not be true because the number represents the approximate sum of the entire US financial aid to Ukraine throughout 2022 and its full amount was reached only at the end of September. It includes military, as well as economic and humanitarian aid, while part of the money also goes towards domestic US expenses related to the Ukraine war. The funds were approved by the US Congress in three separate packages – in March, May and September – and it would not have been possible for Jack Keane to comment on the total amount at the beginning of the year. In addition to that, in November the White House asked Congress for a further $37.7 billion, which is yet to be approved.
A Russian interpretation of the American expert’s comments
Factcheck.bg found out that fragments from Jack Keane’s comments of the Neil Cavuto show have been featured on a number of Russian media and blogs. His words have been taken out of their context related to the justification of US aid to Ukraine, and the titles feature claims such as “We made Ukrainians go to war with Russia for 66 billion”, which are similar to the content of Tsoncho Ganev’s post.
Russia’s state TV channel Rossia-1 aired a 30-second clip from the FOX Business interview with a voiceover in Russian, making it impossible to hear the general’s actual words. As some users point out in the comments under that same clip on YouTube, uploaded on 9 October, the translation of Jack Keane’s words is rather frivolous and parts of it are completely fabricated. Over footage from the original FOX interview the following statements in Russian can be heard: “Washington managed to achieve the most important thing – to create at the border of Russia a serious adversary, who will now have to hinder Russia’s leadership from carrying out a policy of influence over Eastern Europe and especially the countries of the former Soviet Union. Therefore this investment in Ukrainians fighting in the war for the interests of the Unites States is actually more than worthwhile.” These words are not part of Keane’s comments on the original programme but a number of Russian media represent them as an actual quote from the interview.
At the beginning of October part of the talk with the military analyst was aired on Olga Skabeeva’s show “60 Minutes”. There the context was also removed by cutting out the introduction and questions by the host. The video aired on “60 Minutes” can also be found on YouTube with the logo of the Russian propaganda programme visible in the lower right corner of the screen.
After they gained popularity on Russian media, Keane’s FOX Business comments started making their way into the Bulgarian public space in their Russian interpretation, quoting statements that had never been made by the military analyst.
Tsoncho Ganev’s Facebook post contains claims that are false and others that are based on quotes taken out of their original context.
An interview with general Jack Keane with a content matching the MP’s description was aired on FOX Business on 4 October. In that interview the military expert presents arguments in favour of the $66 billion US financial aide to Ukraine but he does not say the the United States “made” the country go to war with Russia for that amount.
The general talks about the security of the NATO member states in Eastern Europe and he specifically mentions Poland and Romania, but not Bulgaria. He does not say that there is “a plan” for any of those countries to be involved in the war.
Parts of the video have appeared on Russian media and blogs with an altered content and manipulative titles. Those versions have then made their way into the Bulgarian media landscape.
The original interview with Jack Keane on Neil Cavuto’s programme has not been removed from the FOX Business website.