The news about the launching of a 24-hour news channel Russia Today TV is good news, no doubts about. Russia should have launched the project some 15 years ago, but better late than never as the saying goes. However, the authorities had better take into account a couple of things. The new channel's credibility level will be quite low if the project is mostly financed from the state coffers. Turning the channel into a popular competitive venture may be a long story. U.S. President George W. Bush, Mr. Putin's best friend, will leave the political scene in 2008. It is highly unlikely that the next president will share his optimistic views on Russian matters. Therefore, Moscow just can not wait until the channel begins to change Russia's deplorable image. The same objective can be achieved by using less expensive methods.
It is just amazing how helpless and inadequate the Kremlin can look while waging PR battles in the media. I get this feeling every time I analyze the Western media coverage of topics related to today's Russia. Russian political technologists or spin doctors became notorious for their nonpareil efficiency in the past election campaigns. They are thought to be capable of spinning any candidate. One can not help but wonder why they do not show their terrific skills on the Western front. The image of a present-day Russia painted by the Western media is only a step away from the late “Empire of Evil” or North Korea. Drawing parallels between Mr. Putin and Mussolini is not the limit. Mr. Putin was compared to Pol Pot following the verdict in the Khodorkovsky case. The Russian president is allegedly planning a bloodbath in Russia in an attempt to stay in command in 2008 (a hysterical article by Garry Kasparov published by Wall Street Journal on June 2nd this year is recommended for reference).
Painting a brighter picture to advantage of the Kremlin in the West is not the most difficult tasks in the world. The Western media normally reflect different viewpoints on a subject being discussed in the press, news broadcasts, and TV talk shows. But somebody has to make an effort, it takes a real professional to write an article, take part in a TV show or a press conference.
The opponents of the Kremlin do their jobs by hiring lobbyists and PR agencies. For example, APCO Worldwide is working hard to whitewash the image of Yokus oil company and its management for a multimillion fee. Millions of dollars were paid by Yukos to get the job done by using services of various Washington-based brain trusts and NGOs which on a regular basis conduct seminars, briefings, Congress hearings etc for the same purposes. We can see that the money works, it pays back. The question is: what is being done by those motivated by their professional duties or by their morals, those who should neutralize negative information and come off with flying colors in the information war? Why can not we see any sign of their activity in the Western press, radio and TV broadcasts and the like? Are they unfit for the job or they simply have no orders to follow? We are quite used to typical complaints heard from Moscow regarding biased attitude toward Russia in the Western media, double standards, holdovers smacking of the Cold War era. It is about time we stopped complaining. We should take action in order to change the situation.
Washington is at a loss over the Kremlin's lack of activity. President Bush still considers President Putin a friend, he is keen to develop U.S.-Russia cooperation in the field of security and economy. But the American media and the Washington lobbyists step up pressure on the White House, they demand that U.S. Administration criticize Russia in a stronger way, they demand that Russia be expelled from the G-8, they want to impose other tough sanctions against Russia. Looks like it is getting harder for President Bush to hold the line. The Kremlin should give him a hand right away.