In the aftermath of the August 8 invasion by Russia, the media placed the PR crown on the head of Georgia. Its beleaguered President Mikheil Saakashvili (pictured) owned CNN, BBC, Sky News and Bloomberg as he bashed the big bad Russians for pouring into his tiny country, one of the last hold-outs of Team Bush’s Coalition of the Willing.
When cold reality bites, PR has its limits. Saakashvili, bolstered by close U.S. ties and eagerness to get Georgia into NATO, seriously overplayed his hand and is now paying a steep price. America’s favorite Russian, Mikhail Gorbachev, made that clear in an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. The ex-Soviet Union President said Russia was not looking to wage war, but reacted only after Georgia began shelling Tskhinvali, the capital of the disputed territory of South Ossetia. “Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian President Mikheil Saaksashvili.”
Russia scored another powerful placement (it works with Ketchum) today as its foreign minister Sergey Lavrov graced the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal with a piece titled, “America Must Choose Between Georgia and Russia.” Russia, he wrote, invaded after Georgia’s “ruthless military assault” put the lives of its peacekeepers in jeopardy.
Russia has regained PR footing, but more importantly—to its self-image—it has dismissed NATO criticism of the occupation of Georgia as “empty words.” Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a soul-mate of President Bush, is out to settle some scores with the west.