Russian president Vladimir Putin, who uses Ketchum for PR, earned a powerful New York Times op-ed placement today, in which he warned that a U.S. strike against Syria would destabilize the Middle East and northern Africa.
As representative of the Russian Federation, Ketchum has worked the U.S. press (NYT, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Wired, Forbes and Time) during the six months ended May 31 on a range of matters including the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Sochi Olympic Games, infrastructure developments, agricultural policy and drug enforcement.
Russia paid Ketchum $1.9M for its services, according to federal records. That outlay included a $70K disbursement to the shop of Republican message firm Maslansky Luntz & Partners.
Putin's placement knocked the U.S. for military intervention in the internal affairs of foreign countries, which he called "commonplace."
He also took issue with President Obama’s Sept. 10 claim of American "exceptionalism."
Putin wrote that it’s “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.
A Ketchum staffer told O'Dwyer's "the opinion piece was written by President Putin and submitted to the New York Times on his behalf by Ketchum for their consideration."
Joe Honick (Sep. 16, 2013): I think it is time for a fine publication like this to list all the PR firms and their fees for representing and promoting foreign governments with whom we might engage politically, militarily and in major markets. While registrations are required, public knowledge is virtually non-existent. A free press would help to reveal such information so we could all understand who is playing on whose teams and for how much and whether they are taking tax deductions for expenses representing other countries.
Bill Huey (Sep. 12, 2013): So, when Edward Snowden tells us about the NSA's domestic spy program, it's treason.
But this sort of agitprop is just PR, right?
I always suspected that Frank Luntz was on the side of the Evil Empire. But I thought it was the Republicans!
Ronald N. Levy (Sep. 12, 2013): It's a beautiful piece of work with a quality level like that of great lawyers who argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hill and Knowlton used to have (and may still have) writers who can do that well as may other firms but perhaps no one in PR turns out better writing.
Flaherty and other PR firm leaders are entirely correct in not disclosing how much of the piece if any was done by the PR firm. My experience is that the Russian information people are exceptionally bright (in Washington Russia has a whole building the size of an embassy devoted entirely to information and staffed by the super-bright) and totally willing to listen but Russia's communications are in the end from them, not outsiders.
Two points in Putin's article seem clearly wrong.
1. He says "the law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not" so since the Security Council has not sanctioned
action, we should not act to prevent Syria's use of poison gas.
The flaw in this reasoning is that the law also condemns the use of poison gas, and condones a country's right of self-defense. Beyond question, President Putin woud not deny that a country has a right of self-defense.
Poison gas has been used in the subway systems of New York, London and I think Tokyo. A theater-full of people in Moscow was hit by gas the government had to use, and many innocent people died, as a result of an attempted theater takeover in Russia by criminals. We (and Russia as well) sure as hell have a right to oppose poison gas and criminal poison gassers. There's no law against self-defense and we don't have to wait until attacked to defend ourselves against the use by a despot of poison gas. That's the law: a right of self-defense.
2. Putin says "it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional," and he ends "God created us equal."
We Americans know and Putin knows that God created some of us exceptionally bright as both Putin and Obama are. We may be equal in God's love for us but not in health, wealth, natural resources and many other distiguishing criteria including political freedom.
It's well known Russia jailed Khodorkovsky and others for political
positions, and many countries do that but we are exceptional because we do not. We are also exceptional in strength and just as there's a moral imperative for people with money to use some of it for public benefit, there's a moral imperative for countries with power to use some of the power for public protection and self-protection.
Russians are also exceptional and their leaders are exceptionaly bright. So we can hope that Putin's view of moral imperatives and Obama's view will lead them to--well within the law that is still the law--get rid of Syria's poison gas without America having to do this alone.
Many families of Russians who were gassed to death would agree. Gassing to death shouldn't happen. We have a right to try preventing it.
Putin says our anti-poison-gas effort could destabilize the Middle East and North Africa but Syria having poison gas could destabilize it more--and send oil-rich countries to the world's great universities and corporations to hire scientists who can produce poison gas.
If Syria has freedom to use poison gas, can we doubt that a dozen other Middle East countries will also want poison gas? If Putin headed Saudi Arabia, and Syria was willing to use poison gas, would
Putin not want Saudi Arabia to also have poison gas?
Joe Honick (Sep. 12, 2013): How wonderful that Ketchum is on the take from people we have tremendous diplomatic problems with. How much of their PR advice zoomed into Kerry's off hand comments about Assad could handle his chemical problem that became a PR adventure to embarrass all of us? You should explore what the impact is of American PR firms latching on to people like Putin when situations like these are in motion. Seems they heard Kerry(whosaid the chemical disposal could not work)and then said, "Gee why didn't we think of that? Bet it could stop a strike!!!"
Anonymous (Sep. 12, 2013): Putin is not to be trusted. He's little more than a Russian mafia don.