PR campaign gears up to get Nobel Peace Prize for Putin

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
The press has forgotten or moved to the back page its usual litany of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s transgressions.

Last Friday, just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov were working out the final details of an agreement on the Syrian crisis, the Russian media went into high gear starting its drive for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

PravdaTV, a media outlet friendly to the Kremlin, produced and distributed a video clip opening with a scene of Putin tenderly caring for a Siberian tiger cub while the narrator says, “What does a peace prize mean, if not the prevention of war.” Scenes of Putin on location in the Middle East follow. A rhetorical question with a bit of an edge ends the video: “We must remember that in 2009 Barack Obama got the prize, in 1990, Gorbachev, so why not Putin?”

As the Kremlin-driven lobbying effort and petition drive to award Putin the prize heats up, my advice to the Nobel Committee is to remember a line from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”: “If gold rusts, what shall iron do?”  

However, we can both retain our reservations about Putin’s nomination for the Nobel Prize and also admit that Putin’s on a roll.    

The week before last, he upstaged President Obama at the St. Petersburg G20 summit. Last week, he stole a throw-away idea Kerry had half-heartedly tossed about in London and turned it into a diplomatic breakthrough that has averted what was potentially the most dangerous confrontation between the United States and Russia since the Cuban Missile Crisis 51 years ago.

Overlooking transgressions

The press has forgotten or moved to the back page its usual litany of Putin’s transgressions. We hear little or nothing about Pussy Riot; the NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s asylum in Russia; Putin’s political nemesis, the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny; or gossip about the Russian president’s recent divorce.

Over the past few days, the main accusations against Putin charged that he had stolen someone else’s idea for resolving the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons.  The White House claims Obama raised the idea of turning Syria’s chemical weapons over to the UN in the brief one-on-one conversation he and Putin had in St. Petersburg. Kerry claims bragging rights for the idea that he had offered and was dismissed. Over the weekend, Norway, Sweden and Poland complained that Putin had stolen the idea from them.

In Washington, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, did find common ground in objecting to Putin’s op-ed, “A Plea for Caution From Russia,” published last Thursday in The New York Times.

From the White House spokesman Jay Carney to U.S. Senator John McCain, the beltway indignation over Putin’s op-ed ignored how well his remarks were playing in the rest of the country and in world opinion.

Getting message across

Putin had help in getting his message across. The Kremlin retains a U.S. PR firm, Ketchum, for packaging the image of Putin abroad. In 2007, Ketchum lobbied Time magazine to name Putin as its “Person of the Year.” In 2011, Ketchum placed a flattering story on Putin as an outdoor sportsman in Outdoor Life magazine. The public relations firm also helped place Putin’s op-ed in The New York Times. Assume that Ketchum is already lobbying the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

My own candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize is former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell for his efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The betting odds, however, are not on Mitchell.

A popular Putin joke on the streets of Moscow goes: “When you type the Russian president’s name on your keyboard, it automatically capitalizes the ‘V’ and ‘P.’ The Kremlin is already designing Russian keyboards that automatically type ‘Nobel Laureate’ after Putin’s name.”

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/16/2013 - 11:43 am.

    Anybody who didn’t laugh

    when Obama received his Nobel prize in 2009 shouldn’t be questioning who is worthy of the committee’s decision.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/16/2013 - 12:27 pm.

    One word–Georgia.And a dry

    One word–Georgia.

    And a dry chuckle emerges from the death’s head.

  3. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 09/16/2013 - 02:58 pm.

    Ketchum

    One could compare this PR firm to a prostitute, but that would be unfair to prostitutes.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/16/2013 - 03:32 pm.

    I’m no metallurgist

    …but I nonetheless enjoyed the metallic reference from Chaucer.

    • Submitted by Maria Jette on 09/16/2013 - 04:31 pm.

      I’m no critic

      …but that’s the most delicious and hilarious little comment I’ve read anywhere within recent memory, other than in the works of Wodehouse. Thanks for a brief trip to a sunnier world!

  5. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 09/16/2013 - 04:06 pm.

    No worries!

    I don’t think we need to worry that the Nobel Committee will confer a Peace Prize upon Vladimir Putin anytime soon. We need to remember that when the prize was given to Barack Obama, it was an “aspirational” gesture, not in recognition of any of Obama’s former accomplishments, but with high hopes for what he might do to atone for the misdeeds of his predecessor in office. Although I do find Obama’s foreign policy to differ positively from President George W. Bush’s by a degree or two, I also feel that the Nobel Committee’s hopeful gesture set an embarrassing precedent, and I imagine that the committee members probably feel the same way by now.

    In contrast to Obama, who at least has the advantage of having been twice fairly elected to public office, what reason has Putin given us that we should expect him to do anything for world peace in the future, unless it happens to serve his own interest? No more reason, surely, than our government has given to inspire the same expectation. So I don’t expect any “aspirational” Peace Prize for Putin any time soon.

    Still, I may be wrong. I believe we underestimate how delighted the rest of the world outside the United States was to read Putin’s recent opinion essay, in which he scolded us for our contempt for international law and above all for our ugly, foolish, and conceited belief in our own “exceptionalism.” I think our allies would tell us the same thing, if only they weren’t so polite.

    Moreover, I would be amused to see a Nobel Prize offered to both Putin and our Secretary of State John Kerry, under the condition that they are both willing to share it.

  6. Submitted by David Frenkel on 09/16/2013 - 11:18 pm.

    KGB agent

    Don’t forget Putin was a KGB agent in the former Soviet Union, not a particularly peace loving organization.

  7. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 09/17/2013 - 08:27 am.

    Anna Politkovskaya, 1958- October 2006 assassinated..

    What’s her name, was it Mcfarland, the old hen in the Fox House initially recommending Putin for a Nobel?

    Do remember the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya, poisoned for speaking out in book and articles against Putin and his activities in early 2000 plus…

    “WE are hurling into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death for our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it’s total servility to Putin. Otherwise it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial___whatever our special services Putin’s guard dogs see fit” Anna P. 2004.

    Our main stream media holding hands with it’s attendant corporate policy wonks may fire investigative journalists; sometimes interrogate them to reveal their sources…but let’s not think noble-challenged Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize ?

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