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The Kremlin wins the day

With 46 world leaders coming to Washington next week for the nuclear summit, you can expect a pretty heavy PR offensive from all the governments involved. So watch out for some aggressive spinning, from some dubious sources, to end up making its way into the Washington press. Yesterday, for instance, Politico ran an article from ...

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

With 46 world leaders coming to Washington next week for the nuclear summit, you can expect a pretty heavy PR offensive from all the governments involved. So watch out for some aggressive spinning, from some dubious sources, to end up making its way into the Washington press.

Yesterday, for instance, Politico ran an article from one Nikolai Patrushev, titled "New era for U.S.-Russia relations." The piece praises the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev this week, but also argues that there is a "natural connection between offensive and defensive weapons" — a reference to the planned U.S. missile shield in southeastern Europe and makes the case for Russia’s proposed "pan-European security treaty," an alternative to NATO.

Several things are interesting about this piece. First, Patrushev is identified only as "the secretary of the Security Council of Russia." While accurate, this ID leaves out the thing that Patrushev is far better known for — as a quick Wikipedia search would have revealed — replacing Vladimir Putin as director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB. A lifelong KGB/FSB man, Patrushev is one of the most prominent members of the siloviki — the security service elite loyal to Putin — and led the organization until 2008.

Secondly, a nearly identical version of the piece ran in the Guardian a day earlier. In contrast to Politico, the British paper chose to identify Patrushev as "former director of the Russian FSB, the successor organisation to the KGB, and the current secretary of the security council of Russia."

I wrote to Politico editor in chief, John Harris, to ask why the site had chosen to run a previously published piece by someone with Patrushev’s background and without full attribution. He replied:

We were pitched by a Patrushev representative. We would not have run if we had known a similar version had run elsewhere.

Harris declined to provide more details on who the representative was or why Patrushev was not more fully identified.

The Russian government is represented in Washington by PR firm Ketchum Communications, so I wrote to Ketchum Vice President Matt Stearns to ask if his company had placed the piece. Writing from a business trip to Moscow, Stearns responded:

We don’t typically comment about our work on behalf of Russia. That said – the defense minister also had a piece in the WSJ this week that you may have seen.

It certainly seems like someone got their money’s worth.

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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