vladimir putin

Putin perfectly understood the power of the media that helped propel his famously unpopular predecessor Boris Yeltsin into power in 1996. So the first thing he did after assuming the presidency in 2000 was to force all the major TV channels to submit to his will. Oligarch owners were either co-opted, jailed or exiled, and by 2006 most major Russian media were either directly or indirectly under Putin’s administration’s control.

Viktor Bondarev and Vladimir Putin, by En.Kremlin.ru

Has Putin's use of hard power created a soft power appeal?

The Kremlin is trying to split the West by spreading “altered facts,” conducting blackmail and setting up front organizations, the U.S. State Department said, in 1981. So-called active measures were common during the Cold War, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union sought to unify and divide Europe with equal urgency. Now those tactics appear to be back, retooled for the digital age 

Over 200 years ago, President George Washington warned Americans about foreign powers undermining American democracy by tampering “with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils.” In the present, we are finding that old threats are new again as the United States is challenged by Russia’s strategic communication efforts targeting both our domestic politics and international interests.

“A decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” intones the U.S. Declaration of Independence, requires that those who want to break away from a nation-state explain publicly their reasons for doing so. Today, however, following a dramatic week of events connected to the ascent of Donald Trump to the Presidency, a similar imperative requires that we try to explain to the world—and most of all to ourselves—what is going on. 

The latest headlines should worry all those who follow communications issues. Not only is President-elect Trump’s approach to mass media and public communication radically different from anything that has come before, there is a broad and unnerving debate — with Trump at the center — involving media, policy makers and political partisans over how to regard Russia and its apparent interference in the U.S. Presidential election.

Despite current tensions between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin—and opposition to the bill from groups like the Holocaust Art Restitution Project—the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act could mean the renewing of cultural exchange between the US and Russia.

The President-elect's communication skills leave something to be desired, says Mark Dillen.

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