Say what you will about Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the man is a master of Public Relations . From his decision just prior to Sochi to release high-profile political prisoner billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to his September op-ed in The New York Times which urged the American people to oppose a U.S. initiative for military strikes in Syria, Putin understands the importance of The Fifth Estate.
Today, world headlines blare about the fact that a private telephone call between two American diplomats has been posted to the Internet in a discussion surrounding American feelings on the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. The video was posted online, with a transcript of the conversation in Russian, under the banner "Maidan's puppets" - a reference to the square in capital, Kiev, where pro-EU protests are taking place. The Obama Administration blamed Russia for the spying, with White House spokesman Jay Carney stating: "I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government, I think it says something about Russia's role."
Using the media, Russia places America on the defensive -- even though Russia is actively intervening in Ukraine, using its economic clout to persuade the Ukraine to become closer Russian allies. Leaking the tape allows claims to be made against America (with Russian spokespersons claiming the US was spending $20 Million a week to help the Ukrainian opposition), and reminds world leaders about the NSA scandals.
Leaking the four and a half minute diplomats' discussion allows Russia to point fingers at America as the bad guy. As Russia used the Edward Snowden affair to claim America was a bully, these tapes once again create do more of the same, and create diplomatic problems for the Obama Administration. Much as how he protected Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (who still rules despite a civil war which has killed hundreds of thousands), Putin scores the upper hand.
Media matters - even though it doesn't always reflect the truth.
Ronn Torossian is one of America's most prolific and respected public relations experts. Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest independent American PR firms, headquartered in New York with an office in Los Angeles.