"When life gives you lemons, make
lemonade" is a proverbial expression about turning adversity into
advantage. This is a strategy the Kremlin seems ignorant of, based on how the
Russian hacker scandal is being handled.
Any Kremlin insider who doesn't have a sour taste in his mouth over the hacking story must have muted taste buds. The story is getting headlines in the United States. Any American who's paid any attention to this mainstream coverage is being deceived. Already-prevalent negative beliefs about Russia and Putin are being reinforced.
And how has the Kremlin responded to this avalanche of negativity? When questioned about the hack attacks Putin simply replied that he had no knowledge of the plot. I heard that he commented at the Valdai Club: "Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people's choice?"
Well, duh. Yes! The news stream is indeed full of that anti-Putin claptrap about Russia's illicit influence. Passive and gullible American media consumers are being taken in by this fake news right now as I write this.
What has Putin's inner circle done to turn this lemon into lemonade? In a word, "nothing," at least in terms of anything that has had a positive impact.
In the past I've been involved in several initiatives to advance propositions to Russia's upper leadership. My anecdotal experience is that the farther away from Putin's inner circle a decision is made, the more sensible and responsive to reality it will be.
In 2013 I saw a quite persuasive plan to negate all the denigration and fear mongering that was preceding the Sochi Olympics. The plan was delivered to an inner-circle member by a distinguished and Kremlin-friendly business leader. He came back saying, "Boy, I'll never try anything like that again." He felt like he had just been kicked in the teeth over an honest attempt to offer vitally needed assistance.
On another occasion I saw good advice gain approval at the ministerial level, only with much of it going down in flames when it reached the Kremlin.
Who's to blame for this kind of insular attitude and failure to put forth an effective strategy for handling issues of international reputation?
I'd start by pointing the finger at Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary. He has been exercising responsibility far beyond that of a mere spokesperson. This guy's had a chance to turn around stories such as Putin's bombing Russian apartment buildings, murdering Alexander Litvinenko, and invading Georgia.
How has Peskov responded to these and other challenges? He's taken the yellow lemons that have been tossed at Putin and turned them brown. He's been no help. It's high time for Peskov to be shown the door. Maybe he can stay on just as a presidential spokesperson, delivering messages that someone with strategic brains hands him. But in his present role he's doing far more harm than good.
To understand it, one must take a step back from the near-hysterical US headlines about Russia's interfering in the American presidential election.
Just suppose the allegations are true. So what? What damage has been done? If you cut away the spin, what do you have left? It's the nefarious inner workings of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.