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by Ted Lipien Logo and Link to Home Dublin, CA, July 24, 2006 -- Both before and after the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russian media offered a mixed view of the state of U.S.-Russian relations and personal relations between President Putin and President Bush. Overall, however, media coverage in Russia reflects a worsening in relations between Washington and Moscow and places less emphasis than in previous years on the reported personal friendship between the two presidents. Some of the reporting, especially on state-owned media channels, increasingly relies on the use of propaganda themes characteristic of the Cold War.

Before the summit, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass prominently featured an interview with President Bush in which he said that he and his wife have a "good friendship with the Putins." The link to the interview, conducted on July 12, was still available on the Itar-Tass home page on July 24 and marked as exclusive. Link to Itar-Tass home page... | link to President Bush's interview on Itar-Tass web site...

The title of the Itar-Tass report, "We've got good friendship with the Putins," when in fact most of the interview focused on controversial issues, suggested a conscious attempt by the news agency to stress positive elements in U.S.-Russian relations.

Other Russian media outlets, however, picked up on the worsening of relations between Washington and Moscow and the apparent cooling of friendship between the two leaders. Voice of Russia, a state-supported international broadcaster, issued commentaries using words reminiscent of the Cold War propaganda to describe some of the controversies in U.S.- Russian relations.

Writing for Voice of Russia, Russian commentator Valentin Zorin declared the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg a triumph of President Putin's long-term vision of U.S.-Russian relations and a defeat of American propagandists, whom he accused of trying to prevent Russia from hosting the meeting of the world's top leaders and to undermine its positive atmosphere. He described these efforts as "an abortive provocation." and and part of "a markedly well-organized and well-orchestrated propaganda campaign in the style of the notoriously memorable Cold War." But the tone of his own commentary was also clearly reminiscent of the Cold War.

Friendship between President Putin and President Bush may also be no longer strong enough to prevent use of another Cold War propaganda technique. A few days after the G-8 summit concluded in St. Petersburg, an unusual commentary on the Voice of Russia English-language web site, which has since been removed, claimed that President Bush's presumed "narrow intellectual horizons" and "disastrous judgment" have had "cataclysmic" policy consequences. The analyst, David Brian, who is a regular Voice of Russia contributor, quoted at length from the July 16 Jonathan Chait's column in The Los Angeles Times: "Is Bush Still Too Dumb to Be President?." Voice of Russia did not identify Chait by name as the author of the original commentary. Their analyst indicated, however, that he was citing a Los Angeles Times article. [ link to Voice of Russia Home English page...| link to July 16 Chait's column in LAT...]

The title of the Voice of Russia commentary, "George W. Bush Has Intuition (Maybe)" left little doubt that the analyst shared the same views about President Bush's intellect as The Los Angeles Times columnist. Such a commentary would almost certainly not have been broadcast by Voice of Russia a few years ago when President Bush and President Putin had a much closer relationship prior to the war in Iraq and the decline of democracy in Russia.

It was not unusual that the Voice of Russia analyst used comments from the American media to question President Bush's intellect. This technique was widely employed by Soviet propagandists, except that during the Cold War the Soviet media quoted from articles from little known left-wing Western publications. President Bush's unpopularity with many prominent American political commentators and journalists makes it now easy to use strong criticism of him personally and his administration taken from the mainstream American media.

The true state of the U.S.-Russian relations may be better revealed in comments by some of Putin's own advisors and may explain the return of the Cold War rhetoric in some of the Russian media reporting.

Gleb Pavlovskiy, the president of the Effective Politics Foundation and an advisor to President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States continues to stress the idea of “the West” to further its own interests, which -- in his view -- are both anti-European and anti-Russian. Pavlovkiy insisted that “the creation of Russia and the EU have made the existence of the West simply not a real thing.” Those developments showed that “the West was Europe during an abnormal situation” and that today the term is simply “a figure of speech,” employed by those in the U.S. who want to subordinate Europe and isolate Russia.

Pavlovskiy suggested that in response to this American threat Russians“have the right to react
nervously to attempts to conduct worldwide anti-Russian propaganda just as Jews react to anti-Semitic propaganda, because potentially this [anti-Russian] propaganda is an attempt to portray the Russians as being guilty for all problems on earth.”[link to Paul Goble's Window on Eurasia, July 18, 2006 "The West" As an Idea is Anti-European and Anti-Russian, Kremlin Advisor Says]

At least some Russian media outlets have picked up on the new Cold War rhetoric being developed by the Kremlin advisors while other journalists seem still hopeful that Russia and the U.S. will maintain friendly relations.

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