November 30, 2001
Russia as "the Potemkin's America"
Russia's PR-related foreign policy task is to appear not so much as a West-friendly nation but rather a West-like one
By Kirill Yakimets
After Sept. 11 terrorist acts, Russian foreign policy has been fashioned according to the tenets of [Russian Press Minister] "grandfather Lesin". The gist of it has not changed: to try to solve domestic political problems by foreign policy means. The means have changed, too, mostly growing in number. The Putin's Russia from the very start has positioned itself as a Western, civilized power. Now, this kind of political positioning has been intensified, as statements were complemented with "goodwill acts". Russia's PR-related foreign policy task is to appear not so much as a West-friendly nation but rather a West-like one. Or, to belong in "our camp", primarily from the US standpoint.
But "goodwill acts" are not enough. One cannot introduce, of course, elements of the American way of life in Russia, but these can be emulated for the Western public. Thus, after a pogrom in Tsaritsyno, in Southern Moscow, when North Caucasian vendors were severely beaten and two men were killed, the Moscow authorities blamed football fans. It was the right PR move. Now, both Americans and Europeans know that Russia faces the same social problems. Football fans are a major social sore all over the world. It would be reasonable then to arrange a number of anti-globalist riots in the streets of Moscow. Or, to stage an international conference on political correctness and give it a wide coverage in the press. Lastly, the terrorism issue should be separated (for PR reasons, of course) from the national policy issue. Americans do no dig separatist issues in contrast to the issue of terrorism. All talk about the necessity to observe human rights is the result of this misunderstanding.
For Americans, Chechens are not terrorists but an ethnic minority. However, in the PR perspective, the figure of Khattab is the Heaven's gift, indeed. Some say our military has been saving Khattab in the way Americans are now saving mullah Omar. Khattab is the physical evidence that Chechens are ethnic minority, but our terrorists are Saudi Arabs. In fact, Khattab could be positioned as "our bin Laden". What is going on in Chechnya in reality is a different problem yet to be clarified. As for the abovementioned "sham Americanism rules", everything is quite clear. The most important thing is not to get hooked by the foreign policy PR and not to force Russian to live by these horrible rules.