A former adviser to Russia’s government, Angus Roxburgh became famous for covering the fall of communism in eastern Europe. At a point, the former BBC Russian Service scriptwriter worked for the pan-European public relations firm GPlus, as part of a PR advisory team for the Kremlin. Since 2009 Roxburgh turned on the Kremlin. Now, like so many other “Putin experts,” he wants a regime change and revenge.
More Putin Fairytales
This story’s title is a spin on a The Guardian article “Putin began by embracing the west. Now, he wants revenge,” by Angus Roxburgh. In his latest tirade on Vladimir Putin, the British journalist, broadcaster, and former PR adviser just spits out what he wants from relations with Russia with:
“There’s little hope of an improvement in relations so long as the Russian president’s 20-year reign continues.”
It’s the lead in a story right out of Mother Goose about how Vladimir Putin is the ruthless strongman who shocked the Fairy Godmother in Buckingham Palace and the Goody Two Shoes operators in the White House by being so, so, bad in Chechnya. Forgive my sarcasm. Another nincompoop Putin expert has reared his bobbly head. Roxburgh continues with a deep, deep, deep analysis of Mr. Putin’s psyche and the deep, deep, deep concern by the westerners about the fate of the Russian people. According to Roxburgh:
“The problem lay elsewhere – in Putin’s inability to understand the west’s wariness and increasing hostility as his internal policies revealed him to be no democrat.”
Wow! What a condemnation of the entire western hierarchy and political belief system. London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Washington have been bitch-slapped repeatedly by a man incapable of reasoning! What does this say about the people who end up paying Roxburgh’s bills? Let’s move on.
The GPlus Blues
GPlus sells its PR services by coming out and telling potential customers they’re in tight in “Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris, and in other European and international capitals.” Their mission, for clients, is to use their ideally placed people to “devise and implement public affairs and communications strategies across Europe and around the globe.”
The bottom line on GPlus and Ketchum in the US, the other big-time PR firm that worked for the Kremlin at the time, is that they failed miserably when the 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas dispute ruined many relationships. The complex business and political relationship between Moscow and western stakeholders turned into the catastrophe in west-east relations we see today. And GPlus was one of the entities supposedly mediating the mess. In my opinion, there was a lot of purposeful ill advisement going on in Moscow, as part of a bigger plan against Putin. Look at what ended up happening when Gazprom finally started playing hardball with Ukraine on these issues. Does anyone really think the Euromaidan coup began in Kyiv?
When the gas dispute went into crisis mode, GPlus formed a special team for Gazprom Export. Some of the members of that team were Germany’s deputy permanent representative to the European Union Peter Witt, former European Commission industry spokesman and aide to two commissioners Gregor Kreuzhuber, and Daniel Brinkwerth, a former official of Germany’s Foreign and Economy Ministries. Brinkwerth is still a managing partner who heads up the Brussels office of the PR firm.
The Highest Bidder Syndrome
On the face of things, GPlus failed in its mission for the Russian government from the get-go. When Georgia invaded South Ossetia in 2008, GPlus was supposed to get the truth of Georgia being the aggressor out. Instead, Russia is to this day perceived as the bad guy of this western-inspired war. As for Ketchum, both GPlus and the New York firm are part of a larger media empire called Omnicom. Now here’s where our story (theory) gets interesting.
Most people are clueless about how public relations firms operate. As the previous owner of one of the world’s most influential PR news portals, I can tell you that loyalty in that business is something that is bid on. PR pros, for the most part, are like divorce or accident lawyers, only lazier. Even the terms of contracts mean little when millions of dollars and future influence are at stake.
The reason we got out of the business was because of the “dirty tricks” aspect of the marketing, advertising, and PR. That said, the chances Omnicom was infiltrated by those who wanted to derail Russia’s rebirth as a key G8 nation were better than good. In fact, Omnicom owns three of the top seven public relations firms in the world. So, what do you think the chances Russia relations with Europe might have become a conflict of internal interests? Money and power are the only language of public relations these days, and the western democracies just print the stuff – so you figure why everybody is mad at Putin. The highest bidder has spoken.
Punishing the Dream
I believe Vladimir Putin and the Russian people are being punished for being so bold as to dream of inclusion in the world community. However, in spite of the acumen of Putin and his advisors, they’ve been guilty of some degree of naivety the past decade or so. I am sure Vladimir Putin once believed he could transform Russia. I am sure his “Economic Space from Lisbon to Vladivostok” was the target for destruction. After all, how could a Russian president be so bold as to envision a paradigm shift for the future of humanity? Yes, Vladimir Putin’s bright ideas were naive. There was no place in the liberal order for Russia, except as the natural resource bank for further bankster financial growth. It might interest you to know the massive conflicts of interest people like Angus Roxburgh always seem to omit from their expert stories on Putin.
What if Omnicom companies like Fleishman-Hillard hooked into the Obama administration about the time of the Ukraine gas mess? Does anybody out there remember Obama’s Web Guru, Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes? Well, in 2009 he was hired by GMMB Communications, which was a branch of Fleishman-Hillard. Can I get a collective “Hmm” from readers?
How about if I told you Fleishman-Hillard helped Barack Obama get elected? Okay, what if a member of the advisory board of Fleishman-Hillard was once the head of the CIA and a US Secretary of Defense under Obama? Maybe you see my point now. It’s amazing how Omnicom swooped in to grab GPlus about the time Angus Roxburgh started work for the Brussels firm engaged by the Kremlin.
I think that Mr. Putin and his team probably assumed the best about these huge PR concerns though. Think about it. Why would Russia’s president trust in a huge conglomerate that had contracts with the US and other governments? Omnicom plays ball with everybody, so how could Putin and his advisors trust them? The answer is simple. His positivity and the lies of the western industrialists blindsided him.
The fact that Roxburgh worked hand in hand at GPlus with former Tony Blair advisor Tim Allan just ices the cake for me. These firms were just lawyering and wheeling and dealing, or “cashing in” as David Teather said via The Guardian in 2009.
We run into the same old tough lesson of western strategy. Nothing is as it seems, and everything is for sale. Oh, and there’s always a sore loser looking for paybacks. How about it Angus, do you agree?
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”