The political banners under which we operate may be different, but the forces that drive our world are still the same. After many years enjoying comparative warmth and reconciliation following the fall of the USSR, the imperial eagle of Russia is narrowing the eyes of its Western head and turning once more towards the East.
This week, the New York Times reported that Russia is set to <http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/world/europe/russia-takes-step-to-extend-control-over-news-media.html?ref=europe&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=1&referrer=> “limit foreign ownership of Russian media outlets to 20 percent, targeting several prominent publications critical of the government and extending the Kremlin’s control over the nation’s independent news media”. Russian lawmakers claim that the West has been using the media to attack the Russian government, particularly in light of the situation in the Ukraine.
Whilst this may seem like a political grizzly bearing its teeth at basic freedom of expression, there is an element of truth in the lawmakers’ claims. Media Land has been the frontier of many a Cold War, and the West is just as guilty of the manipulation and dissemination of meddlesome information or misinformation, as the East. A brilliant article in this week’s LRB by Frances Stonor Saunders entitled The Writer and the Valet <http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n18/frances-stonorsaunders/the-writer-and-the-valet> provided an excellent exposé of the War of Words that took place during the last Cold War. Specifically, the article explored the theft and illegal circulation of Pasternak’s novel Dr Zhivago by Western political powers ranging from the BBC, MI6, the Vatican, and the CIA to attack Russia in a move dubbed Operation Dinosaur. It is evident that power structures in the West were also content with putting lives at risk in the crossfire of media jousting.
The Financial Times reports that <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f83e04ee-4339-11e4-be3f-00144feabdc0.html> “some executives believe the new rules may also be aimed at helping Gazprom Media, the country’s largest media holding, gain full control of radio station Ekho Moskvy, the lone liberal bastion on Russia’s airwaves”. The link to Gazprom Media is significant, as the giant has ties with Michael Maslov and Ketchum, the PR heavyweight behind Putin’s communications – whom we wrote about in 2013. <https://www.markborkowski.co.uk/ketchum-pr/> CNBC wrote an interesting piece on their relationship this year <http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnbc.com%2Fid%2F101465564&ei=OaMiVLyVPIyd7gaArYGADA&usg=AFQjCNE8w7vwcQD1eY3J5xAoMTMpLaj1YA&sig2=hgbrT88feE4DFhGCleoIbg&bvm=bv.75775273,d.ZGU> , too.
As Russia wraps her wings around herself once more, we can be sure that this War of Words will provide ample ground for the spreading of mischief on both sides of the world. Pasternak is just the tip of the iceberg.