Winning and Losing

There’s a very interesting post at the Russia Foreign Policy blog that suggests a somewhat divergent view of the (I guess) still ongoing Russia-Georgia conflict—that Russia won a military victory but has lost the public relations battle:

So is it any wonder that, despite the fact that, as Mikhail Gorbachev writes in the Washington Post, that Georgian leaders badly miscalculated when “they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia”, no matter how much “the quick and easy victory exposes the west’s lack of leverage over a resurgent Russia despite years of heavy American political investment in Georgia”, the war will have been a military victory for Russia, but a PR defeat.

In fact, so successful has been Saakashvili’s wooing of the Western media that, according to Mark Ames,

No one’s bothering to ask what the Ossetians themselves think about it, or why they’re fighting for their independence in the first place. That’s because the Georgians—with help from lobbyists like Scheunemann—have been pushing the line that South Ossetia is a fiction, a construct of evil Kremlin neo-Stalinists, rather than a people with a genuine grievance.

In an article headlined “Russia has Lost the War”, the online daily Gazeta ru reaches very similar conclusions, after an analysis of Russian, Georgian and Western press treatment of the conflic.t It suggests that another reason for Western press’s favourable treatment of Georgia was the relatively greater access and support it gave to foreign journalists, where Russia’s propaganda effort focused much more heavily on its own media.

Modern conflicts are fought in the ‘courtroom of public opinion’, as Adlai Stevenson said at the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s time for Russia to get media-savvy.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. DC Loser says:

    There is certainly divergent reporting from Western media sources. Throughout the conflict, I had access to a variety of TV and other reporting at work and home. The best on scene coverage I’ve seen on TV has been on Al Jazeera English service. I only have access to it at work and it’s a shame none of the cable or satellite outlets dare to let us have access to it. AJ’s coverage was very evenhanded and their reporters on the scene provided much of the eyewitness accounts of the war that I don’t even see on BBC. Never mind CNN and the rest of the American media as they were too busy pushing the Russia=evil, Georgia=democracy line to be of any use. I was shocked (maybe I shouldn’t be) to hear a BBC interview of a Russian duma member take a very partisan line of questioning which is very un-BBC like. I didn’t hear of similar skeptic questioning when they were dealing with Georgian or American officials. Returning to the question of Russian media savviness, they’re doing better with English speaking spokesman, but they can wisely spend some money on K street and Madison Avenue type frontmen to deal with the western press.

  2. RW Rogers says:

    Anyone else find it interesting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has flown to Georgia and said that Georgia is on track for membership in NATO?

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Part of the problem is the maps. The partisan positions hinge primarily on framing the issue of “who invaded whom.” A standard atlas is not going to make sense of the Russian claim that Georgia invaded . . . er Georgia.

    Also, if Russia wants to make a humanitarian case, it needs to be prepared to show the world a corresponding moderate use of force. When the cameras turned to Georgia we saw Georgian homes being looted, Georgians fleeing recrimination attacks, attempted bombing of the pipeline and Russian occupation outside of South Ossetia. We’re the Russians and we’re here to help!

  4. Bithead says:

    It’s time for Russia to get media-savvy.

    Heh. Media savvy? You mean FREE media savvy. These boys pretty much wrote the book on media savvy, which I suppose to be easy to do when you own, and control the media by force of arms. Dealing with a free media… even one that leans left for the most part as they do here in the west, is a whole ‘nother animal.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Heh. Media savvy? You mean FREE media savvy. These boys pretty much wrote the book on media savvy, which I suppose to be easy to do when you own, and control the media by force of arms.

    Savvy and domination via brute force are two entirely different things. You don’t get out much, do you?

  6. Bithead says:

    If you look even a little bit closer, instead of trying to play ‘gotcha’ you may even notice that was the point being made.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Dealing with a free media… even one that leans left

    Right. And you never play games. You just want to discuss the issues.

    I suppose you were making a point. Just not doing a very good job of it…

  8. Bithead says:

    No, it seems clear to me you got the point, your dance not withstanding. Your problem is you don’t like it.

  9. anjin-san says:


  10. Bithead says:

    Sour grapes?

    Cute move, if predictable.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Sour grapes?

    Nope, just bored, waiting for the varsity to arrive…

  12. Bithead says:
  13. anjin-san says:

    I said varsity, not the water boy…