A retired colleague took umbrage at the op-ed piece in The New York Times by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The piece was an argument against an attack by the U.S. government on Syria and for using the United Nations instead. It also criticized the American idea that we are an “exceptional” nation.
Said my retired colleague: “This is an obvious propaganda piece by Putin and The New York Times fell for it. It shouldn’t have run it.”
Of course it is a propaganda piece. It’s what the Russian government wants Americans to believe. But is an article by Obama, or a member of Congress, or a newspaper columnist any different in that respect? Each is making an argument. In each case the reader is invited to consider the argument and the biases of the person making it.
Should we ban the Russian argument? Why? If we were at war with them, sure. But we’re not. Why not hear him out?
Few Americans will think of Obama and Putin as moral equivalents, because Obama is our president and Putin is Russia’s. Putin knows that. So does the editor at the New York Times. Still, there aren’t many occasions when an editor in New York gets a submission from the president of Russia. It’s a “talker” (and here I am, talking about it) and in the newspaper business we like talkers.
My friend goes on to say that Putin wasn’t the real writer. “The article was likely written by a U.S. public relations firm, the one that placed it, after being commissioned by Putin’s PR chief in Moscow,” he says. “Putin probably just approved the final draft, if that. I’ve ghost-written a lot of op-eds for government and corporate officials. That’s how it’s done.”
No doubt. The column is written in colloquial English in the length and form wanted by American newspaper editors. Few Americans can do that, and hardly any of them are politicians. It is unlikely that the president of Russia could do it, even a Russian version to be translated, and even if he could, he’s got better things to do than write for foreign newspapers.
Of course he farmed it out. So what? It has his name on it. It’s what the president of Russia thinks, or, at least what he wants Americans to think, on a matter of war.
I read it, and I’d run it.