Russia's Hired Lobbies in the West

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 148
August 3, 2009 02:11 PM Age: 5 yrs
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Home Page, Domestic/Social, Foreign Policy, Economics, Energy, Russia

Russia's attempts to promote a positive image of being a "reliable energy supplier" as well as a safe and profitable haven for foreign investments have played a significant role in Russian policy. To achieve this goal the Russian government and state-owned companies have hired Western public relations firms to tout the alleged benefits of working in partnership with Russia.

Records of this activity can be found on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) website of the U.S. Department of Justice (www.justice.gov/criminal/fara). The most lucrative contract to date was between the Russian government and Ketchum Inc. (N.Y) via its parent company Ketchum Limited in the U.K., to provide "communications support" for the Russian government during the 2006 G8 summit meeting until December 31, 2006. The amount allocated to finance Ketchum's activities in the U.S. was $2 million (www.justice.gov/criminal/fara).

Ketchum is an arm of the U.S. PR giant Omnicom (www.ketchum.com). According to the filing document, Ketchum agreed to develop "briefing points for interviews; press releases, fact sheets...and facilitate meetings between representatives of Russia's G8 Presidency and persons who are frequently quoted as experts in stories about international relations such as authors and academics." Ketchum landed another lucrative two-month contract from the Russian government in January 2007 worth $845,000 "for the purpose of promoting energy security." Ketchum wrote in its FARA statement that it would use its teams to focus on governments and media in WTO member countries such as the U.K., U.S., Germany, France, Japan and Canada to help them understand the goal of energy security, Russia's accession to the WTO and "Russia as a place favorable for foreign investments" (www.justice.gov/criminal/fara).

However, the most lucrative contracts have been awarded by Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company to Gavin Anderson and company. In March 2007, Gazprom began paying Gavin Anderson $100,000 per month to "provide financial media relations" and to "improve understanding of Gazprom's basic business strategies. Strengthening the trust of investors in Gazprom" (www.justice.gov/criminal/fara). Gazprom apparently felt that negative information about its practices and opaque dealings were hurting the company and it was willing to pay a high price to remedy the situation.

GazpromExport, a fully owned subsidiary of Gazprom, also joined these PR activities in 2006-2007. However, GazpromExport chose Ketchum to do its PR - not Gavin Anderson. The reasons for this are unknown, but it might indicate that the CEO of GazpromExport Alexander Medvedev was more comfortable with Ketchum, a company which seemingly is favored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

FARA was notified by Ketchum in August 2007 that GazpromExport would pay $247,500 per month ($147,500 more per month than its parent company, Gazprom, was paying Gavin Anderson) for their services. Ketchum's description of these services was brief: "Ketchum will pursue various activities, including arranging interviews between representatives of Gazprom and members of the media...monitoring media coverage."

GPlus Europe, a subsidiary of Ketchum, was hired by the Kremlin in 2007 to improve media relations. They signed a deal for media handling and government advocacy which included GPlus' work in Brussels and Paris as well as subcontracts with consultancies Dimap in Berlin and Reti in Rome. GPlus was also hired by GazpromExport to promote the concept that Gazprom and GazpromExport are fully transparent entities. The GPlus team working on the GazpromExport contract consists of fourteen individuals, with four members concentrating on PR within Germany alone.

The leader of the GazpromExport team at GPlus is allegedly Milina Moncekova who accompanies Alexander Medvedev on his trips throughout Europe. Other members of the team have responsibilities for PR within the rest of Europe. The head of the team in Germany is Peter Witt, formerly the German deputy permanent representative to the E.U. (EDM, May 26).

A leading member of the team working the account is Gregor Kreuzhuber who, according to the GPlus Europe website: "Spent over ten years in the European Commission as a spokesperson and political adviser to two different commissioners. Kreuzhuber's last post was with the Commission Vice-President in charge of Enterprise and Industry Gunter Verheugen" (www.gpluseurope.com). According to the European Observer: "No one takes a pay cut to join the PR sector. A mid-ranking E.U. official such as Kreuzhuber would take home at least 6,000 Euros per month in his previous job and an individual such as Witt 7,000 Euros per month" (www.euobserver.com, February 2).

Nonetheless, GPlus was not only whitewashing GazpromExport, according to PRWeek, in 2008. GPlus was criticized by Brussels-based PR firm Aspect Consulting, for promoting Russia's view of the war with Georgia and for being part of the Russian "propaganda" machine. Aspect Consulting, hired by the government of Georgia, told PRWeek: "There are agencies that work for Russia... but I do not know how they can be comfortable about that."

On January 25, at the height of the Ukrainian-Russian gas war, GPlus was suspended from the European Union's lobbying register for failing to disclose the identity of three clients. Peter Guilford, one of GPlus' founders, said the firm had informed the commission in December when it first joined the registry that it had pre-existing confidentiality agreements with three clients, who did not want their names disclosed. Two of those clients are no longer represented by GPlus. "We have been super-transparent," (sic) Guilford said, noting that the clients in question included two trade associations and one corporation." Ketchum's reputation might be further discredited as new information is revealed in the media about Gazprom's shady dealings in the gas trade (www.jamestown.org/blog, August 3).


 
 

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