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Vladimir Putin wrote 'basic content' of New York Times op-ed, spokesman says

Vladimir Putin wrote the "basic content" of an op-ed warning against US military intervention in Syria that appeared under his name in the New York Times, although his assistants then fleshed out the text, the Russian president's spokesman has told the Guardian.

The article was offered to the Times on Wednesday by the public relations firm Ketchum, which works on behalf of Russian interests in the US and elsewhere. The paper said it required "little editing" and was published soon after it was received.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the article was all Putin's idea. "The basic content was written by [Putin], then his assistants worked out the text," Peskov said.

Personally I have found the arguments over whether Putin wrote the op-ed appearing in  the NYT under his byline to be more than a bit irrelevant. The contention seems to be that questions about the validity of the content would somehow be resolved by the determination of authorship.

I am not sure how much competency Putin has in the English language. There is little doubt that he would require the services of an English translator in putting together a finished copy. Political leaders routinely rely on speech writers to polish their statements to a greater or lesser degree.

The piece raises some important issues about international relations and international law. There has clearly been a back and forth series of debates and negotiation going on between Putin and Obama. What we the public get to see are the staged public events. There are reports that the US and Russia have been having discussions about a plan the secure Syria's chemical weapons for sometime. This did not spring full born on Monday morning.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I suspect he's fluent in English (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, ybruti, Catte Nappe

    My German friends tell me he speaks perfect, accent-free German.  He lived there for several years while working for the KGB.  That leads me to believe that he's got strong language skills.

    I suspect he "wrote" the op-ed in the same way Obama "writes" his speeches.  These people are too busy/important to compose all the prose themselves.  They give some underling the basic outline of what they want to say and approve the final result.

    •  His English is pretty rough, actually. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CDH in Brooklyn, dougymi

      He can put sentences together haltingly, but he definitely needed help on the op-ed.  He submits similar work in Russian to their own newspapers, and I've no doubt he has a team of writers to polish it (Russian's political/journalistic language is even more complex and unlike the spoken language than English's.)

      Not really a big deal, as far as I'm concerned.  On the other hand I'm still cracking up at the politician who made national exceptionalism into the basis of his political platform arguing that it's a bad thing for nations to engage in.  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:02:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The question about exceptionalism (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kimbeaux, ukit, aliasalias, atana, koNko

        really revolves around the ability and willingness to impose it on other people. Most people are inclined to think that their way of doing things is the right way. There is a basic tendency toward group loyalty, whether that is family, community or nation.

        The problem with American exceptionalism comes with the prevailing assumption that everybody else in the world is envious of Americans and given half a chance would want to live just like we do. That is not reality.

        •  Do you know the premise of Russian (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marsanges, Garrett, koNko

          exceptionalism?  It's messianic: that Russia's unique path is to save the rest of the world.  The only reason it's not being imposed now - like it's tried to do so many times in the past - is that Russia has neither the military nor political power to do anything about it.  They call this the "Russian Idea", and Putin's happy to exploit it for his own political benefit.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:12:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Clearly that notion got combined (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ukit, koNko

            with Marxism under Lenin and Stalin. They definitely had the intention of imposing their ideology on the entire world. It was an undesirable goal when they wanted to do it and I think it is also undesirable when pursued by the US.

            If this were coming solely from Valdamir Putin it would be one thing. However, he is articulating a view that is held by much of the rest of the world.

            •  It goes back to the medieval period, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Garrett

              and was revived in the last decade as a political slogan.  I gave a pretty extensive outline of this in a previous diary, if you're interested.  Suffice to say that Putin is trolling us.

              Point being - yes, a lot of people agree with it, but if Obama had penned an op-ed against nations acting unilaterally... I mean, we'd laugh about that, right?  Even though we agree with the premise?  We should be able to do both?

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:20:56 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I read your diary and participated in the (0+ / 0-)

                discussion.

                Point being - yes, a lot of people agree with it, but if Obama had penned an op-ed against nations acting unilaterally... I mean, we'd laugh about that, right?  Even though we agree with the premise?  We should be able to do both?
                I'm not sure I follow the point you are making here.
                •  Rebut to: (0+ / 0-)
                  If this were coming solely from Valdamir Putin it would be one thing. However, he is articulating a view that is held by much of the rest of the world.
                  Switch out Putin and exceptionalism with Obama and unilateral military force.
                  I mean, we'd laugh about that, right?  Even though we agree with the premise?  We should be able to do both?

                  Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                  by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:37:10 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Isn't that kind of what this column was, though - (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Richard Lyon

                an argument against nations acting unilaterally? Whatever its past traditions might be, Russia is not disregarding U.N. decisions and invading countries in violation of international law. When they start doing that, then you can accuse them of trolling/hypocrisy.

                •  Except for Georgia they don't have the power to do (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  pico

                  that. So they exert influence more covertly.

                  You can't make this stuff up.

                  by David54 on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 12:14:13 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  They had boots on the ground in Georgia, (0+ / 0-)

                  unilaterally, and fully disregarding the rest of the UN Security Council members on their treatment of the South Ossetian/Abkhazian issue.   Putin, who was the prime minister at the time, argued that Russian troops were necessary because Russia was in the process of extending a limited diplomatic recognition of the breakaway republics, disregarding Georgia's claim to sovereignty and the rest of the international community.

                  I'm not even fully in disagreement with that because the Georgia situation was - and is - a big ol' mess, albeit of their own making.  So I can accuse Putin of trolling/hypocrisy just fine, thank you.

                  Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                  by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 12:30:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That's probably his version of the Monroe Doctrine (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ukit, koNko

                    I think he figures he's got the major power might makes right to mess around in his own neighborhood.  He doesn't think we have the right to aggressively mess around outside of our own neighborhood at least without some major power agreement on how we're all going to mess around.

                    •  And everybody is trying (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      ukit, koNko

                      to stake out territory in the Middle East.

                    •  *sigh* This is why commenting on the internet (0+ / 0-)

                      is so frustrating.

                      Let's review this thread.  This is where we started:

                      I'm still cracking up at the politician who made national exceptionalism into the basis of his political platform arguing that it's a bad thing for nations to engage in.  
                      That turned into a disagreement about whether Russian exceptionalism has anything in common with American exceptionalism (it's worse, actually), then that didn't matter, because we were talking about exceptionalism as a justification for preemptive invasion outside of international law, and then that didn't matter, because we're talking about exceptionalism as a justification for preemptive invasion outside of international law but into nations that are outside one's presumed sphere of influence.  

                      Do we want to add any more caveats, or can we go back to our sheep?  Just because Americans are pretty ignorant about how Russian exceptionalism works doesn't mean that Putin scores points for trolling us.  He's right that exceptionalism is bad.  He's also one of its main proponents at home, which makes him a hypocrite.  The end.

                      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                      by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 01:20:05 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Then also accuse him of consistency (0+ / 0-)

                    It would be quite rare for Russia to abandon their basic doctrine of non-intervention in the UN.

                    Note I said "in the UN".

                    USA, on the other hand, tends to be inconsistent and present the appearance of being quite opportunistic.

                    For example, in less than a week Obama has flipped 180 degrees in terms of the utility of the UN.

                    Now if the subject was WMDs in Isreal or even chemical weapons in the USA (still have stockpiles) that would be a different case I suppose.

          •  That is not highly original (0+ / 0-)

            Lots of people are out to save the world by imposing their beliefs and will upon others.

            But if Russians invented this idea first I'm willing to credit them to be fair.

            •  I mean messianic in the literal sense: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koNko

              Russia inherited the religious crown from Constantinople, who inherited it from Rome; Russia was anointed the last capitol of Christianity with a goal of saving the world from iniquity. (Not at all a dead ideology: the current patriarchate and friend of the Kremlin quotes it in his speeches.)

              Certainly didn't invent the idea of saving the world, but their spin on it is... unique.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:27:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't see it as very unique (0+ / 0-)

                The world is full of religious zealots and bigots and Russians, in general, are hardly the worst offenders.

                Just saying. Chosen ones, etc., are available in abundance.

                What is a poor secular humanist to do?

  •  Fine. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, Catte Nappe

    He has someone fluent in English make his "basic content" readable.
    The fact that he has a PR firm......
    And I'm glad that there has been behind the scenes talks going on. Better than not.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:44:56 AM PDT

  •  Unless you are William Safire (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, annieli, BachFan

    writing on language, there are precious few politicians and others who actually write their own op-eds.  That's why they have staff writers or at the very least, excellent editors.

    I would warrant that anything coming from the WH and Russia at this point have gone through multiple edits and trading back and forth to keep each party on the same diplomatic page.  E.g.  Putin can claim the U.S. is xyz -- as long as we know they are basically also xyz and q.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:45:31 AM PDT

    •  his Zombies wander still (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      willyr, gchaucer2, Reservoir
      He was a public relations executive from 1955 to 1960. Previously, he had been a radio and television producer and an Army correspondent. He worked as a publicist for a homebuilder who exhibited a model home at an American trade fair at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959—the one in which Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev had their famous "Kitchen Debate." A widely circulated black-and-white photograph of the event was taken by Safire. Safire joined Nixon's campaign for the 1960 Presidential campaign, and again in 1968. After Nixon's 1968 victory, Safire served as a speechwriter for him and for Spiro Agnew; he is well known for having created Agnew's famous term, "nattering nabobs of negativism".

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:07:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does it matter? The ideas are likely his and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti

    he has speechwriters like every other politician at his level. Afaik, his English is not good enough to write smth this polished.

  •  Onoz! Written by his sockpuppet? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    Vladlmir Putln?

    Drat, I feel so stoopid.

    Seriously, who thinks the Times would publish an op-ed that the author had not approved?

  •  "little editing": the authorial Mini-Me (0+ / 0-)

    Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Posner: we've never seen them in the same place and in post-Soveit Russia, you get put in (sic) the Spin cycle

    Vladimir Putin wrote the "basic content" of an op-ed warning against US military intervention in Syria that appeared under his name in the New York Times, although his assistants then fleshed out the text, the Russian president's spokesman has told the Guardian.
    The article was offered to the Times on Wednesday by the public relations firm Ketchum, which works on behalf of Russian interests in the US and elsewhere. The paper said it required "little editing" and was published soon after it was received.
    Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the article was all Putin's idea. "The basic content was written by [Putin], then his assistants worked out the text," Peskov said.
    In 2004, Ketchum produced a controversial series of prepackaged news stories for HHS that featured actors posing as journalists and touted drug benefits. The ads aired on at least 40 television stations and violated a federal propaganda ban because they did not inform viewers that they came from the government, the Government Accountability Office stated.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:50:08 AM PDT

  •  In Soviet Russia... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    willyr, annieli

    Op-ed writes you.

  •  Julian Assange, of course. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    milkbone

    Wait... or was it Bill Ayers?

    Non futuis apud Boston

    by kenlac on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:57:06 AM PDT

  •  I wrote it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, ukit, koNko

    I sing praises in the church of nonsense, but in my heart I'm still an atheist, demanding sense of all things.

    by jbou on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:57:34 AM PDT

  •  Putin knows English (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    enough to have a rational conversation with a native English speaker to a certain degree.


    That doesn't mean he wrote the Op-Ed though. My guess is, that he wrote what he wanted to say in Russian and then had someone translate it in English. Or as mentioned above he gave an outline or draft of his message and had a wordsmith polish the piece.

  •  Who Wrote Putin's Op Ed? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    Maybe the same person who wrote Obama's speech.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:17:08 AM PDT

  •  The US will be exceptional when (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, atana, koNko

    We have no children hungry
    We have no people dying for lack of healthcare
    We have the best K-12 Educational system
    We have....and the list is long but
    We are not exceptional because we spy the best and kill the best.

    Plato's " The Cave" taught me to question reality.

    by CTDemoFarmer on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 11:56:14 AM PDT

  •  Putin is still KGB (0+ / 0-)

    The problem is the capricious nature of the American public. When the public is bored (new Apple iPhone 5S -ho hum, yawn) it will dance with the devil. However when the devil decides to exact his pound of flesh then the immature American public start their childish tantrums. Since most of the post baby boomer adults of today have no concept of the cold war experience beyond some old James Bond 007 movies. Thus when the press identifies Putin as ex-KGB it means absolutely nothing to this population. Putin is laughing his ass off just visualizing all of these American political analysts sitting around discussing how an American democracy should work. This is the guy who rose through the ranks of the world's greatest communist secret service in the Soviet Union! Why do you think Putin has the balls to do this?

    Because he knows that President Obama is handicapped by his color and his African ancestry in the view of certain segments of the American public, so this makes the president suspect in everything he does to millions of Americans. Hence Putin being the experienced cold war warrior that his is, knows that he can use the racial divide in America to insert his own brand of Marxist interference in domestic American affairs. Do you think that the American federal government could open a PR office in Moscow and get an essay written by President Obama criticizing either Putin or the Kremlin published in Pravda? Think about the price America continues to pay for its three centuries of deeply ingrained racism?  

  •  Dusted off his 1999 NYT editorial re Chechnya, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko

    reoriented it a little, and off you go.

    While Putin's 1999 op-ed may be framed in terms of military intervention, it may be better to think of it as Putin justifying a central government using extreme force to put down a rebellion. Think of it that way, and it's easy to see why Putin sympathizes with Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
  •  My guess? (0+ / 0-)

    Ghostwritten by a committee of people chosen randomly from the Daily Kos rec list.

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