"Flush with foreign reserves from oil and natural gas sales, the Kremlin is pumping tens of millions of dollars into various forms of public diplomacy," reports Peter Finn. The Russian government "has hired the giant U.S. public relations firm Ketchum Inc. 'to help the government tell its story of economic growth and opportunity for its citizens,' said Randy DeCleene, an executive at the firm." As part of the PR push, "the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta is ... fund[ing] monthly supplements in newspapers in India, Britain, Bulgaria and the United States," including a paid supplement in the Washington Post. "Russiaprofile.org, a news and analysis site funded by [the government news agency] RIA Novosti" features "a range of opinions, including some quite hostile to the Kremlin." RIA Novosti also hosts an annual "Valdai Discussion Club," where "30 to 40 Russia experts and prominent journalists, mostly from the United States and Western Europe ... are wined and dined in the company of Russian policymakers and political analysts." The Hoover Institute's Michael McFaul (an adviser to Barack Obama's campaign) called the Valdai events, which featured sessions with then-President Vladimir Putin, "really smart PR." A previous Spin noted Russia's new think tank, the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.
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