It would seem so. Here is one example: an nbcnews.com story the other day, “Why Ukraine Conflict Could Look Like World War I” asserts, in a bland “just the facts” manner, that “about two divisions [of Russians] are poised along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, ready to intervene if ethnic conflict endangers large concentrations of Russian speakers in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions.” What if the story had abandoned Putin’s talking points and suggested instead that two divisions are poised to intervene whenever Vladimir Putin is feeling hot-blooded and pulls the trigger? Or that two divisions will intervene as soon as the Spetsnaz Russian special forces already inside Ukrainian territory provoke enough subversion and conflict that military intervention will seem, regrettably, Putin’s only option?
I do not know whether the firms of Ketchum, Alston and Bird, and Venable, for example, are buddy-buddy enough with NPR or NBC to influence American mainstream news coverage, but I suspect Russia is getting its money’s worth, because these PR firms know how to leverage the mainstream pretense of an objective “view from nowhere” so as to make even ludicrous big lies seem plausible. None of this is Putin’s fault, of course, but it might alert U.S. and European policymakers to the need to explain themselves even more directly, clearly, and repetitively to a public aging out of first-hand memory of the Cold War.