COMMENT: Editorial - Russia flunks PR in a time of crisis

The sinking of a Russian nuclear submarine in the icy waters of the Barents Sea last week was a national tragedy. The country waited for days hoping to hear good news from the rescue teams. But none of the 118 crew members on board the sub survived, and now authorities are telling grieving parents they may have to wait up to a month before they will get their sons back home.

The sinking of a Russian nuclear submarine in the icy waters of the Barents Sea last week was a national tragedy. The country waited for days hoping to hear good news from the rescue teams. But none of the 118 crew members on board the sub survived, and now authorities are telling grieving parents they may have to wait up to a month before they will get their sons back home.

The sinking of a Russian nuclear submarine in the icy waters of the

Barents Sea last week was a national tragedy. The country waited for

days hoping to hear good news from the rescue teams. But none of the 118

crew members on board the sub survived, and now authorities are telling

grieving parents they may have to wait up to a month before they will

get their sons back home.



But this national tragedy was also a PR catastrophe. From first to last,

the Russian military lied and denied - about the nature of the

explosion, the date, and even about the signals it claimed to be

receiving from the sub when in fact communication had ceased. And

waiting five days to accept international aid is unexplainable.



Sacrificing the lives of 118 men to keep the military’s nuclear

activities under wraps may have seemed reasonable at the height of the

Cold War.



But today it is just plain senseless. All in the name of national and

military pride, and a feared loss of face.



The ’three R’s’ of crisis management are regret, reform and

restitution.



The admiral of Russia’s Northern Fleet has asked for forgiveness, and

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a day of national

mourning.



The Russian military now needs to examine its entire fleet to make sure

it is seaworthy and safe, and the government needs to ensure that these

men receive a proper burial.



We’ll probably never know if these 118 men had a chance, and no amount

of PR will change that fact. But perhaps this tragedy will help convince

the Russian government that the real reform must be in abandoning

Soviet-style politics and to start functioning in an open and honest

manner.



The public may forgive you for making a mistake, but they certainly

won’t forgive you for covering it up - especially with 118 dead soldiers

at the bottom of the sea.



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