Soviet Military Brushes Up on Public Relations: U.S. Military Contingent Offers Advice on Dealing with the Media

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Soviet military brushes up on public relations

The Soviet military is trading its propaganda officers for public affairs officers.

As the Soviet military feels 0 and believes in - the snowballing effects of glasnost and open media, officers have turned to U.S. military public affairs officers for guidance.

Army Col. Rick Kiernan recently led a delegation from the Department of Defense to the former Soviet Union as part of a continuing series of exchanges between the two militaries. His specific purpose was to discuss media-military relations with the Soviets, providing them with counsel as they seek to establish relationships with both their own media and Western reporters.

Soviet military propaganda officers, who used to be assigned to every unit, have either been transferred or reassigned as public affairs officers (PAOs), Col. Kiernan explained during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.

"They want to deal in mass communications, not political party themes," he said.

In addition, while the top Soviet military public affairs officers are all military men - as opposed to civilians in similar positions in the U.S., such as Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams - they have a very clear understanding of the principles of mass communications, Col. Kiernan said. One of their biggest problems, however, is getting the technology that makes mass communications possible. …