Read my December 15, 2014 article at War on the Rocks where I describe the threat posed by the Kremlin’s propaganda and influence activities. It is a brief overview of Putin’s purging of internal dissent and independent thought and efforts to create confusion, chaos, and subversion across Russia’s near-abroad and everywhere else.
The best counter to propaganda is truth and transparency, not more propaganda. Honest, unbiased facts coupled with unimpeded discussion by an informed citizenry is the most powerful weapon against the Kremlin’s disinformation that drains the future from Russia’s people and threatens Russia’s neighbors. … This is not about Russia Today. This is about Russia’s tomorrow.
As the debate over whether Al Jazeera English should be available in the United States continues, Russia Today, the Russian government’s international news channel, quietly makes inroads across the United States. Kim Andrew Elliott, audience analyst at the International Broadcasting Bureau, a unit of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, draws our attention to a press release from RT from 11 February 2011:
RT, an international TV news channel, has launched its English-language feed, 24×7, on San Francisco’s major cable provider, Comcast, which brings it to approximately 4 million viewers in the San Francisco metro area.
In the U.S., RT is carried by cable networks in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Washington, DC; and in Los Angeles, CA. …
Nielsen Media research showed RT’s average daily audience in Washington, DC, as exceeding that of Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and CCTV News, the English-language Chinese news channel. In New York metro, the Nielsen survey indicated that RT’s daily audience exceeds the average daily audience of Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera English and CCTV News.
Almost one-half (42.6%) of RT viewers* in Washington, DC, and in New York, NY,** appreciate RT’s critical take on news of the day, as well as its different stance from the mainstream media, and see it as a reliable alternative. The majority (87%) of respondents consider mainstream TV channels, such as CNN and BBC America, to be partisan. …
RT, an international TV news channel in English, Spanish, and Arabic is carried in the US by cable TV providers in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; and now in San Francisco, CA. GlobeCast WorldTV, a satellite provider, makes RT available elsewhere in the U.S. RT broadcasts 24×7 from its studios in Moscow, Russia, as well as from Washington, DC, in the U.S. All of its content is available live at www.RT.com.
It is ironic that foreign governments, be they China or Russia or Iran or the United Kingdom, or terrorists, can freely broadcast to Americans – increasingly from studios within the U.S. At one time, such foreign government material was officially considered propaganda. Today, it is only the U.S. Government media that is considered propaganda and off-limits to audiences who request them. Isn’t it time to revisit this?
Getting a visa to travel to another country can be challenging and expensive. The process, bureaucratic by nature, has more potential to frustrate the applicant and reinforce negative stereotypes than to create positive impressions. Continue reading “A surprising public diplomacy win”
Despite its pervasiveness in our daily lives, from social media to electrical networks to banking, the critical nature of the online remains ill-understood or appreciated. “Cyberspace,” a recent report asserts, “remains inadequately defended, policed and indeed comprehended.” This is the conclusion of Alex Michael, a researcher for the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. In Cyber Probing: The Politicisation of Virtual Attack, Alex dispels the comfortable belief – expressed in practice and conceptualization of online and new media – that the cyber world is somehow separate from the “real” world. In fact, they are simply new tools used for traditional activities. Cyber attacks, Alex points out, are used “in conjunction with many other forms of pressure, ranging from physical protest to social and diplomatic approaches, to influence the target and attempt to force its hand.” The Stuxnet worm reinforces Alex’s premise.
Earlier this week, the Defense Department’s Blogger Roundtable with Dr. Bradley R. Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense, and Admiral John Roberti, Deputy Director for Strategy and Policy, J-5, The Joint Staff, about the Nuclear Posture Review. The transcript here (PDF 106kb) as the podcast is here.
My question was aimed at the public diplomacy opportunities of the nuclear weapons talks & events, which range from the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to the Nuclear Summit next week to the START replacement negotiations, to the May non-proliferation conference at the United Nations. My question below is followed by the responses of Dr. Roberts.
Yale Richmond, a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and author of 11 books on intercultural communication, worked on U.S.-Soviet cultural and other exchanges for more than 20 years. He delivered the following speech at the Aleksanteri Institute’s 9th Annual Conference “Cold War Interactions Reconsidered” 29-31 October 2009, University of Helsinki, Finland. This is the second of two parts and originally appeared at Whirled View. It is published here with the author’s permission. Part I is here.
Exhibitions: Better to See Once. . .
And now to exhibitions. As an old Russian proverb tells us, it is better to see once than to hear a hundred times.
The Cultural Agreement also provided for month-long showings of exhibitions in the two countries to show the latest developments in various fields. Prepared by the U.S. Information Agency, the American exhibitions were on such subjects as medicine, architecture, hand tools, education, outdoor recreation, technology for the home, and agriculture. Each exhibition had some 20 Russian-speaking American guides who responded to questions from the Soviet visitors. For most Russians who saw the exhibitions, it was their first and only opportunity to talk with an American.
Despite harassment by the KGB, the exhibitions drew huge crowds with long lines awaiting admittance, and they were seen, on average, by some 250,000 visitors in each city. All together, more than 20 million Soviet citizens saw the 23 U.S. exhibitions over a 32-year period.
Yale Richmond, a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and author of 11 books on intercultural communication, worked on U.S.-Soviet cultural and other exchanges for more than 20 years. He delivered the following speech at the Aleksanteri Institute’s 9th Annual Conference “Cold War Interactions Reconsidered” 29-31 October 2009, University of Helsinki, Finland. This is the first of two parts and originally appeared at Whirled View. It is published here with the author’s permission.
I want to thank the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki for this opportunity to speak to you. It is an honor to be asked to address such a well-informed audience.
First a disclaimer. Although I worked for the US Government for more than 35 years, and many of those years on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, I do not speak for the State Department today. The views I present here today are my own.
There are many theories of why communism collapsed and the Cold War ended, as you will likely be hearing in this conference.
There are a few grains of truth in some of those explanations, and more than a few in others, but I will provide today many grains of another explanation–that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism were consequences of Soviet contacts and cultural exchanges with the West, and with the United States in particular, over the years that followed the death of Stalin in 1953.
When cultural exchange with the Soviets is mentioned, most people think of Soviet dancers, symphony orchestras, ice shows, and circuses that came to the West and filled our halls with admiring spectators. But cultural exchange consisted of much more–exhibitions, motion pictures, and most important, exchanges of people.
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere challenge the traditional conception of “victory.” What is victory when capturing the capital does not cause the population to succumb to your wishes, assuming of course there’s a central government to topple? This isn’t an issue in “traditional” conflicts, like World War I and II and even, to many, the Cold War. Or is it?
Nick Cull just returned from a trip to Russia to discuss public diplomacy at a Russian international relations university that “graduates 80% of Russian diplomats.” Not surprisingly, they talked about the end of the Cold War:
It became obvious that these students had not spent much time thinking about external determinants for the political changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. For them the Soviet Union collapsed for its own internal reasons, unconnected to its foreign policy, defense, and rearmament decisions. When I pushed the case – mentioned that Americans believe they won the Cold War and merely debate which of their policy decisions provided the “winning blow” – they were surprised. They simply do not see the story in terms of America’s victory or Russia’s defeat. The model adopted by these students was more that the Soviet Union attempted to create an ideal system, entered into competition with the United States, the system failed, and the Soviet Union stepped back from the competition – rather like a tennis player bowing out with a stomach cramp. Their model clearly left the path open for Russia to return to the competition and resume play, but this was not their intent. They seemed genuinely worried by talk of a return to a Cold War and asked with some anxiety about the likely foreign policy of America’s next president. This mutual gap in perception is significant. Americans might do well to ask how victorious they really were if the defeated party does not acknowledge the loss.
The Russian government must prepare to fight information wars which are becoming an ever more important part of geopolitical life, restoring parts of the Soviet-era system and going beyond that as well…