CENTRAL AND EAST EUROPEAN COALITION
1612 K Street, N.W., Suite 410
Washington, D.C. 20006
CEEC PRESS RELEASE
For Immidiate Release
"THE IMPACT OF RUSSIAN SOFT POWER IN WASHINGTON AND ITS SPILLOVER
Policy Forum hosted by the CEEC
(Washington, D.C.) --- On July 25, 2012, the Central and East
European Coalition (CEEC) sponsored a policy forum on Capitol Hill
entitled: "THE IMPACT OF RUSSIAN SOFT POWER IN WASHINGTON AND ITS
SPILLOVER EFFECTS." Panelists included ARIEL COHEN, Research Fellow at
the Heritage Foundation; SUSAN CORKE, Director of Eurasia Programs at
Freedom House; JEFF TRIMBLE, Deputy Director of the International
Broadcasting Bureau; and IRENA VAN DEUSEN, Managing Editor, Voice of
America Russian Service.
The event was moderated by Dr. Nino Japaridze of the Georgian
Association in the U.S., with introductory remarks by Alice Kipel of the
Belarusan-American Association. Both are representatives of the CEEC,
which is comprised of 18 American ethnic organizations representing over
20 million Americans.
Ms. Corke, the first presenter, noted that recent punitive
legislation introduced by the Russian government against nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) and citizen protestors poses a direct challenge to
the international community and those who support the protection of
democratic rights. President Putin is deliberately and systematically
trying to silence groups whose criticism of his human rights record
exposed weakness and helped fuel months of protests against his rule. To
justify his repressive moves, Putin needs an enemy - a threat beyond
Russia’s borders to rally the nation behind him. The U.S. government, in
solidarity with international governments and NGOs, must stand up for
the beleaguered organizations in Russia who seek a more democratic
future. Putin knows that support for those who seek fundamental freedoms
is a powerful form of soft power.
In his extensive remarks Dr. Cohen observed that Russian leaders,
since Putin’s assumption of power, have viewed the purpose of soft power
much like their predecessors did: to extend Russian influence and
constrain America’s. To this end, the Russian government allocated $1.4
billion for international propaganda in FY 2010, increasing that budget
by 33 percent from FY 2009. Russia’s premier soft power instrument is
its global television empire led by RT, with a significant presence in
Washington, D.C. Its priority is to denigrate America, disparage other
perceived enemies, and promote the notion of a multipolar world to
counterbalance U.S. dominance. Dr. Cohen believes that the U.S.
Administration and Congress should:
- Create a federally funded Research and Development Center
(FFRDC) to collect and analyze data on the public diplomacy
investments and activities of China, Russia, Iran, and other
countries challenging U.S. policies values, and leadership.
- Use the findings of this research to craft presidential policy
directives on public diplomacy.
- Task the State Department to collect from its many embassies
best public diplomacy practices for improving U.S. public diplomacy
- Ensure visa parity and freedom from interference for U.S.
journalists reporting in/and on China, Russia, and other states
whose public diplomacy outreach counters U.S. policies and
Russia Today (RT) has well-staffed broadcast bureaus in Washington DC
and in New York, noted Mr. Trimble. It now has distribution in ten U.S.
states and in Washington DC – potentially reaching 50 million viewers in
English and Spanish. Taking full advantage of new technologies, new
media as well as traditional media – Russia (through RT), China and
others are bringing their narratives and their ways of defining
themselves directly to the U.S. public. The openness of American society
facilitates the soft power efforts by various foreign entities to
propagate their perspectives and views in this country. Americans,
however, have nothing to fear from free and open exchange of ideas, a
concept woven into our national identity and reflected most prominently
in the First Amendment.
In contrast, Mr. Trimble remarked that Russia’s Duma has recently
passed a series of restrictive laws on NGOs, defamation, and the
Internet, further downgrading freedom of speech in Russia. Additionally,
the vagueness of these laws, characteristic from Soviet times, could
cripple free expression and freedom of the press.
U.S. international broadcasts are limited today to a single FM
station in Russia’s Kola Peninsula and two weak AM (medium-wave)
stations in Moscow. There are no domestic TV broadcasts. Worse, as of
November 10, 2012, RFE/RL’s MW transmitter in Moscow will no longer be
legal. Despite these challenges, the U.S. continues efforts to reach
audiences in Russia primarily through Russian-language RFE/RL and VOA
digital and shortwave platforms.
Mr. Trimble noted that U.S. International Broadcasting is prohibited
by legislation to conduct propaganda and is limited to: (1) broadcast
reliable, authoritative, accurate and objective news; (2) project a
balanced and comprehensive view of United States thought and
institutions, reflecting the diversity of culture and society; and (3)
present the policies of the United States Government including
discussions and opinions on those policies.
During her comments, Ms. Van Dusen remarked that the "Voice of
America Russian Service (VOARS) offers a valuable platform for views in
Russia, being the only resource for objective discussion on American
thought on events relevant to Russian speakers in the region." VOARS is
engaging its audience by offering balanced reporting and a forum for
ideas, despite media restrictions and pressure from the Russian
government. Under pressure by the authorities in Moscow, radio and
television affiliate stations in Russia have stopped broadcasting VOA
programs. To circumvent such restrictions, VOARS adopted an
Internet-only strategy in 2008. Unfortunately, Russian-language VOA
radio broadcasts were terminated just days before Russia’s war with
Georgia that year. VOARS now offers through web-based discussion,
dialogue, and multimedia presentation a timely and trustworthy source of
news, information and analysis of the U.S.-Russian relationship, global
events relevant to Russia, and projects America’s way of life and
culture. This is something seldom heard on any of Russia’s state-run
More information can be found on the CEEC website,
full texts of the remarks.
Alice Kipel's introductory remarks
Ariel Cohen's remarks
Susan Corke's remarks h
Jeff Trimble's remarks
Irina Van Dusen's remarks
-- 30 --
The Polish American Congress is a member, and one of the co-founders,
of the Coalition.