Thursday, February 26th 2015
The quarterly meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was held at a site for diplomats, attended by a number of former diplomats, and focused on diplomatic issues. But the discussion that followed was undiplomatically – yet appropriately – blunt.
Russia’s leadership (as opposed to the Russian people) is “intent on disrupting the free flow of information across Eastern Europe.”
They “distort the truth… sow dissatisfaction…“ and try to “drive a wedge between” the United States and Western allies in an effort that is “aggressive, even audacious in its scope and ambition.”
Deputy Assistant Sec. of State Mark Toner, who spoke to the Commission at its public meeting at the American Foreign Service Association headquarters in Washington, said that Russia has come a long way from the old “Soviet apparatchik” days. Their propaganda then was crude, easily recognized, and just as easily dismissed. Today, however, the anti-U.S., anti-Western, anti-democracy content coming from sources such as RT, the global Russian television network, is “very sophisticated” and polished.
“Unless you can compete with it, don’t even try.”
Fortunately, we can compete with it. And here the news was more encouraging.
Tuesday, November 4th 2014
In recent months, the front pages, websites, columns, blogs, and talking heads rediscovered an old issue -- the nomination of individuals who raised funds for a Presidential campaign to be ambassadors. A few nominees were embarrassed at their Senate confirmation hearings.
This short piece is NOT about ambassadorial nominees. Rather, let me step back and discuss the naming of political appointees to senior policy positions in the Department of State.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014
There is so much going on in the news these days that stories about the crisis in Ukraine are often hard to find in the U.S. media. But for some people, Ukraine is the top story every day.
And according to them, the news is not good.
Nenad Pejic, Interim Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Myroslava Gongadze, a reporter and television anchor for Voice of America’s (VOA) Ukrainian Service, and Will Stevens, director of the State Department’s Ukraine Communications Task Force, said this week that blatant propaganda has played a powerful role in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to boost his popularity at home, discredit Ukraine’s government, and justify Russia’s aggressions in the region.
Pejic, who appeared with the others in a Washington, D.C. panel discussion sponsored by the Public Diplomacy Council and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, said Russia’s disinformation efforts have included not only a media campaign but also “a political campaign, a cultural campaign, an energy campaign (and) a military campaign….”
The result has been a flood of anti-Ukraine propaganda on television, radio, and especially in social media. Stevens said the Russians have become skilled at exploiting the computer code algorithms that online search engines use so that their propaganda can be easily seen, read, and spread.
Because of that, he warned, people who watch or read Russia’s English-language RT (formerly Russia Today) television, which can be found online worldwide as well as on cable networks in the U.S. and elsewhere, and Ruptly, an RT-related “video news agency” based in Berlin, should know that they are “100 per cent government-run (and) operated” and “totally integrated with” Russia’s propaganda operations.
And the propaganda operations are “massive,” he added.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014
The columnists and talking heads have given out grades – ranging from “A” to “F” – for President Obama’s speech on foreign policy at West Point. Me? I’m just confused – indeed baffled.
Borrowing an old phrase from the 1960s, what “blows my mind” is that no one has noted the obvious area of consensus among supporters and critics of the President. All implicitly agree that the United States must have more diplomacy in the future – strong diplomacy.
Tuesday, December 10th 2013
Even in the middle of a busy week, the story stood out: 49 Russian diplomats posted in the United States were charged with participating in an organized scheme to defraud Medicaid out of $1.5 million in illegal benefits.
It wasn’t a one-time theft. According to the criminal complaint, the diplomats had been stealing money from America’s federal health benefits program for the needy for the past nine years.
President Vladimir Putin’s government must have been shaken by the news, and at least initially worried about how it would affect their interests. But that worry couldn’t have lasted long. When reporters asked the U.S. State Department spokesman about the impact of the scandal, she replied, “We don’t think this should affect our bilateral relationship with Russia. Quite frankly, there are too many important issues we have to work on together.”
Well, hold on just a second.