9/27/2012, "Putin Critics Slam ‘Ludicrous Reset’ as US Silences Radio Liberty," WorldAffairsJournal.org, Vladimir Kara-Murza
"For the nearly sixty years that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
broadcast its programs in Russian, successive Kremlin governments—with
the sole exception of that of Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s only
democratically elected president—have sought to silence its voice.
Soviet leaders attempted to jam its signals and infiltrate its Munich headquarters with KGB operatives. Vladimir Putin, soon after coming to power, rescinded President Yeltsin’s decree granting Radio Liberty the right to operate a Moscow bureau. Last year, then President Dmitri Medvedev signed a law (which takes full effect this November) prohibiting foreign entities from owning radio stations in Russia.
Yet, in the end, it was not the Kremlin, but the US [Obama administration] itself that
effectively pulled the plug on the legendary institution. Last week, the
American managers of Radio Liberty abruptly dismissed more than 80 percent
of the station’s journalists and editorial staff in Moscow. Many had
worked there for years, building its reputation as a leading source of
professional and uncensored news and analysis for its Russian listeners....
The official reason
for mass layoffs was “a re-think of strategy” necessitated by the new
law—which, incidentally, never saw any public pushback from the US
government (just as there was no US pushback
to the Kremlin’s “request” to cease the work of USAID in Russia). “I
did not get an impression that the top leaders of Radio Liberty were
terribly upset about the loss of medium-wave broadcasts,” recalls
Yelena Rykovtseva, the now former journalist for the station. “They did
not particularly value the broadcasts. They believed that radio...is
being listened to by older and poorer audiences.” According to the latest figures from the market research company TNS, Radio Liberty’s daily broadcast audience in Moscow exceeds 100,000 people.
In any case, the new restrictions only force Radio Liberty to end its
medium-wave broadcasts, and do not in any way affect its short-wave or
Web-based operations—which raises the question about the true motive for
the breakup of one of Russia’s last independent media teams.
“The entire KGB and FSB, all the ideological departments of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union … all the [Putin propagandists]
Pushkovs, Leontievs, Mamontovs, and Shevchenkos could not cause such
damage to the prestige of the United States in Russia as the unknown
American bureaucrats [of the Obama administration] who have, in a flash, put the entire Moscow office
of Radio Liberty under the knife,” asserted
writer and journalist Viktor Shenderovich, bewildered at “the very idea
that you can simply replace the personnel at Radio Liberty … as if it
“It is very difficult to look at what is happening at Radio Liberty: a
wonderful, courageous, and professional team is being destroyed,” echoed
opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov. “It is a celebration for the
enemies of freedom in Russia, a blow to the already strangled freedom of
speech. Such is this ludicrous ‘reset.’”
It is indeed difficult to brush off the feeling that signals from the
Obama administration on human rights in Russia—be it the preposterous “congratulations” on Putin’s fraudulent election victory, firm opposition to the Magnitsky Act,
a quick compliance on pulling out USAID, or the latest “re-thinking” at
Radio Liberty—form a single pattern of “resetting” relations with
Putin’s authoritarian regime at the expense of the Russian people,
including the tens of thousands of protesters who have been coming to the streets to demand political reforms.
Many US administrations--of both parties---have ignored the
“inconvenient” issues of human rights for the sake of short-term deals
with repressive governments. But few have done it as brazenly as this one [the Obama administration]."