As we begin 2016, with the American mainstream media’s anti-Russia bias as deeply entrenched as never before, comes the news that the US government–funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has partnered up with the online magazine the Interpreter.
Previously, the Interpreter had been a “special project” of the Manhattan-based Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), a think tank funded by the exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khordorkovsky. In announcing the change, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, the journalist and CNN fixture Michael Weiss, said his organization was “excited to serve as an outpost of such a venerable news organization.”
An RFE/RL official told The Nation that the deal stipulates that RFE/RL will have exclusive rights to publish and translate articles from the Interpreter for RFE/RL’s audience abroad, while The Interpreter will be, in turn, obligated to publish each installment of ITS intractably Russo-phobic “The Power Vertical” blog.
According to Weiss, given his “magazine’s trajectory, a partnership with RFE/RL makes perfect sense.” That is only too true, given the marked decline in RFE/RL’s standards since the heyday of the Cold War.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were founded in 1950 by the State Department’s first Director of Policy Planning, George F. Kennan, in coordination with the postwar Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). In founding RFE and RL (the two entities merged in 1976), Kennan and the OPC, according to Kennan biographer John Lewis Gaddis sought “to provide financial support and employment opportunities for Eastern European émigrés, as well as anti-Soviet broadcasts to their homelands.”
Thereafter, funding came via the CIA, but according to RFE/RL, it parted ways with the agency by 1971. For most of its history, RFE/RL abjured the temptation to call for revolutionary movements abroad, focusing instead on broadcasting news stories that otherwise would not have been allowed to air in communist Eastern Europe.
Yet the propaganda RFE/RL had for so long avoided is something of a specialty of The Interpreter. As I pointed out at length in the pages of The Nation this past June, in addition to smearing a former US ambassador to Russia as a Kremlin “agent of influence” within the NATO hierarchy, the Interpreter has imputed treasonous motives to those with whom they disagree, all the while airing some of the more outlandish accusations against the Russian government.
For its part, RFE/RL has, of late, routinely published interviews and op-eds to audiences in Ukraine that only serve to reinforce the deep divisions racking that country. The most recent example of this was an interview given by a former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, in which he flatly declared “Обаме с Путиным просто не о чем говорить”: “Putin and Obama have nothing to talk about.”