- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In a throwback to the Cold War, the U.S. government-run news channel Current Time recently began broadcasting into Russia and Eastern European counties to counteract the Kremlin’s unofficial propaganda arms RT and Sputnik.

One of the target audiences is Poland, where President Trump will deliver a speech Thursday to reaffirm U.S. solidarity with Eastern European allies in confronting Russian aggression.

National Security Adviser Army Gen. H.R. McMaster said Mr. Trump will deliver a resolute message.

“He’d like the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia. But he’s also made clear that we will do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior,” he said.

The message is backed up by the 24-hour Russian-language TV newscast beamed into countries across Central and Eastern Europe since Current Time, or “Nastoyashchee Vremya” in Russian, officially launched in February.

The TV network and website was part of a restructuring of America’s state-run news outreach overseen by the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which also operates Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The new programing reflects the BBG’s return to determined promotion of American values over Russian propaganda after years of allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cronies to dominate the information battlefront.

“It’s high time that Washington decided to reply to the Kremlin dezinformatsia that comes out of RT and Sputnik, and countless other sources of that kind,” said Cold War scholar Igor Lukes, using a term for the Soviet propaganda machine. “It’s bound to be successful as long as it adheres to telling the truth.”

Mr. Lukes, a professor of international relations and history at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, said the U.S. was spending wisely on Current Time, which has a $22 million budget this year.

“Together with financing several independent journals, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA turned out to be the best instruments the U.S. government wielded during the Cold War. Compared with NATO and many intelligence operations, the money invested in publishing and broadcasting turned out to be most efficient,” he said.

The core staff of Current Time, which is based at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and located primarily in the Czech Republic, numbers about 70. Staff includes television anchors and multimedia journalists, TV production crews, graphics artists, and journalists and editors associated with the digital unit.

The battle over information that was a hallmark of the Cold War has regained prominence amid charges of Russian meddling in election in the U.S. and Europe, in party by shaping opinion with a flood of Kremlin-backed news.

The news from RT and Sputnik, which are not state-owned but closely allied with Mr. Putin, helped push a Kremlin perspective of unrest in the Ukraine, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the civil war in Syria.

To balance the news, Current Time provides hourly newscasts, long-form documentaries and a nightly analysis of the day’s news on the “Timur Olevsky Hour.” The programing has already ruffled feathers in Moscow.

In recent months, the network has provided extensive, live coverage of anti-corruption protests in Russia that have contrasted sharply with Russian TV’s efforts to minimize the events.

A top news story Wednesday was the announcement that suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine will be prosecuted in the Netherlands. Investigators determined that the Boeing 777 jet was hit by a Russian-made BUK missile fired from territory in Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

Mr. Trump’s visit to Poland also topped the newscasts with a focus on his goal of U.S. natural gas replacing Russian natural gas.

The channel also have provided an unvarnished view of American politics with live, translated coverage of testimony before Congress of former FBI Director James B. Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which a Current Times described as “a stunning spectacle for audiences unused to the lively and uncensored debates of the U.S. Congress.”

The channel also features weekly programming on business and entrepreneurship, civil society, culture and corruption.

Current Time is available on cable TV in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine. It also broadcasts worldwide on British and Dutch satellite TV.

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