Congress eager to fund RFE/RL and VOA surge to Russia but will insist on management reforms

BBG Watch Commentary

Sen. Bob Corker introduced legislation with 22 Senate Republicans that provides for expanded U.S. broadcasts to Russia and neighboring countries.

Sen. Bob Corker introduced legislation with 22 Senate Republicans that provides for expanded U.S. broadcasts to Russia and neighboring countries.

BBG Watch has learned that many members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are eager to give more money to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and perhaps also to the Voice of America (VOA), provided that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) carries out management reforms at VOA and at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). The BBG board has already appointed an interim three-person management team at the IBB, but no management reforms have been undertaken so far at the Voice of America.

Sources told BBG Watch that the bipartisan bill, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490), is designed to achieve the necessary reforms. But also for the first time in the history of the Voice of America under its numerous past directors, a bill has been introduced in Congress to defund VOA for mismanagement. In response to multitude of news omissions, violations of the VOA Charter, and news reporting mistakes in recent years and months, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced his intention to introduce a bill that would eliminate federal funding for the Voice of America. Rep. Salmon described his initiative to defund VOA as the fifth “Shrink Our Spending” (SOS) bill in a series of bills to be introduced over the next few months to cut wasteful and duplicative spending.

SEE: Plans for first ever bill to eliminate funding for Voice of America for mismanagement announced in Congress, BBG Watch, May 15, 2014.

Sources told BBG Watch that the defunding bill may not be necessary if the BBG board takes quick remedial actions and the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) passes in some form in the House and in the Senate and is signed by the President.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced legislation on April 30 with 22 Senate Republicans providing a strategic U.S. response to deter Russian aggression in Europe.

The legislation, the Russian Aggression Prevention Act, has the following section with regard to U.S. international media outreach:

SEC. 309. EXPANDED BROADCASTING IN COUNTRIES OF
THE FORMER SOVIET UNION.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the
date of the enactment of this Act, the Chairman of the
Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Director of
Voice of America shall provide Congress with a plan, in-
cluding a cost estimate, for immediately and substantially
increasing and maintaining through fiscal year 2017 the
quantity of United States-funded Russian-language broad-
casting into countries of the former Soviet Union.

(b) PRIORITIZATION AND FOCUS OF PROGRAM-
MING.—The plan required by subsection (a) shall
prioritize broadcasting into Ukraine, Georgia, and
Moldova and shall ensure that the increased broadcasting
content required by subsection (a) is focused on conveying
the perspective of the United States Government and public
regarding ongoing events in those states to Russian language audiences.

(c) ADDITIONAL PRIORITIES.—The plan required by
subsection (a) should also consider—

(1) near-term increases in Russian-language
broadcasting in other priority countries including
Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia;

(2) increases in broadcasting in other critical
languages, including Ukrainian and Romanian lan-
guages; and

(3) prioritizing work by the Broadcasting Board
of Governors and the Voice of America with Euro-
pean and Eurasian allies to increase their broad-
casting and communications content directed into
countries of the former Soviet Union.

(d) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—There is
authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of State
$7,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2017
to carry out the activities required by subsections (a)
through (c).

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Apr 30 2014

CORKER, SENATE REPUBLICANS INTRODUCE STRATEGIC U.S. RESPONSE TO DETER RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IN EUROPE

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced legislation with 22 Senate Republicans providing a strategic U.S. response to deter Russian aggression in Europe, which threatens regional security and prosperity that is critical for maintaining economic growth in the United States.

“Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” said Corker. “Our legislation takes a three-prong approach to prevent the situation from becoming far worse. This bill will strengthen NATO, impose tough sanctions to deter Russia and support non-NATO allies of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is cosponsored by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Thune (R-.S.D.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

Key provisions of the Russian Aggression Prevention Act are included below.  Legislative text and a section-by-section bill summary are available below.

Strengthen NATO

  • Increases substantially U.S. and NATO support for the armed forces of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, as well as other countries determined appropriate by the president.
  • Requires the president to accelerate implementation of missile defense in Europe and provide other missile defense support for our NATO allies.

Deter Russian aggression

  • Places immediate new sanctions on any Russian officials and agents involved in the illegal occupation of Crimea, as well as on corrupt Russian officials and their supporters, and broadens and solidifies the sanctions already imposed by the administration.
  • Imposes immediate new sanctions tied to the destabilization of eastern Ukraine on four key Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, VEB Bank, Gazprombank, as well as on the Gazprom, Novatek, Rosneft energy monopolies, and Rosoboronexport, the major Russian arms dealer.
  • If Russian armed forces cross further into, or Russia further annexes, the sovereign territory of Ukraine or any other country, even tougher sanctions would (1) cut all senior Russian officials, their companies, and their supporters off from the world’s financial system; (2) target any Russian entities owned by the Russian government or sanctioned individuals across the arms, defense, energy, financial services, metals, or mining sectors in Russia; (3) and cut Russian banks off from the U.S. banking system.

Harden our non-NATO allies

  • Authorizes the president to provide $100 million worth of direct military assistance to Ukraine, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and small arms, based on a needs and capabilities assessment of the Ukrainian armed forces. It also encourages the sharing of intelligence with Ukraine.
  • Provides authority for exports of U.S. natural gas to all WTO members, including key countries in Europe, and provides support to encourage the U.S. private sector to invest in energy projects in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
  • Impose significant diplomatic measures on Russia, limits Russia’s access to advanced U.S. oil and gas technologies, provides support for Russian civil society, and focuses U.S. attention on corruption in Russia, potential treaty violations, and other strategically important matters.
  • Provides Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia with major non-NATO ally status to facilitate their access to military equipment and expands U.S. and NATO military exercises and training with key non-NATO states. It also prohibits U.S. recognition of the annexation of Crimea and provides support for civil society activities in former Soviet countries, as well as expands U.S. government counter-propaganda efforts in such countries.

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