BBG Watch Commentary
According to a news report in Politico, “Congress sends Ukraine package to Obama,” a separate measure passed to resolve differences between the Senate and the House versions of the Ukraine Support Act “is meant to provide a ‘surge’ in programming by outlets such as Voice of America into eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Moldova as a way to counter Russian propaganda.” “The legislation, which sets aside up to $10 million for the initiative, also passed the House on Tuesday and now goes to the president,” Politico reported.
Read more: Congress sends Ukraine package to Obama, Politico, April 1, 2014.
Chairman Royce Statement as Critical Ukraine-focused Broadcasting Legislation Heads to President’s Desk
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APR 1, 2014
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke on the House floor in support of two pieces of Ukraine-focused legislation, including an international broadcasting provision he originally authored.
S. 2183 is international broadcasting legislation originally authored by Chairman Royce (and included as Section 103 of the Ukraine Support Act (H.R. 4278) that the House passed last week). The legislation authorizes increased funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America to enable them to expand their broadcasting in Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar. This legislation requires the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to counter the propaganda that is supported by Russia and increase the number of reporters in eastern Ukraine. In addition, this legislation recognizes the threat to free media that neighboring states are under and bolsters the Balkan and Moldovan language services.
H.R. 4152 is legislation to support the Ukrainian people and stand up to Russian aggression.
Chairman Royce’s statement (as prepared for delivery) in support of S. 2183, the broadcasting legislation follows (video available HERE):
“I rise in strong support of S. 2183, legislation to bolster U.S.-backed international broadcasting to Ukraine and the surrounding region. This legislation passed the House overwhelmingly last week – as part of H.R. 4278. While the Senate did not act on the full House package of legislation to support Ukraine, I am pleased that it did recognize – and act – on this important piece. With its passage, this bill goes to the President’s desk.
Mr. Speaker – This legislation is central to our effort to counter Russian aggression and support the democratic development of Ukraine.
Throughout the crisis, Russians and Ukrainians alike have been bombarded by portrayals of Ukrainian protestors and the interim government as “fascist mercenaries.” This is a deplorable attempt draw a connection between those who yearn for freedom to the brutal Nazi invasion of the Second World War.
In this false narrative – this lie – stock images of chaos and violence are used to persuade viewers that ethnic and linguistic Russians are under attack. Footage of a border crossing between Ukraine and Poland has been used to support outlandish claims that Ukrainian refuges are fleeing to Russia.
In Crimea, Russian forces have seized control over at least a dozen television and radio stations that they now use to broadcast misleading and false news and information around the clock.
Russian propaganda is in overdrive. A survey by Russia’s only independent polling service, Levada, earlier this month showed that 63% of Russians believe state media portrays an objective picture of Ukraine.
This bill puts us on the offensive in this information battle. It does so by requiring Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) to increase broadcasts to the people of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, prioritizing programming to populations that are inundated with Russian propaganda and combating the misinformation they are receiving.
This bill also supports efforts to circumvent Russian jamming. The Russian government has targeted Ukrainian television and radio stations – jamming their signals and disrupting their ability to reach their audiences.
In addition, this bill supports U.S international broadcasting to the Balkans and Moldova – two regions that are subject to the wider Russian propaganda campaign.
The free flow of information forms the foundation of a strong democracy. Russian propaganda kills democratic prospects. As they struggle to build democracy, this bill will help provide the people of Ukraine with news and information that is accessible, credible, and accurate.”
Chairman Royce’s statement (as prepared for delivery) in support of H.R. 4152 follows (video available HERE):
“I rise in support of this important legislation to support the Ukrainian people and stand up to Russian aggression. Just a few days ago, the House acted decisively — passing similar legislation by a vote of 399-19. I prefer the more comprehensive bill backed by the House. But with today’s vote, we send this bill to the President – demonstrating bipartisan support for Ukraine at this critical time.
Importantly, this bill expands the sanctions available to be imposed on Russia’s leaders for their actions. The President should be using all of this authority – in conjunction with our European allies – putting as much pressure in place as quickly as we can. Our targets must include those who exercise influence over Russian policy, including the so-called oligarchs and others who have amassed enormous wealth through government corruption.
Ukraine faces many challenges that will not be resolved quickly or easily. This legislation responds quickly to help Ukrainians help themselves – helping to strengthen civil society and combat corruption.
The task of righting Ukraine is made all that more difficult given the threat of Russian troops on its border. And while the Russian Army threatens Ukraine’s east, it is Russia’s considerable energy resources that allow Moscow to hold all of Ukraine hostage.
For many years Moscow has used its supply of oil and gas to blackmail Ukraine and other countries, including our NATO allies in Europe. This morning Gazprom announced that it would hike the price for natural gas to Ukraine by 44 percent; an announcement deliberately timed to worsen that country’s economic situation.
We can remove this weapon from Russia’s arsenal by lifting the self-imposed barriers on U.S. energy exports. The greatly enhanced supply of oil and natural gas added to the world market will undermine Russia’s stranglehold on other countries and reduce the revenues that comprise over half of Moscow’s budget. That would get Putin’s attention, imposing a cost for aggression.
I urge all members to support this legislation and reserve the balance of my time.”