By Ted Lipien for Cold War Podcasts

Toward the end of the Cold War in the 1980s, the Republican administration of conservative President Ronald Reagan greatly increased spending on U.S. international broadcasting to the Soviet Union and to other communist-ruled nations. Broadcasts to nations behind the Iron Curtain were carried out by the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL). President Reagan also increased spending on U.S. public diplomacy outreach abroad by the United States Information Agency (USIA). The purpose of many of these public diplomacy programs as well as U.S. government-funded broadcasts was to counter Soviet propaganda and disinformation. 

The term “regime change” was not then in use, but the Reagan Administration worked toward replacing communist regimes with democratically elected governments by providing moral and in some cases practical support, such as printing presses, to the Solidarity independent trade union and democratic opposition movement in Poland. Only peaceful means were used to achieve “regime change” in Poland, both by Solidarity and by the Reagan Administration.

To make its various information programs more effective and more in line with its overall public diplomacy and information strategy, the Reagan Administration carried out management and personnel changes at VOA and USIA and appointed new heads of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. 

Many of these policy and personnel changes met with strong criticism from Left-leaning U.S. media reporters and commentators who accused Reagan of being a crude and dangerous anti-communist propagandist. His critics in the Democratic Party also said that he had no idea of how traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy should be conducted vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, the communist block and other nations. 

The same criticism was leveled against Reagan’s personal friend, Charles Z. Wick, whom he appointed to be the director of the U.S. International Communication Agency (ICA). [The name of USIA was changed to ICA during the Carter Administration; the Reagan Administration changed it back to USIA.] Critics accused Reagan, Wick and their key appointees at USIA and VOA of trying to replace news and information programs with propaganda.

Despite all the criticism, a change in Voice of America programing policy did occur in the early 1980s, with Reagan Administration appointed officials echoing the President’s willingness be much more critical of the Soviet Union and being willing to implement his vision of how to communicate his message to the outside world. Reagan’s appointees removed previous restrictions on VOA foreign language services. They were allowed to broadcast harsh condemnations of communist party leaders and to produce exposes of human rights abuses in the Soviet Block nations that went beyond what VOA management and USIA diplomats serving in key positions at VOA allowed VOA broadcasters and journalists to do during all previous administrations. 

During Reagan’s presidency, VOA foreign language services were also given more resources to send their own reporters abroad and allowed to broadcast interviews with leaders of underground anti-communist opposition in the region and those living in exile in the West. Most such interviews were previously discouraged by VOA’s management. 

Also pleased with President Reagan’s new information policy were human rights and opposition activists behind the Iron Curtain. They highly approved of the new tone of Voice of America broadcasts. While considerable changes took place at VOA in the 1980s, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty did not have to change much of their programming because they had been consistently anti-communist to a much greater extent than VOA prior to 1980.

Longtime Voice of America managers who were removed from their positions of influence at the start of the Reagan Administration resisted these changes as much as they could, as did quite a few VOA English Newsroom reporters who viewed President Reagan with contempt. They held private meeting to discuss how to undermine new managers brought to VOA by the Reagan Administration whom they considered a threat to respectable journalism. However, many reporters, editors and managers in VOA’s foreign language services welcomed their newly gained journalistic freedom with open arms. 

What Reagan’s critics saw as propaganda, foreign-born VOA journalists, many of them political refugees, saw as being finally able to report the whole truth about the Soviet Union and about the dangers of communism to the cause of human rights and free press. 

Some of the strongest criticism of the Soviet regime came from President Reagan himself. His statements condemning the Soviet leadership and communist ideology received a lot of airtime in VOA foreign language programs. 

Some reporters and editors in the VOA English Newsroom continued to be extremely unhappy with Ronald Reagan, his presidency and the new approach to U.S. international broadcasting and U.S.-Soviet relations, but the new upper management carried out most of the policy changes and programming initiatives of the Reagan Administration. 

One of the major initiatives was the 1982 television program “Let Poland Be Poland,” which was criticized and condemned as propaganda by the Soviets and by some of the Left-leaning media in the United States and in Western Europe but was very favorably received by leaders and activists of the banned Solidarity independent trade union movement in Poland. Despite Soviet jamming, millions of Poles listened to the audio of the “Let Poland Be Poland” television program broadcast to Poland on shortwave and medium wave. 

The Soviets continued to jam Voice of America, RFE and RL broadcasts, but thanks to increased budgets, VOA started to modernize its radio transmitters to overcome Soviet jamming. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty also modernized their radio facilities. 

Critics of President Reagan and his approach to the Soviet Union and U.S. international broadcasting turned out to be wrong. 

Thanks to management reforms and more spending on U.S. radio transmissions, Voice of America’s Central-East European foreign language services, especially the VOA Polish Service, were able to greatly increase their audience share during the 1980s. 

By the end of the Reagan Administration, communist regimes in East-Central Europe were being replaced by democratic governments in a largely peaceful revolution. The Soviet Union itself also collapsed a short time later. 

Radio Address to the Nation on American International Broadcasting

President Ronald Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on American International Broadcasting

September 10, 1983 My fellow Americans:

During my first press conference 9 days after being sworn in as your President, I was asked a question having to do with Soviet intentions. In my answer I cited their own words — that they have openly and publicly declared the only morality they recognize is what will further world communism; that they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that. And I pointed out that we should keep this in mind when we deal with them.

I was charged with being too harsh in my language. I tried to point out I was only quoting their own words. Well, I hope the Soviets’ recent behavior will dispel any lingering doubt about what kind of regime we’re dealing with and what our responsibilities are as trustees of freedom and peace. Isn’t it time for all of us to see the Soviet rulers as they are, rather than as we would like them to be?

Rather than tell the truth about the Korean Air Lines massacre, rather than immediately and publicly investigate the crash, explain to the world how it happened, punish those guilty of the crime, cooperate in efforts to find the wreckage, recover the bodies, apologize and offer compensation to the families, and work to prevent a repetition, they have done the opposite. They’ve stonewalled the world, mobilizing their entire government behind a massive coverup, then brazenly threatening to kill more men, women, and children should another civilian airliner make the same mistake as KAL 007.

The Soviets are terrified of the truth. They understand well and they dread the meaning of St. John’s words: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is mankind’s best hope for a better world. That’s why in times like this, few assets are more important than the Voice of America and Radio Liberty, our primary means of getting the truth to the Russian people.

Within minutes of the report of the Soviet destruction of the Korean jet, the Voice of America aired the story in its news programs around the globe. We made sure people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and, most important, the people in the Soviet bloc itself knew the truth. That includes every Soviet misstatement, from their initial denials through all the tortured changes and contradictions in their story, including their U.N. representative still denying they shot down the plane even as his own government was finally admitting they did.

Accurate news like this is about as welcome as the plague among the Soviet elite. Censorship is as natural and necessary to the survival of their dictatorship as free speech is to our democracy. That’s why they devote such enormous resources to block our broadcasts inside Soviet-controlled countries. The Soviets spend more to block Western broadcasts coming into those countries than the entire worldwide budget of the Voice of America.

To get the news across to the Russian people about the Korean Air Lines massacre, the Voice of America added new frequencies and new broadcast times. But within minutes of those changes, new Soviet jamming began. Luckily, jamming is more like a sieve than a wall. International radio broadcasts can still get through to many people with the news. But we still face enormous difficulties.

One of the Voice of America’s listeners in the Middle East wrote, “If you do not strengthen your broadcasting frequencies, no one can get anything from your program.” Our radio equipment is just plain old, some of it World War II vintage. I don’t mind people getting older; it’s just not so good for machines.

More than 35 percent of the Voice of America’s transmitters are over 30 years old. We have a similar problem at Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. We have 6 antiquated 500-kilowatt shortwave transmitters. The Soviets have 37, and theirs are neither old nor outdated. We regularly receive complaints that Soviet broadcasts are clearer than ours. One person wrote and asked why it’s not possible for a nation that can send ships into space to have its own voice heard here on Earth.

The answer is simple. We’re as far behind the Soviets and their allies in international broadcasting today as we were in space when they launched sputnik in 1957.

We’ve repeatedly urged the Congress to support our long-term modernization program and our proposal for a new radio station, Radio Marti, for broadcasting to Cuba. The sums involved are modest, but for whatever reason this critical program has not been enacted.

Today I’m appealing to the Congress: Help us get the truth through. Help us strengthen our international broadcasting effort by supporting increased funding for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and by authorizing the establishment of Radio Marti.

And I appeal to you, especially those of you who came from Eastern Europe, Russia, and Soviet-dominated countries, who understand how crucial this issue is, let your Representatives hear from you. Tell them you want Soviet rulers held accountable for their actions even by their own people. The truth is still our strongest weapon; we just have to use it.

Finally, let us come together as a nation tomorrow in a National Day of Mourning to share the sorrow of the families and let us resolve that this crime against humanity will never be forgotten anywhere in the world. 

Until next week, thank you for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Remarks on Signing an Agreement With Morocco To Modernize the Voice of America Relay Station in Tangier

President Ronald Reagan’s Remarks on Signing an Agreement With Morocco To Modernize the Voice of America Relay Station in Tangier

March 1, 1984 The President. Well, good afternoon. We’ve just had a meeting in the Oval Office. And I am delighted to welcome you all to the White House to witness the signing of our agreement on modernizing the Voice of America relay station in Tangier.

I’m pleased to call on Director Wick and Minister Filali [Charles Z. Wick, Director of the United States Information Agency, and Abdellatif Filali, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, respectively.] to sign this agreement, an important step towards strengthening the signal of the Voice of America.[At this point, the agreement was signed.]

Secretary of State Shultz. I didn’t know Charlie Wick could sign something with such a flourish. [Laughter]

The President. Now, if that station ever needs a sports announcer — [laughter] — — 

We come together today as people of two free nations, bound by common ideals and aspirations. And one of the most important ideals that we share is our belief in the power of truth. Truth is mankind’s best hope for a better world.

The Voice of America has been a strong voice for truth, and despite problems of antiquated equipment and Soviet jamming, the Voice of America has been able to spread its message of truth around the world.

Were it not for many years of neglect, the Voice of America could be heard more clearly by many more people around the globe. And that’s why our administration has made the same kind of commitment to modernizing the Voice of America that President Eisenhower and President Kennedy brought to the space program. It’s our firm commitment to Voice of America modernization which brings us here today.

Millions of people who long to hear the truth will benefit from this agreement. And by increasing the direct flow of information to the people and allowing them to make up their own minds about the major issues of the day, we’ll be serving the cause of peace and human rights.

America’s ties with Morocco go back more than 200 years — long before the advent of international broadcasting. Our relations are warm and close, and we share many of the same values. The cooperation between our two countries is symbolized by this agreement. And I want to say how much I, as well as Ambassador Reed, Charles Wick, Ken Tomlinson, and others at the Voice of America appreciate the cooperative spirit that has characterized the negotiating between our two countries.

I would particularly like to express my gratitude to His Majesty, King Hassan II for his role in this negotiation. His involvement and wise counsel were critical to its successful conclusion, and we owe him a debt of gratitude.

So, thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The ceremony was attended by Moroccan and U.S. officials. 

In his closing remarks, the President referred to Joseph Verner Reed, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Morocco; and Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Associate Director for Broadcasting, United States Information Agency.

President Ronald Reagan’s Remarks at the 40th Anniversary Conference of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

September 16, 1987

It’s an honor to be able to join you on this the 40th anniversary of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. It also happens to be a pleasure, first, because looking out today I see so many good friends: George Shultz, Charlie Wick, Ed Feulner, Priscilla Buckley. I could go on and on, but then there’s a second reason. You see, the way I look at it, this is sort of a professional get-together. Whether it’s WORLDNET, Radio Marti, or, in my case, the Presidency itself, everyone in this room is in the same business: the business of making bully pulpits even bullier.

But thinking about what I’d say here today, I did a little reading on the topic of diplomacy. It turns out that diplomacy has produced a certain amount of humor, and I thought that — with George Shultz’s permission — I might begin this morning by sharing with you an item that I especially enjoyed. It’s an exchange that took place in the 1930’s between Charles G. Dawes, American Ambassador to Great Britain, and Henry Prather Fletcher, at one time our Ambassador to Italy. Dawes said: “American diplomacy is easy on the brain but hell on the feet.” [Laughter] And Fletcher said: “It depends on which you use.” [Laughter]

Well, now, you’ll notice that this exchange has to do with diplomacy, not public diplomacy. It conjures up the traditional system in which relations between countries had less to do with the people of those countries than with their governments, when small numbers of diplomats often settled matters of world importance among themselves. I suppose the most famous example of the old diplomatic system, of diplomacy proper, was the 1815 Congress of Vienna, when representatives of the ruling classes — Metternich, Castlereagh, Talleyrand, and others — gathered to divide the map of Europe. You know, whenever I picture those wily aristocrats doublecrossing each other all day, then going to glittering balls in the evening, well, I’m reminded of an old piece of doggerel: “Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest thing in the nicest way.” [Laughter]

Diplomatic practices in the old days aside, it goes without saying that today trained diplomats remain of tremendous importance. Yet in this information age — this age of the mass media and the microchip, of telecommunications satellites above the planet and fiber optic cables underground — in this new age, traditional diplomacy alone is not enough. The United States must speak not just to foreign governments but to their people, engaging in public diplomacy with all the skill and resources that we can muster. Castlereagh spoke to Metternich, but leaders today must speak to the people of the world.

The advances our administration has made in public diplomacy budgeting, programs, and technology have been dramatic. To name only a few: Since 1980 the USIA [United States Information Agency] budget has nearly doubled. Exchange programs for students have doubled. WORLDNET has wedded satellite technology to public diplomacy. Radio Marti has begun broadcasting into Cuba. And it’s a matter of no small historical importance that five times during these years a President of the United States has, by way of Voice of America, directly addressed the people of the Soviet Union.

All these accomplishments have been made possible by individual men and women, those unsung but utterly dedicated Foreign and Civil Service professionals who run our nation’s public diplomacy. I understand that hundreds of our public diplomats will read these remarks or listen to them on tape, so let us take a moment now to express the Nation’s gratitude. To you, our public diplomats, whether stationed here in Washington or in posts from Rome to Shanghai: In a difficult world, you tell America’s story, and America gives you her thanks.

America’s story — as I’ve said, during these 6 1/2 years we have dramatically improved our ability to tell America’s story around the globe, but I would submit that we’ve done still more. I would submit that we’ve given the story itself new content, and on this, the very day before we celebrate the bicentennial of our Constitution, I would like you to join me in considering the renewed power, the renewed sense of hope, that America’s story holds for all theworld.

Begin, if you will, by casting your minds back to the 1970’s. And as you do so, place yourself outside the United States, perhaps in a nation of the Third World or in the position of a dissident in the Soviet Union. When you look at the United States you see that it grants its people freedom. But in the 1970’s this freedom might strike you as mere license, for the United States appears to be in decline. By 1979, indeed, the American economy is in disarray. America’s military strength has been permitted to atrophy, while at the same time the United States has diminished in stature around the world. But what perhaps strikes you most is the way the American leaders talk about their country — in effect, America’s public diplomacy. For all its troubles, the United States is still prosperous, still free; yet America’s leaders speak of uncertainty, self-doubt, guilt, and that word “malaise.”

You’re well aware of the world struggle — the struggle of ideas, economic vitality, and military strength. As you look ahead to the next decade, the decade of the eighties, you are less than optimistic about the United States. Yet now that the decade of the eighties is here, now that the decade of the nineties, indeed, is nearly upon us, the American situation has changed dramatically, and with it the nature of our public diplomacy.

In a moment I’ll return to our vantage point as a Soviet dissident or a citizen in the Third World, but permit me to speak first about what has happened here at home. Tax cuts, the rebuilding of our defenses, a cutback in government regulations, a determined, continuous effort to hold down the expansion of government spending — these are the policies that have been instrumental in all that we have accomplished, the proximate causes, if you will, of our renewed economic vitality and renewed strength in the foreign policy arena.

Yet I speak deliberately when I refer to these policies as instrumental, for they’ve merely served as the instruments of ideas, ideas like limited government and individual initiative, ideas like the view that America has a mission to stand up in the world for human freedom. Our administration has spoken out for these ideas again and again. The American people have responded. And government policy and the very scope and shape of government itself hasbeen changed.

This connection began [between] speaking out and the formation of policy may seem obvious, but it has enormous significance for a conference concerning itself with public diplomacy. For what it means is this: Not by force, not by coercion, but by speaking out, we have changed the course of history. Disraeli said: “With words we govern men.” Of course, it’s less our intention in the United States to govern than to serve. But in all the long American story, words have indeed proven fundamental. The basic act of the American Revolution was not the call to arms but the Declaration of Independence, an act that in effect called the Nation into being and the act that has sustained our Republic for two centuries now. Providing the rule of law for our fathers — as it does for us, as it will for our children and grandchildren — was the writing of the Constitution — several thousand words, mere words, on four sheets of parchment, but what power.

This brings me back to our public diplomacy. For just as by speaking out we’ve changed the course of American history, I believe that our public diplomacy represents a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful force at our disposal, for shaping the history of the world. In this administration, our public diplomacy has been marked, first, by shaking off the malaise of years past. That malaise and self-doubt had never been in accord with an objective assessment of America’s world position, had never been in accord, in short, with the facts. So it is that in speaking to the people of other nations, we have chosen to reassert the record: It is not the democracies that have backward economies. It is not the Western World in which average life expectancy is actually falling. It was not the democracies that invaded Afghanistan or suppressed Solidarity.

But second, we’ve gone beyond a mere statement of the facts, beyond reminding the world of the actual historical record, vital though that is. We’ve dared in our public diplomacy to articulate a vision, dared not just to defend the status quo but to speak of a new age of liberty. Consider this year alone. In April we asked that a date be set for the rapid and complete withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. In Berlin this June, we called for tearing down the Wall. This July we urged the Soviets to rescind the Brezhnev doctrine and establish genuine self-determination in Eastern Europe. As I said last month in Los Angeles, containment is not enough. Our goal has been to break the deadlock of the past, to seek a forward strategy — a forward strategy for world freedom.

There’s a third element in our public diplomacy, one that bears directly upon issues that are being raised at this conference. Permit me to call this, if you will, the moral element. You see, even as the 1970’s were marked by talk about national malaise, they were marked, as well, by talk about some sort of moral equivalency between the United States and the Soviet Union. One version of this view saw both nations simply as military and economic units struggling to determine which would become the greater power. Another version admitted that the Soviet Union had its moral shortcomings but pointed out that so did the United States, after all.

Well, yes, our country has its shortcomings, but there’s no moral equivalency between democracy and totalitarianism. There’s no moral equivalency between turning the proud nations of Eastern Europe into satellites and joining the nations of Western Europe in the defense of their freedom. And, my friends, there’s no moral equivalency between propaganda and the truth.

As I said, this touches upon issues being raised at this conference. We all know of the tremendous progress we’re seeing in communications, a virtual riot of new technology. But we know, as well, that the Soviets are serious about using these new technologies for their own purposes. Already, to name just one example, Soviet television can be received in Western Europe, North and Central America, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The Soviet message, even if it is propaganda, now reaches around the globe.

But there is, as I suggested, that moral point, that crucial distinction between what is true and what is not. Describing his experience in a prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War, Laurens van der Post writes that, in reading official propaganda sheets, he and his fellow prisoners evolved a technique for telling the true from the false. This was possible, van der Post writes, because “every thought, every articulation of meaning, from painting to music, carries within it evidence of its correspondence to the truth by the impact it makes on our senses and imaginations.”The truth — the truth will make itself known. Permit me to close now by telling you two stories that show this to be true, and in doing so, return to our vantage points in the Third World and the Soviet Union.

First, the Third World — imagine now the situation of a man of integrity and dignity in Cuba. His name is Ricardo Bofill. As an academic, he became a professor of Marxist philosophy. During the 1960’s he was a leading member of the Communist Party. Yet today he knows that Castro has betrayed every ideal the revolution seemed to espouse, and at the cost of constant threats and harassment, Ricardo Bofill serves as president of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.

Like all Cubans, Ricardo Bofill is bombarded day in and day out by the Castro regime’s propaganda. Even so, he and thousands of others recognize without hesitation the one news source that tells the truth. Bofill recently wrote: “It seems to me that there will arrive a moment concerning the situation of Cuba when it will be necessary to speak of the time before and after the broadcast of Radio Marti. The ability to answer the monolog that Fidel Castro has sustained for nearly 26 years has finally evolved.” Well, to all those involved with Radio Marti, you will never receive higher praise than the words of that brave man.

Now imagine yourself in the position of a Jewish dissident in the Soviet Union. For speaking out on human rights, you’re imprisoned in labor camps, where you spend nearly 9 years. Then one day you are marched across a bridge in Berlin — to freedom. Your name is Natan Shcharanskiy. And when you meet the President of the United States, you say this: “Thank you for telling the truth in your speeches. They were smuggled into the gulag.” 

I have a letter that testifies to that at home. It came to me by way of USIA — that was smuggled out of the gulag. The letter is only about 2 or 3 inches long — in width, I should say, of paper. It is only about three quarters of an inch in length. And yet there is a message on there of thanking us for maintaining freedom and keeping it alive in the world. And it is signed by 11 women prisoners, all on that tiny piece of paper. I don’t know how they wrote it, but I know you cannot see the words without a magnifying glass. 

There are some of the things that come up. I, as some people here at the head table know, have become a collector of stories that the citizens of the Soviet Union tell among themselves, revealing they have a great sense of humor, but also a cynicism about their system. And just yesterday I added a new one to the collection. 

A man just back from Europe, riding in a taxicab — the taxicab driver said to him, “There is the tallest building in Moscow.” And he looked out, and he said, “Well, where? Where is it?” He said, “There, that building.” And this American said, “That two-story building is the tallest building in Moscow?” He says, “Yes, from there, you can see all the way to Siberia. It’s the KGB headquarters.” [Laughter]

Well, they gave us hope, the people said, in the gulag there. Surely, this, is your mission as public diplomats, and surely, this is our mission as a nation: to stand for freedom and to give hope. On the day in Berlin that I faced the Wall and speaking to a very large audience on the west side, in West Berlin, advocated the tearing down of the Wall, I could see rows of East German military police fully 100 to 200 yards from the Wall, with their backs to the Wall and me speaking. They were there to keep any East Berliners from approaching the Wall, where they might be able to hear through the loudspeakers what I was saying. 

Yes, public diplomacy and all of you do give hope to more people in the world than perhaps you even realize. So, I guess all I really wanted to say is thank you all, and God bless you. 

Note: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. in the Loy Henderson Conference Room at the Department of State. In his opening remarks, he referred to Secretary of State George P. Shultz; Charles Z. Wick, Director of the United States Information Agency; Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., Chairman of the Commission; and Priscilla Buckley, a member of the Commission.

President Ronald Reagan’s Address to the People of Western Europe on Soviet-United States Relations via Worldnet

November 4, 1987

Greetings. I’m speaking with you from here in Washington via the satellite channels of WORLDNET and Voice of America. This is but another demonstration of the dramatic effect technology is having on our lives. Science is shrinking distances, overcoming obstacles, and opening borders. Today individuals in distant lands are working, trading, and even playing together on a global scale. We are, as would never have been thought possible a century ago, truly becoming a community — perhaps even a family — of free people, united by humane values and democratic ideals, and sharing in a prosperity that is closely linked to the trade and commerce between us.

Earlier in this century, during a time when fascism and communism were on the rise, there were those who believed that the light of democracy might well be extinguished. It was feared that the era of representative government, of political and economic freedom, would prove to be a short interlude of history and would disappear just as the democracy of Greece and the Roman republic had vanished. 

Well, our cause may have seemed precariously perched, fragile, and without the power projected by strutting troops and mass political spectacles; but it should be clear now that the courage and resilience of free people are too easily underestimated, as is our resolve to cooperate, to see a common purpose, and to act together in our own defense.

Victor Hugo once wrote: “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” Well, in my life, I have time and again seen evidence that gives me great confidence that those who live in freedom do indeed have the will to remain free, even under enormous pressure, even against great odds. Those of us who lived through the Second World War saw that in the British people, whose indomitable spirit never broke under heavy bombardment. We saw it in the French troops and resistance fighters, who battled to free their homeland; in Polish Home Army soldiers, who rose in Warsaw; in the moral heroes throughout the continent, including within Germany itself, who resisted nazismoften at the cost of their own lives; and others who risked all to save Jews, sometimes perfect strangers, from the death camps. We saw it in Normandy, where Americans joined with people from all over Europe to breach the Atlantic Wall and head inland, joined together in one mighty crusade to rid the continent of Hitler’s National Socialism and all the horrors that went with it.

Yes, and in the four decades since the end of the Second World War, the free peoples of the world have continued to prove their courage and, just as important, as never before to demonstrate their solidarity with one another. The North Atlantic alliance, a lasting triumph of unity and cooperation among free peoples, has maintained peace on the European continent for four decades. It has been the shield of democracy and the greatest deterrent to war in history

Four decades of European peace have been no accident. They have been earned by those in uniform who stood guard, and paid for by all of us whose taxes kept our allied forces manned, equipped, and armed with the conventional and nuclear weapons needed to deter aggression. We’ve all had to do our part, or it wouldn’t have worked. But it has worked. The alliance has been prepared to meet any challenge. The message to anyone who would threaten the peace has been simple and direct: “Don’t even think about it.”

And when our will has been tested, we’ve come together as allies, as people whose destinies are inextricably linked, and have acted in unison to meet the challenge. It has not been easy, yet we’ve done what was necessary to keep our countries free and to preserve the peace. That certainly was true of the alliance’s response to the vast expansion of Soviet military power in the late 1970’s, especially their introduction of the new SS – 20 intermediate-range missiles. It was in 1977 when the Soviet Union deployed its first SS – 20’s. This triple-warhead weapon could hit anywhere in Western Europe and much of Asia. Though NATO had no comparable missile to counter this new threat, by August of 1982 the number of Soviet INF missiles had climbed to over 300, with more than 900 warheads.

What we were witnessing was an attempt to tip the military balance of power in Europe and erode the security bond between Europe and the United States. It tested our cohesion and could well have had serious, even catastrophic, long-term consequences had the alliance not acted with resolve. But we did act. 

In December of 1979 Western leaders made the decision to move forward on a two-track approach. First, the United States would negotiate with the Soviets in an attempt to convince them to withdraw their new missiles. Second, as long as the Soviets continued on their course and kept their missiles in place, NATO would deploy in Europe a limited number of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles. What the alliance sought, however, were fewer missiles, not more.

Our plan depended upon unflagging solidarity and steadfastness of purpose, even under immense pressure. And the pressure was put on. Had the nuclear freeze and unilateral disarmament protesters won, Europe would now be condemned to live under the shadow of Soviet nuclear-armed INF missiles. To democracy’s credit, the political courage of farsighted European leaders carried the day. That resolve has now made it possible to achieve an historic agreement — an agreement that will eliminate a whole class of United States and Soviet INF missiles from the face of the planet.

The agreement we are now hearing is based upon the proposal that the United States, in full consultation with allied leaders, put forward in 1981: the zero option. The plan will require the Soviets to remove four times as many nuclear warheads as the United States. Not only will the entire Soviet force of SS – 20’s and SS – 4’s be destroyed but also the shorter range SS – 12’s and SS – 23’s. It’ll be the first mutual reduction of the world’s nuclear arsenals in history. And more than that, the shorter range Soviet missiles that will be eliminated are capable of carrying not just nuclear but also chemical and conventional warheads. Thus, we will be making a promising start in cutting back these threats to Europe as well.

Achievements like this are not the result of wishful thinking, nor are they made more likely by loud proclamations of a desire for peace. Lasting progress derives from hardnosed realism, strenuous effort, and firmness of principle. I can assure you that any treaty I sign will be realistic and in the long-term interest of all the members of the alliance, or no agreement will be signed.

The Soviet Union, for example, has a poor record of compliance with past arms control agreements. So, any new treaty will contain ironclad provisions for effective verification, including on-site inspection of facilities before and during reductions and short-notice inspections afterward. The verification regime we’ve put forward is the most stringent in the history of arms control negotiations. None of us in the alliance can settle for anything less.

Arms reduction — if done with care to ensure the continuing credibility of our deterrent, both nuclear and conventional — is in the interest of all Western countries. And any INF agreement should be viewed not as the end of the process but the beginning, a first big step. We and the Soviets have also been negotiating possible reductions in our strategic arsenals, which for us is a high priority. Again, it’s an American proposal that is the centerpiece of the negotiation — a dramatic proposition to cut our strategic arsenals in half. Considerable progress has been made, and further movement can be expected if Soviet flexibility is evident.

What is totally unacceptable, however, is the Soviet tactic of holding these offensive reductions hostage to measures that would cripple our Strategic Defense Initiative. We won’t bargain away SDI, which offers the promise of a safer world in which both sides would rely more on defenses, which threaten no one, than on offensive forces. It shouldn’t escape our attention that the Soviets themselves have been spending billions on a strategic defense program of their own.

Much has been heard as of late about reforms being instituted within the Soviet Union. Glasnost, we are told, is ushering in a new era. Well, who cannot but hope these reports are true, that the optimism is justified? Good sense, however, dictates that we look for tangible changes in behavior — for action, not words — in deciding what is real or illusionary. We will, for example, closely watch the condition of human rights within the Soviet Union. It is difficult to imagine that a government that continues to repress freedom in its own country, breaking faith with its own people, can be trusted to keep agreements with others.

Yes, this year some people, including a few very prominent individuals, were permitted to leave the Soviet Union. It’s better than the record of recent years, yet many more emigration and divided-family cases remain. And let us remember: Denial of the right to emigrate is only a small part of the problem of the repressive Soviet system. A recognition of freedom of speech, religion, and press; a release of all prisoners of conscience; an ending of the practice of sending perfectly sane political dissidents to psychiatric hospitals; tolerance of real opposition; and freedom of political choice — these things, which we all take for granted, would signal that a true turning point has been reached and would offer hope of positive changes in the international arena, as well.

If there’s one observation that rings true in today’s changing world, it is that freedom and peace go hand in hand. The further the Soviet leadership opens their system and frees their people, the more likely it will be that the tensions between East and West will lessen. Reflecting this, we also hope to see changes in Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is most certainly a dreadful quagmire. The Afghan people have proven themselves the bravest of the brave. They will continue to have the sympathy and support of free nations in their struggle for independence. Soviet leaders can win accolades from people of good will everywhere and free their country from a no-win situation by grounding their helicopter gunships, promptly withdrawing their troops, and permitting the Afghan people to choose their own destiny. Such actions would be viewed not as a retreat but as a courageous and positive step.

Another sign to look for — this one closer to home for you on your side of the Atlantic — would be a loosening of the Soviet hold over Eastern Europe. Why should the peoples of Europe remain divided as they are with barbed wire, watch towers, and machineguns? Why shouldn’t all Europeans be free to travel, to visit one another, or to conduct business with each other? Shouldn’t the Brezhnev doctrine finally be renounced? Four decades after the war, why should 17 million Germans be treated like prisoners in their own land? A true opening-up and recognition of their sovereign independence would be welcomed by all the peoples of Eastern and central Europe, and it would not threaten the security of the Soviet Union or anyone else.

A few months ago, I visited Berlin. I stood there alongside the cruel wall that symbolizes so powerfully the scar that divides the European continent. It’s time for that wound to heal and that scar to disappear. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sight for the world to see, if someday General Secretary Gorbachev and I could meet in Berlin and together take down the first bricks of that wall — and we could continue taking down walls until the distrust between our peoples and the scars of the past are forgotten.

A few moments ago, I recalled the valiant fight 40 years ago to liberate the European continent. Who cannot help but appreciate that, in that epic struggle, the peoples of the Soviet Union fought bravely and sacrificed so immensely to defeat the common enemy. After the war, we became adversaries, at times bitter adversaries. Yet this need not have happened and need not continue. Any philosophy or leader suggesting that there is a predetermined course of history and that conflict between our peoples and systems is inevitable is wrong. We are not condemned by forces beyond our control. We, all peoples in every land, can shape the world in which we live and determine the future. We in the Western democracies have been doing just that. Together we’ve built a freer and more prosperous way of life, a community of free people. I’m certain you agree with me that the door is open to all who would join with us.

German literary figure Heinrich Heine has written: “Do not mock our dreamers. Their words become the seeds of freedom.” Well, today our vision, not only of a more peaceful world but of a world of freedom in which democratic rights are enjoyed in every land, seems ever more in focus, almost as if it is within reach. We will continue to watch and to be hopeful, yet we must also remain vigilant. The strength and viability of the alliance remains essential, even as an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union opens new opportunities for peace. It is just such strength as NATO has demonstrated that is a precondition to such progress. Weakness, vulnerability, and wishful thinking can undo what has been accomplished by standing firm.

This, nevertheless, can be a time of great change. As you’re likely aware, General Secretary Gorbachev has accepted my invitation to come to Washington for a summit in early December. We’ll be discussing face-to-face the wide spectrum of issues I’ve spoken to you about today. I, in fact, expect we’ll sign that agreement concerning U.S.and Soviet INF missiles during the time of our meetings.

For our part, the commitment of the United States to the alliance and to the security of Europe — INF treaty or no INF treaty — remains unshakable. Over 300,000 American servicemen with you on the continent and our steadfast nuclear guarantee underscore this pledge. Those who worry that we will somehow drift apart or that deterrence has been weakened are mistaken on both counts. Our ties will be strengthened, not diminished, by this success. Such an historic reduction in nuclear weapons, as now appears on the way, will be a resounding vindication of the unity, strength, and determination of the alliance.

As far as our ability to keep the peace, the NATO strategy of flexible response will continue to ensure that aggression, at any level, is blocked. A viable deterrent force of nuclear weapons of many types, including ground-based systems as well as those carried by aircraft and submarines, still protects Europe and remains in place. And we have agreed with our allies that the existing imbalances in conventional forces and chemical weapons must be redressed prior to any further nuclear reductions in Europe.

The alliance has had underway for some time a program of modernizing our forces so that a credible deterrent is maintained over the long term. That is why major initiatives are moving forward to upgrade NATO’s conventional strength. And after 18 years of unilaterally refraining from any production of chemical weapons, improvements are being made in our modest chemical weapon inventory. The Soviet Union, of course, possesses what is by far the world’s most extensive chemical weapon stockpile.

But just as we’re doing in our INF talks, we’re also seeking through negotiation to correct the disparities we face in both the chemical and conventional areas. In fact, in 1984 the United States, with allied support, proposed an effective global ban on chemical weapons. As far as conventional forces, the alliance stands ready, if the East meets us halfway, to make reductions in central Europe through mutual balanced force reductions, or MBFR, as they are called. At the same time, in Vienna an agreement between East and West is being sought that would mandate new negotiations on conventional stability from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains.

Our common security agenda, as you can see, is broad and ambitious. An INF agreement is an important first step, but only the first one toward our greater goal. And let there be no doubt, the citizens of the United States fully understand and appreciate that we are partners for peace with you, the peoples of our fellow Western democracies. That’s why we applaud what we see as a new willingness, even eagerness, on the part of some of our allies to increase the level of cooperation and coordination among themselves in European defense. The growing cooperation between France and Germany is a positive sign, as is the modernization of the British and French independent nuclear deterrents, which are both vital components of the Western security system. Last week the foreign and defense ministers of the Western European union issued an impressive declaration. It reaffirmed the importance of maintaining our nuclear and conventional deterrents and affirmed a positive Western European identity in the field of defense within the framework of the Atlantic alliance. We welcome these developments.

Over these last four decades, all too often the United States has been viewed as the senior partner of the alliance. Well, today when the economic strength of Western Europe and the United States are fully comparable, the time has long since come when we will view ourselves as equal partners, and a more equal relationship should not diminish our bonds but strengthen them. It should not limit our potential but expand it.

Goethe, the soul of German literature, once wrote: “If you would create something, you must be something.” Well, in these last four decades the people of the United States and Europe have been a force for progress and freedom on this planet. And only a few short years from now, as mankind literally enters into a new millennium, we will have laid the foundation for a prosperous and free future. We’ve proven wrong — dead wrong — those doubters and despots who earlier in this century thought democracy was soon to be extinct. We have ensured that, in the centuries ahead, it is free people who will dominate the affairs of mankind. And let me predict that, someday, the realm of liberty and justice will encompass the planet. Freedom is not just the birthright of the few, it is the God-given right of all His children, in every country. It won’t come by conquest. It will come, because freedom is right and freedom works. It will come, because cooperation and good will among free people will carry the day.

There’s a story that was brought to my attention a few years ago about an elderly couple who live in the small town of Marstel on the island of Aero in Denmark — Natalia and Nels Mortensen. For the last 40 years they have tended the grave of a young man they never met. They dig the weeds and place flowers, and always there’s a small American flag. When it becomes worn, they replace it with another.

They are watching over the final resting place of U.S. Air Force Sergeant Jack Wagner, who died when his plane was shot down on June 20th, 1944, near Aero, which was then occupied territory. Jack Wagner’s body washed up on shore a few days later, and the word quickly spread through the tiny community. When the Nazi occupation troops came to bury the young American, they found nearly the whole town of 2,000 had been waiting by the grave since early in the morning to pay tribute to the young flyer. The path had been lined with flowers. And when the troops laid young Jack Wagner in his grave, the townspeople conducted a funeral service and placed red, white, and blue flowers on his grave, along with a banner that read: “Thank you for what you have done.”

Jack was a 19-year-old American from Snyder County, Pennsylvania. The Danish townspeople had never met him, but they knew this young man had given his life for them. He cared enough for people he’d never met to make the supreme sacrifice for their freedom. The Mortensens never forgot this. They still care for that grave as if he was a member of their family, and in a way, he was. Just as we are all part of the family of free people.

Many young people from all of our countries have died to preserve the freedom we now enjoy. Many of our children still serve. They stand together on the ramparts of freedom. We care about each and every one of them as if he or she was our own. Let us be as brave as they are brave, as proud as they are proud.

Thank you for letting me share these moments with you. God bless you.

Note: The President’s address was recorded on November 3 in the Roosevelt Room at the White House for broadcast by the U.S. Information Agency on WORLDNET television and the Voice of America at 8 a.m. on November 4.

Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Charles Z. Wick, Director of the United States Information Agency

November 17, 1988

Thank you, Harold. Thank you all very much. It’s a delight to join you tonight as we honor a dear friend of mine and Nancy’s. But what brings me here is a lot more than our friendship. It is to recognize and express my gratitude for the remarkable job Charles Wick has done at USIA. To put it simply: Charles is the man who brought our international communications agency into the 20th century. And you know, this happens to be one of my favorite centuries. [Laughter] Charlie and I have shared a considerable portion of it together. [Laughter] Over the years, Charlie has distinguished himself as a businessman and entrepreneur, an attorney, a musician, an ardent and devoted patron of the arts, and a passionate patriot and lover of freedom. And now he can add to this litany the unique distinction of being the longest serving director, as you’ve been told, in the history of USIA, certainly one of the very finest. And boy, has he worked hard! Charlie is a man who loves puns. But I’ll tell you, this Wick has been burning his candle at both ends. [Laughter] 

It was Charlie who introduced the revolutionary concept of WORLDNET, successfully launched Radio Marti, gave us RIAS TV — the television counterpart to our radio station in Berlin — in modernizing the Voice of America, and helped the United States get its message out to the world with a degree of technological sophistication never seen before.

Now, people have asked me how I discovered this very effective public servant. Well, I just looked for someone with the balance of two qualities: a greatness of vision, yet still able to understand Washington. [Laughter] And when I found the man who would produce the classic film that combined Snow White and the Three Stooges — [laughter] — I said, I have found that man.

But the truth is that Charlie has played a central role in making U.S. information policy, a key part of our international activities in foreign policy. He’s worked in concert with the top policy officials at the State Department and on the National Security Council and has served as my principal adviser on international information and cultural matters.

In 1983, when Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down, it was USIA, under Charlie’s direction, that produced the dramatic video presentation we took to the United Nations to show the world what happened in the final minutes of that doomed flight. And as the Soviet Union began to introduce glasnost, Charlie arranged the U.S.-Soviet information talks to address key issues on the bilateral flow of information. With his ongoing efforts, new understandings were reached on disinformation and on the exchange of films and publications. The Voice of America is no longer jammed by the Soviets. And they have granted permission for the first time for Voice of America to open a bureau in Moscow.

The genius of Charlie Wick lies in his ability to recognize how changing information technology, especially satellite communications, has transformed the international political landscape. He understands the need for the United States to convey its message to the people of the world if we’re to succeed internationally. And he knows how to do it better than it’s ever been done before.

One thing that he also knows so well is that the United States Government can’t do it alone. We couldn’t have done it without you. All of you who have participated in the private sector committees and been so generous in your support have been a critical part of our success. Private sector volunteers, people like you working in such areas as medicine, labor, publishing, public relations, marketing, engineering, radio, television, and other fields have done much more than help USIA to do its important work. You’ve made it possible for us to show the world the essence of the American idea and to present to the planet our truest face: the one that says, “We the People.” Only in a country in which it really is the people who rule would the Government depend so greatly on private citizens like yourselves to help America share our message with the world. And only in a country as great as America would the response be as great as yours has been.

We’ve accomplished great things these past 8 years. Under Charlie’s inspired leadership and with your strong support, USIA has undergone a rebirth of vision and a renewal of capability that will guide it well into the next century and for which America is truly grateful.

So, my good friend Charlie Wick, and to all of you, thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:57 p.m. in the Hall of Flags at the Organization of American States building. He was introduced by Harold Burson, chairman and chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller and chairman of the dinner

POLISH CONSTITUTION DAY
HON. EDWARD J. DERWINSKI of ILLINOIS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, May 13, 1982


• Mr. DERWINSKI. Mr. Speaker, it has been pointed out on numerous occasions that the Polish-American com­munity in Chicago almost outnumbers the Poles in Warsaw. The Chicago area is the center of the Polish-American fraternal, patriotic, and civic ac­tivities. This is dramatically shown in the annual observance of Polish Con­stitution Day which is commemorated the first Saturday in May.

On May 3, 1791, Poland adopted a Constitution which led to a complete reform of its internal life and asserted the country’s democracy. The observ­ance of this important anniversary is banned in Poland, but in Chicago, the celebration of the 3d of May Constitu­ tion includes a large parade of over 100,000 people, and a program of fes­tivities.

At this year’s event, the Director of the International Communication Agency, Mr. Charles Z. Wick gave the keynote address following the parade. I wish to insert Director Wick’s inter­esting and significant remarks which were delivered on May 1 in Chicago:

Remarks of Charles Z. Wick

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here in celebration of Polish Constitution Day, May 3.

Today is an emotional day for me. Dzls czuje sie Polakiem. (Today I feel like a Pole.) Today I stand before you In both joy and sadness. Sadness, because as I look out at your faces, my thoughts turn to your loved ones living under martial law In Poland. And Joy because I know that our messages of hope are reaching the people of Poland.

As Director of the International Commu­nication Agency, it is my job to send Ameri­ca’s messages of hope and freedom to Poland and to the world through the Voice of America and our other efforts. Since December, we have increased our Polish-lan­ guage broadcasts from 2 and and a half hours to 7 hours per day. The Voice is covering today’s events here for our listeners in Poland.

In January, I decided that we had to do something extraordinary to demonstrate the world’s outrage at the imposition of martial law in Poland. With the enthusias­ tic support of President Reagan, Secretary of State Haig and many other dedicated people, we produced “Let Poland Be Poland.”

Through that program—seen and heard by millions of people—we let the Polish people know that they are not alone in their struggle for freedom.

I regret that the great Senator, Charles Percy, could not be here this afternoon, and he sends you his best. As you know, Senator Percy is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which has Jurisdiction over ICA. Without Senator Percy’s unfail­ing and inspirational cooperation, “Let Poland Be Poland” might never have been possible. Senator Percy is enormously proud of his Polish constituency. I have firsthand knowledge.

I should also like to express my regret that another great friend of ICA and of the Polish people cannot be here today. The great Congressman, Edward Derwinski. While not being directly responsible for USICA, he has been a great supporter of our programs for many years and gave enthusiastic support to our efforts in the pro­ duction of “Let Poland Be Poland.”

I would like to begin this afternoon by reading a brief quotation:
“The restoration of an independent, strong Poland is a matter which concerns not only the Poles but all of us. A sincere collaboration of the European nations is possible only if each of these nations is fully autonomous in its own house. This inde­pendence can be gained only by the young Polish proletariat, and in its hands it is secure. For the workers of all the rest of Europe need the independence of Poland Just as much as the Polish workers them­selves.”

You might think that those words are from a newspaper editorial published since the imposition of martial law In Poland last December 13.

They are not.

They are by Friedrich Engels and are taken from the foreward to the Polish edi­tion of the Communist Manifesto.

What a pity that communists don’t listen to their own prophets!

The Poles love freedom. They have been partitioned by other nations—for more than 100 years they were erased from the politi­cal map of Europe. 

They have been crushed by two world wars.

But their spirit has never been crushed.

The proud Polish people have survived as a nation because of their faith and their tra­ dition of freedom, preserved through two centuries of foreign and domestic tyranny.

There is a section in the Polish Constitu­ tion of 1791 which says, “In human society all authority originates from the will of the nation.” How tragic that that remarkable Constitution was never applied. An invasion from Russia stopped it.

At the end of World War II the Poles fell into the Soviet sphere. Since then, Polish workers have periodically taken to the streets to demand reforms and an end to op­pression.

In 1980, frustration at the ineptitude and corruption of the authorities led to the birth of Solidarity. It embodied a nation’s desire for dignity in the workplace, for free­ dom and for self-determination.

There is nothing novel about these rights; most of them are supposedly guaranteed by Poland’s constitution of 1947, a document cynically written and then wholly ignored by Poland’s authorities for thirty-five years!

Solidarity sought to address and resolve Poland’s economic ills. It acted in good faith. It pursued a path of constructive dia­ logue with the Warsaw authorities.

Once again, the spirit of the Polish nation caused free people everywhere to watch with admiration.

Then came December 13, 1981. Brutal re­ pression descended like a dark cloud on Poland. Martial law destroyed the newborn freedom. The clock was turned back 30 years.

The results are clear. Instead of dignity, there is degradation. Instead of truth, there is doublespeak. Instead of freedom, there is oppression.

Ten million Poles belong to Solidarity. With their families, they are an overwhelm­ing majority of the Polish nation. By perse­cuting Solidarity, the Polish authorities wage war on their own people. Hardly an encouraging advertisement for a system which claims to free its people from their chains.

Four months after the imposition of mar­tial law, the Warsaw military regime does not seen to know what to do next. It is one thing to conduct a military operation and jail opponents, but quite another to force a whole society to work for a cause it categori­cally rejects. Napoleon said: “You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.”

Economic production lags far behind pre-December 13 levels. Ironically, a failing economy caused by social unrest was one of the regime’s justifications for imposing mar­tial law in the first place.

In Rome and Warsaw, the Catholic Church has strongly condemned martial law. The Church has also called for the re­lease of political prisoners and for negotia­tions among the various elements of Polish society.

The authorities insist that movement on other economic and social issues must await the reconstruction of the Polish Communist Party. But that is like trying to revive a corpse. As for Solidarity, reports of its demise were not only premature but greatly exaggerated.

Every day that passes demonstrates that martial law will not solve Poland’s problems. If accommodation is not sought by the Polish authorities, what solution does the regime foresee?

Do they intend to maintain martial law in­definitely?

Will the military regime ignore the world­wide outcry against the war they are waging on their own people?

If so, are the Polish authorities prepared for the consequences, within Poland and in a continued deterioration of East-West rela­tions?

We and our allies have a stake in these de­cisions, because they will have a profound effect on the history of all Europe for years to come.

The Soviet Union has applied unyielding pressure on Poland throughout the past 18 months.

And the Soviets accuse the United States of interfering in Poland’s internal affairs. We have no need to interfere in Poland. There, as elsewhere, history is on the side of freedom.

Moscow has tried to distract attention from this failure of the communist system by seeking to exploit differences in the West. But Western condemnation of martial law has been strong and unanimous.

Our position is clear.

It reflects principles embodied in the Uni­versal Declaration of Human Rights and in the Helsinki accords, to which Poland and the Soviet Union are signatories. It is also in accord with the position of the Polish Catholic Church and the groups of intellec­ tuals who have bravely sent open letters to the martial law authorities since last Janu­ary.

We will continue to press the Polish au­thorities for an end to their repressive meas­ures. Their refusal to end martial law can only bring greater tensions and chaos. Those who have imposed martial law must understand that they have only postponed the inevitable reckoning with the Polish people.

On January 30, the day marked as “A Day of Solidarity with the People of Poland,” President Reagan and fourteen other heads of government made statements on the Polish situation. Each called for:

The end of martial law;

The release of Lech Walesa and all of the Solidarity detainees and the dropping of all charges against them;

Negotiations among the government, Soli­darity, and the church, aimed at national reconciliation.

Today. President Reagan stands ready to provide support and assistance to Poland once it has restored internationally recog­nized human rights to its people.

The statements by the 15 world leaders and other dramatic expressions of solidarity with the people of Poland were beamed around the world in my Agency’s interna­tional television special “Let Poland Be Poland.” Here is part of the soundtrack of that film, including a statement by Presi­dent Reagan.

President Reagan said:

“There is a spirit of solidarity abroad in the world today that no physical force can crush. It crosses national boundaries and enters into the hearts of men and women everywhere. In factories, farms and schools, in cities and towns around the globe, we the people of the free world stand as one with our Polish brothers and sisters.”

And Prime Minister Willoch of Norway:

“The Norwegian people have reacted jointly and strongly against the suppression of the Polish people.”

Next, to Iceland and Prime Minister Gunnar Thoroddsen:

“The Polish people have often, through ages, suffered from despotism, but never has the soul surrendered.”

Prime Minister Fraser of Australia:

“Despite occupation and suppression, they still fight for freedom.”

Portuguese Prime Minister Bal Semao:

“Now and always the Portuguese people will stand beside the Polish people and all those whose freedom has been destroyed.”

And the Prime Minister of Japan Zenko Suzuki:

“Men of goodwill throughout the world deplore the present situation in Poland and earnestly hope for successful search for an avenue which leads to genuine stability and prosperity in Poland.”

The list of world leaders continues with Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Sadolin:

“The fate of the Polish people is today in all our hearts, just as it was on the very day of General Jaruzelsky’s coup d’etat, certain­ ly not unbeknown to the Soviet Union.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau:

“In the name of all Canadians, I fervently call upon the Government of Poland to bring an end to martial law and to open the way to national renewal and reconciliation.”

Prime Minister Bulend Ulusu of Turkey:

“Turkey has traditionally nurtured great sympathy and friendship for the Polish people.”

Prime Minister Werner of Luxembourg:

“Patience and courage. Polish people, his­ tory goes forward in the direction of the in­ alienable rights of man and nations.”

From France. President Francois Mitter­rand:

“The Polish people need to know that their struggle for greater freedom is joined by the unity and solidarity of millions and millions of people throughout the entire world.”

Belgium’s Prime Minister Wilfried Mar­tens:

“Poland recalls to us the value, and also the fragility, of what we have to represent and defend.”

And concluding, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of Germany:
“Together with our friends in Europe and in America, we demand of the Polish rulers: Lift martial law, release the detainees, and return to the national dialogue with the church and with the elected leaders of the Solidamość Trade Union.”

“Let Poland Be Poland” reached nearly 350 million people—186 million who saw it on television in 48 countries and another 165 million who heard the program on radio.

The radio audience was crucial because so many people were denied the right to see the telecast. 

Again, our message got through. Despite jamming, 10 million people in the Soviet Union and another 8 million in Poland heard the radio version. 

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcast the television soundtrack, which reached at least 50 million in Eastern Europe and 15 million in the Soviet Union. 

We know that “Let Poland Be Poland” fo­cused world attention on the plight of the Polish nation and of your loved ones in Poland. 

We also know that it struck a communist nerve. The Soviets’ reaction has been espe­cially abusive. 

The number of police the Warsaw regime dispatched to prevent Poles from seeing the videotape in the U.S. Em­ bassy also speaks volumes about its impact. 

In 1970, following the uprising of Polish workers on the Baltic coast. Czeslaw Milosz wrote a poem to honor the workers who died in the fighting there. He lives in our country now, and he appeared in “Let Poland Be Poland.” 

The words of his poem are inscribed on a memorial in Gdansk. I would like to close with a small part of what he said: 

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers. 

You can slay one, but another is born. 

The words are written down, the deed, the date. 

We say to the Warsaw regime: 

You can slay one, but another is born. Poland will not die. Poland cannot die. 

The sight of a peaceful people seeking peaceful change ter­rifies the Marxist-Leninists in Warsaw. But the brutal actions of these fearful men will not deprive the Poles of their faith, their courage or their dreams to Żeby Polska była Polską (Let Poland Be Poland). 

Thank you very much.

President Ronald Reagan’s Remarks at a Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Voice of America

February 24, 1982

The President. Thank you very much. I’ve just seen a little bit of the workings of your place and read even more of them on the remarkable job that was done on the recent worldwide broadcast. And I stand here filled with mixed emotions: For years now, I’ve been on the Late Late Show, and I don’t know just what time I’m on the air now — [laughter] — and where.

But 40 years ago today, America opened up a crucial front in its war against the enemies of freedom. It was 79 days after Pearl Harbor, and the Nation was mobilizing all its resources in the epic struggle that by then had encircled the planet.

In those days, as now, truth was a vital part of America’s arsenal. A spirited band of professionals, men and women dedicated to what their country stood for and anxious to do their part, began broadcasting from the fourth floor of a New York City office building. In those early days, under the able direction of John Houseman, programs were recorded on acetate disks and then shipped via bomber to England and Latin America for broadcast.

From this humble beginning, the Voice of America has grown into a respected institution of American communication, a global radio network broadcasting 905 hours weekly in 39 different languages.

Though born in war, the Voice of America continued in peace and has made enormous contributions. Today as we witness new forms of inhumanity threatening peace and freedom in the world, the Voice of America can perform an even more vital function. By giving an objective account of current world events, by communicating a clear picture of America and our policies at home and abroad, the Voice serves the interests not only of the United States but of the world. The Voice of America is for many the only source of reliable information in a world where events move very quickly.

Perhaps today I can outline a news story that you may be hearing about — or as I’ve already found out, many of you have heard about it already — and that was that a short time ago I announced at a meeting of the Organization of American States a new initiative promoting peaceful economic and political development in Central America and the Caribbean Basin. That area of the world was dramatically affected by the rising price of oil and the subsequent economic uncertainty of the last decade.

There are those who have sought to exploit this instability. We in the United States are concerned not only because of the proximity of those nations, but also because we’ve witnessed on too many occasions the suffering and oppression that invariably follow the establishment of Marxist dictatorships.

In the months and years ahead, the United States will work closely with friends in the Western Hemisphere like Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, to promote economic growth, social stability, and political freedom in the Caribbean Basin and in Central America. On our part, we intend to offer a bold new opportunity for social and economic progress. The centerpiece of the program is a free trade arrangement for Caribbean Basin products exported to the United States. This will encourage new economic development and a better life for the people of the area. Also included in the program are incentives for investment and further financial aid, technical assistance, also, for the area.

We will, furthermore, seek to encourage the democratic process in the region. All too often extremists from right or left have sought to undermine social and economic progress, hoping to impose their will by brute force. This mentality is unacceptable to the United States and the free peoples of the Americas. It has no place in this hemisphere.

The United States intends to continue its support to those who are struggling to establish democratic institutions. The Communist-dominated guerrillas of the region offer nothing but the same bankrupt ideas that have imprisoned the populations of Cuba and Vietnam, Afghanistan, and, yes, Poland.

On March 21st, free peoples around the world will join in observing Afghanistan Day. In marches, meetings, and rallies, they will express their support for the heroic freedom-fighters of Afghanistan in their brave struggle against Soviet aggression. I’m happy to say that the Voice of America will provide thorough international coverage of Afghanistan Day.

Today we celebrate this 40th anniversary of an institution that has given hope to the citizens of those Communist regimes and all the victims of tyranny. The challenges we face are no less grave and momentous than those that spawned the Voice 40 years ago. Freedom is no less threatened, and the opposition is no less totalitarian. In this struggle there’s no greater weapon than the truth. Free men have nothing to fear from it. It remains the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of democracy.

Now, of course, I know there’s a great deal of discussion about the truth, as if there are degrees to truth. Well, no, truth can be told — I remember my first experience, because more than 40 years ago, I was a pioneer in radio, a sports announcer, and I found myself broadcasting major league baseball games from telegraphed reports. I was not at the stadium. And a man on the other side of a window with headphones on and a typewriter would hear the dot and dash of the Morse code and type out and slip under the window. And knowing that there were six or seven other fellows broadcasting the same game — they did it that way in those days; you could take your choice of who you wanted to listen to — you had to keep right up with the play, even though you weren’t there. So you’d get a little slip and it would say, “Out. Six to three.” Well now, number six on a team is the shortstop — not on his bat; that’s the numbered position. Number three is first base, so you knew that had to be a ground ball to the shortstop.

Now, if the game was rather dull, you could say, “It’s a hard-hit ball down towards second base. The shortstop is going over after the ball and makes a wild stab, picks it up, turns, and gets him out just in time.” [Laughter]

Now, I submit to you that I told the truth. [Laughter] He was out from shortstop to first, and I don’t know whether he really ran over toward second base and made a one-hand stab, or whether he just squatted down and took the ball when it came to him. But the truth got there and, in other words, it can be attractively packaged. [Laughter]

Also, I should say, in those days of radio — my goodness, they’re long-gone — when you had a sound-effects man in the studio and he had a wheeled cart, and on it he had every kind of device in the world for your radio dramas, from coconut shells that he beat on his chest to be a galloping horse — [laughter] — to cellophane he could crumple for a fire, and everything.

And one day — and I’m only telling this because it shows that there is still room here for initiative — one day we had a play that called for the sound of water falling on a board. Well, this poor fellow during all the rehearsals, he was working — he tried rice on a drum, he tried dried peas on a piece of cardboard, he tried everything, and nothing would give him the sound of water on a board. And finally one day he tried water on a board. [Laughter] And it sounded just like water on a board. [Laughter]

Well, we’re justifiably proud that unlike Soviet broadcasts, the Voice of America is not only committed to telling its country’s story, but also remains faithful to those standards of journalism that will not compromise the truth.

Recently, we celebrated the 250th birthday of George Washington. He understood the power of truth and its relationship to freedom. “The truth will ultimately prevail,” he said, “where there are pains to bring it to light.” Today we have this responsibility: bringing truth to light in a world groping in the darkness of repression and lies. Let us rededicate ourselves to the task ahead, and like the Founding Father, we can be confident that truth will prevail. And if truth prevails, freedom shall not perish from this Earth.

Thank you for all what you’re doing, and God bless you.

Mr. Conkling. Mr. President, we’d like to ask you to stay for another moment. It’s probably not the appropriate time to discuss our budgets with you — [laughter] — but we do have a great deal of antiquated equipment, and we need to do something about it.

This is a microphone. It was invented some time back during one of the wars, perhaps the Civil War. It is something we would like to present to you as a memento to remember us when budget time comes. [Laughter] We had it thoroughly scanned by security for fingerprints, and they found yours on there. [Laughter]

The President. Well, thank you very much. Thank you.

Mr. Conkling. I do think it is fair to read the inscription. “To President Ronald Reagan on your visit to the Voice of America’s celebration of 40 years of international broadcasting on February 24th, 1982.”

It’s yours.

The President. Thank you. This really dates me, I want you to know. [Laughter] I’m getting vengeance for those budget remarks — [laughter].

This was the third modernization in my radio days. [Laughter] We thought it was the newest and most fabulous thing in the world after an old carbon mike where every once in a while you had to turn the game down and then tap it with a pencil to separate the carbon crystals again. [Laughter] We welcomed this. And I welcome this and thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:31 p.m. in the auditorium of the VOA headquarters building on Independence Avenue.

Prior to his remarks, the President toured the newsroom with Charles Z. Wick, Director of the International Communication Agency, James B. Conkling, VOA Director, and other VOA officials.

Soviet Block Jamming of Western Freedom Radios

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Cold War Podcasts Present Soviet Block Jamming of Western Freedom Radios

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This is Ted Lipien for Cold War Podcasts.

Jamming—defined as intentional broadcasting of random noise or other annoying sounds or music to make reception of radio transmissions impossible or difficult—was widely used by the Soviet Union and by other communist-ruled nations during the Cold War to prevent their citizens from listening to Western radio stations which offered news, other information and entertainment without government censorship. These transnational radio programs countered propaganda and disinformation by local regimes and their state media. Otherwise, the communist party  would have had an almost complete monopoly on delivery of domestic and international news.

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This off air recording of a Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service broadcast on the medium wave frequency 1197kHz from a transmitter site near Munich in West Germany was made in Helsinki, Finland at approximately 1905 GMT on February 1, 1982 by Aare Lahtinen, a radio engineer working for the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) which at that time was part of the International Communication Agency (ICA) with headquarters in Washington, D.C. IBB provided technical support for VOA. 

Before and after 1982, ICA, the parent U.S. federal agency managing the Voice of America, had a different name—the United States Information Agency or USIA. The agency was established in 1953 and was a public diplomacy arm of the State Department with its own diplomatic personnel specializing in media and public affairs outreach abroad. For several decades some of USIA’s diplomats occupied on a rotational basis key policy and managerial positions at VOA. They were there in 1982.

The Voice of America itself was launched by the U.S. Administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Second World War, in February 1942, and was put in the Office of War Information (OWI). In 1945 OWI was abolished and VOA was placed in the State Department, and in 1953 in the United States Information Agency which was dissolved in 1999. VOA was then transferred to a separate agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which was independent from the State Department. Since 2018, the agency has a new name and is now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). The Voice of America is still managed by this federal U.S. government agency which has an annual budget of approximately $800 million. Much of it is spent on VOA and on the support of its programs, but USAGM also oversees and supports other media entities targeting countries in the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia, as well as Cuba.

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The Voice of America Polish Service broadcaster heard in this segment was Irene Broni who before joining VOA had worked for Radio Free Europe Polish Service in Munich. Her radio name was Irena Radwańska. She was also a talented pianist. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty still exist today and are now funded and overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

Jamming was the ultimate proof of the effectiveness of Western broadcasting to countries behind the Iron Curtain in Europe, and behind the Bamboo Curtain in Asia. Communist regimes would not have bothered to jam these programs if they were not effective and not perceived by them as dangerous to their undemocratic and repressive rule. They were effective even with jamming because jamming was never fully successful. Jamming during the Cold War was still, however, a major problem and very expensive to conduct and to overcome.

In a radio address on U.S. international broadcasting delivered from the Oval Office on September 10, 1983, President Ronald Reagan described how Soviet jamming worked and complained that U.S. radio transmitters were old, fewer and less powerful than Soviet broadcasting and jamming equipment.

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“During my first press conference 9 days after being sworn in as your President, I was asked a question having to do with Soviet intentions. In my answer I cited their own words — that they have openly and publicly declared the only morality they recognize is what will further world communism; that they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that. And I pointed out that we should keep this in mind when we deal with them.

I was charged with being too harsh in my language. I tried to point out I was only quoting their own words. Well, I hope the Soviets’ recent behavior will dispel any lingering doubt about what kind of regime we’re dealing with and what our responsibilities are as trustees of freedom and peace. Isn’t it time for all of us to see the Soviet rulers as they are, rather than as we would like them to be?

Rather than tell the truth about the Korean Air Lines massacre, rather than immediately and publicly investigate the crash, explain to the world how it happened, punish those guilty of the crime, cooperate in efforts to find the wreckage, recover the bodies, apologize and offer compensation to the families, and work to prevent a repetition, they have done the opposite. They’ve stonewalled the world, mobilizing their entire government behind a massive coverup, then brazenly threatening to kill more men, women, and children should another civilian airliner make the same mistake as KAL 007.

The Soviets are terrified of the truth. They understand well and they dread the meaning of St. John’s words: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is mankind’s best hope for a better world. That’s why in times like this, few assets are more important than the Voice of America and Radio Liberty, our primary means of getting the truth to the Russian people.

Within minutes of the report of the Soviet destruction of the Korean jet, the Voice of America aired the story in its news programs around the globe. We made sure people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and, most important, the people in the Soviet bloc itself knew the truth. That includes every Soviet misstatement, from their initial denials through all the tortured changes and contradictions in their story, including their U.N. representative still denying they shot down the plane even as his own government was finally admitting they did.

Accurate news like this is about as welcome as the plague among the Soviet elite. Censorship is as natural and necessary to the survival of their dictatorship as free speech is to our democracy. That’s why they devote such enormous resources to block our broadcasts inside Soviet-controlled countries. The Soviets spend more to block Western broadcasts coming into those countries than the entire worldwide budget of the Voice of America.

To get the news across to the Russian people about the Korean Air Lines massacre, the Voice of America added new frequencies and new broadcast times. But within minutes of those changes, new Soviet jamming began. Luckily, jamming is more like a sieve than a wall. International radio broadcasts can still get through to many people with the news. But we still face enormous difficulties.

One of the Voice of America’s listeners in the Middle East wrote, “If you do not strengthen your broadcasting frequencies, no one can get anything from your program.” Our radio equipment is just plain old, some of it World War II vintage. I don’t mind people getting older; it’s just not so good for machines.

More than 35 percent of the Voice of America’s transmitters are over 30 years old. We have a similar problem at Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. We have 6 antiquated 500-kilowatt shortwave transmitters. The Soviets have 37, and theirs are neither old nor outdated. We regularly receive complaints that Soviet broadcasts are clearer than ours. One person wrote and asked why it’s not possible for a nation that can send ships into space to have its own voice heard here on Earth.

The answer is simple. We’re as far behind the Soviets and their allies in international broadcasting today as we were in space when they launched sputnik in 1957.

We’ve repeatedly urged the Congress to support our long-term modernization program and our proposal for a new radio station, Radio Marti, for broadcasting to Cuba. The sums involved are modest, but for whatever reason this critical program has not been enacted.

Today I’m appealing to the Congress: Help us get the truth through. Help us strengthen our international broadcasting effort by supporting increased funding for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and by authorizing the establishment of Radio Marti.

And I appeal to you, especially those of you who came from Eastern Europe, Russia, and Soviet-dominated countries, who understand how crucial this issue is, let your Representatives hear from you. Tell them you want Soviet rulers held accountable for their actions even by their own people. The truth is still our strongest weapon; we just have to use it.

Finally, let us come together as a nation tomorrow in a National Day of Mourning to share the sorrow of the families and let us resolve that this crime against humanity will never be forgotten anywhere in the world. 

Until next week, thank you for listening, and God bless you.”

A few years later, in a speech in September 1987 dealing with U.S. public diplomacy, President Reagan noted that since 1980 the USIA budget has nearly doubled. Some that money went toward modernization of U.S. broadcasting facilities. One off the people behind this effort was President Reagan’s advisor on Soviet affairs John Lenczowski. 

“And it’s a matter of no small historical importance that five times during these years a President of the United States has, by way of Voice of America, directly addressed the people of the Soviet Union,” President Reagan said in 1987.

Western stations, which had their programs disrupted by Cold War jamming, included Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) with headquarters in Munich in West Germany, the Voice of America (VOA) first based in New York and later in Washington, DC—all three funded by the United States government—as well as Britain’s BBC in London and a few other Western radios. 

According to Rimantas Pleikys, a Lithuanian broadcaster, journalist and former Minister of Communications in independent Lithuania, who is regarded as a top international expert on jamming, the Soviets also jammed Radio Tirana staffed by pro-Albanian and pro-Chinese communists. The Soviet Union stopped jamming on November 30, 1988. Pleikys reported in June 2020 that China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea still jam today radio broadcasts produced by the U.S. Agency for Global Media. He also reported that in 2019 Iran stopped jamming of Radio Farda on 1575 kHz medium wave frequency. Radio Farda is part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, now with headquarters in Prague, in the Czech Republic where it moved from Munich in 1995.

To overcome jamming during the Cold War, radio stations targeting countries behind the Iron Curtain would air their programs on multiple shortwave frequencies on the correct assumption that not all frequencies could be effectively jammed at all times. In addition to broadcasting on more frequencies, the Western response to jamming was building more transmitters, increasing transmitter power, increasing antenna gain, and compressing audio dynamic range to break through the interference.

Western broadcasters also used a few medium wave frequencies, which were often disrupted with deliberate co-channel interference, but not as severely as shortwave transmissions. 

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The Voice of America Polish Service announcer in this segment was most likely Jacek Niećko who had worked for the U.S. Information Agency but was transferred temporarily to VOA to help with radio broadcasting after the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981 and the expansion of VOA Polish broadcasts from 2 and a half hours daily to seven hours per day. 

Jamming on medium wave was a more obvious violation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rules. ITU is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Soviet Block countries were members of ITU and therefore the Soviets used only low-power medium wave transmitters to jam Western medium wave frequencies. For example, in Lithuanian they used a three kW transmitter to jam BBC and Radio Tirana.

Both, shortwave broadcasting and jamming of shortwave broadcasts, were very expensive in equipment and transmission costs. Commercial broadcasters could not profitably produce foreign language programs on a major scale. Generally, at that time, only governments could afford to engage in massive cross-border radio program delivery in multiple languages using high-power shortwave and medium wave transmitters.

Western radio stations regularly monitored reception of their own programs in Western Europe but as close to the target area as possible, and sometimes secretly even inside countries behind the Iron Curtain. They tried to assess effectiveness of jamming to help them develop methods for overcoming such local interference with signal quality of their radio broadcasts.

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Aare Lahtinen, a radio engineer hired in Helsinki, Finland, recorded several VOA Polish program segments on February 1, 1982 for monitoring purposes and sent tapes with these recordings for analysis to Washington.

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At that time Poland was under martial law, which had been imposed in December the previous year by the communist regime led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski. It was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt on the part of the military authorities to crush the Solidarity independent trade union and the human rights movement associated with Solidarność.

The monitoring in Helsinki showed that VOA Polish Service programs on most shortwave frequencies were completely or almost completely in-audible—due to jamming—but a few frequencies, especially the medium wave frequency of 1197 kHz, from a transmitter near Munich in West Germany, offered a reasonably good reception, especially at night.

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Communist authorities also usually left at least one frequency un-jammed to monitor Western radio broadcasts for their own knowledge.  Transcripts of Western radio broadcasts were then sent to top members of the communist party elite. Western radio engineers often adjusted and changed their frequencies and radio transmissions to confuse communist jammers and allow listeners to have a better reception of shortwave broadcasts.

For comparison, the monitoring engineer in Helsinki also recorded a few Radio Free Europe and BBC Polish programs.

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Radio Free Europe was more heavily jammed than VOA because communist regimes found RFE programs to be more dangerous due to their much greater ability than the Voice of America to deliver local news from inside the countries behind the Iron Curtain.

Radio Free Europe, and its sister station Radio Liberty broadcasting to the Soviet Union, were also more critical of communism and Soviet leaders than what the Voice of America was allowed to be by various U.S. administrations during most of the Cold War. When President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, previous programming policy restrictions at VOA were removed with regard to the Soviet Union and Soviet Block countries.

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This was most likely Marek Święcicki, VOA Polish Service editor, famous World War II war correspondent and author of several bestselling journalistic and historical books, some of them translated and published in English. Before joining VOA, Marek Święcicki was the deputy director of the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe.

Despite jamming, surveys conducted among travelers from East-Central Europe by independent market research firms in Western Europe, showed that weekly reach of Radio Free Europe Polish programs in Poland in 1982 was close to 70% of the adult population and above 40% for VOA Polish programs.

RFE Polish had more airtime than VOA and its programs had more relevant and more timely information about what was happening in Poland.

VOA, however, was quickly improving its audience reach in the 1980s.

A secret public opinion poll conducted by the Solidarity trade union in Poland in 1986 showed a much higher weekly audience reach for VOA —with VOA Polish at 77%, BBC at 52%, RFE at 43% and Radio France Internationale at 21%.

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The jamming by the Soviet Block was never fully effective, mainly because — even with heavy jamming — the audience was desperate to receive uncensored news and commentary in their local languages, and Western radio was then practically the only source of such information. This was before the Internet allowed many governments, but also public and private providers of news — both large and small— to target audiences from within individual countries and from locations abroad, and to do so at almost no cost for transmitting such information on the web.

The situation was quite different during the Cold War. Shortwave and medium wave radio transmissions from abroad were practically the only option for cross-border news outreach to communist-ruled countries. Use of multiple radio frequencies made it impossible for Soviet Block nations to jam all of them with equal effectiveness.

But once the jamming stopped, communism in East-Central Europe and the Soviet Union fell, and local free media quickly developed, reasons for Western radio broadcasting disappeared and most radio programs to the region were shortened and eventually discontinued within a little over a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

It was quite a different story during the Cold War. News sources were few and the need for information was extremely high. As these historical recordings show, listening to Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and BBC, was not at all easy due to jamming. Some of jamming interference with Western programs for countries in East Central Europe originated not even in these countries—but in the Soviet Union which had the greatest resources to pay for expensive jamming and the greatest stake in preventing Western news from reaching its population and people in its satellite states.

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One interesting historical fact is that the recordings made in Helsinki on February 1, 1982 included portions of the VOA Polish Service audio for the “Let Poland Be Poland” television program produced by the United States Information Agency (USIA), or as it was then temporarily called, the International Communication Agency (ICA). The program aired, for the first time, on January 31, 1982 — the day before the monitoring recording of VOA Polish broadcasts in Helsinki. Parts of the “Let Poland Be Poland” program were repeated by VOA Polish Service on February 1.

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The Voice of America Polish Service announcer in this segment was Feliks Broniecki, a soldier in the anti-Nazi Polish armed forces in the West during World War II who before joining VOA had worked for the BBC Polish Service in London and the Radio Free Europe Polish Service in Munich.

Reagan Administration official responsible for this project was ICA/USIA Director Charles Z. Wick. 

A few months after the broadcast, in a speech in Chicago on May 1, 1982, Charles Wick said that “Let Poland Be Poland” reached nearly 350 million people—186 million who saw it on television in 48 countries and another 165 million who heard the program on radio. 

Wick also said that “ the radio audience was crucial because so many people were denied the right to see the telecast,” including Poland under martial law. But, according to Wick, the message got through. He said that “despite jamming, 10 million people in the Soviet Union and another 8 million in Poland heard the radio version. Wick also noted that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcast the television soundtrack, which reached at least 50 million in Eastern Europe and 15 million in the Soviet Union.”

“We also know that it struck a communist nerve,” Charles Wick told Polish-Americans in Chicago. “The Soviets’ reaction has been especially abusive,” he added. He  said that “the number of police the Warsaw regime dispatched to prevent Poles from seeing the videotape in the U.S. Embassy also speaks volumes about its impact.” 

In his presidential diary, President Reagan wrote about “Let Poland Be Poland”:  “I think it had a lot of class and must have sent the Russian up the wall.” 

The program was shown in the United States on PBS. Polish state television refused to show it.

The VOA Polish Service, of which I was in charge at that time, broadcast on radio the entire audio portion of the “Let Poland Be Poland” program, in which President Ronald Reagan, other Western leaders, as well as writers, artists and Hollywood actors, including Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas, expressed their support for Solidarity and for the Polish people.

In this segment of “Let Poland Be Poland” Frank Sinatra sang in English and Polish an old Polish song “Ever Homeward” (“Wolne Serce”) from a 1947 film “The Miracle of the Bells.”

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This is how the same “Let Poland Be Poland” program segment with Frank Sinatra singing his song sounded without any jamming.

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American comedian Bob Hope also appeared in “Let Poland Be Poland.” His name can barely be heard in the recording.

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Also barely audible in this recording was a segment from “Let Poland Be Poland,” which I had read in Polish translation. 

I was one of several VOA Polish Service broadcasters who had translated and recorded the script and various statements included in the soundtrack. My Polish Service radio name was Tadeusz Lipień. 

In my recorded segment I can be barely heard describing how Soviet jamming of Western radios can be compared to Nazi jamming of allied radio broadcasts during World War II.

Also participating in the “Let Poland Be Poland” TV program was Czesław Miłosz, a Polish poet living in exile in the United States who in 1980 received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Miłosz was initially reluctant to take part in “Let Poland be Poland” because of negative coverage about the program by some in American media, but in a telephone call to his home in Berkley, California, I managed to persuade him to record his message to Poland. He was at that time a professor at the University of California in Berkley. He read from a poem he wrote to honor the Polish workers who were killed in the 1970 uprising on the Baltic coast:

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.

You can slay one, but another is born.

The words are written down, the deed, the date.

“Let Poland Be Poland” pro-democracy and pro-Solidarity TV program was dismissed by some among Western media as propaganda, and met with criticism even among some Voice of America’s U.S.-born English Newsroom reporters who viewed Reagan with considerable contempt as a former actor, a radical conservative and, in their view, an irresponsible and dangerous critic of socialism, communism and the Soviet Union.

But the program was greatly appreciated by most journalists in VOA’s foreign language services, many of them refugees from communism.

The “Let Poland Be Poland” television program, produced at the request of President Reagan’s close friend ICA/USIA Director Charles, by Marty Pasetta who was a producer of the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards, was distributed internationally by satellite and started what became the Worldnet Television service of the United States Information Agency.

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Voice of America announcers in this segment were Sylvia Daneel and Wacław Bniński. Wacław Bniński was during World War II a member of the anti-Nazi underground Home Army in Poland. After the war, he was a political refugee in the West and before joining VOA had worked for the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe. Sylvia Daneel, a Broadway and American film and television actress, was also a Polish refugee from communism.

“Let Poland Be Poland” was extremely well-received by opposition leaders and Solidarity trade union members conducting pro-democracy activities underground and by those were then imprisoned by the regime in Poland under Soviet domination.

Thanks to President Reagan, the Voice of America in the 1980s could finally for the first time fully report on human rights violations in the Soviet Union and in satellite communist-ruled nations, without any limits or censorship from VOA management. 

While VOA had a long period during the Cold War of being relatively able to be to some degree critical of the Soviet Union and of human rights violations by communist regimes, many of VOA’s early officials and broadcasters were Soviet sympathizers and radical socialists. 

Some of them later joined various communist parties and worked as propagandists for communist media, including VOA’s former wartime chief news writer and editor, American communist Howard Fast, who in 1953 received the Stalin Peace Prize. 

Even after these early pro-Soviet VOA officials and journalists were replaced in the late 1940’s and the early 1950s by anti-communist refugee journalists from Eastern Europe and from the Soviet Union, VOA management from time to time put certain restrictions on criticizing the Soviet Union and communist-ruled countries. 

These restrictions did not apply to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Its non-federal management, although in the early years under some degree of control by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was able to resist pressure from Washington to engage in censorship in support of short-term U.S. foreign policy objectives, such as improving relations with the Soviet Union, arms control, cultural exchanges, and trade with communist-ruled nations.

The restrictions at the Voice of America were lifted by the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s. The response from the Soviet Union and the Soviet Block countries was increased jamming of VOA, which under President Reagan greatly enhanced reporting on communist human rights violations.

Soviet jamming, as annoying as it was, could not silence the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe or Radio Liberty. One Solidarity leader told VOA later in an interview that he and other Polish opposition activists were able to hear President Reagan’s message on radios smuggled into their prison camp during the martial law in Poland.

“I have recently received a moving message from a group of Solidarity trade union members interned in a Polish prison,” President Reagan told Americans. 

“The Polish well-wishers said that they were in prison because they have been willing to struggle for the same ideals that we celebrate on July 4th. I would like on this occasion to thank these brave people for their good wishes. Our thoughts and hearts are with them. The ideals of liberty are eternal and indestructible. I am confident the day will come when Poland, too, will be able to celebrate them,” President Reagan said in a speech broadcast by VOA.

One of those who in a Polish prison listened to President Reagan’s messages was Solidarity activist Mirosław Domińczyk. He was interviewed by VOA shortly after arriving in New York as a political exile in February 1983. The interviewer was VOA Polish Service stringer in New York Zdzisław Bau whose VOA radio name was Andrzej Holik. 

Mirosław Domińczyk lived in exile in the United States but later returned to independent Poland. His daughter Dagmara Domińczyk is a Polish-American Hollywood actress and author. She has appeared in several films, includingThe Immigrant (2013), andBig Stone Gap (2014). His other daughter, Marika Domińczyk, is also an actress known for her role on Grey’s Anatomy. Another daughter Veronika Domińczyk is also an American film and television actress.

This is how Mirosław Domińczyk described what the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Ronald Reagan meant to Solidarity activists, and how they listened to VOA radio programs even in prison:

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ANDRZEJ HOLIK, VOA: Did you know what was happening in the world? Did you have any outside contacts?

MIROSLAW DOMINCZYK: Only later, after about a month. When the first visits started, we received radios. I mean, they were smuggled in ingenious ways, hidden in lard, in other products. We then listened regularly to the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe. We could receive all stations, but Radio Free Europe was difficult to hear [because of strong jamming of the radio signal]. Therefore, our source of information was the Voice of America and our families who were visiting.

ANDRZEJ HOLIK, VOA: What was the mood in the internment camp?

MIROSLAW DOMINCZYK: It depends during which period, but mostly it was cheerful, we sang songs. They were about Reagan.

ANDRZEJ HOLIK, VOA: What was the song about President Reagan?

MIROSLAW DOMINCZYK: To the melody of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, “Reagan is our greatest friend.” I’m not a singer, otherwise I would sing it, but there are recordings. May be later I’ll present them.

ANDRZEJ HOLIK, VOA: So, he was popular among you?

MIROSLAW DOMINCZYK: He was and still is, yes.

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This Cold War podcast was narrated by Ted Lipien.

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This podcast was produced in June 2020. Most of the archival material included in this podcast was recorded in Helsinki, Finland on February 1, 1982. The VOA Polish Service interview with Solidarity activist Mirosław Domińczyk was recorded in New York in February 1983.

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Disclosure: Ted Lipien is a former acting associate director of the Voice of America. He is also a co-founder and supporter of BBG – USAGM Watch.

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