BBG Watch Commentary
Voice of America Map, Posted April 7, 2014
A map posted on U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) news website no longer showed Crimea as part of Ukraine. After BBG Watch posted an article pointing out that the map contradicted U.S. policy and protests were sent to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), VOA removed the map after about 24 hours and later inserted a corrected map.
Voice of America (VOA) quietly removed from its English news website a controversial map that showed Crimea as being no longer part of Ukraine. The map stayed on the VOA website for about 24 hours on April 7 and 8, apparently without triggering any concerns among Voice of America senior executives and managers. It was quietly removed without any explanation or apology for online visitors only after BBG Watch published an article pointing out that the map contradicted U.S. Government policy, which does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia or a separatist status for the region.
After the controversial map was removed, the VOA report, “Ukraine PM Blames Russia for Unrest in East” appeared without any map for a few hours before a corrected map was added that showed Crimea in a slightly different shade of yellow color used for the rest of Ukraine. Even this kind of color differentiation can be viewed as controversial by some in light of the U.S. policy of non-recognition of the Russian annexation. The previous VOA version of the map showed Crimea in gray, the same color used for Russia, Moldova and Romania, marking it clearly as no longer part of Ukraine.
The VOA News report also gave credit for the article to one of its correspondents, as well as to RFE/RL and Reuters, thus tarnishing their reputation in the process, even though none of them had anything to do with the map.
Corrected Voice of America Map, Posted April 7, 2014
Read: “Crimea no longer part of Ukraine on Voice of America map,” BBG Watch, April 8, 2014.
Following the publication of the BBG Watch article, Russia scholar, Dr. Paul Goble, who used to work for U.S. international broadcasting as well as the State Department, wrote a commentary on the need for the U.S. to reaffirm the non-recognition policy with regard to the annexation of Crimea similar to the U.S. non-recongition of the forceful incorporation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union.
Throughout those 50 years, the flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania flew at the State Department — and all US government-produced maps indicated that Washington did not recognize their incorporation by the Soviet Union. Despite the evolving relationship between the US and the USSR, such measures served to inspire those living under the occupation that they would one day again be free.
Equally important, these measures represented as a badge of honor for the United States, an indication that principles matter and that small countries must never be sacrificed by large ones in the name of the bigger picture or because standing up for them might anger the dictators who rule some large ones.
US non-recognition policy did not achieve its final aims until 1991, just over 50 years after it was articulated. In the current media and political climate, it might not have lasted that long, given the ever shorter attention spans of publics and politicians and a 24/7 news cycle which asks why hasn’t something been solved before the second commercial.
But work it did. Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were inspired by this, they achieved their independence earlier and in a quite different way than did the Soviet republics, they are well-functioning democracies with free market economies, and they are now proud members of NATO and the European Union.
Non-recognition policy was not the only factor involved, but it played a role. And now there is a very real need for a new non-recognition policy, one that makes it very clear, not only in occasional official statements but on maps and in diplomatic practice that the US and the West as a whole will never recognize the forcible incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation.
Maps as always are a good place to start: the VOA map should be redrawn and replaced with one that shows the true facts of the case: Another dictator has occupied part of the territory of neighboring state, and the Western democracies won’t ever recognize or forget that aggression, however long it takes.
Read more in “A New Non-Recognition Policy is Needed Now for Crimea,” Paul Goble, THEINTERPRETER, April 8, 2014.