BBG Watch Commentary

McCain wants to fight and kill, Russian TV said in a joint program with Voice of America, but these specific harsh accusations against U.S. politician were left unchallenged by VOA which made only general statements that the United States does not want war with Russia.

Senator John McCainIn a controversial joint program with the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA), VOA did not challenge any of specific accusations made by the Russian TV anchor against U.S. Senator John McCain, alleging that McCain wants to whack (or kill) Russians. VOA offered only general statements that the United States does not want war with Russia.

In a program in which Voice of America has agreed to participate, but which one expert on disinformation and propaganda called a “Russian triumph in terms of info warfare,” the Russian TV host said that Senator McCain hates Russia and wants to fight, to whack (to kill)…he is offering to provide weapons to Ukraine and fight, he is honest…”

Saying that McCain was at least honest, in a program with Voice of America the Russian TV anchor also accused McCain of calling President Obama “a fool.” (We were not able to find such a quote from McCain.) The anchor, who was also highly critical of President Obama, was commenting on short video clips shown by the Voice of America, in which Obama and McCain criticize Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Voice of America in Washington did not challenge any of the specific assertions and accusations made by the Russian TV host in Moscow against Senator McCain, but both the VOA presenter and his guest said several times during the program that the United States does not want war with Russia. While that point was made by VOA, what Russian audiences will most likely remember is the comment by the Russian TV anchor that McCain hates Russia and wants to fight and kill.

Most experts who have reviewed the program for BBG Watch said that because the Russian side had designed and controls the program, its overall impact causes damage to U.S. image in Russia regardless of what VOA guests may say. The television program was shown in Russia and is accessible online.

Experts contacted by BBG Watch said that Voice of America guests, being interviewed under controlled conditions with the Russian TV in charge of the program, have their arguments powerfully countered by the anchor in the studio in Moscow who “seems to be part and parcel of the information war,” one West European expert said. The program was designed by the Russians to use Voice of America to score propaganda points for the Kremlin with the Russian television audience. The Russians even chose the title, “Cold War?,” to strengthen their constant argument that the United States wants war with Russia. VOA director David Ensor acknowledged last week that the Russian side chose the title and is in control of the program, but he added that VOA’s participation is still worth doing.

According to one expert, the Russian producers “have applied the finest techniques of visual persuasion,” such as close ups on the anchor, to underline the Russian statements. The messaging is done by the constant repetition of the official Russian argument. The narrative field is very narrow and boils down to: “threat by NATO, unjust sanctions, no proof of Russian intervention, cold war.”

03:03 – я хочу заметить, что МакКаин, он очень честный политик, он по моему сказал он, что Обама не подлец, а просто дурак да, и вот те цитаты которые вы сейчас привели они очень характерны потому что МаККаин, ну он ненавидит Россию и хочет воевать он хочет мочить он предлагает поставлять оружие Украине он предлагает воевать он честен…

I would like to point out that McCain is a very honest politician, I think he said that – Obama is not a scoundrel (low life, villain) but just stupid (a fool) – yes, and those quotes which you just mentioned are typical because McCain, well he hates Russia and wants to fight, to whack (to kill)…he is offering to provide weapons to Ukraine and fight, he is honest…(end of translation)

In his question, Russian TV anchor in Moscow said:

16:00 – МакКаин предлагает поставлять вооружение Украине, возможно даже вводить войска, мочить …

McCain is offering to provide weapons to Ukraine, possibly to send troops, whack (to kill)….(end of translation)

Part I of RBK-TV-VOA, Sept. 11, 2014 video:


Part II of RBK-TV-VOA, Sept. 11, 2014 video:


Voice of America director David Ensor said last week that VOA is taking calculated risks with this program. He was implying that while the Russian side is in control, the Russian television audience — the channel has a 11 % reach in the Russian Federation, according to a VOA – BBG press release — gets to hear American views they would otherwise not hear in Russia.


VOA DIRECTOR DAVID ENSOR: When national security stakes are higher, we are ready to accept calculated risks to 
get into markets and to reach people, for example right now, and there are blogs about 
this and controversy about this, fair enough. … We have a new co-production with Russian
 Business Channel called “Cold War?”  I  don’t know whether Putin is long going to allow this 
to continue, but he is at the moment.  We have had two broadcast on so far in last two weeks…
which reach 11 percent of the Russian television audience … this audience has watched while 
Russian and American journalists and commentators debate Ukraine and other topics over which they differ. And it is true the Russian anchor uses all the advantages, he has the microphone….the engineers work for him, it is his show, it is his audience, and of course President Putin and his policies are popular in Russia so there are many advantages from the RBC side of the argument, but nevertheless this audience is now hearing something new, both sides. … Those of you who follow this issue know that is not what the Kremlin says, they say they have no troops in Ukraine, but our guests having seen the information that is available in the West, but no so much in Russia, know otherwise.

Experts consulted by BBG Watch doubt that the program offers any Western information that most Russians watching this Russian channel do not already know but don’t agree with. Some U.S. and European experts, including Dr. Paul Goble and former Lithuanian communications minister Rimantas Pleikys, believe that the Voice of America is being used by the Kremlin with this program in the information war against the United States.

A West European expert on disinformation and propaganda who wants to remain anonymous because of a sensitive professional and diplomatic position told BBG Watch that VOA would be well advised to stop this experiment as soon as possible. “This program will go down in history as the example of Russian triumph in terms of info warfare,” the expert said.