BBG Watch Commentary
Russia’s Kremlin-run media outlets, RT and Voice of Russia, have done considerably more reporting on U.S. troops going to Poland, the Baltic states, and Black Sea than U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA). The Kremlin’s media also reported on these U.S. troops deployments before VOA did and provided their own in-depth interpretation of U.S. actions. The Washington Post had already reported four days ago on these planned deployments of U.S. troops to Poland and the Baltic states quoting Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.
VOA did not even post a full news report but merely a news item of only 118 words. There was no background information or any significant analysis in the VOA report. Voice of America apparently did not have a correspondent at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
As of late Tuesday night, VOA’s Ukrainian and Russian services did not appear to have any reports on their web sites and social media pages on the planned U.S. troops deployments in Poland and the Baltic states.
Critics say that senior management at the Voice of America and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) has not provided these two critical services with sufficient additional staff and resources to regularly update their websites and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia’s RT had a news report of 512 words, which not only covered the deployment of about 600 U.S. troops to Poland and the Baltic states, but also provided details about U.S. frigate USS Taylor entering the Black Sea. Voice of America had no report on the Pentagon’s announcement that USS Taylor has entered the Black Sea.
Voice of Russia does not generate heavy social media interest, but RT beat Voice of America by a wide margin in terms of social media reach of its report on U.S. troops. While the VOA news item showed only 62 Facebook “Shares” as of 11:15 PM EDT Tuesday, RT report had over 3,200 Facebook “Likes.” VOA news item had 38 Tweets. RT report had 396 Tweets. VOA news item had zero comments from readers. RT report had 394 comments.
Voice of Russia report on U.S. troops deployments to Poland and the Baltic states had 321 words, as compared to 118 words in the VOA news item.
The following article by American Forces Press Service was posted on the Pentagon website and could have provided Voice of America, including its Ukrainian and Russian services, with plenty of material to report on. VOA could have also done its own interviews and analysis.
U.S. Troops to Arrive in Baltic Region for Exercises
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 – A company-sized element of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team — about 150 soldiers — will arrive in Poland tomorrow to begin a bilateral infantry exercise with Polish troops, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
In the coming days, about 450 additional soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd ABCT will arrive for similar exercises in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The exercises are the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in the Baltic region scheduled to take place this year and possibly into next year, he said.
“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has renewed our resolve to strengthening NATO’s defense plans and capabilities, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to collective defense in reinforcing our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe,” Kirby said.
The troops will be in place in all four countries by April 28, he said, noting that the exercises will last about a month. “But then we will rotate fresh troops in for more exercises,” the admiral added.
The intent is to develop a persistent rotational presence through the exercises, Kirby explained.
Discussions are ongoing about expanding the bilateral exercises into other countries in the region, he said.
Discussions regarding the establishment of combined exercises involving other NATO member and partner countries also are taking place, Kirby said.
“It doesn’t have to be either/or,” he said. “I think we’re looking for a broad swath of ways that we can help reassure our allies and partners, and it doesn’t all have to be through the alliance.”
Since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine began, the admiral said, the United States has been constantly looking for ways to reassure its allies and partners of the nation’s commitment to the collective defense principles in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
These bilateral exercises were conceived in part to do just that, Kirby said.
The message to the people of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, is that “the United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren’t NATO exercises,” he said.
“It’s a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe, … and we encourage our NATO partners to likewise look for opportunities of their own to do this same kind of thing for one another,” the admiral continued.
If there’s any message to Moscow, Kirby said, it’s the same as that being sent to the people of the Baltic region: “We take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”
The exercises are more than symbolic, the admiral said. The commitment to putting troops on the ground for an extended period and conducting exercises is “not insignificant,” he noted.
“These are countries that we routinely operate with,” Kirby said. “These are units that the 173rd have worked with before, in all four countries. So they know each other. This isn’t the first time that the 173rd has done exercises with these countries. So there’s a relationship there.”
The situation remains tense along Ukraine’s eastern border, he said. “Nothing we’ve seen out of Moscow, nothing we’ve seen out of Russia or their armed forces is de-escalating the tension [or] is making things any more stable in Ukraine or on the continent of Europe,” the admiral said.
“What would be very helpful is if they removed their forces off that border and took concrete actions to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said that the events in Ukraine have had the effect of consolidating the alliance and giving it a sharper view of itself and its future, Kirby said.
“NATO is a very strong alliance, more relevant now than it’s ever been. … Secretary Hagel was pretty clear with the military leadership that he wanted to look for a wide range of opportunities through which we could continue to reassure our partners in Europe,” the admiral said.
Elsewhere in the region, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook is wrapping up its rotation in the Black Sea, Kirby said.
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Taylor returned to the Black Sea today after completing repairs in Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, and will assume the reassurance mission from the Donald Cook, Navy officials said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)
VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS ITEM HAD 118 WORDS
US to Send Paratroopers to Poland, Baltics
April 22, 2014 1:56 PM
The United States is sending about 600 paratroopers to Poland and the Baltic states in an expansion meant to underscore its commitment to NATO allies as a result of escalating tensions in Ukraine.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said 150 paratroopers based in Italy will arrive Wednesday in Poland. He said another 450 paratroopers will be deployed to Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
The bilateral exercises will last about a month. He said new troops will then rotate in for fresh exercises throughout the rest of the year.
Kirby said placing troops on the ground is more than a symbolic gesture. He called for Russia to remove its forces from the border with Ukraine and respect Ukrainian sovereignty.