BBG Watch Commentary

Voice of America Reporter Tries to Clarify Putin’s Remark on NATO’s Role in Ukraine


Link to Video

In a U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) program, “The Correspondents,” which aired online on January 30, 2015, VOA senior foreign correspondent Al Pessin tried to clarify Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s recent comments on the role of NATO in Ukraine.

VOA SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT AL PESSIN: “I have one thing. I just want to say I think President Putin’s comments have been widely misinterpreted. I personally — having looked at them — don’t think that he was saying that there are actually NATO troops in Ukraine. What he was saying is that the Ukrainian military is doing NATO’s bidding so to speak, functioning as if it were a NATO legion and promoting NATO’s interests, and not Ukraine’s interests. That’s what Putin said, I think.”
VOICE OF AMERICA PROGRAM HOST MIL ARCEGA: “That’s a good nuanced point there, Al Pessin.”

Speaking of the Ukrainian Army as acting as NATO’s “foreign legion,” Vladimir Putin told university students in St. Petersburg, “Essentially it is not the army at all, but a foreign legion — in this case, it is a foreign NATO legion,” whose main purpose is to “contain” Russia.

Putin indicated he was referring to volunteer battalions fighting within the Ukrainian Army.

VOA correspondent appears to be making a point that Putin’s remarks were widely misinterpreted to mean that NATO had troops on the ground in Ukraine.

If Putin’s comments were indeed widely misinterpreted, whose fault was it?

Who misinterpreted his comments or, as in the case of a NATO official, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg shown speaking earlier in the VOA program, were he and others trying to respond to President Putin’s blatant propaganda message?

Prior to the VOA senior correspondent’s comment about President Putin’s remarks being widely misinterpreted, another VOA correspondent reported earlier that an unnamed senior U.S. administration official told VOA that “Russia is shamelessly inserting people and equipment, just enough to keep Ukraine from stabilizing.”

Stoltenberg dismissed as “nonsense” accusations that the Ukrainian Army is acting as the Western alliance’s “foreign legion.” Stoltenberg said that the foreign forces in Ukraine are Russian. This statement was also reported earlier by VOA.

Was the NATO statement wrong or inadequate because NATO somehow misunderstood President Putin’s comments?

It is not clear whether the comment about President Putin’s remarks being widely misinterpreted refers to NATO Secretary-General’s statement or to some other unspecified statements or media reports.

While we did not find any major Western media outlets which misinterpreted President Putin’s comments to mean that NATO troops are fighting in Ukraine, were Putin’s comments perhaps deliberately designed to be ambiguous and subject to some misinterpretation?

Does the Voice of America program make any of this clear and answer these questions?

This is how VOA describes its program “The Correspondents.”

“The Correspondents is VOA’s weekly discussion of the world’s top stories, as seen through the eyes of our dedicated reporters in the US and around the globe. Hosted by Mil Arcega, our panel of journalists goes beyond the headlines to give listeners and viewer real context and understanding of what’s driving the story.”

It appears that what Putin said was in fact designed to confuse media consumers by presenting NATO as the aggressor in Ukraine, which it is not as NATO is a defensive alliance and has no regular troops stationed in Ukraine, while deflecting attention from Russian troops present on the ground in Ukraine who are the actual foreign aggressors. It also appears to be designed to smear the Ukrainian government and brand it as being anti-Ukrainian.

Some may describe such statements from President Putin as disinformation and propaganda.

Was this point well explained in the Voice of America program? Did the VOA program made it sufficiently clear that President Putin continues to deny that Russia has its troops fighting in Ukraine.

Did VOA go beyond the headlines?

Is the issue presented in the VOA program that President Putin is being perhaps misunderstood and his comments widely misinterpreted? Or is the issue that he is a liar and a propagandist?

Which of these points was VOA trying to make and explain, if any?

Did VOA succeed in whatever it was trying to explain?

President Putin’s remarks being widely misinterpreted was the concluding comment from VOA for the program segment on Ukraine, Russia, and NATO.

What did it convey to international audiences at the end of this discussion?

Did it help to put the situation in Ukraine into some kind of perspective for international audiences and shed light on the Russian government’s attempts to manipulate global public opinion or did it present President Putin as a Russian leader who is widely misinterpreted and perhaps misunderstood?

What impression would an online viewer in Russia, China or Cuba get from this VOA discussion?

How would you rate this Voice of America program overall?

Just asking.

The full VOA discussion can be seen here:

Link to Video

Also check how Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) handled this news story at least in its English news content. RFE/RL like VOA is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which now has its new director and CEO Andy Lack. He is a highly respected, award-winning American journalist and media executive. His recent arrival has already resulted in some editorial and news reporting improvements at the Voice of America.

NATO Chief Calls Putin Comments On Ukraine ‘Nonsense’ | RFE/RL


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