Honorable Members of Congress:
Several days ago I published an article entitled “Liberty Revamped” which criticized the reorganization of Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). I mocked the fact that Radio hired a specialist from the world of musical entertainment to determine the most effective way to promote freedom and democracy. I ridiculed Radio for deciding to become more “user friendly” and for introducing more “topics on the light side.” I hardly appreciated the fact that out of concern that Russian citizens perceive it as a “foreign station,” Radio decided to move its center of operations to Moscow and fired its “overseas Russians” and dissidents. I even expressed my suspicion that Radio hired loyal Russian citizens instead and put them at the top of many departments, including those which broadcast to Iraq and Afghanistan.
After the article was published, I myself received a good dose of criticism from Russians and Americans who understand Putin’s policy and appreciate the changes at RFE/RL. But that was constructive criticism. It helped to open my eyes and to finally see around me a brave new world order, where the New Russian and the former KGB agent and the political prisoner who barely survived happily cohabitate and listen to the lighter sides of user-friendly Radio Liberty. And only a few old grumbling dissidents with their stupid principles and pathetic Cold War rhetoric try to spoil this harmonious idyll. I was ashamed of myself. And when I finally managed to wrestle my bad habits under control, I realized that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, and that what happened with Radio Liberty was absolutely correct and in full compliance with our new thinking and current policy.
My only remaining concern was that it did not happen in an orderly fashion. It was not sanctioned by the Congress to which American taxpayers still entrust their money. I realized, however, that this minor problem could be easily fixed by prompt passage of the appropriate resolution. Valuing your precious time I took the liberty of drafting this resolution.
Requiring the revamping of RFE/RL
Whereas maintaining good and friendly relations with President Putin, notwithstanding his strangling of Russian democracy and freedom, remains the highest priority of our bipartisan policy toward Russia; and
Whereas maintaining a strong strategic alliance with Russia in Afghanistan and Iraq, notwithstanding its constant backstabbing and betrayal, remains our strongest commitment; and
Whereas gaining popularity among the Russian people and being loved by them, notwithstanding their animosity toward America, remains our highest aspiration. Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that Congress—
(1) direct that the Board of Broadcasting Governors implement the following policy changes:
(A) in view of Putin’s sensitivity to personal criticism, and so as not to hurt his feelings, RFE/RL shall stop broadcasting any programs expressing disapproval of his war in Chechnya, his violation of human rights, and his suppression of free media and private enterprise;
(B) in light of the fact that the nexus of Putin’s presidency is the suppression of democracy and freedom in Russia, in order not to provoke his irritation and anger RFE/RL shall stop broadcasting any programs promoting the abovementioned principles;
(C) in consideration of the fact that according to recent polls the majority of Russians believe the United States to be its main enemy and openly dislike it, to ensure that RFE/RL is not perceived by them as a foreign station RFE/RL shall stop broadcasting any programs which present positive sides of American life, but rather shall emphasize our problems, such as racism, unemployment, pollution, and so forth;
(D) taking into consideration Russian and Soviet cultural traditions and to increase its popularity and ratings RFE/RL shall fill the contents of its programming with anti-Semitic jokes, profanities, and derogatory statements against people of Transcaucasian appearances and all other ethnicities that are not pure Russian;
(E) in view of Putin’s KGB background, of which he remains very proud, RFE/RL shall ensure that the staff of the radio station contain no elements that have ever encountered any hostile relations with that organization, but rather only those who are approved by it.
(2) direct that management of RFE/RL:
(A) hire outside consultants untainted by any previous experience in Russian policy or promoting democracy or freedom in order to develop a set of specific recommendations;
(B) move the center of gravity of the operation from Prague to Moscow to ensure its direct supervision by Putin’s administration;
(C) purge itself of overseas Russians, particularly those of dissident background;
(D) hire instead Russian citizens of origin, behavior, and training of the type that would be approved by the Russian administration;
(E) put these people in charge of the Iraq, Afghan and other important desks to ensure the primacy of Russian interests in those areas.
(3) recognize that in appointing the management of RFE/RL and the directors of the BBG, Congress shall ensure that the majority of them have vested interests in maintaining good relations with Russian officials.
Honorable members of Congress, this resolution would merely confirm a fait acompli. There are a few minor points that have not yet been realized and may even seem a bit exaggerated. I can assure you, however, that they all fall within the logic of “revamping” and will materialize sooner rather than later. So the suggested bill would simply rubberstamp that revamping. To save yourselves embarrassment for such belated action, I advise you to pass this bill quietly late at night, better yet on the eve of some major holiday and without any hearings. And if for some reason such hearings do occur, please make sure that dissidents like myself are not invited.
Your humble constituent and overseas Russian, Yuri Yarim-Agaev
Yuri Yarim-Agaev is a scientist and human rights activist. In Russia he was a leading dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the United States after his forced exile from the Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the USSR. He was among first people inside The Soviet Union who were asked by US officials to assess the work of Radio Liberty.