US introduces $30 mn bill to target ‘Russian propaganda’, ISIS threat
“Our adversaries around the world are using propaganda to shape the battlefield, drive up their support and inspire imitators,” the committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told the Washington Times' Inside the Ring. “We’ve seen [the Islamic State] and al Qaeda use this tool in the Middle East, and Russia use it in Eastern Europe.”
The House Armed Services Committee bill proposes spending at least $30 million to counter what they call Russian and Islamic State propaganda.
“It is something America does not always do a good job countering,” said Thornberry who has recently visited crisis-torn Ukraine. He added that the bill “acknowledges this serious communications gap, and takes steps to correct it.”
According to the bill seen by the Washington Times, the propaganda tactics of Russia are not new but “Russia has combined them in new, effective, and troubling ways.”
“It has fomented and taken advantage of ethnic disputes to train, build and equip a separatist army in Ukraine under Russian direction.”
Russian information outlets pose “a challenge to the NATO system,” the bill says.
“The committee believes that the Department of Defense and NATO should fully explore how the United States, NATO and member-states can, as necessary, establish deterrence mechanisms against activities such as those undertaken by the Russian government in Ukraine.”
This is not the first time Russian media and Islamic State propaganda have been equated in the US media.
In January a newly-appointed chief of US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Andrew Lack, named RT one of the agency’s main challenges, alongside extremist groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram. He subsequently stepped down in March.
“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram,” he said. “But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges.”
In February Secretary of State John Kerry asked US lawmakers for more money for propaganda and “democracy promotion” programs around the world.
“Russia Today [now RT] can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry told the House Appropriations Subcommittee.
He apparently forgot that US Voice of America had been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.
Kerry’s words were followed a statement from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in April which blasted “Russia’s weaponization of information,” urging the US government to invest more in media warfare around the world.
Committee chairman Ed Royce asserted that “Russia’s propaganda machine is in overdrive, working to subvert democratic stability and foment violence in Eastern Europe,” while the US broadcasting was in “disarray.”