[House Hearing, 114 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
CONFRONTING RUSSIA'S WEAPONIZATION OF
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
APRIL 15, 2015
Serial No. 114-37
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida BRAD SHERMAN, California
DANA ROHRABACHER, California GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TED POE, Texas BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
MATT SALMON, Arizona KAREN BASS, California
DARRELL E. ISSA, California WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
MO BROOKS, Alabama AMI BERA, California
PAUL COOK, California ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas GRACE MENG, New York
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
RON DeSANTIS, Florida TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
TED S. YOHO, Florida ROBIN L. KELLY, Illinois
CURT CLAWSON, Florida BRENDAN F. BOYLE, Pennsylvania
SCOTT DesJARLAIS, Tennessee
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin
DAVID A. TROTT, Michigan
LEE M. ZELDIN, New York
TOM EMMER, Minnesota
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Mr. Peter Pomerantsev, senior fellow, The Legatum Institute...... 5
Ms. Elizabeth Wahl, former RT anchor, freelance journalist/public
Ms. Helle C. Dale, senior fellow for public diplomacy, The
Heritage Foundation............................................ 18
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Mr. Peter Pomerantsev: Prepared statement........................ 8
Ms. Elizabeth Wahl: Prepared statement........................... 15
Ms. Helle C. Dale: Prepared statement............................ 20
Hearing notice................................................... 46
Hearing minutes.................................................. 47
CONFRONTING RUSSIA'S WEAPONIZATION OF INFORMATION
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2015
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 o'clock a.m.,
in room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Edward Royce
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Royce. This hearing will come to order. I will ask
if the members can all take their seats.
And I had an opportunity in the early 1980s to go into East
Germany and spend some time there, and during that time to see
the quality of propaganda being broadcast into the East Bloc by
Russia, the type of disinformation campaign that was going on.
And I would have to say that since that time the caliber of
propaganda has become much more clever than that which was
And today we are going to look at the danger of Russia's
misinformation campaign in Europe and, indeed, today that
misinformation campaign is worldwide and we are also going to
look at the failed response to that effort.
And as we will hear today, Russia's propaganda machine is
really at this time in overdrive and part of the focus, from my
standpoint, seems to be to subvert democratic stability. And,
frankly, there is also an element of this that goes to the
issue of fomenting violence in Eastern Europe.
Now, myself and Eliot Engel had an opportunity to go into
Dnepropetrovsk and talk to civil society, the women's groups, a
lot of different organizations, the lawyers groups, and this
was one of the issues that people are concerned about and these
tactics have undermined the government in Ukraine and, frankly,
helped lay a foundation for invasion there.
This same plan is being worked in Eastern and Central
Europe and this Russian propaganda has the potential to
destabilize NATO members and it could impact our security
commitments, especially if we look at some of what is going on
in the Baltic States.
So this Russian campaign, what one witness describes as the
``weaponization of information,'' seriously threatens U.S.
security. Russia has deployed an information army inside
television, radio, and newspapers throughout Europe.
Some are doing the Kremlin's bidding and are given explicit
guidelines to obscure the truth by spreading conspiracies, and
I would just give you examples of some of the things you read
now on these Russian broadcasts or some of the things that are
One was a conspiracy that our own Government here is
responsible for everything from 9/11, the attack on 9/11 to the
downing of Malaysia Flight MH17 over Ukraine. Others are simply
paid more for demonizing the West, while those who pursue
credible reporting are pushed aside.
Today, we will hear from journalist Liz Wahl, who
dramatically interrupted a live broadcast to resign from RT, a
Russian outlet, explaining she could not stand by its distorted
coverage of Russia's occupation of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, independent journalists in Russia have come
under attack. There have been three journalists in Russia
killed so far this year. Unfortunately, Ms. Wahl is a rarity.
So Russian speakers in the frontline states like the
Baltic, Ukraine, and Moldova continue to be told that their
governments want to oppress and render them second class
Unfortunately, many are buying this divisive message. In
parts of Europe where there aren't Russian speaking populations
there is also a message and that message is that Western
democracy is morally corrupt and that integration with Europe
since the Cold War has failed.
It is estimated that Putin is spending more than $600
million a year to deride democratic pluralism and the U.S.
response to this? Well, the agency expected to manage our
response, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is far behind.
After years of Mr. Putin ramping up the effort in Russia,
last fall the BBG finally launched its flagship response to
Russian propaganda--a mere 30-minute television news program in
the Russian language called ``Current Time.''
The program was put on air in Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia,
Ukraine, and Latvia. But after just 4 months it was pulled in
Latvia because it couldn't draw an audience. Now, what U.S.-
backed news and information that does get through, the amount
of that is a thimble of journalistic credibility in an ocean of
Russian-driven news distortion and this isn't a matter of
resources, from my perspective.
U.S. broadcasters are laboring under a flawed bureaucracy.
Members may recall that then Secretary Clinton called the
agency defunct in her testimony before this committee in 2013.
The Inspector General and the Government Accountability
Office have been highly critical, and the agency hired a CEO
and he quit after 42 days on the job. Last week, the director
of the VOA announced his resignation.
Our international broadcasting is in disarray. The
journalists of the BBG risk their lives reporting from the
front lines across the world. They deserve better support, and
the American people need much more from this agency if we are
going to respond to the rapidly evolving media environment and
better secure the long-term security interests of the United
Last Congress, the House unanimously passed bipartisan
legislation introduced by myself and Ranking Member Eliot
Engel. This legislation is referenced in an op-ed today in the
Wall Street Journal that I wrote.
But I will just share with the members here that that
legislation will help us fight Putin's propaganda by allowing
more resources to be spent in the field and on content instead
of on a broken bureaucracy, and by clarifying the BBG's
mission, creating accountable leadership through a CEO and
reducing the bureaucracy, this can lead to a situation where
the budget there can be spent on disseminating truthful news
and that should be the goal.
Righting international broadcasting must be an urgent
priority in our foreign policy, and now I would like to turn to
the ranking member of this committee and the co-author of the
legislation to do this, Mr. Eliot Engel of New York.
Mr. Engel. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for calling this morning's hearing and I
especially want to thank you for your leadership as this
committee works to address the growing Russian threat. You have
really been right on top of it.
I really appreciate it and it is just so important. Thank
you for your courage and for your voice. It has been a pleasure
to be your partner.
Let me also thank our witnesses today for sharing your
expertise about a major part of that threat--Russia's new and
intensified propaganda effort.
It is long past due that we take a hard look at this
challenge. The Kremlin's disorientation campaign goes beyond
political spin and disinformation.
What we see pouring out of the Kremlin amounts to the
weaponization of information. Propaganda is a critical element
of Russia's so-called hybrid warfare strategy, a strategy on
devastating display in occupied Crimea and war-torn eastern
Coupled with cyber-attacks and other covert operations,
these new capabilities and Vladimir Putin's belligerence pose a
direct threat to our allies and our interests.
These measures are well financed, these measures are
working and these measures demand a robust response from us.
Kremlin-controlled media are putting down roots around the
Russian financial support is bolstering fringe political
parties, creating puppet NGOs and fostering a facade of
academic research sympathetic to Vladimir Putin's anti-
democratic world view.
The Kremlin aims to undermine democratic organizations and
alliances. Russia's leaders want to divide allies and partners
while seeking to discredit the post-Cold War order in Europe.
This strategy is not just to disseminate lies but to sow
doubt and confusion, especially about what is actually and
really happening in Ukraine. The component of this propaganda
war that concerns me most is the influx of Kremlin-controlled
television broadcasts in frontline states.
From the Baltics to Central Asia, a Russian-speaking
population of nearly 100 million people is getting its news
from such distorted broadcasts. Here, the Kremlin uses high
quality entertainment to draw an audience, then interlaces that
programming with their twisted and false perspective on
political, military and economic events.
Today, I hope we can hear more about Russia's propaganda
campaign and, more importantly, what we can do to push back
against it. We cannot match the hundreds of millions of dollars
the Kremlin is blowing into this effort.
Instead, we must look to create thinking and broad-based
partnerships. Given the scale of the Kremlin efforts, it is
clear to me that traditional public affairs and public
diplomacy, while important parts of a broader effort, do not go
We have seen some promising initiatives. For instance, the
Governments of Latvia and Estonia are developing a plan to
launch Russian language television networks in their respective
They want to create platform for content sharing and
establish a fund for the production of locally focused content.
Additionally, we anticipate a feasibility study this spring
from the European Endowment for Democracy recommending a
Mr. Chairman, as you recognized, the United States needs
its own strategy to deal with this and we need it now. I have
been told that our State Department is now working full tilt
toward a plan to address this problem.
This can't come soon enough. We are eager to work with the
administration to develop this plan and set it in motion
because the United States has a major role to play.
In my view, the United States is in a unique position to
convene partners from the private sector that will be essential
for the success of such initiatives. Furthermore, U.S.
leadership will be necessary to ensuring that reluctant Western
European allies understand and appreciate the risks posed by an
unchecked Kremlin propaganda campaign.
One thing is clear. Meeting this challenge will certainly
not be easy. A nondemocratic government in Russia is able to
devote nearly limitless resources to spreading lies and sowing
confusion, disinformation and division.
But the stakes are high and acting sooner rather than later
will make a daunting task a little easier and much more
effective over the long run.
I look forward to hearing our witnesses' views on this
challenge and their ideas about how we are going to deal with
it. So thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Mr. Engel.
We will begin with Mr. Peter Pomerantsev. He is the senior
fellow to the Transitions Forum at the Legatum Institute in
His writing focuses largely on 21st century propaganda. It
is featured regularly in the London Review of Books and the
Atlantic Financial Times in foreign policy and elsewhere. He is
author of the ``The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin
Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money.''
We will hear next from Ms. Elizabeth Wahl. She formally
worked for the U.S. Branch of RT Television until her
resignation last year on live Russian television in protest to
President Putin's government and their distorted coverage of
the conflict in Eastern Europe. Ms. Wahl is now a freelance
journalist and public speaker.
Ms. Helle Dale is the senior fellow in public diplomacy
studies for the Heritage Foundation where her work focuses on
the U.S. Government's institutions and programs for strategic
outreach to the public of foreign countries.
Ms. Dale's career started in journalism where she worked
for both domestic and foreign publications as well as print and
And I would also like to welcome the Vaclav Havel
Journalism Fellowship Program, an initiative of Radio Free
Europe, Russia Liberty and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
the Czech Republic.
The Vaclav Havel journalism fellows in attendance today,
and they are in the second row there on the left, are from
Belarus, from Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia who have
been targeted, these particular journalists have been targeted
by the Kremlin and have been victims of Putin's assault on free
media, and we thank them for being with us here today.
And without objection, the witnesses' full prepared
statements will be made part of the record and members will
have 5 calendar days to submit statements and questions and any
extraneous material for the record.
And so I would encourage you, Mr. Pomerantsev, if you would
like to summarize your remarks for 5 minutes lay out the case.
Then we will go to Ms. Wahl and Helle Dale and then we will
go to our members for questions.
STATEMENT OF MR. PETER POMERANTSEV, SENIOR FELLOW, THE LEGATUM
Mr. Pomerantsev. Thank you very much for having me here.
Russia's information war--we have been hearing these words
a lot lately. Russia has launched the most amazing information
warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen since Supreme Allied
Commander General Philip Breedlove after the annexation of
We are losing the information war, complained the British
head of the House of Commons' Culture and Media Committee as
the Kremlin international media was launched in London.
Information war is now the main type of war, argues Dmitry
Kiselyov, the infamous Russian TV presenter and Kremlin media
boss who also likes to remind the world, and it shows, that
Russia can turn the USA into radioactive ash. But what do we
mean when we say information war?
Because if we mean propaganda as mass persuasion,
propaganda in the sense of some sort of geopolitical debate
where each side tries to convince the other it is right, well,
then we don't understand the real threat of the Kremlin's
information war at all.
To understand what it actually is, let us go back to 1999.
Back then, Russian Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev
admitted the Kremlin could never match the West militarily and
needed to find, in his words, revolutionary powers and
asymmetric responses to compete.
Look at it from the Kremlin's point of view. NATO is
undefeatable on the battlefield. The West has a much stronger
social and political system--democracy based on openness and
But what if the Kremlin could bypass NATO militarily, make
war without ever, officially at least, firing a shot? What if
it could use the very openness of democracy's open markets,
open culture and, very importantly, open information against
So over the 21st century, Russian military theorists
developed a theory of what they called information
psychological or hybrid war--a mix of media, economic and
cultural warfare with a dab of covert military action.
We saw an early example of this is Estonia in 2007 when
Estonian authorities decided to move a Soviet war memorial from
the center of the city. Russian media, which is very widely
available in Estonia, went into a frenzy, accusing the
Estonians of fascism.
Russian vigilante groups started riots in the center of
Tallinn. A massive cyber-attack disabled Estonia's Government
and banking sectors.
Moscow was sending a message, despite membership of NATO
and EU, that Estonia and all other frontline states were still
vulnerable and the Kremlin could cripple them without giving
Estonia a chance to invoke NATO's Article 5.
The aim was not just to humiliate Tallinn but show that
Western and, specifically, American promises of security are
empty and once the NATO alliance has been undermined and
American influence weakened, then the Kremlin will have a
stronger hand to play around the world.
Since 2007, the Kremlin's information psychological
strategy has expanded. The Kremlin is now bankrolling and
lending political support to both far right and far left
parties in Europe while using open markets to make whole
countries dependent on its money and energy.
Unlike their Soviet predecessors, this regime will work
with anyone as long as they help create stability in their home
countries. The Kremlin is also putting out its message in
multiple media 24/7.
Russian language media reaches 30 million Russians outside
of Russia, a lot of them in EU and NATO states. The Kremlin has
invested hundreds of millions into foreign language media.
Russia Today (RT) broadcasts in English, Spanish, German
and Arabic. There is the web and radio service Sputnik, while
the Kremlin also funds troll farms, regime-funded companies who
spread messages online in social media and comment sections.
Conspiracy theories, disinformation and fake news are a
staple in these media claims that the U.S. invented Ebola as a
weapon or re-editing interviews with Ukrainian rabbis to make
it seem contrary to what they actually said, that there is a
threat to the Jewish community in post-Maidan Ukraine, or even
planting stories that the Rand Corporation is advising the
Ukrainian Government on how to ethnically cleanse east Ukraine.
The ultimate aim of the Kremlin's international media is
not to make anyone like Russia. It is not PR or necessarily
engaged in fact-based journalism.
Instead, information is used to sow divisions, demoralize
and disorganize--to weaponize information. After Malaysian
Flight MH-17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by Russian
missiles last summer, Russian media spewed out scores of
outlandish stories, blaming Ukrainian fighter jets, claiming
the plane had deliberately taken off from Amsterdam carrying
Their aim appears to have been to trash the information
space with so much misinformation that a conversation based on
actual facts would become impossible. This is not merely an
information war but a war on information.
If the very possibility of rational argument is submerged
in a fog of uncertainty, the public will give up trying to
understand what happened. Trust, the key ingredient of
democracy, is destroyed and the strategy is working.
Recent research in Ukraine and the Baltics shows that
audiences exposed to both Russian and local media end up not
trusting anyone. In Germany, 43 percent do not trust anything
they read on Ukraine.
Throughout Europe, conspiracy theories are on the rise and
in the U.S. trust in the media has declined. The Kremlin may
not always have initiated this phenomena but it is fanning
And I would like to finish with the fact it is not just
Russia and the Kremlin doing it. The Chinese are starting a
similar tactic in Asia. We see how ISIS works in the Middle
This is a global problem. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Pomerantsev follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Chairman Royce. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MS. ELIZABETH WAHL, FORMER RT ANCHOR, FREELANCE
Ms. Wahl. All right. We are dealing with an organization
that doesn't play by the rules, where the facts on the ground
and the reality that citizens face as a result of them don't
matter, at least when that reality clashes with Russia's
foreign policy agenda.
In that case, one or more alternative realities are pushed,
anything to deflect from the facts and confuse the public.
Of course, Russia has a history rich in propaganda but for
a while it seemed to lie dormant as many hoped that a reset in
diplomatic relations meant a change in direction.
But during the war in Ukraine, the Russian-funded
television channel RT was mobilized as a weapon to manipulate
people into believing half-truths and lies skewing reality in
the Kremlin's favor.
And I saw firsthand how this was orchestrated. When the
protests erupted in Maidan Square it was made to look not like
a popular uprising but comprised mostly of bloodthirsty neo-
Nazis and fascists.
Through misleading language, RT pinned the blame on the
West for fomenting unrest in Ukraine. When Russian troops
invaded Crimea, Russian media looked the other way. Even
Western media organizations indirectly gave strength to
Russia's denials in the struggle to maintain balance amid the
But behind the deliberately confusing rhetoric were
essential facts. Russia had invaded a sovereign country and was
lying about it. And when it became impossible to deny the
presence of what later became known as the little green men,
they were hailed as volunteers compelled to rescue fellow
Russians from Ukrainian fascists.
Through denial and deception, the Kremlin was able to shape
reality or at least make it difficult to uncover what that
reality really is. With the international community stunned and
incapacitated, Russia sent in tanks, troops and weapons.
Crimea was annexed and Russian-backed separatists gained
ground in eastern Ukraine. The disinformation tactics employed
by RT during the war in Ukraine I saw used before, though not
as vigorously and strategically.
The most celebrated host at the channel holds staunch anti-
Western views where deranged conspiracy theories are given a
platform. It didn't matter how credible the voices were as long
as the underlying message was reinforced--that the U.S. and
West is crumbling, corrupt and hypocritical.
There was a running joke among some employees about
adopting this mind set by drinking the Kool-Aid. I saw how
employees and viewers eventually drank it all up. It is the
result of being engrossed in an environment where hating
America was rewarded.
It is a mentality that is perpetuated by Internet
personalities that gain followers and a sense of belonging by
spewing hate and twisting the truth. One of the many things I
came to find troubling was the surprising amount of people
prone to being manipulated.
Part of it is that with this explosion of information
constantly generated online it had become difficult to tell
fact from fiction, to sift through it all. Another part of it
is the trend of thinking it is hip to believe in any anti-
establishment alternative theory.
Russia is aware of this population of paranoid skeptics and
plays them like a fiddle. Those that challenge any narrative
against Russia are branded CIA agents, of being puppets for
neo-conservatives intent on reigniting a cold war and face the
ire of seemingly countless paid and volunteer online trolls.
I was accused of being all of these things and faced the
constant stream of cyber hate for being perceived as such. Now,
this is just a minor example of this new propaganda technique
The Russian bosses say that the organization is simply
providing another perspective, one that is ignored in Western
media. The implication there is that there is no such thing as
an objective truth.
But let us not get duped by this falsehood. Someone is
responsible for pulling the trigger that killed Russian
opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Someone is responsible for
launching the BUK missile that downed MH-17, killing all 298
passengers on board.
This is not open to interpretation because behind the
strategically false finger pointing there is a true story and
in both cases the story is still unclear and there is someone
that prefers it stays that way.
We shouldn't let it slide. We need to take notice and take
action and the best weapon against this rapidly expanding
propaganda campaign is the truth. We just need to fight for it.
We fight it by refusing to look the other way when a lie is
told and by spreading awareness about this new disinformation
stream that is polluting the airwaves and online discussions
that shape our perception of world events.
We fight it by thinking before clicking, tweeting or
sharing an article that aims to deceive, and while it is true
that the truth can be difficult to uncover, we should seek to
find it, spread it and learn from it whatever that truth may
[The prepared statement of Ms. Wahl follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Ms. Wahl.
STATEMENT OF MS. HELLE C. DALE, SENIOR FELLOW FOR PUBLIC
DIPLOMACY, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
Ms. Dale. Chairman Royce----
Chairman Royce. Helle, could you just hit the button there?
Ms. Dale. Hit the button. I will start again.
Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel and distinguished
members of the committee, thank you very much for putting
together this timely and very important hearing today and for
inviting me to speak.
The views I will express are my own and should not be
construed as representing the official position of the Heritage
I come before you as someone who has studied U.S. public
diplomacy for years and as a former journalist. I have
interviewed enough dissidents of Cold War days to appreciate
the profound importance and the moral obligation we have of
reaching citizens of countries under authoritarian or
totalitarian control with truthful information.
The recent past has shown that it does make a difference,
sometimes changing the course of history itself. Unfortunately,
after the end of the Cold War the United States all but
disarmed itself in the battle for hearts and minds in Russia
and its neighboring countries.
It was assumed that the West had won the ideological battle
and strategic decisions were made in public diplomacy and
international broadcasting that turned out to be huge mistakes.
Today, we are scrambling to increase broadcasting and
digital capacity to counter Russian disinformation. The
relevant U.S. agencies in this information war are, of course,
primarily the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or the BBG,
which oversees all U.S. civilian international broadcasting,
the State Department and to some extent the Department of
To give you a preview of my conclusion, the U.S. Government
must ramp up its international broadcasting capacity but it has
to be done through the reform of the BBG. At present, this is
our most important tool in this information war.
The BBG has over the past decade shut down many language
services and radio transmissions which now turn out to be
critically important. The motivation has been budget
constraints and the desire to focus on the Internet and, at
times, satellite television.
In 2008, VOA ended its broadcasts in Russian the very week
Russia invaded Georgia. After the invasion, the decision was
Short wave radio was abandoned and whatever English
language content there was to be rebroadcast in Russia had to
be negotiated with Russian local AM and FM stations.
Moscow finally shut down all VOA broadcasting in 2014. But
the United States has, as we heard, allowed Russian media to
flourish within our own borders in the name of freedom of
RT has impressive television studios right here in the
nation's capital. The contrast could not be more stark. The
conditions attached to rebroadcasting of VOA English content to
Russia were heavy handed and I just want to give you a short
I was invited on a program, a foreign policy discussion at
VOA in 2012. It was just before the Russian Presidential
election and I asked if we were going to discuss it and I was
told no, the management had told them, the journalists, that
they could not discuss the Russian election because Voice of
Russia had threatened to cancel its agreement with the BBG if
the U.S. Government allowed VOA to go ahead with a discussion
of the Russian election.
Now, why this mattered so much is hard to understand but a
global audience were thereby deprived of a discussion of the
The management at VOA, the producers, followed orders from
Moscow and it should be mentioned that this is the same
management that often fiercely resists any editorial influence
from the U.S. Government itself.
Currently, the only content offered from VOA in Russian is
Internet-based Skype video and use broadcasts as well as VOA's
Russian language Web site. Now, it is argued that the Internet
is the best way to reach Russians because they have a high
level of Internet connectivity as an advanced society.
Yet, VOA's Russian service Web site ranks number 3,828 in
Russia, which does not compare very well with RT's influence
here in the United States where it is something like number 64.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the U.S. Government's
surrogate broadcasters, have run into the same problems as VOA.
They also took a major beating in the international press in
2012 when the management of Radio Liberty fired most of its
I can see I am running out of time. I just wanted to
mention finally that we are trying to play catch up in reform
legislation and in the BBG's strategy paper produced in 2015. I
mean, sorry--for 2015, 2016 on countering a revisionist Russia.
But we are playing catch up here and I would be happy to
discuss that further with you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Dale follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Chairman Royce. Thank you. Thank you, Ms. Dale.
One of the questions I am interested in here is that
usually around the globe people hunger for information and
especially when they think they are being denied facts.
But what seems to be happening in Russia is that people
begin to presume that these conspiracies are in fact true as
they are, you know, introduced to this on a daily basis.
They repeat it over and over and over again and suddenly
the conspiratorial theories begin to take on a life of its own,
and I wondered if maybe the panelists could explain the factors
that make this Russian disinformation campaign seemingly so
effective from some of the polling I have seen inside Russia in
terms of the credibility the people have to information which
logic would contradict.
But also I was going to ask you a little bit about the
platform that it provides for fringe and radical views, not
just in Russia but worldwide, as sort of the extreme fringe as
given a platform for what otherwise would not be considered
reputable television, you know. Most broadcasts wouldn't have
on the types of voices with these conspiratorial theories.
But maybe you could explain the process that RT undertakes
to select its experts, and I will just turn it over to the
panel for your responses.
Ms. Wahl. That is an interesting question, selecting the
experts, because that word, I think, is used loosely in Russian
television. Essentially, anybody that is an expert is somebody
that is willing to toe the Russian line and to--I mean, they
could be from the far left, they could be from the far right,
they could have unconventional deranged theories.
It didn't matter, and sometimes the producers would scour
the Internet for these experts. So what qualifies as an expert
it is kind of murky what that is.
And why it is effective, I think you had mentioned that it
provides this voice for fringe voices, extremists and it works
because it provides a place for these people, a place where
these people can congregate and feed off of each other's
It is almost like a community that is almost like a cult, I
would say, that is formed online and they mobilize and they
feel like they are part of some enlightened fight against the
establishment and they find a home.
They find a place where they are heard and they find a
sense of belonging. They find an outlet where they can--where
they can--a platform to voice their deranged views.
And I know that formally of Radio Free Europe Mr. Lack, who
has since departed, had gotten a lot of criticism for comparing
Russia today and Russian propaganda to ISIS propaganda.
And while yes, there is a strong difference--we are talking
about a terrorist organization versus a government--you know, a
nation state, I think he did have credence and in comparing the
strategy that is there by using the Internet to mobilize people
that feel displaced, that feel like they have been on the
outskirts of society and give them a place where they can find
a sense of belonging and maybe make a difference in their own
way, and it is a problem and we see that it is effective.
We see that they are shaping the discussion online, on
message boards, on Twitter, on social media. And the Internet--
you know, we thought that it would be this place where, you
know, it is wonderful in a lot of ways because a lot of
different viewpoints and a lot of different people have a voice
like never before.
But, unfortunately, it has provided a forum where
disinformation, false theories, people that are just trying to
make a name for themselves, bloggers or whatever, that have
absolutely no accountability for the truth are able to rile up
a massive amount of people online for----
Chairman Royce. Well, I think what is interesting about
it--I mean, the use of raw violence, which they do a lot of on
YouTube, 1.4 billion hits is a lot of hits.
Ms. Wahl. Yes.
Chairman Royce. So people will go to the use of raw
violence and then that will be used as, you know, part of a
thesis on some conspiracy theory that then is played out. I
wondered, Peter, your take on this.
Mr. Pomerantsev. This question--you have hit on one of the
key issues here, which goes--takes us all the way through the
problems at stake. They are not fringe anymore, these groups.
We are talking about a France where Jean Marie Le Pen's far
right party is surging in the polls.
We are talking about a Hungary where Jobbik, the far right
party, is rising, rising. We are talking about 20 percent of
parliamentarians in the European Parliament having what we used
to think were fringe, very pro-Russian views.
Among the people who vote for these parties there is a lot
of people who believe in conspiracies because they are working
on a similar thing.
Conspiracies happen when people don't trust the
institutions around them, don't trust Parliament, don't trust
media. Everyone is lying to you? Then there must be a shadowy
hand. So the Kremlin is in this loop.
It is pushing out more conspiracies to fan that audience.
They are funding these parties. You know, we know that the
Kremlin is funding Jean Marie Le Pen in France. These are not
This is actually now becoming the mainstream and this is
very, very frightening. Conspiracy is--what is conspiracy? Sort
of a linguistic sabotage on the infrastructure of reason.
You know, you can't have a reality-based discussion when
everything becomes conspiracy. In Russia, the whole discourse
is conspiracy. Everything is conspiracy. When a genuine
opposition person like Alexander Navalny emerged in Russia, the
first thing the Kremlin does?
He is one of ours--he is a conspiracy as well. Don't
believe in him. Sort of about destroying belief in anything.
When you have no believe in truth then you can't believe in
But also more insidiously than that, look, our--I am going
to get very grand now--our global order is based on the idea of
If that reality-based sort of, you know, base is destroyed
then you can't have, you know, international institutions and
international dialogue. I mean, I remember a quote from, I
think, a Franciscan monk after the Second World War.
He is, like, lying is not a form of communication. It rids
people of their right to live in reality and makes reality-
based politics impossible. This is a very insidious trend.
Chairman Royce. Thank you, Peter. Let me go. My time has
expired. I am going to go to Mr. Engel of New York.
Mr. Engel. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me start with you, Mr. Pomerantsev. Some of the
distortions coming out of the Kremlin are just absurd. For
instance, blaming Ukraine or the United States for the shooting
down of that Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine.
But as three of you have mentioned, we know these messages
are taking hold. Can you give us a bit more detail about the
major messages being driven by Moscow and describe how those
messages are affecting public opinion among Russian speakers in
the frontline countries?
And could you also tell us what your sense is of the way
our other European allies are looking at the problem? Do you
they not see the problem--our Western allies?
What steps have other governments taken to respond to
Russian propaganda and is it having any great effect?
Mr. Pomerantsev. That is a lot of questions. So, listen, I
just read a very interesting study of Estonia where actually
got into the weeds of who believes what, right.
So there is a certain amount of the population who just
watch Russian TV and they buy the Russian lie. The message has
been changing. First, it was a fascist revolution. Then it was
a NATO conspiracy.
Now it is the Ukrainians who are the fascists. It is always
changed and changing. It is not about establishing a truth. It
is about coming up with crazier and crazier stories, which are
meant to be emotionally engaging.
The Russian deputy minister for communication openly says
that truth in journalism doesn't matter. It is all about, you
know, coming up with fantasies that are powerful.
So the message changes but, you know, it is clear. It is
the West's fault. Ukraine is a zone of chaos. Russia is a zone
of stability. That is a very big one. You know, like, Russia
equals stability, Ukraine equals chaos.
Everywhere that America goes equals chaos and so on and so
forth. So there is some interlocking narratives but they shift.
But what is interesting in Estonia--so there is a small
percentage of people who just watch that and believe in it.
A bigger one and a more active one, the younger people,
watch both Estonian and Russian. But they don't just end up not
believing in anything.
They just end up completely confused and completely passive
and so this really challenges some old ideas that if we could
just get the truth out there like in the Cold War we will win.
It is a much more intricate challenge nowadays.
We have to not only get the truth out there, we have to win
trust, which might mean a much cleverer and deeper and actually
sort of more thoughtful form of programming to make.
As for European countries, it is a real mix. The frontline
countries are, obviously, very alarmed because for them it is
an existential threat. Britain is aware. Germany is aware.
I think as you go further and further they care less and
less, and some countries are far more interested in their
financial relationships with Moscow and don't perceive Eastern
Europe maybe as their problem. But hopefully that is shifting.
Mr. Engel. Ms. Wahl, you--as you mentioned in your
testimony you have seen Russian propaganda up close. You left
Russia Today because you refused to be a mouthpiece for the
Kremlin and since then you yourself have been a target.
You mentioned propaganda. Since that time we have seen
Russia Today open up shop in more places round the world. Can
you give us some detail about the strategy behind the growth of
Russia Today around the world and the specific methods used by
Russia Today so-called journalists to advance Moscow's message?
Ms. Wahl. Right, yes. It is true that since my resignation
that Russian media has only grown. There was a channel that was
opened up in London and Berlin.
There was a video organization called Ruptly that was
formed. Sputnik also launched--it is also funded by the Russian
Government as in dozens of--dozens of cities throughout the
That is rapidly expanding, and we are seeing a lot of--a
lot more resources being devoted to Russian propaganda.
Meanwhile, as we had mentioned earlier, before independent
voices has been--have been shut down and, well, what is behind
Mr. Pomerantsev touched on it before. It is that just
putting this narrative out there that the West is really the
evil hypocritical corrupt player here and that for far too long
the West has been dominating the conversation and they are
inserting themselves now as an alternative, as somebody that is
telling the other part of the story.
But I saw that that, indeed, was not the case, that this
was actually manipulation. And I guess another thing about
conspiracy theories it seems like a bizarre thing. I mean, who
believes in these bizarre conspiracy theories?
And I think what is interesting is that it doesn't really
matter. You don't need to believe the conspiracy theory as a
whole to be confused as to what is really going on. I am going
to use my experience as an example.
The narrative that RT put out about me and kind of their
friends was that I was simply just a puppet intent on
reigniting the Cold War--that, basically, that I had had no
mind of my own and strings were being pulled and that the
intent there is that it was some nefarious intent to reignite a
Now, a lot of people hear that and it seems farfetched and
it is not true. But if you--by just putting that narrative out
there and by the trolls retweeting it and repeating it so
often, it becomes a thing.
It becomes part of the discussion. It becomes part of the
discourse, and after a while you have to address it because it
is out there. The seeds of doubt have already been planted and
first impressions matter.
And even if you don't believe that I was a puppet in that
way, it still shaped the narrative in terms of casting doubt on
my credibility, on my motivations, on what really went on.
So that is kind of just a small example of how conspiracy
theory works. You know, you don't have to necessarily believe
that 9/11 was an inside job completely but if you have that out
there in so many other nefarious plots a viewer gets kind of
confused and thinks maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Maybe it wasn't orchestrated but surely the West was
instrumental in letting it happen in one way or another. So I
think that is one way that conspiracy theories work is that it
just causes chaos and confusion and even people that are
seemingly logical and not prone to this type of manipulation
are--I see that they are affected by it because if you see the
constant stream of chatter online it does kind of start to get
And I saw that there, especially within RT where you are
constantly exposed to these articles and this anti-American,
You are kind of in this vacuum where you kind of think
whoa, you know, maybe Russia has a point. Maybe there is some
truth there that is to be uncovered.
And so I think it is important to kind of come to terms,
and it is bizarre and it is kind of strange to grasp but these
strange conspiracy theories that are put out there really are
aimed at just disrupting and deceiving and causing chaos so
nobody really knows what the truth is.
Chairman Royce. We will go now to Dana Rohrabacher of
Mr. Rohrabacher. Well, having been a former journalist
myself and know about the way our journalist profession works
in the United States, and I have been very interested in your
analysis that truth is the way that we should fight this threat
and I agree with that.
I would hope that we are honest enough with one another to
realize that we have major flaws in our dissemination of facts
and information in the United States as well.
So the truth may well be what we have heard today in the
testimony, that Russia is engaged in a major effort to
basically support its own policies and promote changes and
effects on other populations that further the interests of
I would be surprised if that wasn't the case. Let me just
note that so I can accept everything that was said here I would
have preferred, Mr. Chairman, that we had at least one other
person to balance out this in a way that perhaps could have
compared our system to the Russian system and to find out where
that truth is, just how bad that is.
There are, by the way, I am convinced there are people here
in the United States who want us to have the same status toward
Russia today as we had during the Cold War and they still
believe that this--we should be in a Cold War status and that
Russia is today the same as it was under communism and that
Putin is Brezhnev, if not Hitler.
And I don't believe that necessarily those people who are
promoting that concept are any more accurate than the Russians
that you are now talking about presenting their concepts.
You know, I--frankly, I think there is a little bit of
fanaticism on both sides that don't hear both sides and if we
are going to have peace in this world we have got to be
disciplined ourselves in searching for that truth.
And I just say that when I was a newsman I remember
covering stories and I don't want to be too--I won't name the
exact publications but I know major publications that would not
cover a story that made us Republicans look good and all the
journalists who worked for some very strong newspapers in
southern California were just basically propaganda for the
liberal left position in our political spectrum.
And I saw that and, yeah, so we have bias here and they
have bias there and let us find out what the truth is and I
would have preferred, as I say, Mr. Chairman, would have had at
least someone to talk about that, to give us that type of
But I am very happy that we have this information being
presented to us today. Let me just ask this about, you know,
the stories. What caused you to leave RT? RT is, obviously, a
Russian propaganda outlet. I mean, obviously, it is.
I mean, we would expect it to be, and we have private--that
is why we have private media in the United States so we don't
have our Government setting a policy for what the information
But I will have to say that in terms of this whole conflict
in Ukraine, when I--almost everybody I know no one ever starts
the scenario about what was going on in Ukraine with the
violent overthrow of an elected President. They always started
with the scenario where Russian troops came in.
I happen to oppose any idea that Russian troops should ever
have been introduced in that country but I also recognize that
a democratically-elected President was violently overthrown in
order to achieve certain political objectives in that country.
And so I would hope that we search for the truth and that
we understand that all of the horrible things that you are
talking about today and the direction of the Russian Government
out to get--make sure its interests are being taken care of by
propaganda offensive, we understand that.
But that we have the discipline to be honest and seek the
truth ourselves and not just fall into this Hitler--Putin is
Hitler and this is--and Russia hasn't changed since the Cold
We don't need another Cold War. We don't need to be--to
take such belligerent stands and I will tell you I find that
belligerence on both sides of this fight.
Ms. Wahl. I absolutely--can I respond to that?
Mr. Rohrabacher. Sure.
Ms. Wahl. Okay, and I absolutely hear what you are saying.
I mean, I certainly don't want another Cold War. I think--I
can't--I bet you most people in this room don't want another
Cold War, and I hear what you are saying there, that there is--
and I think what it--I am not arguing that our media here is
But I think what I am going to have to push back on with
your statements is that in a way that kind of rhetoric kind of
equates our media here--Western media--with what is happening
in authoritarian governments like Russia.
It is providing this false equivalence that simply just
does not--they do not go hand in hand. There is--there is
essential differences, and Russia, yes, they look at our media
within the U.S. and they see it in disrepair.
They see, you know, Fox News is known as being
conservative. MSNBC is known as being liberal, and therefore
everything is a matter of perspective. But there is a
difference. There is a difference in that I think it goes to
I think that instead of it being maybe a Republican
viewpoint or a liberal viewpoint, what have you, whatever, that
there is an intent to actual--to actually advocate and
manipulate a war for an authoritarian leader's foreign policy
objectives and actually fabricating facts, twisting truths,
making up lies. And I understand that, yes, the media is not
But to compare the two and to say that they are morally or
ethically equivalent in any way I think is actually giving some
strength to Putin and this propaganda machine and I think he
manipulates that mind set and the ability for us here in the
United States to be critical of our own media and that is
another essential difference because here we can be.
Here, we can call out--I mean, look at Brian Williams. He
makes a little flub, he is gone. He is assassinated on Twitter.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Truth--your point is taken.
Ms. Wahl. It is just not--and I do understand what you are
saying and I am not here to make excuses for our own media or
say that it is perfect.
But I think that by saying or making any kind of moral
equivalence that we are giving power to Russian media and the
growing machine. So I think we just have to be cautious in that
Chairman Royce. We will go now to Mr. Gregory Meeks.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Ms.
Wahl, for your push back.
I just, on this subject, will say that I think you are
right in the sense that I wouldn't have any problem with RT if
there were other media outlets in Russia, you know, various
perspectives and that is what, you know, I think is
tremendously different in the United States.
You know, we have--you know, I listen to Fox, as you said,
and I think that is propaganda and the other side listens to
But at least you have two or three and you have other
alternatives of which you can listen to so that you can then
make your determination as to where and what is--you know,
where you are for.
Whereas, from where I am understanding, there is no
government-ran institution. RT seems to be financed exclusively
by the government which means that they can exclude anything
that does not favor the government.
We would have a tremendous problem here if in fact, for
example, you know, what we have dialogue right now, whatever
side, whoever is the President of the United States. If Barack
Obama was able to just put out his side without anything else,
you know, we would be up in arms in this country.
I know when George Bush was President if the paper just
only put out George Bush's side I would have had a big problem.
The fact of the matter is you can have the argument on both
You can't go after the press and, you know, and I don't
like some of the things that the press writes but they have the
right to write it based upon our Constitution and I think that
is a major difference.
So for me, as opposed to focusing on because they, Russia,
and how they run is different than what we do in the United
States and I understand that CNN, for example, international
can play inside of Russia but it is not in the Russian language
so it is only in English so therefore people don't understand
So my then concern will then go to what takes place outside
of Russia, I think, is where Mr. Engel was going as far as the
influence so that other areas can have equitable opportunity to
listen to all sides.
Russian TV is there, can we--do we have other, whether it
is local television from, you know, maybe in Moldova or in
Georgia where they are countering or have more freedom to say
what the other side is.
Do we have America--what can we do to make sure that that
choice that I am talking about that we have in America,
particularly within the European countries, that we have--that
they have the choice and are not listening to one thing but
And I am not saying cut out Russia or RT. I am saying make
sure they have all of the evidence so that they can then make a
determination of what they believe or don't believe as we do
Mr. Pomerantsev. Well, I will take it first if that is
I mean, I think--I think actually once upon a time we
actually intuited the right idea when--you know, when the BBG
had Radio Liberty, had Radio Svoboda--the Russian branch of
The concept worked there, which is the right concept, as
surrogate news. Not us believing in the truth. That is always--
you know, if you've got ``America is evil'' in their heads you
are not going to believe anything.
Mr. Meeks. That is correct.
Mr. Pomerantsev. There is going to be wall there. So it is
about going to local issues, finding local voices, local access
and it is not just about truth.
I really is about developing a different level of what
journalism is. It is almost like the methodology because there
is--look, Ukraine, Moldova, you have got oligarch channels, you
have gone--you know, it is like one--do you think Fox News is a
bit--is a bit sort of, you know, slangy and truthiness? There
it is crazy.
You know, like that is--what they lack is not another
opinion. There is a lot of bullhorns there. What they lack is
that central pillar of education and understanding of how you,
you know, think rationally, critically, what evidence is.
So it is both education and this kind of tradition that
Radio Svoboda represents and it still represents--it is just so
underfunded--of finding local voices who, you know, spread that
culture. So I think that is the secret. It is going local and
Ms. Dale. May I make a remark? I think you are absolutely
right that the diversity of views and the diversity of news is
what we thrive on in this country and we are fortunate that we
can make up--listen to whatever we want and make up our own
mind about what we think is the truth and oftentimes a lot of
people reporting from different perspectives will arrive at
something that looks like the facts.
Well, in Russia and in the countries--areas that they
occupy like eastern Ukraine they were shut down, the
independent media--any media that is not controlled by them the
moment that they move in and that is how you persuade a local
population of one point of view.
It permeates the airwaves to a degree we don't see here at
all and can't probably comprehend and I hear this from
Ukrainians on the ground.
The moment the Russians come into a town you will start to
hear different points of views from their friends and family
who live there because suddenly they have been presented with a
set of facts which are only from one perspective and that is
the one of the Russian Government.
I want to commend Peter for saying that the journalists and
raising the level of journalism is important. We can support
As far as journalistic outlets--trained journalists--in
Ukraine the journalists who work in the battle zone don't
even--many of them don't have any body armor. They don't have
They don't--they are not equipped in any way, shape or form
for reporting from front lines and yet they are trying. We here
in the United States have the means to support them materially
and with training and that, I think, would be--establishing
some credibility and some credible voices that trust in the
journalistic enterprise that is missing as something that we
need to work on to interject in Russia, Ukraine and the
countries that are under its influence.
Mr. Pomerantsev. Just to be clear, we were talking about
different bits of Ukraine so my colleague is talking about the
Ukraine bit that is occupied by the Russians. I was talking
about the rest of it, which is pretty chaotic as well in other
Chairman Royce. We go to Mr. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Perry. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for not
being here up front.
I was next door at another committee hearing, and I hope to
get to some questions but I think it is important for the
record to give some people a sense of history they might not
know because we have people in this country and around the
world that are apologists for what Russia and other similar
nations and viewpoints are doing and so I think it is important
to reflect on the past and know that this has been going on--
this is nothing new.
And so I am just going to read--this is out of a book
published in 1986, I think, called ``The Harvest of Sorrow''
and it is in regard to the terror famine forced on Ukraine by
the USSR and Russia.
So the first passage is--that I will read,
``And even more striking or at least a more important
aspect of the psychopathy of Stalinism may be seen in
the fact that no word about the famine was allowed to
appear in the press or elsewhere. People who referred
to it were subject to arrest for anti-Soviet
propaganda, usually getting 5 or more years in labor
``Hitler approvingly calls the big lie. He knew that
even when the truth may be readily available, the
deceiver need not give up.
``He saw that the flat denial on one hand and the
injection into the pool of information of the corpus of
positive falsehood on the other were sufficient to
confuse the issue for the passively uninstructed
foreign audience and to induce acceptance of the
Stalinist version of those actively seeking to be
and I have got a few more here that I found interesting.
This is in regard to a gentleman named Walter Duranty who
reported or failed to report or misreported on the famine of
the time who was working for the New York Times. This passage
``What the American public got was not the straight
stuff but the false reporting. Its influence was
enormous and long-lasting.''
Furthermore, regarding Duranty, who was a Pulitzer Prize
winner for the New York Times based on his work in Ukraine, the
praise which went to Duranty was, clearly, not due to a desire
to know the truth but, rather, a desire--to a desire of many to
be told what they wished to hear and, of course, his own
motives needed no explaining.
One communist gave as the reason or one of the reasons for
the suppression of the truth the fact that the USSR could not
only win the support of workers in the capitalist countries if
the human cost of its policies was concealed.
So I do have a little time for some questions and that is
just part of the historical perspective of what has been
refined over time, and Americans and free people around the
globe must be--must be apprised of this and must be aware of it
and must be prepared to fight for their freedoms because if
they don't will fall prey to the same thing.
I am going to just say Peter, if that is okay with you, the
question I think I have for you and I apologize if it has
already been asked, there are reports of think tanks becoming
puppets of Putin, and I think you have identified the Institute
for Democracy and Cooperation in New York as one in particular,
if that is true.
What is the strategy behind co-opting these think tanks? Is
the strategy working?
Mr. Pomerantsev. I think--I think that is--I haven't
researched that place myself but I think that is quite openly--
from as far as I know and can recall right now is quite openly
an extension of the Kremlin. I think they do stuff like
publishing America's human rights problems.
As Mr. Rohrabacher said, you know, we all have faults so
let us just play that game. Much more troubling in many ways is
that because there was such--a little bit of a collapse in the
funding of Russia studies after the Cold War--there is a famous
New Yorker cartoon with a homeless man standing on Fifth Avenue
with a little--you know, a little board saying ``Give money. I
am a Russia expert''--so there was a collapse in funding and
the Russians kind of stepped into that breach.
So a lot of intellectuals were kind of drawn toward that.
There is the Valdai Forum, which is a very, very clever little
operation where, you know, the world's Russia experts get
treated like royalty to get to meet Putin once a year and that
is sort of like subtly--they know they are being spun but they
are still being spun.
There is a game going on there. So it is really about us.
We collapsed our funding for Russia studies and, you know, the
Kremlin could step in. It is very important to have. The
Kremlin understands the values of intellectuals. Stalin
Lenin understood it. They understand the virtue of having
these sort of higher up people. More obviously is their
recruitment of former statesman Gerhard Schroder, who works for
Gazprom, who has become, you know, Putin's spokesman in Germany
in many ways.
In Britain, we have the phenomenon of the Lords on the
boards, so various peers who, on the one hand, politically they
are just in the House of Lords. On the other hand, you know,
they are all working for Russian companies, and they are
against sanctions against Russia.
So co-opting elites--intellectual elites, sort of public
figures, is very much part of their plan and I think it is
actually sometimes more dangerous than RT because RT is kind of
out there. We see it.
You know, it's like, whoa. This is stuff happening that
where we don't quite see it and in a way far more--far more
So to pick up on one thing that you said, that it is not
new, disinformation is as old as ``The Iliad'' and the Trojan
Horse--greatest disinformation operation ever. But there is new
things going on.
Firstly, the intensity--the information age. The intensity
of technology makes the power of technology so much more
pervasive and can do so much more with it. We have created this
beast called the Internet. We are only just understanding how
powerful it can be.
So that really changes the intensity of propaganda that you
can do. Also, look, there--I mean, you weren't here at the
start. I tried to explain a bit of Russia's idea of information
and psychological war.
They see this as the war of the 21st century, a war where
you kind of defeat another side in the realms of perception,
economy, culture without ever actually invading them--just by
breaking a country without ever--without ever having sent
I gave the example of Estonia. That is different. That is a
new idea of war. Usually, you know, the Clauswitzian idea of
war is, like, you know, war is a continuation of politics.
Politics ends, you have a war, you go back to peace.
This is permanent war, you know, and information and
psychological war is permanent, it is endless subversion,
endless destabilization. It is a complete rejection of the idea
of globalization as a win-win rules-based system where we all
agree to profit from each other and it is an idea that
integration is actually a way to mess with the other side
So we always ask what does Putin want. He sees the 21st
century that is going to be like this--endless subversion,
disinformation, economic manipulation--and he might be right. I
mean, there is a great study of the Chinese three-way warfare
in Asia where they are doing something very similar using
legal, media and psychological warfare to bully the Philippines
and other neighboring states.
They don't do it toward us. You know, they wouldn't. They
just do it toward people they've had. ISIS has come up several
times. The age of information is becoming the age of
disinformation and sort of in the 21st century wars might be
decided by whose story line wins, not what happens on the
It might not even matter anymore that NATO has the biggest
troops. All that the Russians have to do is make NATO look
ridiculous by subverting Article 5 and then the whole narrative
edifice comes crumbling down.
So there is something new going on. We are all trying to
work out what it is. But I look at other people studying this
and I can see we are all coming to similar conclusions.
Mr. Perry. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield.
Chairman Royce. We go now to Joaquin Castro of Texas.
Mr. Castro. Thank you, Chairman, and thank you to each of
the witnesses for your testimony and for your scholarship and
your experiences on these issues.
Mr. Pomerantsev, you mentioned the development of
conspiracy theories and particularly on the far right in Russia
the development of those conspiracy theories.
I would ask you, do you see that spreading anywhere else?
Is Russia the worst actor with respect to this or how do you
see that developing in other nations?
Mr. Pomerantsev. No, sir. Maybe I was unclear. No, no. It
is spreading within the far right, which is now mainstream in
Europe, in France, Hungary----
Mr. Castro. So you are speaking of Europe generally?
Mr. Pomerantsev. In France----
Mr. Castro. Sure.
Mr. Pomerantsev [continuing]. Hungary, Slovakia. Those are
the countries that have been studied and these parties are
becoming mainstream. The people who support them are into
conspiracy theories because, you know, they are into the far
Mr. Castro. Sure.
Mr. Pomerantsev [continuing]. Because they don't trust
media government so they are drawn toward conspiracy theories.
Mr. Castro. Well, and I guess let me point out my
colleague, Mr. Rohrabacher, mentioned--you know, made reference
to liberalism in the United States.
But we have a few Presidential candidates running for
President of the United States who have also cozied up to
people who are conspiracy theorists and who themselves espouse
conspiracy theories. Could you speak on that?
Mr. Pomerantsev. I just don't know the details of that. But
this is a global problem. I mean, globalization generally has
led to a breakdown of trust. We can't tell is our Government in
charge. You know, everybody feels insecure.
A butterfly flaps its wings in China and a town in Michigan
goes bust. So we all feel insecure. We all feel that those old
bonds of trust are creaking a little bit and conspiracy
theories are the result.
That is what I mean. The Kremlin can see what is going on
in Europe and the world. That is why it plays on conspiracy
theories. They are not being stupid. They can see this is
rising everywhere and they are trying to feed it.
In Europe they even fund the--you know, it is a cycle. They
feed the conspiracy theories and then fund the parties who
represent that constituency.
You know, you have got a nice little thing going on. You
know, this is--this is--the Kremlin thinks it is on the right
interpretation of history.
They think this is the way the 21st century is going to
be--chaotic with no idea of stable reality, no stable global
institutions and in that context the country or the state or
even the non-state actor who can be the most subversive, who
can lie best and be the most kind of, you know, the most
subversive--there is no better word, sorry--that state will
It is a rejection of 21st century based on kind of rules
and institutions. They are saying don't believe anyone--don't
believe your institutions--just follow the, you know----
Mr. Castro. Well, and I guess my question is, and if any of
you would like to comment on it, do you see--I mean, should we
be worried about that in the United States or the Americas? Is
it something that is particular to Russia and to Europe?
Ms. Wahl. I think that it is something that we should be
worried about here because I think that that is kind of the aim
of where I saw at Russia Today at the U.S. bureau is that they
are trying to mobilize this group of people that are anti-
Western, prone to conspiracy theories, people that are so
skeptical and paranoid about the establishment, that are
disillusioned, that think that the mainstream media is not only
complicit but instrumental in carrying out Western dominance.
There is a population of people within the U.S. that
believe in this. And yes, they are a fringe, but as Mr.
Pomerantsev had pointed out, they are coming out and they are
branding together and they are finding a place on the Internet
to come together and to make an impact and to make an effect.
And I saw while I was there there was a strong focus on
former--I am sure you are well aware of him, former Congressman
Ron Paul, and he was kind of the celebrated voice, the
celebrated candidate--Presidential candidate.
Why? Well, I mean, I am not going to make an analysis of,
you know, his policies and, well, how I personally feel toward
But he was seen as kind of like the rock star candidate,
the alternative, somebody that is against, you know,
intervention, that is very open to speaking out against Western
meddling, Western hegemony.
So they do kind of cling to these kinds of voices that tend
to be favorable to Russian foreign policy. I am not sure that
it is quite equivalent to what we are seeing in Hungary and
elsewhere or in the Baltic countries where there is large
populations of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians that might
be more susceptible.
But yes, they are trying to find this group within the West
and even within here in the United States and trying to
mobilize them in any way possible, and the thing about these
people is that they are loud on the Internet.
They comment on forums. They tweet. They share articles.
They are--they do. They make an impact. They shape the
Mr. Castro. Sure.
Ms. Wahl [continuing]. Whether we like it or not, and I do
want to comment on, Congressman, earlier about how this is
nothing new, and I mentioned earlier that yeah, Russia does
have a history of propaganda.
But we are seeing something new here and I think that from
my experience what I have come to realize is that the Kremlin
is being savvy by using Western media as a model by kind of,
you know, making it look sexy with slick graphics and kind of
trying to use the Western model.
And it is not propaganda all the time. There are some valid
stories on there. But you kind of sneak in the disinformation
among the facts and especially when it comes to a war, Ukraine,
is where this organization was able to be mobilized and
actually used as a tool for--to further war interests.
So yes, it is having an impact within the U.S., in my
opinion and from what I have seen.
Ms. Dale. If I could just make a remark on what we could
and should be doing from our side, because it is very easy to
kind of feel like the Internet takes over your brain and
suddenly, you know, you feel like your head is going to
I think it is critically important that part of our
strategy is to, within the U.S. Government and within the news
organizations that are independent, to try to expose what is
going on so that when you do see a credible news organization
suddenly being sponsored by the Russian Government or
advertising supplements in the newspapers or things that happen
online that we have a response team, preferably interagency
within the U.S. Government or within possibly collaborating
with other organizations that we do not just sit in a receptive
mode but that--as we did during the Cold War.
Yes, this is a different age but I think the principles
that applied then still apply today, that an untruth has to be
confronted by a truth. That is really the only thing you can
fight it with.
You may--the volume may be different today but the
principle has to be the same and we had that capacity in the
past. In the past, we fought Soviet disinformation very
effectively and eventually saw the end of the Soviet Union.
I am confident that today, if we put together a sufficient
strategy, we can do the same thing and we should.
Chairman Royce. Let me just thank Mr. Peter Pomerantsev and
Ms. Dale, Elizabeth Wahl. Thank you very, very much for your
I also wanted to thank the reporters here who report in
Moldova and in Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, for being
with us and these reporters in particular have been targeted by
So we wanted to give them an opportunity to be with us
today. We are going to have to stand adjourned at this time but
we will continue this dialogue.
And thank you to all our panelists.
[Whereupon, at 11:28 a.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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