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Russian tv claims Manas base is used for global spying

4 maggio 2009

Spy Games…

Una recente relazione di un canale televisivo nazionale russo ha affermato che Washington usa la sua base militare presso l’aeroporto di Manas in Kirghizistan, per almeno due egoistici interessi: colonizzare il paese e installare attrezzature speciali di spionaggio per monitorare i flussi di informazioni a livello locale, regionale e anche su scala globale.

By Erica Marat (04/22/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Following a short lull after president Barack Obama’s inauguration in January, Moscow-controlled mass media outlets renewed their overconfident and detracting reports about the United States. In the first few days after Obama’s official inauguration, most Russian media outlets were trying to formulate their opinion about the new American leader. The short hesitation was followed by renewed anti-U.S. propaganda by mass media inside Russia and in the neighboring countries.

A recent report by the Russian National TV channel argued that Washington uses its military base at the Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan for at least two selfish interests – to colonize the country and to install special spying equipment to monitor information flows on a local, regional, and even global scale. The Kyrgyz are compared with Native Americans in North America to prove the colonization argument.

For the second viewpoint, the reporter interviewed Kyrgyz experts with strong pro-Kremlin attitudes. Among them Leonid Bodarets, formerly an analyst the Strategic Studies Institute under the President, confirmed the reporters’ allegations that the U.S. is secretly spying on the Kyrgyz government. The expert insisted that the U.S. base is trying to “penetrate the country” by collecting information about local developments. The information is further used to impact the decision-making of political elites and turn them against Russia and China, Bodarets concluded.

The report further condemns local NGOs for collaborating with U.S. organizations such as the International Republican Institute, the International Democratic Institute, Freedom House and the Soros Foundation. “This web has covered the entire country and is acting in the interests of the United States”, argues the reporter. Another Kyrgyz analyst with prominent pro-Moscow views, Aleksandr Knyazev, claimed U.S. government aid structures are challenging the sovereignty of Kyrgyzstan.

The TV report is one of the prominent examples of the attempts of Russian mass media to influence public opinion in Kyrgyzstan and the Central Asian region. The report was featured shortly after the Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced his decision to expel the U.S. base. Russian authorities deny allegations that the Kremlin influenced Bakiyev’s decision. But the fact that the president announced it in Moscow indicates that he was indeed pressured by the Russian regime.

The deep penetration of Russian media in Kyrgyzstan seems to fulfill its goal. According to Internet polls, Russia is regarded as the primary strategic partner, while the United States is seen as the aggressor. Although most polls were conducted during the Bush era, the current public attitude towards the U.S. has improved only slightly. Public opinion about the U.S. base was damaged significantly after a U.S. serviceman shot dead a Kyrgyz truck driver. While the U.S. embassy in Bishkek took a rather passive stance in countering the spread of negative and biased reporting of the incident by Russian-language media, rumors about the incident spread rapidly.

Most Russian mass media outlets have a wide reach among the Central Asian urban population. The Russian media is a dynamic source of news reports as well as entertainment programs. The local alternatives in the media market are hardly able to compete with Moscow’s reports. In Kyrgyzstan, most TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers, reprint the bulk of reports published by Russian sources.

With the change of the U.S. president, Moscow’s reports about the United States altered only slightly, finding new ways of ridiculing the perceived Western adversary. Instead of mocking George W. Bush’s gaffes, popular media outlets are now picking on the U.S. first lady’s new garden in the White House.

In effect, Russian mass media outlets are consistent in reporting negative news about the United States, be that about the president’s decisions or a household in America’s suburbia, while portraying its own regime as most progressive. In the TV report demonizing the Manas airbase, Russian journalists omitted any comparisons with the Russian airbase located in Kyrgyzstan since 2004.

Indeed, as one expert on the Russian radio station Echo of Moscow commented, “anti-U.S. sentiments serve a very important role in Russian statehood – they consolidate the people and legitimize the regime’s authoritarianism”. By blaming the United States for the world’s misfortunes, the Kremlin is able to get away with its own inefficient policies. Without this function, the expert concludes, the Russian government would need to take the blame itself.

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