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Putin propagandists pick up ex-Pentagon PSYOPers


by J Michael Waller / AMI Newswire / February 14, 2016.

In an irony that illustrates the contrast in value that Russia and the U.S. place on sound information strategy, the Russian government’s international propaganda service has hired American PSYOP professionals left jobless after congressionally mandated program cuts.

RT/Sputnik hired at least four contractors from the US Special Operations Command’s Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI), which Congress shut down last year.

Writing for the American Media Institute, I interviewed an editor and writers for RT/Sputnik’s Washington, D.C., office to get their story. The editor went on the record to explain his new position and why he took it. My article appeared on AMI Newswire on February 11.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

As Washington cuts back efforts to counter Russian propaganda, the Kremlin is hiring American communications talent straight from the Pentagon.

A year ago, multilingual editors and writers ran online news websites worldwide for the Trans Regional Web Initiative – a Pentagon effort to support U.S. military efforts against Islamic extremism, Iranian subversion, Russian and Chinese aggression and other threats.

Now, with their jobs eliminated in Congress’s budget wars, some of them are working for President Vladimir Putin’s publicity machine as it ramps up its operations in the United States.

Zlatko Kovach is one of them. Just blocks from the White House, the 48-year-old editor runs the Washington office of Sputnik, which styles itself as a straight news service that aspires to compete with the Associated Press and Reuters. Three of Kovach’s fellow ex-Pentagon contract workers joined him. Two have moved on, but Sputnik is actively recruiting others.

Kovach, a naturalized American citizen, doesn’t see his move as unpatriotic but rather as economically justified. “Despite the big superpower relations, the media has developed in such a way as that’s the nature of the market,” he said. “It isn’t harming the U.S.”Sputnik is part of a news and information outlet known in the United States as RT, the initials of its parent entity, Russia Today, which operates under the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media in Moscow. With State Department approval, RT opened the Washington office of Sputnik last year just as civilian contractors who shaped U.S. military messaging overseas were put out of work when Congress shut down most of a $22 million program.

They practiced what used to be called psychological operations, or PSYOP, a name that was changed to something more benign-sounding in the Pentagon’s alphabet soup of acronyms: MISO, for “military information support operations.” See the full article here.

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