PRAGUE — When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Radio Free Europe and its sister broadcaster Radio Liberty seemed to outlive their purpose. Over the next quarter century, the U.S. government-supported stations kept broadcasting to Central Asia, but the urgency of the Cold War was gone.
That is, until an old adversary, the Kremlin, began to meddle again in foreign election campaigns, invading sovereign nations like Ukraine and spreading “alternative facts’’ through its state-supported RT television broadcaster and other web sites.
With Russia’s resurgence, the work of the U.S. government broadcaster, which has been based since 1995 in Prague, has taken on a new relevance.
In a hulking fortress on the outskirts of the Czech capital, the state-of-the-art headquarters of what is now called Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was abuzz with activity earlier this month for the launch of Current Time, a new Russian-language 24-hour satellite television station.
The broadcaster’s budget is up 35 percent since 2008, the year of Russia’s border war with Georgia. In targeting an area that runs from Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan, the February 7 launch of the new TV channel is an ambitious attempt to influence Russian speakers on their home turf, in their own language.