Cold War II

End of the Prague Spring

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The future of U.S.-Russian relations will have a decisive influence on the future of Germany and continental Europe.

  • Facts


    • U.S.-backed broadcaster Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, based in Prague, is experiencing a revival amid rising Cold War tensions between the U.S. and Russia.
    • The broadcaster’s budget has been increased 35 percent since 2008, the year Russia invaded neighboring former satellite country Georgia.
    • Despite strong tourism, American influence in Prague is waning, and most Czechs in a recent poll blamed NATO and the United States, not Russia, for the troubles in Ukraine.
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Overlooking the River Vltava in a thunderstorm and rain, Charles Bridge, Smetana Museum, a former waterworks, the Old Town Bridge Tower, Water Tower, dome of the Kostel sv. Frantiska church, Prague, Bohemia, Czech Republic, Europe
Prague, once the site of a peaceful "velvet'' revolution to overthrow Soviet communism, is now the capital of a country that is once again opting for the role of neutral observer in the growing cold war-like conflict between Washington and Moscow. Source: Getty Images

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.

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