Thursday, February 20, 2020

Why Kansas for Russia’s Sputnik Radio?

In case you missed it, last Friday, February 14, 2020, the NY Times ran an article “On the Air in Kansas City: Russian Propaganda” which is a photo source and which you can see at:

The article profiles how Russia’s media organization, Rossiya Segodnya. You can find some background on it from the Center for Strategic and International Studies at:

     The Russians cooked a deal with Kansas City’s (MO) Peter Schartel, owner of Alpine Broadcasting Company.  I’ll get to some best practices and operational observations in a moment, but first – why Kansas?

  • Some organizations, the American Nurses’ Association for example, thought it made sense to have a base of operations in the middle of the country to serve a national membership. As it turns out – they moved to the Washington, DC area.
  • It’s a small market with limited influence, so no one will really care if you screw it up.
  • Since the Russians tend to lean right politically, why bother with Kanas? In 2016 they went for Mr. Trump where he earned 56.16% of the vote. Both Senators are Republicans although the governor is a Democrat. It would not appear that the citizens need very much influence to move right.

And of course, there are operational possibilities as well:

  • It’s a great test market with limited risks if you fail.
  • It could be a diversion for activities going on elsewhere.
  • While Social Media is omnipresent – Radio still counts!

Radio Sputnik services 90 cities worldwide and is part Russia’s global influence campaign. US intelligence sources believe that this campaign influenced the US 2016 Presidential election in favor of Mr. Trump.

The Kansas City station is employing several best practices:

·      They are airing their messages for 6 hours a day during prime drive time and on weekends.
·      The share a frequency with a community radio station that was grounded in Kansas City’s jazz community and that already had an audience.
·      Somehow, the managed to avoid having to register as an agent of a foreign government.
·      They have cohesive messaging:
o   America is damaged goods.
o   Playing on internal divisions.
o   “The wheels are coming off the establishment media,”
·      They employ personalities that appeal to their target audience.
o   According to the NY Times “Sputnik shares its Kansas City stations with a cast of far-right conspiracy theorists, evangelical pastors and anti-Semites.”

No matter where you sit in the political spectrum, it is important to realize that America’s adversaries appear to be far better at orchestrating all of their instruments of power to influence people around the world to think their way.

As always, reader comments are encouraged.

Source of the Wizard of Oz photo:

1 comment:

Sherrie Stone said...

The EU has placed sanctions against the director general of Rossiya Segodnya. Dmitry Kiselyov, is one of the Russian officials on the EU list of sanctioned persons due to being a supporter of the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Kiselyov played a central role in Russian propaganda in support of the attack on Ukraine

In Estonia they have frozen Kiselyov’s bank accounts. This takes away the funding of Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) RT/Sputnik radio. They say, “The journalistic content of Sputnik is of no importance from the perspective of application of financial sanctions. The decisive factor was Kiselyov's role in the attack on Ukraine and his personal ties and benefiting from the activity of Rossiya Segodnya” (

I’m guessing that, if the US government had the will to do so, we could use the same approach without eviscerating first amendment rights.