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Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond

Wilson Center senior scholar and former director of Radio Free Europe, A. Ross Johnson discussed his latest book which examines the first twenty years of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

Date & Time

Thursday
Jan. 20, 2011
3:00pm – 4:30pm ET

Overview

Wilson Center senior scholar and former director of Radio Free Europe, A. Ross Johnson will discuss his latest book entitled Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty: The CIA Years and Beyond, co-published by the Wilson Center Press and the Stanford University Press. The book examines the first twenty years of the organization, policies, and impact of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, arguably one of the most important and successful policy instruments during the Cold War.

The book is based on extensive archival research in the U.S. and in Germany, Poland, and Hungary, as well as on interviews and the author's own experiences. It also draws extensively on CIA materials, in part declassified at the request of the author. Johnson concentrates on the origins and role of RFE/RL in the context of U.S. national security strategy, with particular attention to the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in covertly organizing and funding RFE/RL from 1949 to 1971. Johnson also details RFE activities during the most important East European crises of the era—Poland and Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The study concludes with an analysis of the factors that accounted for RFE/RL's effectiveness, which may offer lessons today as the United States tries to "win the hearts and minds" of foreign elites and populations and promote positive political change, particularly in the Muslim world.

Joining Johnson on the panel will be Stephen Larrabee, Distinguished Chair in European Security, RAND Corporation and Elez Biberaj, Division Director, Eurasia, Voice of America.

A. Ross Johnson is a Wilson Center senior scholar, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, adviser to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Archive Project at Hoover, and senior adviser to the president of RFE/RL. Johnson was a senior executive of RFE/RL from 1988 to 2002, serving as director of Radio Free Europe, director of the RFE/RL Research Institute, and acting president and counselor of RFE/RL. He was a senior staff member of the RAND Corporation from 1969 to 1988, where he specialized in East European and Soviet security issues. He was a visiting RAND research fellow at the Foundation for Science and Politics, Germany, in 1983–85. In recognition of his contribution in preserving the archives of the RFE/RL Polish service, Johnson received the Laurel Award from the prime minister of Poland in 2001 and a citation for Meritorious Service to Polish Culture from the Polish minister of culture in 1996.

Stephen Larrabee holds a Chair in European Security at the RAND Corporation. Previously he served as vice president and director of studies, Institute for East-West Security Studies, New York. Larrabee was also a member of the National Security Council staff during the Carter Administration. His publications include: Danger and Opportunity in Eastern Europe; Ukraine and the West; ESDP and NATO: Assuring Complementarity; NATO's Eastern Agenda in a New Strategic Era; and Turkish Foreign Policy in an Age of Uncertainty. Larrabee holds a Ph.D. in political science and a m.i.a. in international affairs from Columbia University.

Elez Biberaj is a 30-year veteran of the Voice of America. As division director, he brings to bear considerable radio and television broadcasting experience and Eurasian market knowledge in planning, directing, and developing VOA's multimedia programming in Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, and Serbian. Dr. Biberaj joined VOA's Albanian Service as an international radio broadcaster in 1980. From 1982 to 1986, he worked in the Press Division of the former U.S. Information Agency as a senior writer/editor, specializing in Soviet and East European Affairs. Dr. Biberaj returned to VOA as Albanian Service Chief in 1986, and, for the next 18 years helped transform the service into one of VOA's most successful broadcasting units. For over a decade, he served in dual capacity as chief of the Albanian Service and director of European Division writers and researchers. In the latter capacity, he directed the work of division writers and researchers, developed broad strategies for providing program material and research, and assigned coverage of events and topics of importance to Eastern Europe, and edited program material for use by division services. Dr. Biberaj is also the author of three books on Albania, including Albania in Transition: The Rocky Road to Democracy (Westview, 1998), and numerous articles and chapters on Albania and Kosovo.

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Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

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