77. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Expanding Radio Broadcasting

It is exactly six months today since the President approved the recommendations of the 11 December 1979 SCC on expanding broadcasting to Muslim audiences.

Not much has happened as a result. VOA has expanded some of its broadcasts but it took the sharp attack in the Post a few weeks ago to jolt ICA/VOA into facing up to the task of broadcasting to Afghanistan seriously—and it will still be weeks (or months) before Dari broadcasts are on the air. I am asking ICA/VOA for a report on just what has been added since last December—for what they say they are going to do and what they accomplish often involves a large gap. The press, as you know, is increasingly focusing on this problem.

With RFE/RL the picture is much worse. Not a penny has been allocated to expanding Muslim broadcasting staffs and no new transmitters have been leased or otherwise secured. The transmitter-search effort is still bogged down. If the purpose of Binder’s NYT article was to cause enough commotion about this subject to stymie progress, it has been achieved. BIB and OMB have been in league to tie the whole issue up in bureaucratic haggling while they pursue “relocation” (which would hardly contribute anything to increasing the radios’ effectiveness). Latest from Munich is that BIB has now ordered the radios to prepare to relocate all the Baltic services back to the US. This speaks poorly for Gronouski’s skill as a politician and judge of ethnic issues—for the Balts are going to be up in arms. I find, in fact, that Lithuanians already raised this issue in a meeting with Steve and David2 earlier this week. A fine reward for the Balts in the 40th anniversary year of their takeover by the Soviets—move RL’s Baltic services back to the US.

I was glad to see R. Evans place the BIB maneuvers against the radios in the context of detentists trying to maintain their position—for there is a lot of validity to this accusation. The WSJ raised it too. [Page 230] The problem (as far as RFE/RL are concerned) is not policy as such, but lack of power. With VOA it is more policy and lack of quality and judgment in certain respects. All these issues need to be aired—and it increasingly looks as if they will be, publicly, if Freedom House, the Georgetown Center holds meetings on them. I have the feeling that the Evans and Osnos pieces in today’s Post may spark further journalistic investigations.

RL’s lack of power is depressing. At the IREX/ICA seminar I attended last Friday (and already reported to you on briefly) there was a great deal of discussion of radio listening in Central Asia by the four American grantees who had just returned. But none cited RL—its broadcasts are too weak in signal to be heard with any dependability by Central Asians. . .

While we fiddle, the Soviets expand. Look at the attached piece ICA has recently issued on expansion of Moscow’s World Service in English.3

Chto Delat’?—Frankly, I don’t know. I despair of this Administration’s capacity to face up to these issues now. We could hold another SCC—if you want to get out front. Short of that, I plan simply to continue calling attention to the problem, pressing where we can to get something done, bit by bit. But we can’t expect much from RFE/RL until they get some money and stop being harassed by BIB on tangential issues. They have squeezed out what they can from presently available resources. They have a whole list of good Central Asians, etc. ready to hire . . . but instead they have to spend their time drawing up plans to move the Balts back to New York. . .

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 5, Chron File: 6–7/80. Confidential. Copies were sent to Brement, Larrabee, and Odom.
  2. Stephen Larrabee and David Aaron.
  3. Not attached.