Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is up in arms over Russia’s arrest of Alsu Kurmasheva, an employee of RFE/RL who holds dual U.S.-Russia citizenship. The charge? Failing to register as a “foreign agent” of the U.S. government. The New York Times reports that Kurmasheva is being accused of “collecting information about the mobilization of Russian university teachers into the army, something that could then be used to discredit the country.”
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that the Times article points out that RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. government.
RFE/RL head Jeffrey Gedmin exclaimed, “She needs to be released, so she can return to her family immediately.”
Really? Well, where were Gedmin and RFE/RL when U.S. officials were going after Russian citizen Maria Butina’s for the “crime” of failing to register as a “foreign agent”? For the life of me, I don’t recall them exclaiming, “She needs to be released, so she can return to her family immediately.
For example, check out these articles about Butina, among several others, that were published by RFE/RL:
Kremlin Says Allegations Against Accused Russian Agent Butina Groundless
Butina to Appear in U.S. Court After Foreign Agent Guilty Plea
U.S. Judge Delays Sentencing of Russian Woman Who Admitted to Foreign-Agent Charge
I don’t think you’ll find anywhere in those articles where Gedmin exclaims that Butina “needs to be released, so she can return to her family immediately.”
In fact, in another article, entitled, “Maria Butina’s New Job? Maybe Advocating for Other Russians Held in U.S. Prisons,” RFE/RL states, “Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent, a criminal charge under U.S. law sometimes known as ‘espionage-lite.’” Interestingly, so far RFE/RL head Gedmin has not referred to the Russian charge against Kurmasheva as “espionage-lite.”
As an aside, I think it’s worth asking a pertinent question: What business does the U.S. government have in using U.S. taxpayer money to fund RFE/RL? If RFE/RL can’t make it on its own, then don’t free-market principles dictate that it doesn’t deserve to exist? Why should U.S. taxpayers be forced to fund its operations? Isn’t that the essence of socialism? Indeed, isn’t that how the press in Russia operates — with funding by the Russian government?
I have written extensively on the U.S. government harassment, abuse, sham criminal prosecution, incarceration, and deportation of Maria Butina. See here.
The sum of the story is that Butina was a young Russian woman who innocently believed that it would be a good thing for the United States and Russia to have friendly relations. Well, as we all know, that type of mindset is considered heresy by the U.S. national-security establishment — that is, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Butina had to be dealt with, severely. And a message had to be sent out that that type of thing would not be countenanced here in the United States.
So, they went after her with a vengeance. At first, they figured that they could easily get her on the old tried-and-true World War I Espionage Act, which has become one of their favorite means of going after people. But they soon realized that their old Cold War paranoia over Russia “coming to get us” and their old Cold War hatred of everything Russian wouldn’t be enough to procure an espionage conviction in a federal court.
So, what did they do? They resorted to the sham “crime” of failing to register as a “foreign agent” of Russia, notwithstanding the fact that they didn’t have one iota of evidence indicating that Butina had ever worked for the Russian government.
So, how did they secure a conviction? They did it in what has become a standard means in the federal court system to induce people to plead guilty. They threatened Butina with years in jail if she went to trial and then offered her a lower sentence if she pled guilty. Like so many other people who are accused of crimes in the federal system, Butina prudently took the guilty plea and got sentenced to 18 months in jail. Just for failing to register as a “foreign agent.”
Is Russia now retaliating against Kurmasheva for what U.S. officials did to Butina? It’s quite possible. If so, it’s just another example of how U.S. officials, through their interventionist antics, make life unsafe for Americans traveling overseas.
But there is a larger message in all this. Notice that both nations — Russia and the United States — have made it a crime to fail to register as a “foreign agent.”
Now, it’s not surprising that Russia would do such a thing, given its authoritarian propensity. But notice that the U.S. government, which purports to be “pro-freedom,” does the same thing that Russia does. How can the same act be authoritarian when it’s committed by Russia and “pro-freedom” when it’s committed by the U.S. government?
The fact is that a genuinely free society doesn’t require anyone, including foreign citizens, to register for anything. We Americans need to bring an end to the U.S. government’s copying of Russia’s authoritarian measures, in the name of protecting “national security,” “keeping us safe,” and other such statist nonsense.