Russia Watching


      For many Americans it's a foreign country and concept: Russia.

      With its onion-domed churches, red star symbols of communism, and of course, the mysterious Kremlin, the centuries old center of intrigue and power. It ruled the old Soviet empire and helped the US and allies win World War 2, then launched the decades old Cold War that brought both countries to the brink of a nuclear one.

      Now under Putin, the Russian bear has regained its swagger and the new threat isn't just the renewed reach of Russian weaponry, but also a new age of propaganda war conducted in mass media messaging. We were welcomed inside the television headquarters of RT, formerly known as Russia Today to see America through the reverse lens of the Russian media with political correspondent Anissa Naouai.

      Scott: How overall would you say America's perceived through the RT lens?

      Anissa Naouai: I think we point out stories and things about America that they American government would not like. Scott: RT tells us it is watched by 70 million people a week in 38 countries with a significantly stronger presence online, claiming to be the most watched news network on YouTube with some 4 billion views. It is also completely funded by the Russian government.

      Scott: Do you ever get any pressure from above to be tougher on America?

      Anissa Naouai: No, I've been very lucky. I'm American.and I was not tough on America at all before I started working at RT, and it's not because RT made me tough, it's because I started to see, and it was even before, it was when I was studying in Russia, and someone asked me who won World War 2. and I said, America, and it was the first time I realized that I was living in a bubble. So maybe RT is lucky to have me because I'm quite critical of America in a way. But again, RT's goal is not to criticize America, it's to show another side of the story.

      Scott: Whenever someone is funding something, it doesn't, there has to be a trickle down of some sort, doesn't there as far as how to present the news?

      Anissa Naouai: There has to, but that's how the news works all over. Every news channel, I mean you know how much it costs to run a news channel, so they know when they turn on RT, they know what they're getting. They're getting a channel that's funded by the Russian government. This is going to be the Russian perspective.

      And that perspective is often highly critical of the US media. CNN, a favorite target. But the broadcasts are designed for an overseas audience, and in fact isn't widely seen within Russia. So even with claims of worldwide viewership, the constant critique of America and its media has little impact on many in Moscow.

      Scott: Just how Russians perceive and portray Americans depends on where in the country you ask that question. But will also depend in the future a great deal on what happens next in American politics, under a Trump presidency. And here, some attribute trump's victory to Vladimir Putin.

      Yevgenia Albats: Mr. Putin is capable to elect American presidents, do you know that? Do you think it's you? Forget about this. If you listen to Russian TV then of course it is Vladimir Putin is God on earth, who has managed to elect a good president over the United States, good for the Russian people.

      Scott: Yevgenia Albats is editor of New Times what she says is the only independent weekly in the world's largest country. And in a constant battle of being drowned out by state-owned organizations which she claims, accounts for 70 percent of all media. How strong is that voice? How loud is that voice of propaganda?

      Yevgenia Albats: It's the loudest uh voice we have here in Russia. On a daily basis 24/7 they report to Russian people that there is one guy who's capable to save them, and his name is Vladimir Putin.

      Scott: You're an independent agency, do you still feel pressure from the government?

      Yevgenia Albats: I mean of course we do feel pressure on a regular basis.

      Scott: Is it dangerous for you?

      Yevgenia Albats: You know everything is dangerous in this type of regimes, you never know. You never know.

      Scott: Including, she claims, presenting too positive an image of Putin opponents.

      Yevgenia Albats: And if you ask me am I going to be in printing two months from now? I have no idea. A month from now? I have no idea.

      Scott: Just as it's unclear if there will be any real thawing of relations in a country where there's long been a popular punch line: vyav-soom dya-na-vat obama, meaning everything is Obama's fault. Trump's win has widely been seen as a Russian win too, reportedly even eliciting applause at the highest levels. But couched with a healthy dose of caution.

      Anissa Naouai: I think if you went on the streets of Moscow like you did, people would be hopeful but they were just as hopeful 8 years ago. And we're quickly disappointed.