by John Galt
September 21, 2016 04:30 ET
Recently, the Western media has decided to ignore what has happened inside of Russia and around the Ukraine, either by a deliberate policy decision or to create a sense of victory within the West over the big bad bear once again. However, with stories about troop buildups, snap exercises, and fears of the war restarting the theory is that the Secretary of State, John Kerry who once served in Vietnam, will keep the possibility of a renewal of the conflict tapped down until Obama leaves office. It turns out that not only is Russia apparently cranking up their internet, satellite, and television presence throughout the world (like RT, etc.), their shortwave operations, including the old spy number broadcasters, appear to be restarting their operations also.
An example of this is below:
Recorded on September 3, 2016 at 12:00 UTC
R. Rossii on 5900 Khz via Vladivostok, Russia; time pips and solid ID in Russian at 2:18 into the recording:
(Special thanks to Glenn Hauser at DX Listening Digest and Hiroyuki Okamura via Japan on WRTH Facebook Group for this information)
While the re-activation of one shortwave broadcast facility (as per the recording from 9/3 above) inside of Russia, broadcasting in Russian, to Russian citizens may or may not be insidious by it’s own nature, the Russian Government has submitted a request to reactivate numerous frequencies for broadcasting as the “Radio Rossii” (Radio Russia) in the B16 or Winter broadcasting period to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and HFCC (see table below).
Some of the frequencies in Vladivostok listed above were activated early due to the damage to the Far Eastern portions of Russia by Typhoon Lionrock to the infrastructure of the region. The internet was pretty much down for the average individual as was cell phone service plus local broadcasters so once again, shortwave broadcasting proved its value to the average citizen in far flung portions of the world. Those frequencies are still active at time of this posting, for those who are interested.
This could be a feint, as they have in the past submitted requests for frequency allocations as a recent as 2014 for international broadcasting, but there is something unique to the request at this time. Thus why there is something very ominous when one looks at the list of frequencies above and the tensions which are gathering between the United States, NATO, and the Russian Federation and it is worthy of consideration.
The Worst Case Scenario
The innocence of a return to shortwave broadcasting by the Russian Federation to broadcast domestically might seem innocuous, especially to a generation of Americans and Europeans which has now grown up in an era of satellite and cable television along with the internet. For the majority of millennials, the idea of terrestrial broadcasting is not only foreign, but a quaint symbol of a bygone era, much like many of us viewed the extinction of black and white television and toll calling via hardwired telephones (yes, I remember that as a child).
The question then becomes, why is Russia doing this? The fact that they activated a few frequencies during a regional emergency demonstrates that either they have upgraded their transmitting facilities which deteriorated badly as their economy crashed in the late 1990’s, or that the Russian government is continuing a new expansion of its propaganda facilities to lock down the ability to transmit their version of the news to the domestic population.
But why terrestrial radio and again, why shortwave?
The inefficiency of Frequency Modulation (FM) radio in a nation as vast as Russia is obvious. The same goes for mediumwave (AM band for the newbies). Thus the traditional methods used by China, African, South American and other nations throughout history becomes the only logical method for broadcasting to far flung cities and villages across hundreds if not thousands of miles with the same programming. Radio Rossi or Radio Russia is a national program originating from Moscow. There are also regional variations which in the past, and during the Typhoon Lionrock emergency, which interrupt national programming as scheduled or needed throughout the broadcast day.
In the past, as mentioned above, Russia has requested large swaths of frequency allocations from the international authorities and never activated them, but this time it might be different.
What if the Russian Federation is planning on a massive outage of the internet and possibly satellite communications? Such an event could be due to natural causes or worse, a major war. With the tensions rising with the United States, one of the first targets of the Russian military will not only be our military communications and satellites, but an electronic or cyber war where our infrastructure, including destroying or disrupting the functionality of the internet, would be a high priority target of the modern cyberwarrior; something which the former KGB agent now President Vladimir Putin is keenly aware.
If Russia and other players were to launch an all out war to seize territory militarily such as in the Ukraine or even the Baltic states, one of the first things the American and European public should expect is a total attack and disruption of all infrastructure. First the internet would be essentially wiped out, either through a massive denial of service attack, physical attacks on the supporting infrastructure, or some new cyber attack which renders the majority of the net useless. As a follow on, attacks on the financial systems and utilities grid in the U.S. and Europe could create massive confusion and panic within hours. The lack of a sound national broadcasting alternative to internet and satellite based broadcasters would leave the authorities without a functioning manner to communicate efficiently to the public on a mass scale; especially since domestic terrestrial broadcasting in the U.S. is now married to the internet and satellite for programming capabilities.
Maybe it is Just Economics 101
Keeping all of this in mind, Russia’s return to shortwave could just be an interesting quirk of history and cost efficiency. During the massive economic depression which Russia endured from the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s, the infrastructure of the nation suffered and the expansion of services like satellite broadcasting and the internet availability was slow and haphazard at best. By returning to a much more frugal system of public broadcasting Russia might indeed be leading the way into the first part of the 21st century by resorting to an older technology the masses can afford, until they can complete the modernization of their nation.
This is even more logical as shortwave radios are being produced quite cheaply in China these days with some decent quality for the price which would make them accessible to the average Russian citizen.
Let us hope that this is more interesting than ominous because the timing of the expansion of Russian propaganda outlets like RT in America and Europe plus this return to shortwave is most peculiar in the least.