Liz Wahl’s recent resignation from Russia Today (RT), due to the network’s coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine territory, was nothing more than a secretive power play by neoconservatives desperate to revive Cold War tensions, according to a new investigation by Truthdig.

Behind the coverage of Wahl’s dramatic protest, a cadre of neoconservatives was celebrating a public relations coup. Desperate to revive the Cold War, head off further cuts to the defense budget and restore the legitimacy they lost in the ruins of Iraq, the tightknit group of neoconservative writers and stewards had opened up a new PR front through Wahl’s resignation.

According to the investigation, which included interviews with six current RT employees, Wahl was considered apolitical until she became involved with James Kirchick, a 31-year-old writer working for the Foreign Policy Institute (FPI), a neoconservative think tank located in DC. Kirchick reportedly “helped craft Wahl’s strategy and exploit her resignation to propel the agenda of a powerful pro-war lobby in Washington.”

On March 5, 2014, 19 minutes before Wahl resigned from her position at RT on air, FPI tweeted: “#WordOnTheStreet says that something big might happen on RT in about 20-25 minutes.” Then, exactly 10 minutes before Wahl’s resignation, FPI added: “#WordOnTheStreet says you’re really going to want to tune in to RT: #SomethingBigMayBeGoingDown.”

Finally, at the exact moment that Wahl announced her resignation, FPI’s Twitter account broke the news by tweeting: “RT Anchor RESIGNS ON AIR. She ‘cannot be part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin.’” A little more than an hour later, an interview with Wahl appeared on The Daily Beast, authored by James Kirchick.

FPI Wahl Resignation Tweets













Kirchick admitted that he had been in touch with Wahl since August and stated that he “always encouraged her to follow her conscience in making a decision about her professional future.” Later that evening, he tweeted a photo of himself and Wahl entitled “Freedom selfie,” with the hashtag #screwthehaters.

Fellow employees told Truthdig that after Kirchick’s on-air performance on August 21, 2013, Wahl “gushed about his actions – one of the few times they could remember her expressing a political opinion.” Around that same time, a former colleague said that Wahl revealed she had been contacted by an anonymous person who wanted to help her “undermine RT” and wanted her to write a “hit piece.”

The same colleague stated that they felt Kirchick had been trying to persuade Wahl into undermining RT for some time, Truthdig reports.

Wahl had also reportedly been unhappy with her pay at RT. Last spring, she was suspended and demoted from anchor to correspondent (until this past January) after a series of office outbursts that were entirely related to payment, according to former colleagues.

After Wahl condemned RT’s handling of the situation in Ukraine and resigned from her position on air, she was celebrated by mainstream media and asked to appear on shows like “The View.”

When Wahl made the media rounds in the days after she quit, she struck an uncharacteristic tone that echoed the cold warrior themes familiar to neoconservatives like Kirchick. “I have been thinking about it for a while especially in the wake of the anti-gay laws that were happening there [in Russia]; been thinking about it and decided that now is the time as we are approaching possibly another Cold War,” she explained.

While Wahl was making appearances on MSNBC and FOX News, where she interned for Sean Hannity before joining RT, Kirchick was giving an interview on Channel News Asia. As Wahl continually referenced the Cold War in her interviews, Kirchick called for “troop deployments in neighboring NATO states… just [as] a way to show the Russians that we mean business.”

“Neoconservatives have long had Russia as one of their main targets,” Jim Lobe, the Washington bureau chief of Inter Press Service and a leading expert on the neoconservative movement, told Truthdig. “Since the end of the Cold War, they’ve been somewhat nostalgic for the Manichean framework in which enemies could be described as evil and allies could be described as on the right side no matter how authoritarian they were.”

“This antipathy has been driven by the rise of Putin and the FPI has followed a consistently anti-Russian position, urging the US to take hawkish positions vis-à-vis Russia over any number of issues,” he added.

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