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Voice of America Russian Branch Chief Alexander Barmine Was An Ex-Soviet General and Ex-Spy Who Testified Before Senator McCarthy

Stopped McCarthy’s Staff from Interference with VOA Russian Branch

Barmine’s deputy, Alexander Frenkley, described him as a passionate defender of the Russian Branch journalists and praised him for skillful handling of potential interference by Senator McCarthy’s staff with the work of VOA broadcasters. Frenkley told an oral history project interviewer in 1988 that Senator McCarthy’s subcommittee’s Chief Counsel Roy Cohn showed up one Sunday at his office in New York looking for General Barmine, telling him he wanted to see Barmine on a confidential matter. Cohn left after being told that Barmine was not there. Frenkley immediately called Barmine, who told him not to worry. The next day, Barmine went to see Senator McCarthy at the Waldorf Astoria Towers in New York. According to Frenkley, Barmine told the senator to keep his staff away from the VOA Russian Service:

He went there, and he spoke to McCarthy, and he said, “If any of your assistants ever dares to come to the Russian Service you will hear from me, and others will hear from me. I categorically prohibit your representatives from coming to the Russian Service and demoralizing it.” And he defended us from any kind of criticism or attack on the part of McCarthy. He never dared say a word about the Russian Service. Barmine of course was beyond suspicion, from the point of view of the anti-Communist crusaders.1

Barmine gave straightforward and sometimes brutally honest answers to questions from Senator McCarthy, Senator Mundt, and chief counsel Roy Cohn. Most of the time, he agreed with them that officials at the State Department’s International Information Administration, who were responsible for policy guidance for the Voice of America, were poorly informed about the conditions of life under communism and Soviet policy and possibly more influenced by Soviet propaganda than able to fight it. At the same time, while not directly defending some of the Voice of America officials, whom he knew were targets of criticism by McCarthy and his staff, Barmine made positive comments about their cooperation in supporting his appeals for more vigorous countering of Soviet propaganda. He had a chance to agree with Senator McCarthy or remain silent, but he chose instead to give positive testimony about some of the progressive-minded officials at the Voice of America, whom he knew McCarthy wanted to get removed from their positions.


  1. Alexander Frenkley, Interviewed by: Cliff Groce.
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Ted Lipien is the online Cold War Radio Museum's principal volunteer editor. He is an independent journalist, writer, and media freedom advocate. He was Voice of America’s Polish Service chief during Poland’s struggle for democracy and VOA’s acting associate director. He also served briefly in 2020-2021 as RFE/RL president in a non-political and non-partisan role. His book “Wojtyła’s Women” was published in 2008 by O-Books, UK. E-mail him at:

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