Why USAID is leaving Russia
According to the US State Department, the Russian government decided to end USAID activities, the United States Agency for International Development, in the Russian Federation. Over the past two decades, USAID’s mission in Russia has channeled US foreign aid totaling nearly $ 3 billion to organizations, causes, and projects designed to support “social development and development.” economy ”in Russia. At that time, USAID did some good, but given the fundamentally different views of the two sides on the goals of US aid and the Kremlin’s acute sensitivity in the midst of widespread opposition protests, the decision to close it is not a surprise.
From the Kremlin’s perspective, the very idea that the Russians are receiving foreign aid is unacceptable – an affront to Russia’s national dignity. As the largest country in the world, a nuclear superpower, and the hub of one of the great civilizations in history, Russia finds it difficult to accept any form of assistance from abroad, no matter how necessary or necessary. utility. While the high cost of the post-communist transition allowed the Russian administration to swallow its pride for a time, with a rapidly growing Russian economy now supported by high global energy prices, there is no is no such excuse for accepting donations, especially from the West.
The closure of the USAID mission in Russia is not the Kremlin’s first move to constrain US assistance programs. In 2002, as Putin built the “vertical of power” and clashed with Washington over the impending invasion of Iraq, Russia ended Peace Corps activities on its soil, suggesting the program was a facade for American espionage. Two years ago, Russia withdrew its support for the International Center for Science and Technology, a multilateral institution established in 1992 primarily to coordinate and distribute assistance to former Soviet weapons experts who might otherwise have sold their weapons. unique services to rogue states or terrorist groups. Russia’s position was that after 18 years of assistance, it could take responsibility for its own scientific community, and in any case did not need Westerners to sniff around its most sensitive facilities.
Just as much as national pride, insecurity about the political motivations for American aid makes the Kremlin bristle at the idea of a USAID mission committed to “supporting democracy, human rights.” and the development of a stronger civil society in Russia ”. For many Russians, Washington makes no particular claim on any of these values. After all, during the Cold War, both sides systematically disguised proxy battles to install compliant strongmen in the Third World as interventions to protect human rights, liberty and welfare. be social. It is no exaggeration for some Russians to believe that US-funded NGOs, like the election observation group GOLOS, are in fact part of a strategy to overthrow the Russian government. This is why Russian politicians and official media have linked the recent Kremlin crackdown on NGO activities to the allegedly nefarious influence of “foreign agents”.
The Kremlin has made USAID and the State Department its primary scapegoat in the fight against foreign-backed political unrest, in part because of America’s outsized role in world affairs and conscience popular Russian, especially since the start of the so-called Arab Spring. American rhetoric heralding the political awakening of the Arab world as a march towards self-determination and democracy has sparked bitter cynicism from Russian leaders, who accuse US officials of orchestrating everything from pre-election protests to the Pussy Riot video. It is easier for many Russians – on both sides of the protest movement – to believe that Washington has a grand strategy for regime change in Russia, than to accept the reality that Russia takes very little heed of the law. American politics or politics. After all, if Americans are prepared to invest billions of dollars and thousands of lives in democracy-building projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya, they would surely lend their support to the pro-American liberal opposition. Russia.
If the end of USAID’s mission in Russia heralds a new round of tit-for-tat reprisals between Moscow and Washington, there is a serious risk that the foundations for cooperation laboriously built over the past two decades – not to mention more recent progress on visa facilitation, adoptions and free trade will collapse. In US-Russian relations, everything is intertwined, and a blast of winter wind from the USAID shutdown could have a chilling effect on bilateral cooperation in other areas, from nuclear security to supplying military forces. NATO in Afghanistan. There may not be a return to the absolute optimism of the 2009 “reset”, but as this year of elections and protests draws to a close, both sides should take a hard look at it. recent history and seriously think about the future. We cannot afford to let our lingering differences destroy the progress we have made.