Publicado el 09-19-2012
The U.S. State Department announced this Tuesday, September 18, 2012, that Russia has asked the United States to end its financial support to civil society programs in that country as of October 1st.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has been working in Russia for the last twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, spending about $50 million a year to help pro-democracy and public health programs. But, apparently, the Kremlin wants to end what it considers American interfering in its internal affairs. The programs financed by the United States helped Russia recover, including efforts to build the country’s capital markets and financial system. The U.S. also supports a number of health programs. But once Russian economy improved, the agency devoted more money to help democracy and human rights programs, with a third of the funds being devoted to health programs.
In the last few months the Kremlin has been putting pressure on nongovernmental groups and the opposition, including a new law that requires that any organization receiving aid from abroad has to register as “a foreign agent”. Furthermore, the government has increased the penalties for slander in an attempt to intimidate critics of the government.
Since Putin returned to the presidency in May, his relations with the American government have not been too cordial, mainly because of his refusal to intervene in the Syrian situation. For the first time Putin is facing dissent in the country and has said that the unrest could be encouraged by the United States working through non-profit organizations.
In recent years, Russia has come to view itself as a world power, it is a member of the Group of 8, and considers it is better positioned to give out assistance rather than to receive it. Perhaps that is why it has decided now to stop getting American aid. It should be remembered that a few months ago President Obama sent a message to then president-elect Putin, saying that after his reelection in November he would have more flexibility. So now we must wait to see how relations between Russia and the United