#10 - JRL 7216
Soros cuts Open Society aid to Russia, targets US
June 9, 2003
International financer and philanthropist George Soros Monday announced that he was sharply curtailing his activites in Russia to focus on another country where civil society was under threat: the United States.
"I am celebrating 15 years of the Soros Foundation in Russia by terminating it in its present form," the Hungarian-born financier told a press conference.
Since it was set up in Russia in 1988, the foundation has provided funding worth nearly a billion dollars in promoting actitivies to further the creation of a civil society, particularly in education, science and the development of the Internet, Soros said.
Now, he said, he would no longer fund activities that he believed should be the responsibility of the government.
Soros stressed that his foundation -- formally known as the Open Society Institute -- was downsizing and regrouping rather than pulling out: "We are not winding up our activities in Russia, we are simply stopping subsidising the Russian state."
Soros' involvement in Russia would be worth 25 million dollars in the current transitional year and an average of 10 million dollars a year subsequently, he said, noting that "the transition from a closed to an open society is still far from complete."
He said he had lately become "preoccupied with problems of globalisation ... and the role the United States plays" in world affairs.
"The struggle for a global open society must be fought primarily in the United States, because the United States has clearly become the dominant power in the world. ...
"As an American citizen, I feel that the current US administration is abusing its power by trying to increase that power instead of using it to try to create a more peaceful and equitable world," he said.
The situation in the United States has become "quite dangerous," he said, "because the executive branch has come under the influence of a group of ideologues who have forgotten the first principle of an open society: that they don't have a monopoly of the truth."
The US administration has "abused the terror attack (of September 11, 2001)" as a pretext "for an extension of executive power beyond the appropriate degree," he said.
Above all, Soros warned, it has introduced the "very dangerous" Bush doctrine which claims the right to preemptive military action.
"Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that there are now two kinds of sovereignty in the world: the sovereignty of the United States that overrides all international obligations and treaties, and the sovereignty of other countries which is subject to the Bush doctrine.
"This is reminiscent of George Orwell's dictum in 'Animal Farm' that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
The current view in Washington that "there is only one model of democracy, that of the United States" is "as false, and potentially as dangerous, as that of the Communists' belief that there is only one way to organise society," Soros said.
However "America remains a democracy," he stressed, voicing the hope "that Americans will reject this view of the world."
Describing his future role in Russia as that of a "passive contributor," Soros said his foundation would "continue to support civil society initiatives."
He has been active in promoting civil societies in eastern and central Europe since 1984, when he set up a programme to encourage dissidence in his native Hungary.
The New York-based billionaire made his fortune as a currency speculator and fund-manager, achieving notoriety for his role in the 1992 sterling crisis that forced the British currency out of the then European exchange rate mechanism.
Now 72, Soros noted that his resources were dwindling: "My money-making days are over. I am no longer engaged in money-making activities."
Previously, he said, he gave away half the money he made. "Now I can only give away what I already have. But I think that will last my lifetime."