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#15 - JRL 9307 - JRL Home
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005
From: Eric Kraus <krausmoscow@yahoo.com>
Subject: NGOs - To Whom the Non-profits' Profit?

Chief strategist, Sovlink Securities, Moscow

Generally, when the Washington Post supports something in Russia, it is a fair bet that that "something" primarily serves US interests. Coming from the cheerleaders for US Imperium this is perhaps legitimate -- but what we find irritating is their hypocrisy; why must they seek to present their self-serving advice as being in "Russia's best interests"? Please! They are blissful indifferent to Russia's interests! What they care about deeply is US interests, which they believe to be best served by Washington retaining whatever is left of its rapidly waning influence over Russian affairs. Whom do they think they are fooling?

There has been a great deal of moaning in Washington about the Duma bill which will severely regulate foreign-funded NGOs. Senators Edwards and Kemp -- enthusiastic supporters of Menatep and co-sponsors of the Washington appearances of the infamous Nevzlin, accused of ordering several murders by Yukos' imprisoned security chief, have lamented the likely demise of the foreign-financed NGOs, urging Bush to use his meeting with Putin to pressure him about the US-funded organizations. This is not surprising as Washington has gradually lost influence in Russia, it increasingly relies upon certain tame foundations to influence events here.

This would, perhaps, be no bad thing were there to be some rough parity, i.e. were there to be an offsetting group of Russia-funded NGOs, profoundly influencing the public discourse in Washington and feeding the US press with a steady stream of sound bites slamming the increasingly MacCarthyite tendencies of the Bush administration; true pluralism would be welcome! Unfortunately, the flow is one-way only -- American-funded organizations seeking to influence Russian governance and politics -- and the Duma has decided to put an end to it.

What is ver! y unfortunate is that the majority of the Western NGOs are profoundly beneficent. The United States' CDC funds and manages vitally necessary tuberculosis control programs; Soros initiated valuable public health programs at a time of enormous need; Medecins Sans Frontiers and Greenpeace are gadflies doing very valuable work in Russia. Unfortunately, these humanitarian organizations are increasingly subject to systematic harassment from a Russian administration apparently una! ble to distinguish friend from foe.

That unfortunate fact is that these NGOs have been discredited by association with the political lobbies notably the Yukos-funded Carnegie Foundation; Khodorkovsky's Open Russia Society; and a welter of groups seeking to advance the Washington political agenda in Russia and her near abroad.

Carnegie, in particular, is little more than a Washington front -- supinely supporting anyone who takes their cue from America: from Khodorkovsky to Kasyanov, and even Illarianov. This deeply democratic institution recently hounded out one of its Fellows -- the brilliant and insanely brave (as in, working under fire in Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc) Anatol Lieven for failing to tow the Neocon line.

Anatol has been deeply critical of Russian policy in Chechnya, but equally of that of the Bush administration -- and has steadfastly refused to defend the Menatep bandits. By contrast, Anders Aslund, a cheerleader for Yukos, is apparently adjudged sufficiently scholarly to head their Eurasia program -- Carnegie's brand of pluralism rings a bit hollow.

In the US, organizations acting as lobbies for foreign governmen! ts are obligated to register as such, and are subject to strict limitations and surveillance. Perhaps Russia should adopt a similar approach to the "political" NGOs, while expressing some much-deserved gratitude to those non-political institutions which are working to better the lives of ordinary Russians but as for the Carnegies of this world, international practice does not require that countries accept non-diplomatic embassies of hostile powers on their soil.