After being provided aid for twenty years, Russia has decided to cut off all benefits given from the United States Agency for International Development, upsetting American diplomats and Russian aid workers alike. The benefits ranged from building up their legal system to training workers, as well as modernizing their power grid. The aid began after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Russia was looking to reinvent its government. Although the United States has consistently provided this support since then, the Russian government now feels that the aid they were receiving came with too many strings attached.
Foreign aid is a popular cover for intelligence activities to gain access to restricted areas as well as influence the political process of the country they are helping. According to Russian officials, the situation with the United States is no different. The chairman of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee stated “[w]e have long warned the U.S. side that we are not satisfied with some aspects of U.S.A.I.D., in particular political aspects,” and a Russian Foreign Ministry foreign ministry spokesman worries of “attempts to influence the political process through the distribution of grants.” In their book, Power and Purpose, American ambassador Michael McFaul and co-author James M. Goldgeier document how the United States, would direct their food aid to areas of Russia that were previously restricted during the Cold War in order to perform surveillance.
Although nonprofit leaders receive aid from an American organization, they deny any claims that they are “puppets.” Still, they are critical of the Russian government, who believe that ending this aid would also harm the finances of their political opponents. These leaders believe that the government is reacting too harshly and targeting the wrong problem, claiming that Russia’s growing protest movement will continue to thrive due to the country’s rapid decline in areas such as law and fair elections.
This is, of course, a complicated issue. On one side, the United States is no longer able to provide aid to people that need it. On the other side, Russia is able to maintain its sovereignty and block foreign countries from interfering in its political process. However, the real victims of this decision are the Russian citizens who were receiving aid from the USAID. Many health care organizations in Russia will now go out of business. The United States is now looking into forming private organizations, complicit with Russian law, to continue funding these groups, but would this for humanitarian or political reasons? Would political manipulation be justified if the end result is to improve the quality of life for the Russian people benefiting from the aid?
Source: The New York Times