Russia has expelled the National Endowment for Democracy. This is a fully-funded-by-the-US-government entity that has the nerve, on its home page, to describe itself as a “private, nonprofit foundation” with a “nongovernmental character”. It has just been declared an undesirable organisation in Russia.
As to be expected, the Washington Post, in its role as Stern Defender of the Right, especially where Russia is concerned, fulminated a few days ago that “Vladimir Putin is suffocating his own nation”.
IN THE tumult and uncertainty that marked Russia after the Soviet Union imploded, when the state was weak and many institutions tottering, a vital lifeline was extended from the West. The U.S. government, as well as foundations and philanthropies, responded generously. The financier George Soros, through his Open Society Foundations, provided small grants that sustained many impoverished scientists. The MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were vital sources of support to civil society, education and human rights.
Now, President Vladimir Putin is forcing these organizations out of Russia, using law enforcement and a parliament that he controls. Mr. Putin’s larger target is to destroy civil society, that vital two-way link in any democracy between the rulers and the ruled. The latest move, announced Tuesday, is to declare the NED an “undesirable” organization under the terms of a law that Mr. Putin signed in May. The law bans groups from abroad who are deemed a “threat to the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, its defense capabilities and its national security.”
The charge against the NED is patently ridiculous. The NED’s grantees in Russia last year ran the gamut of civil society. They advocated transparency in public affairs, fought corruption and promoted human rights, freedom of information and freedom of association, among other things. All these activities make for a healthy democracy but are seen as threatening from the Kremlin’s ramparts.
The charge is “patently ridiculous” is it? Let’s step into the time machine provided by Mr Google and travel back to 1991 when the WaPo thought it had the future of Russia all figured out.
There we find – note the title – “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups” by David Ignatius. “Spyless coups” indeed. That sounds a bit like what the Russian MFA said, doesn’t it?
The analysis of concrete projects shows that most of them are aimed at destabilizing by various means the internal situation in countries that pursue an independent policy in accordance with their own national interests rather than on orders from Washington.
Anyway, back then, Ignatius positively gloried in the idea of “spyless coups”.
There’s an obvious lesson here for Gates, or whoever ends up heading the CIA. The old concept of covert action, which has gotten the agency into such trouble during the past 40 years, may be obsolete. Nowadays, sensible activities to support America’s friends abroad (or undermine its enemies) are probably best done openly. That includes paramilitary operations such as supporting freedom fighters, which can be managed overtly by the Pentagon. And it includes political-support operations for pro-democracy activists, which may be best left to the new network of overt operators…
“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” agrees Weinstein. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.
Allen Weinstein is just one of many overt operatives who helped prepare the way for the political miracles of the past two years by sponsoring exchanges and other contacts with liberal reformers from the East. It’s worth naming a few more of them, to show the breadth of this movement for democracy: William Miller of the American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations; financier George Soros of the Soros Foundation; John Mroz of the Center for East-West Security Studies; John Baker of the Atlantic Council; and Harriett Crosby of the Institute for Soviet-American Relations. This has truly been a revolution by committee…
The sugar daddy of overt operations has been the National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi-private group headed by Carl Gershman that is funded by the U.S. Congress. Through the late 1980s, it did openly what had once been unspeakably covert – dispensing money to anti-communist forces behind the Iron Curtain.
Gershman, still doing business at the same stand, isn’t happy either: “the latest evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin faces a worsening crisis of political legitimacy” and so on.
QED, as they say; the NED is indeed busy overthrowing governments the USA doesn’t like (“undermining its enemies” – what could be plainer than that?).
Just as the Russians say.
I guess the Washington Post people don’t read their own paper.
Although I suppose that, for them, “friends” have “democracy” and “enemies” don’t. By definition.