Monday, July 16, 2018

How Washington Influenced Russia's Democracy

With Russophobia reaching new levels in the United States, particularly with the New York Magazine's piece on Donald Trump and his position as an alleged agent of Vladimir Putin's, a look back in time gives us a bit of a sense of why Russia would have had every right to interfere in America's political theatre, if indeed they did.

Let's open this posting with a look at the United States Agency for International Development or USAID.  USAID was created by President John F. Kennedy in November 1961 with the following mission:

"On behalf of the American people, we promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad, and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world. In support of America's foreign policy, the U.S. Agency for International Development leads the U.S. Government's international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance."

Here is USAID’s objective:

"Our objective is to support partners to become self-reliant and capable of leading their own development journeys. We make progress toward this by reducing the reach of conflict, preventing the spread of pandemic disease, and counteracting the drivers of violence, instability, transnational crime and other security threats. We promote American prosperity through investments that expand markets for U.S. exports; create a level playing field for U.S. businesses; and support more stable, resilient, and democratic societies. We stand with people when disaster strikes or crisis emerges as the world leader in humanitarian assistance."

Note this:

"We promote American prosperity through investments that expand markets for U.S. exports; create a level playing field for U.S. businesses."

Of course, it's all about profits for American businesses that spend billions on lobbying and political donations.

While USAID is an independent agency of the United States government, it does work very closely with the U.S. Department of State and receives its overall foreign policy direction from the Secretary of State.  

Here is a screen capture showing the pertinent sections of the Congressional Budget Justification for USAID's Democracy Programs for fiscal 2019:

Here's how USAID's fiscal 2019 budget will be used for democracy propagation:

"EXPAND OPPORTUNITIES TO PROMOTE LASTING STABILITY, PEACE AND DEMOCRACY by strengthening institutions and civil society to promote accountable governance that is responsive to citizens and fosters resilience. USAID will encourage host government partners and civil society organizations to undertake critical reforms to establish legitimate governance, restore the rule of law, and address local grievances, particularly among women, religious and ethnic minorities, and other marginalized communities."

With that background on USAID, let's go back in time and look at what USAID was up to during the period leading up to the 2011 election in Russia.  In fiscal 2012, here's what USAID spent on Russia and its justification:

"Russia ($52.3 million): Assistance will help strengthen U.S.-Russia cooperation in areas of mutual national interest and Russian efforts to further democratic reform. Programs will provide strong support for civil society, independent media, the rule of law, human rights, and certain health threats such as tuberculosis. Funding will also support programs to work with the Russian Government to combat trafficking in persons and other transnational threats. Conflict mitigation programs in the North Caucasus region will help foster development and stem the spread of instability."

As usual, democratic reform will be undertaken using the American model of democracy, a model that the rest of the world must want for itself.

Here is what was reported by USAID in fiscal 2011, showing its results in Russia when it came to training of election observers:

"Russia, on the other hand, exceeded its target by more than 80 percent because the active efforts of the NGO Golos, which trained election observers not only for regional elections but for State Duma elections as well."

While you have likely never heard of itGolos was founded as a movement to protect voters' rights in Russia.  Its history began in 2000 when an association of non-profit organizations joined together to ensure that elections in Russia were monitored independently.  According to Reuters, in 2010, Golos received a two-year, $2.8 million grant from USAID along with $133,000 from the European Commission which made up most of its totally foreign-funded budget for 2011.  Not surprisingly, Golos concluded the following on polling day during the March 2018 Russian presidential election:

"In preliminary assessing Russia’s presidential elections, Golos would like to state that, while admitting the winning candidate’s indisputable formal leadership, we are forced to observe that these elections cannot be ruled as genuinely honest — and their results do not fully conform to the Russian Constitution, the other Russian laws and international electoral standards, because such results were achieved in the course of restricted, unequal and uncompetitive election campaign. This precludes us from asserting that the voters’ genuine intention was shaped by the free election campaign."

Here is a partial listing of problems that were noted by Golos:

1.) Restricted political competition.

2.) media coverage was controlled by the state in one way or another and was manipulative and biased.

3.) independent observers were prevented from observing voting on election day.

4.) there were 977 reports of election violations including 83 in which pressure was exerted on voters to change their polling station, 221 involved coercion to vote one way or another, 241 involved controlling voter turnout and 96 involved the use of incentives.

5.) the electoral commission's efforts to purge the registry of voters of duplications and deceased voters resulted in the removal of real voters.

In some ways, at least some of these issues are reminiscent of elections in the West, aren't they?

Golos' analysis of the election also receives heavy coverage (it is mentioned by name 26 times in the ten page report) in the report on Russia's 2011 election by Jim Nichol at the Congressional Research Service.  It this report, Golos is referred to as a "private Russian election observation group" and there is no mention of USAID's funding of the organization.

it is important to note that, as of October 1, 2012, USAID ended its programs in Russia despite all of the "benefits" that accrued to Russians including a stronger civil society and modern economy (which is now being exploited by Corporate America in its drive for ever-increasing profits).

Now, let's look at this webpage from the USAID website showing how the U.S. government spent money to "assist" the Russian people:

While I realize that you won't be able to easily read the screen capture of the webpage, here are some of the key supports that USAID provided as part of its plans to mold Russia's democracy:

"1.) USAID has been a proud supporter of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations that have been pivotal in promoting support for democratic values throughout Russia.

2.) As a world-wide movement for open government has developed, USAID has supported civic watchdog groups in Russia that have provided non-partisan oversight over electoral processes including through innovative uses of technology.

3.) USAID supports civil society organizations whose number and influence has grown from 40 registered organizations in 1987 to approximately 300,000 today, not including state-funded public organizations.  These organizations contribute to Russia’s economic, political and social life in numerous ways and provide opportunities for citizens to help create better communities and elevate their voices.

4.) USAID-funded Rule of Law implementers helped draft the Russian Constitution, Part I of the Russian Civil Code, and the Russian Tax Code."

I believe that that is enough to digest for this posting.  Given all of this background, it certainly is nice to see that the United States government would never do anything that would come even close to interfering in the politics of Russia, isn't it?  With USAID receiving its marching orders from the Secretary of State (who just happened to be Hillary Clinton back in 2011), one doesn't really have to really ponder the motivation behind Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, if indeed there was any interference.

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