Miriam Elder, The Guardian:
The Russian government has given the US agency for international development (USAid) until 1 October to cease all operations in the country. The agency helps fund a number of pro-democracy and human rights groups that have provoked the Kremlin’s wrath amid an unprecedented opposition movement against the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
In an uncharacteristically blunt statement, the Russian foreign ministry said that the decision to shut USAid was taken primarily because the agency’s work “does not always correspond to [its] stated goals”.
“This means attempts to exert influence, via the distribution of grants, upon political processes, including elections of various levels and institutions of civil society,” it said.
This is one of those stories that gets framed in the Western press as western democracies helping oppressed people around the world. I think we all sympathize with protestors like Pussy Riot, the band recently jailed for protesting against Putin in the cathedral, and there’s not much question that Putin is an authoritarian.
But is what US AID is doing, however benevolent, right?
US AID is involved in influencing elections all around the world, including in places that do not have dictators, just leaders that we don’t like. That puts us in the position of manipulating elections. Would we accept that from foreign governments? Certainly on this blog I’ve raised the concern that the Chinese government–or even the Chinese criminal syndicates– could be using Sheldon Adelson as a conduit for contributions to manipulate our system.
US AID is widely believed to be a CIA front. For example, La Jornada, a center-left newspaper in Mexico, published this article calling USAID a front for the CIA and saying that “from Iraq to Venezuela, USAID is one of the most active mechanisms for intelligence and destabilization in the world.”
We would regard the manipulation of our media by an outside power as a hostile act. We should be careful not to be seen as doing the same.