450,000 NGOs in Russia
U.S. finances opposition
Published Feb 6, 2006 9:32 PM
A struggle is developing in
Russia over legislation regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that is
due to go into effect in April.
The new law was passed by both houses of
the Russian legislature, called the Duma, and signed by President Vladimir Putin
on Jan. 10. Resistance to it has opened a window on the level of Western and
especially U.S. intervention in Russia today.
Under the new law, foreign
organizations and groups receiving funding from outside Russia have to register
with the government. Russian officials say the legislation is necessary to
combat the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing from foreign governments to
organizations in the country.
An original version of the law was toned
down under an intense campaign of pressure from the NGOs themselves and from the
U.S. government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured Putin, expressing
concern for “democracy.” The legislation was on the agenda at the
recent G-8 meeting.
The law imposes restrictions on the financing,
registration and activities of NGOs. This term originally meant any non-profit,
voluntary, civic, humanitarian, health, human rights, service or environmental
organization. Now a huge number of organizations that claim to be
non-governmental, but rely on the U.S. and other major imperialist countries and
on big corporations for their funds, operate in Russia and in many countries
around the world. They dispense aid, set policy and intervene in political life
based on the political agenda and economic interests of the funders.
sheer number of organizations described as NGOs and the number receiving foreign
funding is staggering. Since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds
of thousands of NGOs have sprung up in Russia. Members of the Russian Duma say
over 450,000 NGOs operate in Russia today. The Yale Center for the Study of
Globalization puts the number even higher, saying that “There are at least
600,000 registered non-governmental, non-commercial organizations operating in
Russia. At least as many may be working in the country without official
Duma deputy Alexei Ostrovsky, a co-author of the new
law, estimates up to a quarter of Russian NGOs receive money from abroad. These
include environmental groups, human rights monitors and consumer
President Putin, in supporting the legislation, said:
“Whether these organizations want it or not, they become an instrument in
the hands of foreign states that use them to achieve their own political
objectives. This situation is unacceptable. This law is designed to prevent
interference in Russia’s internal political life by foreign countries and
create transparent conditions for the financing of nongovernmental
The cross followed the gun
European capitalist nations first established colonies around the world, the
cross followed the gun. Thousands of missionaries were an integral part of the
machinery of conquest and subjugation.
Establishing a colonial
administration meant reorganizing society and the ownership of property in a way
that benefited the colonizers. It involved schools, training and political
orientation for those among the local elite who would become collaborators.
Religious conversion helped to pacify a whole section of the population, and
paved the way for some to become loyal and fervent servants of the new power
Today in Russia, not just religious organizations have been
flooding into the region. The primary role of proselytizing capitalist values is
played by “human rights” NGOs.
In response to these new
restrictions, the volume of political pressure and protests from Washington has
been turned up. But it is sheer hypocrisy. Regulations that are far more
restrictive and intrusive monitor organizations in the U.S.
individual or organization here that accepts money from a foreign country must
register with the U.S. government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Charitable donations are a matter of public record. Imagine Russia, China, Cuba,
North Korea or Iran pumping millions of dollars into political organizations in
the U.S. Even U.S. allies such as Britain, France, Germany or Japan cannot
secretly fund political organizations within the U.S.
writing in the Jan. 25 issue of the magazine Russia Profile, described his
relation with two NGOs. “I ran a USAID-funded three-year program
supporting Russian media, with a total budget of $10.5 million, and a Soros
Foundation program supporting Russian media with an annual budget of $1.8
million. The number of supervisors, bosses, inspectors and advisers who I had to
deal with (or had to deal with me) defies belief. I am sure there were
intelligence officers among them.”
Russia’s Federal Security
Service (FSB), successor of the KGB, on Jan. 23 accused four British diplomats
of spying. It said it had caught one of them “red-handed” channeling
funds to several Russian nongovernmental organizations. London denied
misconduct, saying it openly funded NGOs in Russia.
funding comes directly from U.S. sources, such as the quasi-governmental
National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), and from the European Union’s Tacis Program. Millions
of dollars in funding originates with foundations that represent the interests
of the wealthy elite, such as the Ford, MacArthur, Carnegie, Rockefeller and
Regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and
The role of U.S.-funded NGOs in trying to impose
“regime change” in Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Nicaragua and Haiti is
increasingly understood. The role of these same subversive organizations in
Eastern Europe and the countries that made up the former Soviet Union is less
well known, even though they operate on an even larger scale
Russia’s FSB security service chief, Nikolai Patrushev,
recently blamed foreign-funded NGOs for fomenting coups in the post-Soviet
states of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
The active and open role that
foreign-funded NGOS played in the overturn of these three governments is what is
setting off alarm bells in Moscow. The imperialist media fondly call these coups
“velvet revolutions” and sometimes “color revolutions”
for the colors chosen by the opposition forces.
Ironically, the political
leaders who were overthrown—especially Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia and
Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine—had in the past been the U.S.-chosen candidates.
Both had carried out policies that brought their governments into the U.S.
orbit. They had pushed for joining NATO’s “Partnership for
Peace.” Both had agreed to send troops to Iraq.
politicians were unceremoniously thrown out when they were not totally compliant
with U.S. corporate demands. Both of their replacements—Mikheil
Saakashvili in Georgia and Viktor Yuschchenko in Ukraine—had served in the
governments of their predecessors.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell said after attending Yuschchenko’s inauguration as president of
Ukraine on Jan 23, 2005, that he was “proud to have been associated with
both events”—in Georgia and Ukraine.
Much insight into U.S.
plans for the future and evaluations of past interventions can actually be found
on the web sites of the foundations behind these regime changes.
NGOs in Ukraine
In an article on the World Bank’s website
entitled: “Civil Society Development in Ukraine and the Orange
Revolution,” Vira Nanivska, director of the International Center for
Policy Studies in Ukraine, brags: “Today some 40,000 NGOs in Ukraine
involve 12 percent of the population—and these organizations have been a
key active force in the Orange Revolution.” (www.worldbank.org)
describes how international consultants, policy experts and technical assistants
work in coordination to change legislation, develop interest groups, set up
media centers and develop protest movements. NGOs affect legislation, train
civil servants, establish community councils and business associations, and push
to revise the state budget in their own interests.
Young people and
student organizations are drawn in through campaigns around HIV/AIDS, protection
of minority rights and fighting child abandonment. The whole aim of this web of
projects, she explains, is to prevent any “backsliding towards the old
regime” and to push for “Euro-integration,” meaning
integrating into international and European organizations like NATO and the
The overturn of socialist ownership and the breakup of the
Soviet Union is a process that did not end in 1991. Shaping the laws on
property, the rights of foreign capital, justifying the expropriation and
privatizing of the socially owned resources, industry and services for
individual profit, dismembering social programs, shaping the media, education
and culture, and undermining any assertions of sovereignty are a much longer
These funds have an even greater impact in a region where the
centralized socialist planning that once guaranteed pensions, full employment,
free health care, free education and subsidized housing is gone. Its brutal
dismembering has affected millions of people, leaving them intensely angry with
the leaders who betrayed them.
Funding youth movements
significant part of the U.S. corporate funding is to create youth movements. The
Soros Foundation, USAID and the NED together funded the Serbian youth group
Otpor. Young people were provided specialized training and seminars in Budapest,
Hungary, along with t-shirts, stickers, posters, office rent and a newspaper, as
part of the successful campaign to overturn the Milosevic government in Serbia.
In Georgia, the Soros Foundation budgeted $4.6 million for the youth
group Kmara, which became a primary weapon against the government. In Ukraine,
Soros budgeted $7 million for the youth group Pora.
web site is funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. An article there by
Sreeram Chaulia analyzes the role of U.S.-funded NGOs from Georgia to Kyrgyzstan
and Ukraine. The blurb for it is provocative, saying that “new forms of
youthful, tech-savvy mass mobilization are impelling regime change from below.
But is the phenomenon as benign as it appears? Are the movements who inspire the
‘color revolutions’ catalysts or saboteurs?”
is not criticizing these NGOs; he is evaluating their effectiveness in
implementing “regime change.” A few of his observations give insight
into how these political organizations operate as just another weapon in the
“Sabotage can suffice in some countries while
full-scale military offensives may be needed in others,” Chaulia
“These three revolutions—the ‘rose
revolution’ in Georgia (November 2003-January 2004), the ‘orange
revolution’ in Ukraine (January 2005) and the ‘tulip
revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan (April 2005)—each followed a
near-identical trajectory; all were spearheaded by the American democratization
Ingos [international NGOs] working at the behest of the U.S. foreign policy
establishment. … Rarely has the U.S. promoted human rights and democracy
in a region when they did not suit its grander foreign-policy objectives.
… Ingos heavily dependent on U.S. finances have been found to be
consciously or subconsciously extending U.S. governmental interests. …
“NED’s first president, Allen Weinstein, admitted openly that
‘a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.
… NED was conceived as a quasi-governmental foundation that funneled U.S.
government funding through Ingos like the National Democratic Institute for
International Affairs (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI),
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International Research
and Exchanges Board (IREX), and Freedom House. ...
“The U.S. Embassy
in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, worked closely with NGOs like Freedom House and the
Soros Foundation—supplying generators, printing presses and money to keep
the protests boiling until President Akayev fled. Information about where
protesters should gather and what they should bring was spread through State
Department-funded radio and TV stations.”
Today’s new and
developing anti-war movement needs an understanding of the many forms of U.S.
intervention, along with the chaos and instability that it breeds. This will
build anti-imperialist awareness and strengthen the growing global demand of
“U.S. out now!”
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