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America Hits Russian Policy with Dollar

Source: KOMMERSANT

// Senate allocated funds for democracy needs to the Department of State

The U.S. Senate ratified the country’s budget for 2008, allocating around $402 million for post-Soviet space programs which make up a considerable part of the expenditure estimate of the U.S. Department of State. Major part of the money is to be used for counteracting Moscow’s policy on the former USSR space, for creating energy supply routes detouring Russia, and for making the Russian society more democratic.

Senate Directive

The U.S. Senate ratified America’s new budget late on Tuesday night by vast majority of votes: 76 senators for, and just 17 -- against. Expenditure articles of the main state agencies are outlined in a most general way. Inter alia, senators sanctioned allocating around $401.9 million to the U.S. Department of State for supporting former USSR republics (except Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which are classed in Eastern Europe). The budget, however, touches very briefly upon specific expenditures. It just says that some part of the money should be spent on settling the conflicts in Abkhazia and Nagorny Karabakh, and at least $8 million – on “securing human rights, building a democratic society, reconstruction works in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and North Ossetia”. At last, the Department of State will allocate $500,000 more to the U.S. Forest Service for the program “for preserving wild animals and forests” in Russia’s Far East.

However, senators are going to grant even more help to the post-Soviet space. The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations attached a covering note to the budget’s draft, naming far more serious and specific purposes. Although the budget was officially presented by Foreign Operations Subcommittee head Nita Lowey, some sources said it was partially inspired by Moscow’s long-standing opponent –House Foreign Affairs Committee head Tom Lantos.

The Appropriations Committee justifies the necessity to spend money on the post-Soviet space mainly by the current situation in Russia. The covering note first underlines “a huge importance of the U.S.-Russia relations” and “strong wish of the U.S. to see Russia develop as a stable, prosperous, market-based and democratic state”. So, as senators believe, the Department of State should strengthen the American-Russian Fund for Economic Progress and Law-Governed State, making “the support for law-based state, civil society, transparency, and access to information” the fund’s key priorities.

The Senate has also underlined the important role of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in “promoting democratic changes in the independent states of the former USSR”, and suggested continuing giving financial support to these activities. Moreover, the note’s authors also urged to finance the Moscow School for Political Studies (MSPS) which “has done a lot to teach young Russian professionals to honestly govern their country”. At last, senators urged the Department of State to actively support the Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), saying that “in the last decade, the foundation was helping to give a constructive direction to the research activities of former Soviet scientists dealing with weapons development”.

Thus, the major part of the money allocated by the Senate is to be spent on making Russia more democratic, as the authors see it. The Senate underlined the purpose’s special importance by demanding that the Department of State should create a new position in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, -- a sort of human rights envoy. Senators think there should be a high-ranking diplomat in the embassy’s staff to supervise “the situation with securing human rights in Russia, respect to the law on NGOs, the U.S. support for human rights activists and journalists, as well as support for civil society organizations”.

Most organizations mentioned by the senators have been acting in Russia for some years already. Moreover, their purposes have been making the Russian authorities watchful since long ago. So, USAID top officials openly admit that “the agency’s activities are coordinated with the U.S. Secretary of State in order to achieve the aims of U.S. foreign policy worldwide” and is aimed at “promoting the ideals of democracy and human rights” and at supporting foreign NGOs. Meanwhile, the MSPS, financed by the Department of State and the EuroCommission among others, declared its purposes as “creating in Russia an open society based on the supremacy of law, having strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and independent mass media”. However, MSPS executive director Denis Sokolov said: “We do not deal with politics, and that is why we do not encounter difficulties either with Russia’s special services or with other state agencies. Our project is purely educational, while USAID money is not political.” Anyway, Sokolov said “the school might shift to mostly Russian sources of financing already next year”.


Detouring Move

However, the Department of State is going to do much more on the post-Soviet space than just struggle for human rights. The covering note to the Senate-ratified budget also asks to turn attention to “Russia’s persisting attempts at controlling the energy flows and manipulating the energy supplies in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, including those flows which are important for U.S. allies in Europe”. So, the senators urge the Department of State “to provide diplomatic support for developing alternative energy sources and energy transporting routes uncontrollable by the Russian Federation”.

The Department of State has actually begun taking steps in that direction already in August, when Washington allocated a grant of $1.7 million to develop a feasibility study of two energy supply routes detouring Russia. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sullivan explained the money would be spent on developing a feasibility study for the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, aimed at transporting natural gas from Central Asia to Europe, detouring Russia, and oil pipelines along the Caspian Sea bed – for bringing Kazakh oil to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Moscow regards its launch as nearly the chief anti-Russia project in the post-Soviet space. Both these projects seemed very interesting to the presidents of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan [see Kommersant as of November 26], which froze the Caspian Shore Pipeline project, lobbied by Russia, for four months. However, some sources said the technical agreement on the issue will be signed in Moscow today in the presence of presidents Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Active U.S. diplomacy on the post-Soviet space has already created significant difficulties for Moscow. In November, Gazprom had to agree to a higher purchasing price of Turkmen natural gas in the second semester 2008. The price has been raised from $100 to $150 per 1,000 cubic meters. Gazprom head Alexei Miller believes it was precisely the EU and the U.S. who recommended to Ashgabat to raise it.


Serious Plan
Anti-Russia orientation of some articles in the new U.S. budget might seem unexpected at first sight only. In spring 2007, the Department of State published three program documents in which Washington attacked Moscow with unprecedented criticism. The loudest among them was the report headlined “U.S. support for human rights and democracy in the world” published in early April. The Department of State directly proclaimed in the report that “carrying out democratic elections in Russia in 2007 and 2008” is one of its top priorities [please see Kommersant as of April 7]. Russia’s State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry responded stormily to the report, and the flow of angry comments lasted for almost a week.

Apparently, the policy of toughly counteracting Moscow’s steps in the post-Soviet space was formed in Washington several months ago. The current directive, unpleasant for Moscow, from the Senate to the Department of State telling where to apply the budget money, means just one thing: all plans of the Department now have strong financing.

Evidently, Moscow realizes it now. “The U.S. has been frequently setting purposes like that recently,” said the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the ministry’s information and press department announced it will not react yet.

Alexander Gabuev
All the Article in Russian as of Dec. 20, 2007

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