Obama Must Take On Putin
by David J. Kramer
Since the summer, we have seen President Vladimir Putin take the first two steps in his campaign to destroy Russian civil society. The first came when he signed legislation requiring Russian nongovernmental organizations that engage in what authorities consider "political activities" and that receive foreign funding be branded as "foreign agents." Last week, the U.S. State Department announced Putin's second step: his request that the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has been in Russia for nearly two decades, pack up and leave.
His next step may be to ban all foreign funding of Russian NGOs, even from private sources. Against the backdrop of Putin's broader crackdown in the country, with the most recent example being efforts to expand the definition of treason, these steps should not have been a surprise.
What is surprising is how the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama seems willing to go along with Putin's plan without any serious pushback. The latest episode involving USAID is particularly disturbing and raises a number of unanswered questions:
- Why did the U.S. State Department announce Russia's decision on USAID? Shouldn't that have been the responsibility of the Russian side?
"The United States recently received the Russian government's decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation," the three-sentence State Department statement began. It would have been more appropriate if the Kremlin or the Foreign Ministry had announced this decision, and it would have been interesting to see how they portrayed it. Instead, the Obama administration misguidedly took it upon itself to break the news, making life easier for Putin.
Read the rest of the article here.