Russia Ousts US Aid Agency for 'Political Meddling'
Russia has ousted the United States Agency for International Development, claiming that the aid agency has undermined Russia's sovereignty, the U.S. State Department said.
"We have recently received a decision of the Russian Government to end USAID activities there," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said this week. "The United States is extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the last 20 years, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition those programs."
Russia's foreign minister first informed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the decision when she visited Vladivostok this month, according to U.S. officials. The signal was later followed up with a diplomatic note on Sept. 12, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"We showed that no one can impose anything on us -- no one, nothing! We showed that our people can distinguish between the desire for renewal and political provocation that has but one goal: to destroy Russia's statehood and usurp power,” Vladimir Putin said in his victory speech in March, signaling contempt for foreign influence.
Putin has described Russian non-governmental organizations that accept U.S. aid as "jackals” and has engaged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a heated public debate after she described Russian elections as flawed.
"This is a very bad signal," said Lilia Shibanova, director of the Golos vote-monitoring group, which has received most of its funding from USAID, according to Russia's RIA-Novosti news service. "They were our main funds for election monitoring. There are very few foundations in the world that give money for election observation."
The decision adds Russia to the list of countries such as Egypt whose leaders have booted U.S.-funded democracy-building programs, claiming they are to blame for national unrest.
USAID was created in 1961 to promote democracy, human rights and public health. It currently works in more than 100 countries, with approximately 70 U.S. and local staff members in Russiaת and has provided a backbone to U.S. efforts to foster a Western-style political system in the country.