Kommersant: AMERICA USES THE DOLLAR TO STRIKE AT RUSSIA’S POLICY COURSE
American diplomacy in the former Soviet Union is costly for Russia
Instead of merely expressing its concerns about democracy in Russiaand criticizing Russian policies, the United States is now taking steps to thwart the Kremlin’s policies. This seems to indicate that Washington is changing its stance on Russia.
The 2008 budget for the United States was adopted on Tuesday.Some forms of government spending are decribed vaguely: the USSenate allocated nearly $401.9 million in support for post-Soviet republics (except Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, regarded as partof Eastern Europe). Part of this sum is to be spent on conflict resolution in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and at least $8 millionon “human rights, development of civil society, and reconstruction efforts in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, and North Ossetia.” Along with that, $500,000 will be spent by the US Forestry Service on programs of “wildlife and forestry” support in the Russian Far East.
Even that is not all by way of the intended aid to the post-Soviet territory.
The US Senate capitalized on the role of USAID in “advancing democratic changes in sovereign countries of the former Soviet Union” and recommended continued funding of this activity. American legislators propose funding the Moscow School of Political Studies, with its efforts “to teach young Russian professionals to govern their country” honestly. Last but not least, senators urged the USState Department to support the Civil Research and Development Foundation, dedicated “to helping scientists in the former USSR, involved in weapons development, to channel their efforts in constructive directions.”
In short, a great deal of the money allocated by the US Senateis to be spent on the democratization of Russia.
Most organizations mentioned by the US Senate have been operating in Russia for years, and causing concern for the Russian authorities for about the same length of time. USAID leaders openly admit that “the activity of the Agency is coordinated by the US Secretary of State for the purpose of promoting American foreign policy objectives worldwide” and that it aims to “promote the ideas of human rights and democracy” and supports non-governmental organizations in other countries.
In fact, the US State Department doesn’t confine its activities in the former Soviet Union to promoting human rights. An explanatory note to the US budget emphasizes the need to keep in mind “Russia’sincessant attempts to control energy routes and manipulate deliveries to Central Asia and Eastern Europe,” including the routes and channels “of importance to US allies in Europe.” The US State Department is urged to offer “diplomatic support for developing alternative energy sources and energy export routes which the Russian Federation doesn’t control.”
The US State Department started working on it this August when Washington allocated $1.7 million for the technical and economic assessment of two energy export routes bypassing Russia. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sullivan said then that the money was earmarked for the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline from Central Asia toEurope, bypassing Russian territory, and for the pipeline across theCaspian Sea to be connected with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. (Official Moscow regards the latter as the principal anti-Russian project in the former Soviet Union.) According to what information is available at this point, leaders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan found both these projects sufficiently interesting to postpone the Caspian Shore Gas Pipeline project, promoted by Russia. All thes ame, according to our sources, the agreement on the technical and economic assessment of this project will be signed in Moscow today in the presence of presidents Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Nursultan Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan).
Active US diplomacy in the former Soviet Union is costly forRussia. Last month, Gazprom had to agree to pay a higher price for Turkmenistan’s gas in the second half of 2008 ($150 rather than $100per thousand cubic meters). Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller suspects that it was the United States that advised Ashgabat to raise the price.
The anti-Russian nature of some items in the US budget is not surprising. In spring of 2007, the US State Department issued three documents containing unprecedented criticism of Russia. The report entitled “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy” was the worst of lot: it openly named “organizing democratic elections in Russia in 2007 and 2008” as one of its priorities. The Russian parliament (both houses) and Foreign Ministry were outraged.
Criticism of Russia and the policies pursued by the Kremlin istypical of the United States these days. Acerbic statements are made by the US Senate, State Department, and even by the US President, though he calls himself President Putin’s friend.
Moscow is taking this criticism in its stride – writing it offas part of early campaigning for the presidential election in theUnited States.
However, there is more to this criticism of Russia than meets the eye. Instead of merely expressing its concerns about democracy in Russia and criticizing Russian policies, the United States is now taking steps to thwart the Kremlin’s policies. This seems to indicate that Washington is changing its stance on Russia. The United States appears to believe that the strategic partnership period in US-Russian relations is over.
The United States is telling Russia’s probable next leader (Dmitri Medvedev) that he will have to deal with a new Americanpolicy on Russia.