Moscow shows USAID the door

The U.S. Ambassador's car outside the entrance to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

One of the largest project granters to healthcare, small businesses and civil society in Barents Russia is told that their services are no longer needed.


U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was Tuesday informed by Russia’s Foreign Ministry to leave the country by October 1. The Agency’s activities do not always correspond to the goals of promoting cultural cooperation according to the brief note posted on the Foreign Ministry’s portal.

Moscow argues that USAID has tried to influence political process by granting money to different election processes and civil society. The Foreign Ministry also says Russia no longer wants to be a receiver of international development assistance. Also; Russian civil society has become quite mature and does not need “external leadership”.

Much of the grants were given to organizations working with democracy and human rights. 

“Foreign Agents”
The announcement to show USAID the door comes less than two months after the State Duma in a landslide vote approved a law forcing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working with political issues to label themselves as “Foreign Agents” if they receive grants from abroad.

The so-called “Foreign Agents” law is strongly criticized by leading Russian rights groups, as well as both the EU and the Council of Europe as previously reported by BarentsObserver.

The U.S. State Department denies all accusations that the grants were aimed at influencing any Russian elections. The work with NGOs and civil society will however continue.

“We remain committed to supporting democracy, human rights, and the development of a more robust civil society in Russia and look forward to continuing our cooperation with Russian non-governmental organizations,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement on Wednesday.

In Russia since 1992
Initiated by John F. Kennedy back in 1961, USAID is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. The agency has been active in Russia over the last 20 years and has granted a total of $2,6 billion toward Russia’s social and economic development.

Regional and local organizations have implemented over half of USAID’s activities in the country in the areas of health, civil society, rule of law, local governance and conflict mitigation, the portal of the agency informs.

Barents Region
In the Barents Region, USAID has granted projects in all major cities like Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk and Syktyvkar. Also projects devoted to
rural community development in Barents Russia have benefited with grants from USA.

Projects granted in the Barents Region also went to health care like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and improving environmental standards. These are similar projects that have got project support from Barents grants structures like from the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services.

Starting in 1998, USAID provided funds to the Eurasia Foundation on its joint granting program together with the Norwegian Barents Secretariat and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Several million kroner were granted by the Norwegians, while the Eurasia Foundation provided equal grants based on funding from USAID. Eurasia foundation later changed its name to New Eurasia Foundation and worked with grants from other private foundations, including Russians.