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Democracy’s Budget Cut Into

The United States reduces the budget of human rights promotion programs in Russia. Promotion of democracy in Russia will cost American taxpayers but $29 million this year.

The US Department of State allocated only $29 million for advancement of democracy and promotion of human rights in Russia this year. Considering previous budgets, the figure looks paltry. Viewed against the latest developments in the Russian-American relations, reduction of funding of the political opposition in Russia might signify a genuine warming-up in the bilateral relations between our countries. On the other hand, it might signify Washington's confidence that Russia is not a rival in international affairs after all.

The United States transacted approximately $85 billion to the human rights community in Russia in 2006. In 2003, this figure had amounted to $148 million. All in all, the US Department of State invested more than $3.7 billion in Russian democracy after 1992.

Some observers comment that the decline of the "export of democracy" occurred right in the wake of certain latest developments in the Russian-American relations. Visiting Moscow not long ago, US President Barack Obama proclaimed a new beginning in the bilateral relations and admitted that Russia was to choose its own future all by itself.

Yevgeny Gontmakher of the Social Policy Center of the Institute of Economics (he had attended the meeting between Obama and Russian civil society in Moscow) suggested that the sums the Americans set aside for the non-governmental organizations in Russia had never been a drain on the US budget. "I'd say it's politics," Gontmakher said.

There may be more to it, however. US Vice President Joe Biden made several unpleasant statements concerning Russia after his visits to Ukraine and Georgia. Biden mentioned Russia's economic and demographic problems and all but announced that there was no need to focus on Russia these days because Russia wouldn't matter anymore before long.

It follows that there is no need to take Russia seriously or waste money in efforts to make it a democracy. "Since the American politics does not really depend on personalities, I'd say that Biden's point of view prevails in Washington," political scientist Sergei Lopatnikov said.

Lopatnikov added that Russia had always taken the words of the Western community too seriously which was its major problem.

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