By Matthew Rojansky, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew A. Rojansky is deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.
According to the U.S. State Department, the Russian government has decided to end the activities of USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in the Russian Federation. For the past two decades, the USAID mission in Russia has channeled U.S. foreign assistance totaling almost $3 billion to organizations, causes and projects intended to support “social and economic development” in Russia. In that time, USAID has done some real good, but considering the two sides’ fundamentally different views about the purposes of U.S. assistance, and the Kremlin’s acute sensitivity in the midst of widespread opposition protests, the decision to shut it down is no surprise.
From the Kremlin’s perspective, the very notion of Russians receiving foreign assistance is unacceptable – an affront to Russia’s national dignity. As the world’s largest country, a nuclear superpower, and the hub of one of history’s great civilizations, Russia finds it hard to accept any kind of assistance from abroad, no matter how necessary or useful it might be. While the high cost of the post-Communist transition permitted Russian officialdom to swallow its pride for a time, with a fast-growing Russian economy now buoyed by high global energy prices, there is no such excuse for accepting handouts, especially from the West.