Russian malign influence campaigns are targeting many Eastern European States. These campaigns include attempts to drive and capitalize on corruption, undermine free and fair elections, skirt the rule of law, stifle independent media, and manipulate energy markets.
The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, is committed to supporting free societies wherever they’re under assault, said USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick in a speech in Poland to the Community of Democracies. USAID’s Countering Malign Kremlin Influence Development Framework identifies areas where the U.S. can best support partner countries.
A primary goal is to strengthen the rule of law and democratic institutions by cultivating an independent civil society and promoting transparency and public accountability.
The Kremlin often seeks to drive divisions and foment uncertainty and instability throughout Eastern Europe. “Rather than leave [these countries] in peace, the Kremlin pumps propaganda into their political discourse,” said Deputy Administrator Glick. “Thousands of Kremlin-paid teams known as trolls flood social media platforms and peddle content designed to create confusion, distrust, and cynicism about democratic and Western institutions.”
USAID’s programs, said Administrator Glick, seek to cultivate attitudes, institutions, and practices that create a strong foundation for democracy. This includes encouraging political party development by engaging women and youth participation in the political process.
With regard to independent media, USAID programs help countries resist Russia’s manipulation of their information sources by helping news outlets provide unbiased coverage.
On the energy front, USAID is helping its European partners diversify the sources of their electricity, improve energy transmission networks, and develop energy markets that are integrated with neighboring countries.
At the same time, USAID supports the democratic aspirations of the Russian people. USAID believes that strong democracies and prosperous economies in Europe and Eurasia can light the way for them. These nations can demonstrate that democracy works. They can exemplify that democracy is the answer to Russia’s growing socio-economic challenges.
In the past, U.S. assistance helped countries like Poland and the Baltic republics embark upon a democratic path. They have now reaped the rewards of economic growth and membership in NATO and the EU.
As former President Ronald Reagan noted, while democracy “is not a fragile flower. . .it does need cultivating.” USAID is committed to doing just that.