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China, Russia, and NGOs

Russia’s January 2006 law limiting the operation of NGOs, especially those with foreign funding, has earned her pariah status.  What Western audiences rarely hear is that Russia has good reasons to crack down on some NGOs.

A network of high-profile, internationally funded NGOs (specifically, the Russian Privatization Center and its offshoots) were instrumental in the privatization fraud that precipitated Russia’s 1992-96 economic crash, in which the GDP loss to Russia (40 percent) was the economic equivalent of California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and New York seceding from the Union within a five-year period.  International donors, including the United States Agency for International Development, used this network to contribute to First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais’ political activities in the 1990’s.

Last year’s legislation “Amending Some Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” requires public associations to register with the Russian government.  NGOs must report their activities and allow yearly financial audits.  The standards for registration and reporting are higher for foreign NGOs—and they are not permitted in “closed” territories, such as Chechnya.  The bill protects the right of foreign citizens to join NGOs and forbids discrimination based on membership.  It also bars the state from meddling in public groups,...

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