The noose around foreign-funded NGOs in Russia is tightening. The Undesirable NGOs Bill signed into law last week by President Putin provides for the banning of NGOs working against the constitutional order and security of the country, and for punishing the individuals involved with fines and jail terms of up to six years. The US and the EU, and other assorted champions of ‘freedom and democracy’, are protesting. But that is unlikely to influence the independent trajectory of Putin’s Russia.
Putin is challenging the imperial dynamics of how our world is run in more ways than one. He understands well how development aid and foreign-funded NGOs are used as tools of imperial power. In October 2012, he kicked out USAID from his country after it tried to do a regime-change on him. His consistent efforts to rein in the foreign-funded NGOs with their sponsored agendas of distraction and destabilization, by bringing them under the microscope of scrutiny and tightening laws regulating their activities, are also bearing fruit.
Earlier in 2012, the Foreign Agents Law enacted by his government made it mandatory for those receiving funding from abroad to register as foreign agents and introduced measures to bring transparency to their activities and finances. The law was later expanded to make it illegal for foreign agents to sponsor Russian political parties in any way. Towards the end of that year, the Yakovlev Law put a blanket ban on all organizations receiving funds from the US and engaged in politically oriented activities. It also banned Russian-American dual citizens from joining or leading such organizations.
The empire is generally furious at Putin for standing up to its unipolar ‘badmashi’ like a boxer and knocking out one tooth after another from its greedy jaw. He is not holding back any punches in his defense of Russia from a full-spectrum imperial attack, fearlessly exposing every color of that dark spectrum for what it is and neutralizing its nuisance. His initiative against the insidious role of the NGO enterprise means an end to the disruptive ‘tamashas’ staged by funded assets to influence the discourse and hijack the political process in Russia to serve imperial interests.
The implications of Putin’s clear-headed sincerity to his motherland go much further than the borders of Russia. At this juncture when countless countries are struggling to overcome the full and part spectrums of the empire, he could write the perfect manual on stepping out of its dark shadows. In identifying and acting against devious imperial structures of influence and control in Russia, Putin is showing to the world how to defang the empire.
Curbing the role of foreign-sponsored NGOs is only one step in that process, but an important one. As we in Pakistan try to break free from the stranglehold of the empire, this is one area where we could learn from the Russian experience. Rather than inviting the NGOs and their donors to become a part of the discussion as stake-holders and allowing them to influence the law being made to regulate them, a firmer approach is in place. Why should those receiving foreign funds, whether in the name of spreading ‘Islam’ or spreading ‘freedom, democracy and human rights’, be mollycoddled? They must be closely monitored if not banned.
Take a closer look at these NGO messiahs and it is difficult not to notice how deeply they are steeped in the imperial narrative. They swear by neo-liberal bibles and carry a rebranded white man’s burden to ‘civilize’ the world. Their passion for ‘freedom and democracy’ is aroused whenever and wherever their donors deem it necessary. Their hearts bleed for human rights only for those marked by the empire for such compassion. They are blind to the violations of their cherished values by those funding them and their friends.
The double-standards of the empire and its NGO mouthpieces stand fully exposed today. By defining issues within the divisive framework chosen for them by the empire, they not only strengthen the imperial narrative but also assist the empire in manufacturing it. The foreign-funded NGOs are like dishonest clerks collecting and fabricating facts to fit and feed the prejudiced worldview of their bosses. They parrot the prescriptions written for them to be read out.
Despite the devious role of these foreign agents, as they are called in Russia, our policy makers would still like to treat them with respect and buy their yarns about all the good things that they’re supposed to be doing. The government doesn’t seem to be interested in regulating such organizations meaningfully, lest their scrutiny and a restriction on their activities offend the imperial donors. Such a move would require a larger vision in any case.
By ruthlessly demolishing the humanitarian façade of foreign-funded NGOs and successfully focusing on curbing their true role as foreign agents, Putin has only hammered another nail in the empire’s coffin. His chief of intelligence has bluntly declared the various brands of Islamic terrorists as tools of the empire. GMO crops have been banned in Russia, giving a boost to Russian farmers. In partnership with China, Russia is making it more and more difficult for the empire to run amok in the world, bombing and occupying countries in the name of human intervention.
From a weak IMF-dependent country on the verge of becoming a poor third world vassal of the empire, Russia under Putin has come a long way. In his fifteen years as the president or prime minister of Russia, Putin has revived the Russian economy and defense industry. Above all, he has restored to Russia its dignity and power due to his leadership and a passion to serve his people. By going all out to challenge the unipolar madness of the empire and the tools of its power, Putin is successfully dismantling the moral high ground falsely claimed by the empire and notions of its invincibility. Today, Russia is at the vanguard of shaping an alternative future for the world. This is good news not only for the Russians but for all of us non-Russians as well.
The writer is a freelance columnist.