Russia’s Foreign Friends

NEW YORK – For the last nine years, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has hosted the Valdai International Discussion Club, devoting time and attention to leading Russia experts from around the world. Putin’s interest in these discussions suggests that he is open to alternative perspectives about Russia’s development and global role. But his government’s position toward noncommercial institutions with foreign ties and foreign organizations operating in Russia raises concerns that it has lost sight of the value of international cooperation.

Since Putin first became president in 2000, Russia’s political, economic, and social stability has been largely restored. But, while his government’s policies helped to put Russia on the path to recovery, public- and private-sector entities worldwide also contributed, devoting time, energy, and capital to helping Russia to discard inefficient Soviet-era structures and pursue a society based on democratic principles, the rule of law, and a market economy.

Their efforts bolstered Russia’s transformation into a stable, prosperous, and internationally engaged country. Rather than pursuing their own interests, foreign-funded organizations have largely based their actions on concern for Russia and its citizens, and on the belief that what is good for Russia is good for the rest of the world. Such sentiments have guided Russia-relevant programs for decades – in both turbulent and prosperous times.

Foreign entities that have made substantial investments in Russia’s future include American philanthropic organizations, such as Carnegie Corporation of New York, as well as other Western donors. Such organizations have worked with Russian institutions and ministries to smooth the country’s post-Soviet transition, responding to needs that Russia’s citizens and leadership have defined.