Washington's $60 Million for Russian Democracy Promotion Is ‘Essentially a Recommendation’

Obama and Putin meet outside Moscow, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Obama and Putin meet outside Moscow, July 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

The United States enacted a new law yesterday called the “Ukraine Freedom Support Act.” Today, some Russian media outlets have noticed language in the law that seems to set aside $60 million for promoting Russian “democracy and civil society organizations,” including support for “expanding uncensored Internet access.”

Access to $60 million from the US government would undoubtedly be an exciting, albeit perilous, opportunity for Russia’s many activists and journalists working online. That money, however, is unlikely ever to materialize.

The law is only an “authorization of appropriations,” not an actual appropriations bill. In other words, Congress and the president have merely signaled their support for spending this money. Without an associated appropriation, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act doesn’t actually promise so much as an extra cent for democracy promotion in Russia.

A source in Washington’s democracy-promotion community told RuNet Echo, “The authorization language is essentially a recommendation, and we’re not expecting it to result in any new appropriations for Russian media or civil society.”

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