This same investment would, though, make a big difference in Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s government seems to be sliding back toward autocracy. The U.S. needs to promote the rule of law, encourage open government and protect access to information in Russia. If our bureaucrats will allow it, we could set up a private foundation right away with the $330 million earned by the U.S. Russia Investment Fund.
This idea has broad support on Capitol Hill and in the administration. “At a time when U.S. funding is declining in Russia for pro-democracy, rule of law and civil society assistance programs,” Sen. Richard Lugar wrote this summer, such an investment would “provide an opportunity to make important contributions and achieve results in Russia.” And, he notes, these advantages would come “at no cost to the taxpayer.”
While in St. Petersburg for the G-8 Summit this year, President Bush announced plans to form such a foundation. But while parts of the government (State Department, USAID) support it, the Office of Management and Budget opposes it, because it wants the money now and apparently isn’t considering the long-term benefits a foundation could deliver.
It’s time to make this worthwhile project happen.
We’ve already shown Eastern Europe the best the United States has to offer. Let’s make sure we keep doing so, by investing all the earnings from the various enterprise funds in efforts to promote freedom in the region.