Russia and USAID.

On Wednesday, Russia asked the United States Agency for International Development  (USAID) to leave the country. First, I’m not a journalist, but I feel that I should disclose that USAID funded a project I worked on.

The short version of this story is: the US says (USAID website) that in Russia USAID funds programs that

improve public health and combat infectious diseases, protect the environment, develop a stronger civil society, and modernize their economy.

The Russian government says (RT story) that USAID is seeking to

influence the political process, including elections at various levels and civil society.

Another few links:

It is clear by now that Russia’s government has dug in against outside intervention in Syria, its longtime partner and last firm foothold in the Middle East. Less well known is the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church, which fears that Christian minorities, many of them Orthodox, will be swept away by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism unleashed by the Arab Spring.

Hipster pictures of the G8 summit from Dmitri Medvedev’s new Instagram account.

Camp David looks super chill.

(H/T: FYRUPolitics)

Summit canceled as Ukraine isolation deepens over treatment of Tymoshenko

In a stinging humiliation that underscores Ukraine's increasing isolation, President Viktor Yanukovych today bowed to a boycott by a dozen European leaders angry over treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, indefinitely postponing a prestigious summit meeting it was to have hosted this week in the Crimean resort of Yalta.

"Due to the fact that a number of European heads of states are unable to attend the summit of presidents of the Central European Countries in Yalta, Ukraine found it reasonable to postpone it until a later date," Alexander Dykusarov, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a terse statement.

The event was meant to showcase Ukraine’s growing integration into the European community, and to set the stage for Ukraine’s co-hosting, along with Poland, of the Euro 2012 soccer championships – a huge event in the life of all Europeans – next month.

Instead, the growing impression is that Ukraine is falling out of the European orbit and drifting back into Moscow’s embrace.

Leaders of Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and others have refused to attend the annual regional meeting in an escalating row over the alleged mistreatment of Ms. Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last October for “abuse of office” while she was prime minister. She also faces a fresh trial on charges of alleged tax evasion, which is scheduled to open in a Kharkov court later this month.

Germany: Europe should boycott Ukraine matches



 A top German official is urging European governments to boycott Euro2012 soccer championship matches in Ukraine to protest the detention of the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told German tabloid Bild’s Monday edition that the “dictatorship” of Ukraine must not be able to use the June championship to prop up its image without reforms.

Bild quoted Roettgen as saying that he thinks “visits by ministers or prime ministers are beyond question under the current circumstances.”

Roettgen’s remarks were confirmed to The Associated Press on Sunday by his spokeswoman Julika Lendvai. They were the first call by a top European government minister to avoid the matches.

“The Ukrainian government should immediately release Ms. Tymoshenko to freedom,” he was further quoted as saying.

The Ukrainian opposition leader is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of abusing her powers as prime minister in negotiating an energy deal with Russia. The West has strongly condemned the case as politically motivated and threatened to freeze cooperation with Ukraine.

i’m just going to put in my two cents about this whole issue really quickly - the reason Ukraine cannot develop into a functioning democracy is because everyone else always has something to say about it.  And by everyone I mean nations that are well established and reached their stage of development years ago, they want stagnation in Ukraine so they can exploit their influences over the country and its people while having access to its resources.  And the corrupt politicians in Ukraine let them, of course.  What gives any country the right to regulate the INTERNAL affairs of another country?  What gives them the notion that they have any power to impose their beliefs?  These rapacious tactics are the reason developing countries in the 21st century are doomed.

Having a developing country host such an event was a bad idea from the beginning.  It should be boycotted, because billions of dollars are being thrown into this one event and not into the people’s programs or the betterment of the country.  Not to mention the civil rights violations and animal abuse occurring because of it.  What do you honestly expect from an ex-soviet country that has barely come out from under the influence of a domineering country such as Russia?

tl;dr: in today’s society, no country can possibly successfully support these “events” anymore and they should be revised severely. 

Okay, this isn’t something I do very often, and I am definitely not trying to pick on you (this sentiment has appeared on my dash a couple times today), but I just want to throw this out there:

This is the sort of thing foreign ministers live for. You might think it’s unfair for one country to interfere with the way another country conducts its internal affairs, but nations and international organizations trying to gain leverage over other nations in  order to make them rearrange their domestic policies is a huge part of international politics. This is how sanctions work and this is how aid is distributed. I could give you plenty of examples: the US will cut aid to nations who don’t do enough to combat human trafficking. The UK recently announced that it will cut aid to nations who persecute GLBT people. Is it fair and right for powerful countries to use money to influence the domestic policies of poorer countries? That is a topic too long and complicated for this post.

Personally I doubt this protest will amount to much (actually pulling out of Euro 2012 would piss off ordinary Germans, most of whom are probably much more interested in football than Yulia Tymoshenko), but there is no way these government officials would ever pass up this sort of opportunity to make a fuss. Meddling with other nations’ internal affairs is what these guys do.