What do a puppet theater, a torture investigator and a forest-preservation group have in common? In Russia, all are considered “foreign agents” and could face closure.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Kremlin (you know… the one in Russia) is cracking down on political opposition to the policies of the current regime by basically accusing individuals and groups as “foreign agents.” Apparently, Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t like dissent.
This is my shocked face.
This is nothing new, mind you. The Russian government has routinely accused NGOs of subversion, of being funded by the West in order to foment unrest, etc. Of course, now that we have basically slammed Putin’s sack in a door after we shut it off to long term credit for its banks, closed business off to various economic sectors, and froze assets of certain Putin buddies, those accusations have reached fevered pitch!
So back in May, Putin signed new legislation that would allow Moscow to pretty much shut down any foreign-backed group considered “undesirable.” And while I hate invoking Godwin’s law here and reminding readers of the steps the Nazis took to weed out “undesirables” and wipe them from the planet, if the shoe fits…
And while Putin is trying to paint the law as just another way to distinguish between foreign and domestically-backed groups, the fact that Moscow has designated the grass-roots group Committee Against Torture, (a group that has received human-rights awards for securing nearly $700,000 in compensation for victims of police torture), as well as Memorial – Russia’s oldest human rights group, which has worked to document the crimes of Stalinism and commemorating its victims – as “foreign agents” is pretty telling.
Here’s the thing. Designating charities, organizations, or groups as “foreign agents” accomplishes several things.
First, it adds an implied accusation of subversion or even treason to the group’s reputation, which will probably make it difficult to maintain business relationships and reputation within Russia. It’s a sort of a “name and shame” strategy that will compel some business partners, individuals, banks, etc. to sever their relationships with the entity as sort of a de-risking move.
Second, if these groups want to continue operating in Russia they would likely have to decline further foreign financing, which would force them to turn to the Kremlin for funds.
And you know what happens when the Kremlin begins to fund an organization! If you want to receive those cute little rubles, you’d better stop being contrary to the Kremlin’s policies and agenda.
It’s a pretty effective way to quash opposition. You don’t have to throw dissidents in the gulag. Hell, you don’t even have to arrest them! You just need to cut off all other sources of funding and force them to rely on the government, which will then have every right to demand that said opponents alter their message to lick the hand that feeds them.
I know there are people out there who continue to defend Putin and Russia as merely reacting to perceived “US/NATO aggression” in their sphere of influence (yeah, I’m talking to you, Dan Carlin!), your lack of understand what is going on in Putin’s policy circles and their foreign policy and frothing zeal to lay blame at the feet of the United States is staggering and somewhat disturbing.