06MOSCOW504, A/S LOWENKRON’S MEETING WITH NGO REPRESENTATIVES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW504 2006-01-20 11:59 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7103
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0504/01 0201159
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201159Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9461
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000504 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/18/2015 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM EAID KDEM RS
SUBJECT: A/S LOWENKRON'S MEETING WITH NGO REPRESENTATIVES 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 00306 
     B. MOSCOW 03447 
     C. MOSCOW 10863 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY. On January 17, the same day as the 
announcement that President Putin had signed the 
controversial NGO legislation, NGO leaders told A/S Lowenkron 
and the Ambassador that the legislation was flawed and 
ambiguous.  Although the new legislation will come into force 
around mid-April, they expressed doubt that the government 
would apply it forcefully before the G-8 summit so as not to 
undermine President Putin's goal of presenting himself as 
chairman of the G-8 on a world stage.  Rather, they saw the 
period between the summit and the 2008 elections as critical 
for civil society in Russia.  Most of the participants 
believed that in the short-term NGOs needed to focus on 
limiting the damage from the legislation, while positioning 
themselves to take advantage of long-term democratic trends 
in Russia.  Some of the NGO representatives also expressed 
concern about government control or co-optation of civil 
society through the Public Chamber, government-oriented NGOs, 
and increased state funding of NGOs.  A/S Lowenkron and the 
Ambassador emphasized continued U.S. support for Russian NGOs 
and on-going U.S. engagement with the GOR on the 
implementation of NGO legislation. END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (U) A/S Lowenkron and the Ambassador met with nine 
prominent Russian NGO leaders January 17 to discuss the new 
Russian legislation on NGOs and to express continued U.S. 
support for their work.  Participants included: 
 
U.S. 
--- 
A/S Lowenkron 
AMB Burns 
EUR DAS Kramer 
AID Country Director Myers 
Notetaker 
 
Russian NGOs 
------------- 
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Moscow Helsinki Group 
Andrey Kortunov, New Eurasia Foundation 
Yuriy Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and 
Human Rights 
Tatyana Lokshina, Demos Center 
Grigoriy Shvedov, Memorial 
Yelena Topleva-Soldunova, Agency for Social Information 
Marina Liborakina, Institute for Urban Economics 
Sergey Litovchenko, Russian Managers Association 
Yelena Gerasimova, Center for Social and Labor Rights 
. 
REACTION TO THE NEW NGO LAW 
--------------------------- 
 
3. (C) A/S Lowenkron and the Ambassador thanked the 
participants for meeting at such an important time for the 
NGO community, given the announcement that President Putin 
had signed the controversial NGO law on January 10 (ref A). 
The NGO participants agreed the new legislation was flawed 
but said they were not surprised that it had been signed. 
Alekseyeva believed Putin had not publicized the signing 
since he knew the bill was flawed and feared that it would 
embarrass his G-8 colleagues.  She noted that her 
organization planned to file a legal case to have it declared 
unconstitutional.  Dzhibladze said the legislation was vague 
and ambiguous and gave the authorities a huge amount of 
leeway to implement it as they saw fit, potentially including 
denying registration and blocking foreign funding for NGOs. 
Many discussion participants agreed that even though the 
legislation would come into force around mid-April, the GOR 
was unlikely to apply it against organizations until after 
the G-8 summit to avoid undermining President Putin's goal of 
presenting himself as chairman of the G-8 on a world stage. 
Dzhibladze and Kortunov said the period between the summit 
and the elections in 2007 and 2008 would be critical for NGOs. 
 
4. (C) Lokshina noted that the new legislation would 
immediately affect some NGOs.  For example, since it forbade 
individuals convicted of extremism from founding or 
participating in NGOs, Sakharov Center Director Yuriy 
Samodurov would likely have to resign from his position by 
virtue of having been convicted of inciting religious hatred 
(ref B).  NGOs such as the Russian Chechen Friendship Society 
(RCFS) in Nizhniy Novgorod were already experiencing problems 
(ref C), Lokshina continued, arguing that the authorities may 
have picked that organization as a trial case on how to 
destroy an NGO.  The RCFS was particularly vulnerable since 
it was a small regional organization and lacked local 
support, at least in part because of its pro-separatist views 
 
MOSCOW 00000504  002 OF 003 
 
 
on the conflict in Chechnya.  Shvedov said that under the new 
legislation regional organizations, especially those focused 
on human rights, were vulnerable.  Gerasimova and Litovchenko 
believed the legislation would have little impact on labor 
and business NGOs such as theirs, which received little money 
from abroad.  Liborakina argued that though many observers 
had initially believed that nothing could be done about the 
legislation, successful lobbying and public support had 
resulted in adoption of more than half of the amendments 
recommended by the NGO community.  Others were less positive 
about their success in softening the legislation.
 
. 
DAMAGE CONTROL AND LOOKING TO THE LONG-TERM 
------------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Kortunov said the NGO community needed to do immediate 
damage control, but to also take advantage of long-term 
positive trends.  The short-term damage control consisted of 
trying to avoid allowing the GOR to use the legislation to 
set bad precedents.  Many noted that the NGO legislation has 
increased cooperation and mobilization within the NGO 
community.  This experience combined with continued openings 
for grassroots movements - particularly in some regions - may 
help strengthen the cohesiveness and capacity of civil 
society.  Over the long term, Kortunov believed that an 
emergent middle class in Russia would demand more liberal 
reforms and that the Kremlin could not reverse this trend. 
NGOs needed to develop the capacity to make the most of a 
second round of reforms that would take place sometime after 
the 2008 election.  To position themselves for this "second 
coming of liberalism," NGOs should work on the regional and 
municipal level.  Shvedov believed that in the short-term, 
NGOs should try to protect themselves by participating in 
more intergovernmental dialogues like the EU dialogue on 
human rights and welcomed opportunities for increased 
engagement with U.S. NGOs.  Some of the long-term areas to 
work on might include using social marketing to build support 
for human rights and expanded use of the Internet to make 
information available to the public and to conduct regional 
campaigns focused on youth, Shvedov said.  Lokshina agreed 
that part of the long-term effort should focus on exposing 
Russia's younger generation to liberal values through 
non-controversial mechanisms like exchanges with the West and 
courses taught by foreign professors.  The Ambassador noted 
that it was important to invest in the next generation and 
that the U.S. would continue pursuing this effort. 
 
6. (C) The participants agreed with the Ambassador that it 
was important for the U.S. to work with other Western 
countries in response to the legislation.  Some participants 
urged the U.S. to speak out even more loudly against the 
legislation.  Dzhibladze, by contrast, expressed uncertainty 
about such a strategy given both the Kremlin's preference to 
discuss such issues privately and a growing tendency in 
Russian politics to exploit anti-Americanism.  As an example 
of anti-Americanism, Dzhibladze said the Kremlin-controlled 
media had devoted extensive coverage to the U.S. 
Congressional resolutions on the NGO legislation while 
virtually ignoring a similarly critical resolution passed by 
the European Parliament.  He added that many Russians were 
cynical about USG efforts to promote democracy and viewed 
them as a cover for other U.S. foreign policy goals. 
. 
GOR INFLUENCE ON CIVIL SOCIETY 
----------------------------- 
 
7. (C) Looking beyond the NGO legislation, some of the 
participants expressed concern about other GOR efforts to 
influence civil society.  They portrayed the Public Chamber 
as a manifestation of this trend, with Topleva-Soldunova 
saying that the GOR could use the Chamber to control civil 
society and arguing that only about ten percent of its 
members were "real" representatives of civil society.  Some 
nonetheless said the Chamber's statements on the NGO law were 
helpful and they would continue to try to cooperate with its 
members. 
 
8. (C) Lokshina said that Government-Oriented 
Non-Governmental Organizations (the so-called "GONGOs") posed 
a threat, particularly to NGOs working in politically 
sensitive areas such as elections and human rights.  By 
controlling the distribution of government funds, such as the 
money that the GOR had said it would dedicate to developing 
democracy in the CIS, the government could ensure that only 
pro-Kremlin organizations or those working in fields lacking 
political sensitivity would receive funding.  Authorities 
could use the GONGOs to support Kremlin positions in the 
international arena.  Litovchenko argued, however, that 
giving government funding to independent NGOs would be 
helpful since most of the business community feared 
contributing to them and lacked the tax incentives for doing 
so.  Liborakina believed increased GOR funding for social 
 
MOSCOW 00000504  003 OF 003 
 
 
services created new opportunities for cooperation between 
independent NGOs and the government. 
 
9. (C) A/S Lowenkron noted that civil society could not be 
built from the top down in any country.  NGOs had a lot of 
important work to do, and while governments could view them 
as advocates or opponents, NGOs should not be viewed as 
enemies.  A/S Lowenkron said the USG had concerns about the 
NGO legislation, particularly its vagueness and possible 
implementation.  He stressed that we will continue to follow 
its implementation closely in the coming months.  He noted 
that the issue would receive attention before, during, and 
after the G-8 summit.  A/S Lowenkron added that the G-8 
summit is not only a place and an agenda, it is an 
opportunity for countries to support common values.  In this 
spirit the USG would continue to talk with government 
officials so that the implementation of the NGO law reflects 
a common view of the importance of civil society to the 
fabric of democracy. 
 
10. (U) A/S Lowenkron cleared this cable. 
BURNS

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