07MOSCOW827, RUSSIA: THE CASE FOR LIMITED U.S. FUNDING OF RFFE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW827 2007-02-27 16:27 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #0827/01 0581627
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271627Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7739

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000827 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
USAID FOR D. LUTEN, J. ROBINSON, D. ATWOOD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2017 
TAGS: EAID KDEM PREL PGOV PHUM RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: THE CASE FOR LIMITED U.S. FUNDING OF RFFE 
 
REF: STATE 20055 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns: reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) The U.S. Mission strongly supports continued limited 
USG funding for the Russian Foundation for Free Elections 
(RFFE) under its existing grant.  U.S. monies would be used 
only to train election observers and to operate a voter 
hotline.  While RFFE does receive some government support, 
continued USG funding of its activities is backed by IRI, 
NDI, and key Russian NGOs.  These same organizations 
cooperate with the RFFE and view its work and access to the 
Central Election Commission as supportive of their own 
activities.  USG funding for RFFE helps to create the 
political space for American and Russian NGOs to carry out 
election monitoring activities, as well as to reinforce the 
perception of USG objectivity among Russian officials.  A 
mid-stream cutoff of USG support for RFFE would send the 
wrong signal and could endanger the operations of independent 
NGOs, which are crucial to carrying out our election 
monitoring strategy.   End summary. 
 
----------------- 
Why Support RFFE? 
----------------- 
 
2. (C) The RFFE is a GOR-sponsored NGO, which was formed 
initially by the Central Election Commission (CEC).  While 
the RFFE does not receive budgetary support from GOR 
ministries, it benefits from GOR subsidized office space and 
is the recipient of competitively awarded grants from the 
Public Chamber -- an arrangement that has raised questions 
about the appropriateness of USG funding.  Embassy 
understands that unease but, having met frequently with the 
RFFE, and seen it in action, we offer the following rationale 
for continuing funding of the organization: 
 
--  IRI, NDI, and independent Russian NGOs endorse U.S. 
funding of RFFE, since it is an organization that has access 
to and credibility with the GOR.  The Mission entered into 
this limited, two-year, USD 600,000 grant relationship with 
RFFE after consulting with IRI, NDI, and the three major 
Russian election monitoring and training NGOs that receive 
U.S. funding -- Golos, Transparency International, and the 
Fund for Information Policy Development (FIPD).  Each of the 
Russian NGOs had participated in RFFE conferences and events 
before the U.S. grant was signed in FY 2006.  All five 
organizations encouraged the U.S. to provide limited grant 
support to RFFE, as a means of encouraging enhanced 
engagement between a GOR-trusted organization and independent 
NGOs, and in recognition of the RFFE's connections to the 
Russian CEC.  The Mission judges CEC Commissioner Veshnyakov 
to be a positive force in advocating transparent and fair 
elections and NGO leaders generally judge that Veshnyakov has 
used his influence with some effect to push back against 
further legislative amendments to the electoral law. 
 
--  RFFE has a credible track record:  RFFE has demonstrated 
respect for international standards, an ability to cooperate 
with our traditional NGO partners, like Golos, and 
professionalism in executing its projects.  RFFE has been in 
operation since 2001 and performed substantial observation 
activity in the 2003 election cycle.  The report produced by 
RFFE after the 2003 elections identified deficiencies in the 
electoral process, including voter access.  Our NGO partners 
tell us that working with RFFE will provide them greater 
access to senior CEC officials, creating a "common space" in 
which they could interact with political parties to enhance 
the effectiveness of election monitoring and citizen 
complaint hotlines.  RFFE Head Andrey Przhezhdomskiy is not a 
GOR mouthpiece, but has been critical of official corruption 
in his capacity as Chairman of the Public Chamber's 
Anti-Corruption Committee.  At his instigation, the Committee 
has produced and distributed to key ministries an 
anti-corruption white paper.  In his dealings with Mission 
officers, Przhezhdomskiy has echoed the critique of many 
opposition politicians regarding Russia's electoral laws, and 
has underscored to us that Russia's democracy is nascent and 
falls short of international standards. 
 
-- USG support does not condone flawed elections or GOR 
restrictions on monitoring:  With over USD 6 million in FY07 
election related-assistance, the U.S. is supporting a variety 
of organizations, of which the RFFE is only one.  We are not 
in a position to prejudge the comments or conclusions that 
the RFFE may make -- to date, their commentary has been 
professional.  Moreover, our work with RFFE is technical 
only: the RFFE is undertaking a "train the trainers" program 
-- in conjunction with our traditional NGO partners.  These 
election observers are not RFFE employees, but 
representatives drawn from all registered political parties. 
Golos, Transparency, and FIPD all work within the same GOR 
restrictions.  Under GOR law, only political party members or 
journalists are allowed to monitor polling stations.  While 
not ideal, the Mission believes that it is better to work 
within these restrictions than to abandon election monitoring 
alto
gether, particularly since regional elections (e.g. 
Samara) have shown the ability of Golos and others to muster 
monitors on a broad scale. 
 
-- USG funding of RFFE is not at the expense of other 
independent NGOs:  The USD 300,000 grant to RFFE is only a 
small portion of the U.S. monies being spent to promote a 
more transparent electoral process, with FY07 2.05 million 
devoted to political process grantees and over 4.4 million 
for independent media.  Golos remains at the forefront of our 
election monitoring efforts, with a total of 2.3 million in 
grants (including, a FY06 1.3 million grant, a FY07 one 
million allocation, supplemented by an expected half million 
in 06 DA funds, and separate support from NDI).  Redirecting 
money away from RFFE and to Golos would certainly heighten 
its profile in an unhelpful manner.  When asked to reassess 
the desirability of U.S. funding for RFFE, Golos Director 
Lilia Shabanova reminded us that it was RFFE President 
Przhezhdomskiy who established an election coordinating 
council in which CEC and Public Chamber members participate, 
which has been instrumental in resolving problems and 
averting misunderstandings.  Shabanova underscored to us that 
Golos and the RFFE share the same objectives and goals for 
the upcoming elections.  Likewise, FIPD President Svetlana 
Kolesnikova asserted to us that "to support the RFFE is to 
support the electoral process in Russia."  Kolesnikova urged 
the U.S. to avoid a mindset that only viewed strongly 
oppositional organizations as legitimate.  She stressed that 
the RFFE strives to be independent and promote democratic 
values in its work. 
 
-- Support for RFFE does not contradict the Secretary's core 
principles in defense of NGOs, nor establishes a precedent 
that undermines longer-term democracy promotion efforts in 
Russia:  Support for the RFFE provides proof of our 
commitment to the openness and transparency of the electoral 
process, rather than to a partisan outcome.  It helps negate 
suspicions, expressed at the highest level of the GOR, over 
U.S. intent and refutes hard-line critics who seek to 
discredit NGOs as subversive or as foreign tools.  Since 
assistance programs in many countries work with government or 
government-related organizations, funding for RFFE sets no 
precedent.  The U.S. has a long history in Russia of working 
with the CEC in the 1990s. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Implications of Not Funding RFFE 
-------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Refusal of the second tranche of funding provided for 
in the grant signed in July 2006 would have serious 
implications for our ability to execute an election 
monitoring strategy and would deprive the USG of the 
opportunity to establish credibility and exert influence with 
the GOR in an effort to open the election process.  Golos and 
our other partners, including IRI and NDI, have encouraged 
U.S. support for RFFE not only because they see it as a 
professional and cooperative partner, but also because it can 
be helpful in dealing with other elements of the GOR.  In the 
Mission's view, denying further funding to RFFE could perhaps 
deprive independent NGOs of an influential advocate of 
cooperation from the CEC; furthermore, it could confirm 
suspicions among some segments of the GOR that our support to 
these NGOs is politically motivated, leaving them vulnerable 
to unwanted scrutiny. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
4. (C) The bottom line is that a mid-stream cut-off of USG 
funding to RFFE could undercut both our overall election 
monitoring strategy and the political maneuvering room for 
independent NGOs -- both Russian and American -- involved in 
election monitoring.  Our top priorities include supporting 
independent NGOs and improving the electoral process.  In our 
view, continued support for RFFE helps to advance our 
objectives on both fronts and to preserve the appearance of 
USG objectivity. 
BURNS

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