Last month, the Russian government ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development, the aid-administering arm of the U.S. State Department, to cease operations in Russia. In an email interview, Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at UCLA, discussed Russia’s ejection of USAID.
WPR: What is the motivation behind Russia’s ejection of USAID?
Daniel Treisman: The closing of USAID's Russian office is just the latest in a series of moves on the part of the Kremlin aimed at weakening the political opposition and obstructing its efforts to forge a nationwide coalition behind democratic reforms. Other moves include the toughening of sanctions against street protesters and new laws that criminalize slander, broaden the definition of treason and require Russian NGOs that accept foreign grants to register as "foreign agents." In part, these measures are designed to intimidate the less committed members of the urban protest movement. In part, the Kremlin hopes to drive a wedge between the urban opposition and ordinary Russians outside the big cities, some of whom are suspicious of the West.