Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Should Russian NGOs Register as Foreign Agents If They Receive US Donations?

Last year the US Congress passed a law preventing Russian lawmakers from coming to the USA if the lawmakers are considered to have engaged in "human rights" violations.  The law is called The Magnitsky Act.  Magnitsky was a Russian businessman who died in a Russian jail in 2009.

The Russian Government has accused the US Congress and President Obama of merely playing politics and not showing a concern for human rights.  In retaliation (revenge, as a consequence) Vladimir Putin passed a law preventing US families from adopting Russian babies.

The diplomatic situation between Russia and the USA does not seem to be getting better.

Recently the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, traveled to Russia and spoke to individuals who were involved with Russian NGOs (non-governmental organizations).  Usually such organizations do charitable or social-service work in a country.

The Russian government has passed a law requiring Russian NGOs to register with the state as "foreign agents" if the NGOs receive foreign money and if the NGOs are involved in political activities (and not purely charitable activities).

Apparently many organizations from the USA donate to Russian NGOs and therefore Kerry visited with these NGOs and met with officials from the Russian government, apparently to try to resolve any difficulties.

The Russian government does not believe that foreign countries should be allowed to influence Russian politics, while Kerry and the NGOs seem to be arguing that the Russian government just wants to stop political opponents from gaining power. 

Is the USA trying to secretly influence Russian politics or is Vladimir Putin trying to stop organizations that oppose his policies from gaining power?

The article:


Vocabulary from the article:

a crackdown - this is when a government begins to take serious action against something they feel is illegal or wrong.

to mount - to increase.  Mounting pressure means increasing pressure.  A Mounting crackdown means increasing action by the government to stop something.

controversial - a controversial topic is something people like to argue about.

an activist - someone who tries to change something for the better in his society.

to assure someone - to make it clear to someone that you care and will try to help them. To reassure. To try to convince someone that something will happen. i.e. I assure you that I will be able to meet you at 3pm tomorrow.  Please don't worry!

legal pressure - legal pressure is legal force being applied to these organizations.

a civil war - a war within a country.

to enforce - to make sure that the laws are obeyed and that people who break the laws will be punished.

vaguely defined political activities -  not clearly defined.  So the author of the article is trying to make it seem as if the Russian government has not established a clear definition of what a political activity might be.

to register - to declare that you are doing something to the government; to fill out a form stating you are doing something.

foreign agents - people who work for a foreign government or source; people who are assisting some foreign source.

to recall - to remember, to remind

Soviet-era propaganda -  propaganda is information provided by a government to make the government look good or to make the government's enemies look bad.  To be honest, this article looks like propaganda to make the US government look good and the Russian government look bad.  Sometimes US news stories are 'biased' (prejudiced) toward the US government (they make the US government look good).  I don't know the complete truth about this situation, but I do know that the US government has gotten involved in the politics of many foreign countries in the past.

to cast suspicion on s/o- if you are suspicious of a person, you do not trust the person.  To cast suspicion on someone means to indicate you are suspicious of that person or organization.

undermining their credibility - to destroy their credibility.  To make it seem as if they are not believable.

interpretation - what a person believes or the conclusions a person draws from reading or seeing something.

a spy - someone who gathers information illegally for a foreign government.

to accuse s/o of s/t - to claim or state that someone did something wrong.

a front - a front organization is a 'fake' organization that is really serving a hidden purpose.  Putin claims that many of these NGOs are really just working for the US government.

to meddle in - to get involved in, to interfere in

to raid a group - to invade the group; to suddenly show up and investigate the group without the group's prior (previous) knowledge.

an election monitoring group - a group which tries to make sure that elections are fair.

to be fined - to be punished by being forced to pay a certain amount of money.

to appeal a court decision - to go to a higher court and ask that a decision be overturned (changed).

"Mind your own business!" - You hear this every once in awhile - it means, "Worry about your own things!  Do not worry about what I am doing!"

unduly - unfairly.

revisions - changes.

treason - when someone does something to harm his own society or government.

advocacy - if you advocate for something, you promote something or encourage people to believe or accept something.

a watchdog organization - an organization that watches how the government works and reports on illegal activities or corrupt (dishonest) activities.

a crane sanctuary - a crane is a type of bird with a long neck.  A sanctuary is a place where cranes can safely live.  So the author claims that a crane sanctuary - which is something non-political - was punished according to this new law.

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