Vienna, August 6 – The Russian foreign ministry is pushing for the creation of a special Agency for CIS Affairs to expand Moscow’s influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in much the same way that Washington uses USAID to promote American influence around the world.
The new body, as described in Russian media reporting last week, would support “friendly” non-governmental organizations as well as provide financing to “educational, humanitarian and cultural programs” for Russian-language communities in these countries (www.nr2.ru/policy/189000.html).
So far, the proposal is only “a working document,” according to NR2.ru, but most observers expect it to be approved this month because it is consistent with President Dmitry Medvedev’s May 12 directive on “Questions of the System and Structures of Federal Organs of Executive Power” which called for setting up such an agency within the foreign ministry.
If the Russian government approves, the new agency will absorb the activities and personnel of a variety of inter-agency groups, including the Center for Russian Affairs Abroad, and thus be in a position, in the words of Valery Mikhailov, deputy head of the foreign ministry’s CIS Department, to help CIS countries solve problems “under the aegis of Russia.”
Whether such a new agency will either solve the problems of Moscow’s sometimes troubled relations with Russian speakers abroad or revivify the CIS, of course, remains to be seen. But discussions of this kind – and the invocation of an American model – indicate that some Russian officials believe that Moscow has the resources needed to play this kind of game.