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American aid is political not developmental

The US Vice Secretary of State for Eastern European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, did not leave any room for doubt when she confirmed that America and Europe financed the popular protests demanding regime change in Ukraine. Nuland confirmed in her speech given to the National Press Club in December in Washington that the American government had "invested five billion dollars to form networks that would achieve American goals in Ukraine".


Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan; he is a leading neo-conservative in the US, the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and the ideological mastermind behind the American-British invasion of Iraq. The vice secretary of state visited Kiev recently to meet with and address the protesters that her government had invested in. Nuland showed no shame in being photographed next to a man accused of being a neo-Nazi leader in the Ukrainian capital. She also made a very derogatory remark about the EU and its policy over the Ukraine.

The network that Nuland referenced in December is in fact a network of Ukrainian non-governmental organisations that were funded by the US to fuel the protests against the elected government. This was confirmed by Nuland herself and by Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the US Treasury and a regular columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Business Times, in an article written for Foreign Policy Journal on the 18th of February. In December, the Financial Times published an article stating that Oleg Rybachuk, who has a long history with the US Department of Foreign Affairs, "played a large role in mobilising the protests and ensuring their continuation" via his New Citizen NGO. In March 2012, Rybachuk, who also played a key role in the 2004 Orange Revolution, demonstrated exemplary bravado when he said that he hopes to bring about a new revolution. "We now have over 150 non-governmental organisations in all major cities. The Orange Revolution was a miracle and we need to do it again." So they did.

During the first Orange Revolution in Ukraine, in November 2004, the Guardian published an article stating that the National Democratic Institute of the American Democratic Party and their Republican rivals who were in power in the United States, in conjunction with USAID, were among the organisations working with Ukrainian grassroots movements. Freedom House and billionaire George Soros were also among those who sponsored the revolution. USAID is one of the organisations that is affiliated with the US Department of State and it is used by the American government as a soft power tool with which it can go over the heads of foreign governments and deal directly with targeted programmes. In this way, the American government completely ignores internationally accepted concepts of sovereignty.

For example, when the Russian government decided to shut down all USAID offices in late September 2012, the New York Times published an article on the very next day proposing ways in which the Americans could circumvent this decision. The article pointed out that USAID could provide money to its beneficiaries in Russia or sign deals with other American organisations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the MacArthur Fund or the Open Society Foundation, which is owned by billionaire George Soros. Other options included Freedom House, Russian programmes in American Universities or hiring companies in the private sector to carry out its objectives such as Cisco Systems. In order to hide evidence of funding initiatives in Russia, USAID can channel funding through neighbouring countries, such as Georgia, Poland and Ukraine.

The closure of USAID offices is not unique to Russia. In 2005, the small African country of Eritrea decided to close down the organisation's offices stating that this was, "a permanent decision with no turning back because we are uncomfortable with USAID's operations in Asmara", the Eritrean capital. The government confirmed at that time that it did want "a strong relationship with America but on a government to government basis".

On February 13th last year, Kenya accused USAID of financing initiatives that were aimed at overthrowing the Kenyan government. In Zimbabwe in 2012, a report published by the Zanu Party, led by President Robert Mugabe, revealed that non-governmental organisations funded by Britain, the European Union, the Unites States, Australia and New Zealand were "working day and night to overthrow President Mugabe and the Zanu Party".

In the context of Latin America, USAID does not have any respect for the sovereignty of the countries in which it has projects and does not avoid interfering in the internal affairs of these countries. On June 20th, 2012, the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), which consists of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Venezuela, decided to expel USAID from its member states in a meeting held in Rio de Janeiro. ALBA accused the American organisation of "causing disorder against the sovereignty and political stability of [its] member states because it funds groups, activities, media outlets, political leaders and non-governmental organisations that aim to destabilise legitimate governments [in reference to ALBA member states]".

USAID's sponsorship of such organisations has been a hot topic in America's relations with Egypt from the Gamal Abdel Nasser era until today. In Palestine, as a number of American and European backed non-governmental organisations mushroom into existence, agencies such as USAID work to prolong the duration of the occupation by protecting Israel and facilitating finances. By being the second largest donor to the Palestinian Territories (the European Union being the main donor), USAID relieves Israel of its legal requirement to provide essential services for the people living under its military occupation. In short, USAID's aid to the Palestinian people is practical and contributes directly to and prolongs the occupation. What is even more troubling is that the projects funded by USAID comply with Israeli-set terms. For example, the organisation excludes Jerusalem from any of its projects as well as the Gaza Strip, which is in dire need of aid in order to improve the quality of life. This type of racism was established by Israel in order to distinguish between Palestinian cities and the illegal Israeli settlements.

Moreover, all of USAID's alleged democratic and social development projects are designed as tools that work against the national resistance movement working to end the occupation. All projects funded by USAID come with a precondition that the receiving party must sign an agreement stating that it will not engage in any resistance operations and this precondition is disguised under the pretext of ending violence and terrorism. The organisations that are funded by USAID cannot be classified as non-governmental organisations that Israel and its American patron consider terrorist organisations. This is what makes USAID's funding of projects in the Palestinian Territories a political tool used by Israel to put an end to Palestinian resistance.

Although USAID aims to foster international development, as its name suggests, the truth is that it finances initiatives that are unrelated to development. In fact, this organisation is used as a soft power tool to achieve the American government's goals in instances where the Pentagon cannot interfere militarily or at a much higher cost.

USAID's on-going projects are in countries that have not yet been affected by American influence and those where there are non-governmental organisations that are ready to change their ruling regimes in the event that these regimes deviate away from US strategy. Any Arab observer need not look further than Jordan or Egypt to see that billions of US aid has been given over decades to both countries but this aid has not created any concrete developments in either so much as it has forced them to become subordinate to American strategy.

Professor of economic development at Harvard Kennedy School Lant Pritchett had a point when asked the following question in an article he wrote in 2009: "Is USAID an agency that truly seeks to promote international development?" A good question.

Translated from Raialyoum newspaper, 7 March, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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