US Presents New Effort to Counter Kremlin Influence
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An official with the U.S. Agency for International Development on Thursday described a new American effort to help democratic institutions withstand Kremlin interference in targeted countries.
USAID calls the effort "Countering Malign Kremlin Influence" and describes it as a framework to help countries including Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova protect their elections, counter propaganda and avoid energy dependence on Russia.
The effort was first announced in Paris in July. On Thursday, USAID Assistant Administrator Brock Bierman described it to diplomats in Warsaw, delivering a message of reassurance that Washington remains committed to democracy across a region that shook off Moscow's control three decades ago.
Bierman said described "soft power aggression" by Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the Kremlin interferes in elections across a region that threw off Soviet control three decades ago, waging information warfare and promoting corruption.
"The Kremlin behaves this way because it has nothing to offer. It has nothing to offer in freedom, prosperity or to the security of its neighbors," Bierman said. "USAID will not stand by as the Kremlin seeks to undermine what these nations have fought so hard for and for so long."
He said the efforts include supporting independent journalism and fact-checking in Moldova and the Balkans, as well as helping countries diversify their energy supplies so that Russian energy doesn't remain a tool of political control.
He stressed several times that the efforts are not against the Russian people, only against the Kremlin.
It comes as people across the region worry about President Donald Trump's sympathies for Putin, which many fear could come at a heavy cost to countries like Ukraine and even Poland.
Wojciech Przybylski, the editor of Visegrad Insight magazine, which focuses on Central Europe, said that it was reassuring to hear of U.S. efforts to support democracy across Europe.
"The fact that a U.S. government agency is undertaking efforts to tell the story that Americans are countering the Kremlin — and exactly on the territory the Kremlin would dispute, where Moscow would rather not have anyone else but themselves — it's a powerful message and the right message," Przybylski told The Associated Press.
Bierman spoke at the Warsaw-based Community of Democracies, a global coalition of democratic states.