By Stephen Kaufman
October 03, 2012
Marking 20 years since the FREEDOM Support Act began, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said that with $15 billion in U.S. assistance provided to 12 former Soviet republics, “this aspiration has been largely achieved,” and he pledged that the United States would continue its support and engagement with their governments and civil society “in order to maintain our support for democratic and economic reforms as well as continued stability and security.”
Gordon spoke with the coordinator of U.S. assistance to Europe and Eurasia, Daniel Rosenblum, at a September 21 ceremony in Washington to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the FREEDOM Support Act.
Since the end of the Cold War, “we’ve supported the work of [nongovernmental organizations] to develop civil society, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and build independent media; we’ve encouraged the development of market economies, including through the establishment of enterprise funds. … And we have addressed transnational challenges such as stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and materials; combating violent extremism; and finding solutions to armed conflict, pandemic disease and climate change,” Gordon said.
The assistant secretary acknowledged that there is more work to be done in Europe and Eurasia, saying, “The transition to open market economies really remains incomplete, and so long as it is, social problems will still exist; corruption will continue to impede progress.”
He also said there has been “significant back-sliding on democratic practices,” and noted Russia’s recent requirement that the United States close its U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Moscow.
“We deeply regret that decision. We’re proud of everything USAID has accomplished in Russia over the past 20 years. The Russian decision will remove an important element in U.S.-Russian cooperation and halt programs that have brought significant benefits to the Russian people over the last two decades,” he said. But he maintained that the United States “will continue to support civil society, democracy and human rights in Russia.”
In his remarks, Rosenblum said Operation Provide Hope was the first U.S. government program under the FREEDOM Support Act, and was the first to “deliver direct and tangible aid to needy and conflict-affected populations of the region.”
When the operation began in 1992, “there was real fear of widespread social unrest as the creaky infrastructure of the Soviet state collapsed,” with much of the region facing “catastrophic economic depression, and in some areas, armed conflict,” he said.
Over 20 years, Operation Provide Hope “provided high-quality medical care to millions, improved the quality of life for many more vulnerable people residing in state orphanages, senior citizen homes and medical facilities, and provided shelter, clothing and other relief to victims of natural and manmade disaster,” he said.
Rosenblum announced that the operation’s most recent major flight with its partner, the Physicians with Heart program, left for Moldova September 21 with a cargo worth nearly $12 million in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies that were donated by American pharmaceutical companies for Moldova’s needy.
The flight was Operation Provide Hope’s 985th air shipment. It has also executed more than 24,000 surface shipments worth nearly $5 billion in American humanitarian assistance to the countries of the former Soviet Union, he said.