Letter to President George W. Bush

November 17, 2005

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Civil Society

Note to the reader: Jack Kemp and John Edwards, co-chairs of the Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, sent a letter (attached below) to President Bush on November 16, 2005, in advance of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in South Korea this week.

Members of President Putin’s party and other fractions of the State Duma introduced legislation last week that would, among other things, keep foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from maintaining “representative offices” or branches in Russia and deny foreign funds to Russian organizations that engage in “political” activities. Virtually the entire nonprofit sector-from human rights monitors to policy think tanks and public health alliances-is likely to be affected.

Kemp and Edwards led a delegation to Moscow in October of 2005 where they met with NGO representatives who discussed the problem of encroaching state control over civil society. The letter urges President Bush to discuss the serious consequences of this legislation with President Putin.