Sunday, December 12, 2004

Follow-Up II (Who Supports Yushchenko?): Who Supports the National Democratic Institute?

According to Jonathan Steele's and Ian Traynor's fable of US sponsorship for Ukraine's "orange revolution" (see Europe's Ukraine III: Who Supports Yushchenko?), two of the principal vectors of US influence in the current Ukraine crisis have been the Republican-affiliated International Republican Institute and the Democratic-affiliated National Democratic Institute. In passing let it be noted that it is rather bizarre, just weeks after the Guardian launched its infamous letter-writing campaign attempting to influence the American elections on the assumption that the fate of the world depended on America electing a Democratic rather than a Republican president, for two Guardian authors now to be treating the Republican and Democratic parties as if they were essentially interchangeable in foreign policy matters.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have a status and function much like the party-affiliated German political foundations. However, the federally funded corporation from which both the IRI and NDI are largely tributary for whatever federal funding they receive - namely, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - has a total annual budget far inferior to the budgets of each of the roughly analogous German foundations: the Christian Democratic Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the Social Democratic Friedrich Ebert Stifting (FES). (Indeed, at the current euro-dollar exchange rate, the 109 million euro budget of the FES alone is more than three times the roughly $40 million annual budget of the NED.) So, it is safe to say that the means of which the two American institutes dispose is nowhere near on the order of those of which the most important German foundations dispose. Or at least this is evidently so as far as the public means are concerned of which they dispose from the American and German governments respectively.

But, then again, the National Democratic Institute apparently has funding also from other governmental sources besides just the American government. The NDI website notes that apart from private contributions, funding is "provided to NDI by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank, as well as the governments of the US (U.S. Agency for International Development), Canada (Canadian International Development Agency), Ireland (Irish Aid), Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and other governments. " (Apart from its American government grants, the IRI, by contrast, only notes contributions from foundations and private individuals, and, unlike the NDI, it provides a list of contributors on its site.) Especially in light of the increasing rapprochement of Democratic foreign policy prescriptions to the foreign policy positions of those European powers that, for instance, were most adamant in their opposition to the Iraq War, it would be very interesting indeed to know from just what "other governments" the NDI has received funding. The fact that (as a simple Google search of "NDI + FES" reveals) the NDI regularly collaborates with the German FES might provide a clue. In any case, this dependence of the NDI upon funding from foreign governments and the UNDP reveals the vacuousness of the popular myth of an omnipotent American "Empire" nourished by the likes of Jonathan Steele and Ian Traynor.

Incidentally, the board of directors of the National Democratic Institute is headed by none other than former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. On the NDI website, she is identified as the NDI's "Chairman". Somehow that seems right....