Statement of MacArthur President Julia Stasch on the Foundation’s Russia Office
MacArthur Foundation July 21, 2015
It is with regret, but with confidence that it is the right decision, that we share the news that the MacArthur Foundation will close its branch office in Moscow.
The recent passage and implementation of several laws in Russia make it all but impossible for international foundations to operate effectively and support worthy civil society organizations in that country. These measures include a law requiring Russian non-governmental organizations to register as foreign agents if they receive foreign funding and engage in “political activities.” The most recent such measure is a law allowing authorities to declare the activities of international organizations “undesirable” if they present “a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state.”
These laws, public statements by Russian legislators, and the vote by the Federation Council to include MacArthur on a “patriotic stop-list” of organizations recommended for designation as “undesirable” make it clear that the Russian government regards MacArthur’s continued presence as unwelcome.
Contrary to the premise underlying the Federation Council’s vote, our activities in Russia, at all times, have been to further charitable purposes and benefit Russian citizens and society. We are entirely independent of the United States government and receive no funding from it. We have never supported political activities or other actions that could reasonably be construed as meeting the definition of “undesirable.”
There may be risk for the Russian civil society organizations that seek and receive our funding and to the dedicated Russian citizens that work for us in Moscow. In the process of closing our office, we will take all reasonable steps in accordance with law to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and to work with our grantees to minimize disruption and harm to them.
Since we established our office in 1992, we have awarded more than $173 million in grants to further higher education in Russia, advance human rights, and limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We are proud of our engagement in Russia and have deep respect for the many individuals and organizations we have supported.
The MacArthur Foundation is committed to helping to make truly substantial progress on some of the world’s most profound problems. We are saddened that it is not possible to do so in Russia at this time.