Ronald Glass, former director of democratic initiatives in Russia for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has broken a long silence, condemning then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inaction after Russia banished the USAID program from its borders in 2012.
“She was absent. The silence was deafening,” Glass said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group. Glass, who is now retired, also worked for USAID on “democracy governance issues” in Afghanistan, Honduras and Columbia, as well as Russia. The agency is part of the Department of State.
Glass, who described himself as a “social liberal,” said he was prompted to come forward by the “mind boggling” assertions from the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and other leading Democrats who claim they were tough on Russia. Glass has never previously commented on Clinton’s failure to respond to the Russian expulsion.
“No push back on this global issue? I never expected it of my own government. Never,” Glass said, calling the expulsion “one of the most strategic moments in U.S.-Russia bilateral relations ever.”
“I can say even the most liberal people at USAID — and even the Hillary supporters I talked to at the time — were quite upset the mission was closed,” Glass said. “For them the closure was just a tragedy and a travesty.”
Then-President Barack Obama’s failure to issue any official complaints or protests limited public awareness of USAID’s expulsion, while the national news media covered the story for a single day.
A review by TheDCNF of the 30,490 official government emails Clinton stored on her private server and turned over to the State Department in 2015 revealed that neither she nor her aides addressed Russia’s expulsion of the agency.
Only two Clinton emails on the subject — both news clips — were released by the State Department.
“When we have no emails in her stash that relates to this watershed moment, that was a big deal,” Glass said.
The ramifications of the 2012 expulsion of USAID from Moscow still resonate today. Glass introduced TheDCNF to pro-democracy activists living inside and outside of Russia, all of whom were reluctant to address the agencies ouster for fear of suffering reprisals from the Russian government.
“I understand why some don’t want to talk even now,” Glass said. “When you have advocates dropping dead or being jailed, I can understand their reticence and the dangers by speaking out too forcefully.”
Glass was a career foreign service officer and U.S. diplomat. Charles E. North, his USAID boss in Moscow, stated in a 2012 evaluation that “Mr. Glass delivered an impressive performance.”
North currently is now acting administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment. The agency refused to make him available for an interview.
Glass directly oversaw 30 USAID awards valued at $85 million. Of these, 20 awards valued at $44 million went to Russian organizations, helping to put the agency “in the vanguard of USAID Forward objectives for local partnerships,” according to North.
At the time of the eviction, USAID had been a fixture in Russia, ultimately sending more than $2.7 billion in assistance to Russia and to Russian pro-democracy groups.
Victoria Nuland, then-State Department spokeswoman, said nothing about the issue until a reporter asked her about the expulsion.
“We regret this decision by the Russian government,” she said at a Sept. 8, 2012, press briefing, the same day the Obama administration announced the expulsion. The programs were shuttered by Oct. 1, 2012.
Obama also declined to expel any Russian diplomats in protest of the expulsion, unlike his action to show his displeasure for Russian “interference” in the 2016 presidential election in the waning days of his presidency.
“My beef is the silence. My beef is the absence of push back,” said Glass. “It’s the silence that got my attention. And that was just reinforced by Nuland and that ridiculous statement at the end, trying to say it was just business-as-usual.”
Historian Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, told TheDCNF he also was astonished by the lack of protests from Clinton when USAID was thrown out of Russia.
“If you’re talking about ‘regrettable’ actions, what could be more regrettable than silence in the face of suppression of speech, which we have as an example here,” Edwards said.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama, was tougher on the USAID issue than the former chief executive, Clinton, or Nuland.
McCain called the Russian decision “an insult to the United States and a finger in the eye of the Obama administration, which has consistently trumpeted the alleged success of its so-called ‘reset’ policy toward Moscow.”
The BBC reported Nuland refused to discuss the Russian action beyond her lone comment. “She would not be drawn on the reasons behind the Kremlin’s decision,” the news service reported.
The New York Times quoted no Obama administration official in its coverage of the Russian expulsion.
Edwards said the scant media coverage of the Russian eviction order was a “serious indictment” of the mainstream media.
“It’s a serious indictment of the mass media and their failure to speak out,” Edwards said. “There is an incredible double standard that’s being implied in this situation.”
Comparing the Russian explosion order to the current media frenzy about allegations President Donald Trump’s campaign’s “colluded” with Russia, “shows how partisan the media have become.”
When USAID departed Russia, the Kremlin intensified its already harsh crackdown on pro-democracy activities. Bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers, for example, were required in 2014 to register with the government, while internet providers were required to allow the authorities to access users’ information.
That same year the government’s top prosecutor labeled 24 reform-minded non-governmental organizations as “foreign agents” under a 2012 law.
As late as 2014, Sarah Mendleson, a USAID deputy administrator, toned down the Russian expulsion, equating Moscow’s actions with hostile acts perpetuated by small countries..
“We found challenges to the legal registration of civil society organizations in Uzbekistan, Zambia and elsewhere,” she told a House appropriations subcommittee on the Department of State and foreign operations.
“We found, increasingly, laws restricting all foreign funding—not just from Western governments, but also from private donors—in Russia, Ethiopia, and possibly Kenya,” Mendleson concluded.
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