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U.S. LawmakersTake a Weak Swipe at Russia

Despite the billions in petro-dollars flooding into Russia from oil exports, when it comes time for the U.S. lawmakers to fight over the pork-laden appropriations bill, the Americans still find time to think about Russia. However the AP reports this year’s paltry $72.2 million in U.S. foreign aid for Russia (mostly meant for civil society) could potentially be withheld to send a message to the Kremlin. Congress is demanding that the Russian government make improvements in freedom of the press, stop the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of activists, and provide more religious freedom. (if anyone can find the actual text of these conditions, please let us know…) Their poke at Moscow is virtually weightless, however, as President Bush is allowed to waive these conditions at his discretion. Furthermore Moscow, which controls a $158 billion sovereign fund, would laugh at this amount of foreign aid as nothing more than a drop in the bucket. Also, why would the United States be interested in cutting funding for police departments and judicial training in Russia? Not to mention that now the Russians will probably just refuse to accept these funds to thumb their nose at Washington. No wonder practically no news outlets are running the AP story – it’s an embarrassment.