Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Mr. Huntsman goes to Moscow

Mar 09 2017

President Donald Trump has chosen Jon Huntsman to represent the United States as  Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Huntsman has an extensive record in public service. He served two terms as Governor of the state of Utah and was Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China under President Obama. He also briefly ran for president in 2012, but failed to gain much traction.

Governor Huntsman’s acceptance of this post comes at a time when the relations between the United States and Russian Federation are at a massively important and controversial crossroad.

In the primaries, Trump raised many eyebrows when he claimed that he’d “be friends with” President Vladimir Putin. This came as a considerable surprise when Congressional Republicans and Democrats were nearly unanimous in their support of the sanctions levied against the Kremlin for its actions in Eastern Ukraine, as well as Putin’s assistance to President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, by all accounts a bloodthirsty dictator.  When asked about Ukraine, Trump shrugged and said it was Europe’s problem. When asked about the suspicious deaths of dissident Russian journalists and opposition figures, Trump flipped the question and asked “You think we [the United States] are so innocent?” When pressed for an explanation on Trump’s controversial remarks and actions during the Vice Presidential debates, now-Vice President Mike Pence seemed to deny everything, reverting back to the traditional Republican lines about holding the Kremlin accountable.

The Russian connection has only ballooned in press coverage since Trump’s remarks early in the presidential election. Democrats, cautious in their actions against Russia since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, started to take a more hard-line stance against cooperation with the Kremlin. Rumors started to swirl around Mr. Trump, alleging he was a pawn of the Kremlin.

These allegations are not without considerable evidence, but nothing has been proven quite yet. Investigations are underway and will require thorough scrutiny. Many Congressional Republicans, as well as almost all Congressional Democrats, have been sitting on their hands for an answer.

As Ambassador, Jon Huntsman does not possess a large amount of enumerated political power, but his experience should allow him to be an influential voice nonetheless. Huntsman bucked his own party when he accepted an ambassadorship to China under President Obama, and he seemed to gain considerable approval for his work.

Russia is a different animal altogether from China, though. Chinese foreign policy, while not passive, is not quite as direct and bold as Russia’s has been, especially in regards to Ukraine. It’s true the Chinese government is building islands in the South China Sea, much to the rage of Vietnam, but Beijing is much more reliant on soft power than Moscow. Anti-American sentiment in China certainly exists, but it is not as pronounced as that of Russian state media. The economic relationship between the United States and Russia is also quite different than that of the Sino-American relationship. The United States does not rely on Russian goods the way it does with Chinese goods, and a protectionist trade policy like Trump is promising would affect our relations with China much more than Russia.

The Trump Administration, while young, has been mired in slip-ups and controversy since it started out of the gate. Whether these scandals and controversies deserve the scrutiny and criticism they are getting is up for debate, but a by-product of the clumsy start has been that the Trump Administration has not produced a lot of concrete results – good or bad – in regards to foreign policy. It’s important to remember that Trump has only been in office for less than two months, so there’s a lot more time to write about his presidency. Messages regarding the Administration’s policy on the Kremlin have been inconsistent. Allegations of telephone calls concerning possible sanctions removal between Trump and President Putin are often followed by statements that there will be no sanctions removal “until Crimea is returned to Ukraine”.

Huntsman is an interesting choice for the Ambassadorship. During his brief run for president in 2012, he was often, for better or worse, portrayed as the “moderate” in the Republican party primary because of his beliefs on LGBT rights, climate change, and evolution. One could argue this was more due to his demeanor than his actually being “moderate” as his economic views are quite conservative and he was Governor of one of the most conservative states in America, but the perception seemed to stick.

Huntsman, when judged purely on his own experience, is earnestly qualified for this job. He claimed he was proud to have taken the Ambassadorship to China under President Obama because he saw it as an opportunity to serve his country. However, he will not be setting policy in the same way his boss will, and Ambassadors do not typically dissent against the government they serve, though they can obviously lend their counsel. Therefore, what Huntsman does is likely going to depend on how the Trump Administration manages to weather the storm of possible deeper involvement with pro-Kremlin officials and what type of relationship they decide to pursue with the Kremlin. As of now, we can only really speculate, but the choice itself seems to be well thought out.

By Kyle Menyhert,
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

Huntsman has an extensive record in public service. He served two terms as Governor of the state of Utah and was Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China under President Obama. He also briefly ran for president in 2012, but failed to gain much traction.

Governor Huntsman’s acceptance of this post comes at a time when the relations between the United States and Russian Federation are at a massively important and controversial crossroad.

In the primaries, Trump raised many eyebrows when he claimed that he’d “be friends with” President Vladimir Putin. This came as a considerable surprise when Congressional Republicans and Democrats were nearly unanimous in their support of the sanctions levied against the Kremlin for its actions in Eastern Ukraine, as well as Putin’s assistance to President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, by all accounts a bloodthirsty dictator.  When asked about Ukraine, Trump shrugged and said it was Europe’s problem. When asked about the suspicious deaths of dissident Russian journalists and opposition figures, Trump flipped the question and asked “You think we [the United States] are so innocent?” When pressed for an explanation on Trump’s controversial remarks and actions during the Vice Presidential debates, now-Vice President Mike Pence seemed to deny everything, reverting back to the traditional Republican lines about holding the Kremlin accountable.

The Russian connection has only ballooned in press coverage since Trump’s remarks early in the presidential election. Democrats, cautious in their actions against Russia since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, started to take a more hard-line stance against cooperation with the Kremlin. Rumors started to swirl around Mr. Trump, alleging he was a pawn of the Kremlin.

These allegations are not without considerable evidence, but nothing has been proven quite yet. Investigations are underway and will require thorough scrutiny. Many Congressional Republicans, as well as almost all Congressional Democrats, have been sitting on their hands for an answer.

As Ambassador, Jon Huntsman does not possess a large amount of enumerated political power, but his experience should allow him to be an influential voice nonetheless. Huntsman bucked his own party when he accepted an ambassadorship to China under President Obama, and he seemed to gain considerable approval for his work.

Russia is a different animal altogether from China, though. Chinese foreign policy, while not passive, is not quite as direct and bold as Russia’s has been, especially in regards to Ukraine. It’s true the Chinese government is building islands in the South China Sea, much to the rage of Vietnam, but Beijing is much more reliant on soft power than Moscow. Anti-American sentiment in China certainly exists, but it is not as pronounced as that of Russian state media. The economic relationship between the United States and Russia is also quite different than that of the Sino-American relationship. The United States does not rely on Russian goods the way it does with Chinese goods, and a protectionist trade policy like Trump is promising would affect our relations with China much more than Russia.

The Trump Administration, while young, has been mired in slip-ups and controversy since it started out of the gate. Whether these scandals and controversies deserve the scrutiny and criticism they are getting is up for debate, but a by-product of the clumsy start has been that the Trump Administration has not produced a lot of concrete results – good or bad – in regards to foreign policy. It’s important to remember that Trump has only been in office for less than two months, so there’s a lot more time to write about his presidency. Messages regarding the Administration’s policy on the Kremlin have been inconsistent. Allegations of telephone calls concerning possible sanctions removal between Trump and President Putin are often followed by statements that there will be no sanctions removal “until Crimea is returned to Ukraine”.

Huntsman is an interesting choice for the Ambassadorship. During his brief run for president in 2012, he was often, for better or worse, portrayed as the “moderate” in the Republican party primary because of his beliefs on LGBT rights, climate change, and evolution. One could argue this was more due to his demeanor than his actually being “moderate” as his economic views are quite conservative and he was Governor of one of the most conservative states in America, but the perception seemed to stick.

Huntsman, when judged purely on his own experience, is earnestly qualified for this job. He claimed he was proud to have taken the Ambassadorship to China under President Obama because he saw it as an opportunity to serve his country. However, he will not be setting policy in the same way his boss will, and Ambassadors do not typically dissent against the government they serve, though they can obviously lend their counsel. Therefore, what Huntsman does is likely going to depend on how the Trump Administration manages to weather the storm of possible deeper involvement with pro-Kremlin officials and what type of relationship they decide to pursue with the Kremlin. As of now, we can only really speculate, but the choice itself seems to be well thought out.

By Kyle Menyhert,
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.

Free Russia Foundation is starting to document cases of abduction by the Russian army of Ukrainians for the International Criminal Court

Jul 13 2022

In the temporarily occupied territories of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, in addition to the killing of civilians and horrific destructions carried out by the Russian army: a severe violation of the norms of international law in the form of abduction of Ukrainians into the territory of Russia has been taking place.

Prior to being interned, Ukrainians are placed in so-called “filtration camps” where they are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

All these actions violate the Hague Conventions and constitute an international crime.

We plan to collect information about such abduction cases, put it in written pleadings, and submit them to the International Criminal Court.

If you have been subject to abduction (internment), please, fill in the form via the link.