Staunton, June 17 – The Kremlin talks constantly developing contacts with Russians abroad and promoting Russian “soft power” abroad, but its main agency to do these things – the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots and International Humanitarian Relations – prefers to work where its staff can be comfortable rather than where they are needed.
That is the judgment of many observers surveyed by Versiya journalist Aleksandr Petrov who points out that Roissotrudnichestvo as the agency is known has offices in all West European countries regardless of need but not in less pleasant places like the Central African Republic where the need is critical (versia.ru/pochemu-rossotrudnichestvo-ne-xochet-rabotat-v-afrike).
The agency and its head, Yevgeny Primakov, routinely ignore the problems of compatriots, engage in pro forma activities that do little good, and make sure its employees have nice housing in comfortable surroundings rather than working to promote Russia and its image with compatriots and others abroad, Petrov continues.
As a result, he says, “the further we go from the capitals, of rich and big cities, the rarer we encounter people from Rossotrudnichestvo.” And they aren’t to be found even in places like the Central African Republic or Sudan where there is an obvious need and where other Russian officials have asked that they open an office.
The agency’s officers are only to pleased to have teas in Warsaw or Paris, but they aren’t willing to focus on places less pleasant for themselves but perhaps equally or even more important for Russia. Indeed, it has become a rule of thumb that none of its people will be found in places with infrastructure problems or civil wars.
Consequently, this organization on which the government lavishes enough sums and talks as if it is playing such an important role isn’t doing its job, Petrov says, unless one defines its job in the narrowest of terms: pleasing its staff regardless of what that means for its ability to perform its tasks or meet the needs of the country.