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The administration should facilitate broad civil society engagement between the United States and Russia. Cooperation between organizations in both countries offers the potential to strengthen Russia’s civil society through knowledge transfer and sharing of best practices.
Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Fellow Sarah Mendelson suggests allowing these relationships to evolve organically, according to the needs of parties on both sides. She advocates facilitating meetings between, inter alia, environmental groups, veterans associations, and public health organizations from both countries. The United States should also include U.S. and Russian anticorruption and government accountability groups in these events. The Obama administration should provide the funding and facilitate the issuance of visas to these groups in order to get these programs off the ground as soon as possible.
The United States should seek to further expand these meetings to include organizations from other countries. Their inclusion could mitigate the negative effects of the troubled history associated with U.S. efforts to work with Russian civil society. The United States could invite civil society groups from the world’s other vibrant democracies, including countries like Brazil and India, as well as our European allies.
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