Citing the recent passage and implementation of laws in Russia that "make it all but impossible for international foundations to operate effectively and support worthy civil society organizations in that country," the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced that it will close its Moscow branch office.
The foundation is among seven U.S. foundations and institutions included in a "patriotic stop list" of organizations being considered for potential designation as "undesirable" — which the government of Russian president Vladimir Putin defines as presenting "a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country, or the security of the state." Other measures adopted by the government include a law requiring Russian nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in "political activities" to register as "foreign agents." Since establishing its Moscow office in 1992, the foundation has awarded grants totaling $173 million to further higher education in Russia, advance human rights in the country, and limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
"Contrary to the premise underlying the Federation Council’s vote, our activities in Russia, at all times, have been to further charitable purposes and benefit Russian citizens and society," MacArthur Foundation president Julia M. Stasch said in a statement. "We are entirely independent of the United States government and receive no funding from it. We have never supported political activities or other actions that could reasonably be construed as meeting the definition of ‘undesirable.’"
Noting that there may be risk for local staff and civil society organizations that seek and receive MacArthur funding, the statement added that the foundation would "take all reasonable steps in accordance with law to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and to work with our grantees to minimize disruption and harm to them."
"The MacArthur Foundation is committed to helping to make truly substantial progress on some of the world’s most profound problems," said Stasch. "We are saddened that it is not possible to do so in Russia at this time."