Russia kicks out U.S. Peace Corps

I guess Russia reached its limit of hippies.

Here it is, by the way.

I see this as strictly tit-for-tat. Russia has had an odd mixture of inferiority/superiority complexes for a long, long time; think of Vladmir Putin’s refusal to accept outside help to raise the *Kursk, * because “we can do it ourselves, nyah, nyah!”

And it is true that many volunteers have no English teaching experience prior to joining the Peace Corps, but IMO that’s hardly the point, and certainly doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer their students. This decision is very short-sighted, and I don’t think it’ll last (at least, I hope it won’t!). The stuff about spying is just ridiculous.

Not really. I looked into joining the Peace Corps in the late 80’s. It was right after the 25th (?) Anniversary of the founding of the Corps and they had spent the previous year trying to locate all former members. As a result they had just created a huge data base of former members many of whom agreed to allow prospects to call them.

I spoke with many former members and while they all loved it and felt is was a very worthwhile experience, most of them decried the political aspect of it. For one, the U.S. only sends volunteers to places that they either want to make a good impression or in an area where there is stuff that they want observed, not necessarily where there is the most need. Most of the former members I spoke with had CIA spooks attempt to debrief them during and/or after their tours. They all claimed that they didn’t tell them anything useful but these CIA guys are very good at gleaning information.

One specific story that I remember is that after a year in the bush, one guy got to spend a weekend in luxury in the U.S. embassy in the big city. I think he was in Kenya but my memory is fuzzy here. An embassy employee took him out to a nice dinner, fed him a few cocktails and started asking him pointed questions about contact that he might have had with certain poitical agitators.

The PC is a great program and an individual can do a great deal of good in it. On the negative side, you risk being sent places where there can be resentment against you and you have an uphill battle to get respect. In any event, Putin might not be so far from the truth if he suspects some spy activity.

Haj

Actually, this is pretty standard. When a nation which has Peace Corps Volunteers in country is upset with the U.S. for this or that, they often kick the Peace Corps out. It is extremely hard for a host leader to make a profit on Peace Corps Volunteers, whereas foreign aid in the form of such things as straight monetary gifts, gifts in grain or goods that can be sold and medical supplies can all easily manipulated to turn a profit. So you don’t want to reject those. In this way, you make a point and you don’t hurt your pocket book. You just get rid of some people helping people. What’s the loss there?

Actually I think this is at least the second time that Peace Corps has been kicked out of Russia for good (I had a friend who was among the volunteers who came back with the first [or possibly second] one). They were quietly let back in after some point or other was made the other time.

India used to be especially good at this ploy. At almost every election, the ruling party would kick out Peace Corps Volunteers as a rejection of “American impericalism” and after the election they would be back. Hotels in Thailand, Mombassa and Ceylon would give special rates to groups of Peace Corps Volunteers who were waiting out the election breaks in India.

Well, about the spying: I’m not denying the CIA might try to leverage the U.S. Government’s investment by debriefing current and former volunteers. I have a friend currently in the PC in Turkmenistan, and in a million years she would never allow herself to be used that way. I think the same is true of most volunteers; they are generally of a political stripe which wouldn’t be keen on helping any administration, let alone the current one, gather intelligrence (knowingly, anyway; I suppose some might be rather naive).

The accusation always pisses me off, though. I’ve spent time in Russia on government funding (Dept. of Education scholarship for language study), and after a while I got really sick of people intimating that any American who can speak halfway decent Russian must be a spy, when IME quite the oppoite is usually true.

Oh, and **TV Time, ** IIRC some PC volunteers weren’t allowed to renew their visas last year, but I think this is the first time the PC has been entirely kicked out of Russia.

Huh. I applied for the Peace Corps (and was accepted, but eventually decided not to go), and they seemed to have a pretty serious screening process for anyone who might possibly be involved in intelligence activities. Past employment with the CIA is automatic grounds for refusal into the program.

I suppose the Russian government doesn’t really care about that, though. This seems to be a rather symbolic gesture on their part.