More evidence that NED is an extraordinarily sensible investment in the future of freedom is to be found in these testimonies from some of the leading freedom-seekers of our time:
- Elena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov: “Practically speaking, the Endowment is the only grant-giving organization which focuses its activities in the post-totalitarian countries directly on supporting the work of non-governmental organizations. In this way, it promotes the emergence of civil society, which serves as the basic guarantee that the future development of these countries will follow along a democratic path…The closing of the Endowment poses a danger…which can best be characterized by the proverb, ‘Penny wise, pound foolish.'”
- Vytautas Landsbergis, former president of independent Lithuania: “NED played a critical role in Lithuania’s drive to reestablish democracy and national independence… NED had the foresight and courage to support us at a time when others in the West preferred to sit on the sidelines or even to support Goliath against David… Lithuania’s democratic forces need NED’S assistance today as much as they needed its help in 1989 and 1990, [for] the return of anti democratic regimes in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union… is an ever-present threat not just to the citizens of those countries but also to those of the United States.”
- Nine Ukrainian Parliamentarians: “We are grateful to NED for its contribution to the development of democracy. That is the best proof of the American people’s devotion to democratic ideals.”
- Kanan Makiya, Iraqi author of Republic of Fear and Cruelty and Silence: “Because of what NED has done for Iraq since the Gulf War, it has been possible for Iraqi writers and human rights activists to get their ideas and aspirations into Iraq… Reports still reach me of the effect of this kind of work in creating a new and enriching climate of ideas on issues of democracy and the imperative for a central focus on human rights in the building of a new order in Iraq. None of this would have been possible without the backing of [NED]… The work of NED affects millions of lives and must continue.”
- Fang Lizhi, Chinese astrophysicist and democratic dissident: “The pro-democracy movements of many countries, including China, are directly encouraged by NED’S efforts… NED’S functions are still absolutely necessary for the leadership of the United States in international affairs.
- Sein Win, Burmese democratic leader: “The NED’S support for our struggles, in the face of severely limited resources, is very crucial and could make a difference between total victory and defeat for the democratic forces… Reducing or cutting off NED’S support would surely weaken to a great extent democratic movements in general and our struggle in particular.”
- Mikhail Kazachkov, president, Freedom Channel, Russia: “NED is in a class all by itself. During my recent stay in Russia I did not hear a single negative word about NED operations. Instead, NED has a positive image of American sympathy with the tremendous obstacles Russians face in moving toward a more democratic and economically healthy society.”
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.