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Swedish financial support to Russia

Given the current situation, Swedish financial support to Russia has been put into question. This was recently discussed in the major Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, in an article in which Anders Olofsgård, Deputy Director of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE), was interviewed among others.

The article emphasises that it is important to understand that transfers to Russia consists of democracy support to the civil society, and to environmental projects

Matilda Ernkrans, minister for international development co-operation, has also just clarified that the small amounts going to state run universities will be stopped. Democracy support is challenging and its impact is rarely in the short run, but as brought up by Anders Olofsgård research suggests that it does have a small positive impact on average.

The impact depends also on exactly what activities are backed, and not surprisingly the ability to make a difference in the short run is smaller in highly repressive states. Anders emphasises though that even if democracy support in itself may not be the decisive trigger for a transition to democracy, once such a transition gets started, actors and organizations supported can play a vital role. In that process, credible information, a strong civil society, and organized democratic political forces can be vital for a successful transition. It should also be mentioned that fungibility, i.e. when foreign investments are merely replacing domestic investments in certain activities and thus releases domestic resources that can be used to something else (potentially malicious), is less of a concern in this case. This is because democracy support targets recipients and activities that authoritarian regimes rarely back themselves.  

Democracy support is thus one of few available channels through which progressive elements in a country like Russia can be backed from abroad. This can show to be of importance, not least in such an unstable situation as the current one.

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