NED’s history should lead to it being renamed the “National Endowment for Attacking Democracy,” as journalist Stephen Kinzer suggests.

On January 17, Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis, writing for the website Declassified UK, disclosed that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit corporation funded by the U.S. Congress, had ploughed more than 2.6 million pounds into seven independent British media groups over the last five years.

The media groups included openDemocracy, the Media Legal Defence Intiative, Thompson Reuters and Bellingcat—which is known for promoting disinformation lending support for regime-change operations in countries such as Russia and Syria.

Though supporting the work of the Jimmy Carter Center to secure fair and transparent elections, the NED has been involved since its founding in 1983 in trying to undermine or remove governments independent of Washington, including democratic ones in BoliviaEcuador and Venezuela.

Philip Agee, the late CIA whistleblower, wrote in the 1990s that “nowadays, instead of having the CIA going around behind the scenes and trying to manipulate the process by inserting money here and giving instructions secretly and so forth, they have now a sidekick, which is this National Endowment for Democracy, NED.”[1]

This assessment was confirmed by Allen Weinstein, the director of the research study that led to creation of the NED in the 1980s, who remarked in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.”

A ProPublica video report put it even more bluntly: “The National Endowment for Democracy was established by Congress, in effect, to take over the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts.”

These propaganda efforts appear to have extended to the U.S. itself, where the NED has received largely favorable publicity—if its activities are covered at all.

The media blackout has extended to many alternative media outlets, which fail to disclose the NED’s support for foreign protest movements.

This article provides an overview of NED’s history and discussion of its wide reach. The NED is a vital component of the U.S. empire, whose emphasis on advancing human rights and democracy helps provide a liberal veneer to imperialistic policies.

Noam Chomsky - IMDb
Noam Chomsky [Source:]

Noam Chomsky wrote that the true agenda of the NED was to “impose what is called democracy, meaning rule by the rich and the powerful, without interference by the mob, but within the framework of formal electoral procedure.”

Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld explained in NACLA that the NED may at times ally with movements and individuals genuinely dedicated to democratizing their countries; however, it “sets the parameters of debate by positioning a particular definition of pro-market, representative democracy as the only antiauthoritarian option,” isolating those with a more radical vision.

Tellingly, in 1989, when the NED held its first world conference of democratic activists, invitees were strictly disciples of free market capitalism.[2] In numerous countries where the NED has operated, the suspicion bred by foreign funding has led to the advent of strict laws outlawing NGOs and dissent, marking the NED’s “democracy-promotion” efforts as being at best counter-productive. The NED’s leadership does not seem to understand that democracy has to develop organically, and that U.S.-style democracy with its money-saturated electoral system is deeply flawed and no model for other countries.

Choices Program | Stephen Kinzer - Choices Program
Stephen Kinzer [Source:]

Referencing the NED’s efforts to influence elections in Mongolia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia and build anti-Russia movements in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, journalist Stephen Kinzer said that the NED should be more properly called the “National Endowment for Attacking Democracy.”

Journalist Daniel Lazare said it should be renamed the National Endowment for Meddling in Democracy, which would also be appropriate.

Missionaries for Democracy

The concept for the NED first originated in the 1960s when the CIA began to get bad press after it was exposed to have been covertly funding private organizations and political parties in foreign nations.

Dante Fascell - Wikipedia
Dante Fascell [Source:]

Congressman Dante Fascell (D-FL), NED co-founder, introduced a bill in April 1967 to create the Institute of International Affairs, an initiative that would authorize overt funding for what the U.S. referred to as “exporting democracy,” but it did not go through.

Circumstances changed with more exposure of CIA abuses in the 1970s and conservative cold warrior Ronald Reagan’s election as president.

On June 8, 1982, Reagan gave a speech at the British parliament in London announcing the creation of the NED, whose purpose, Reagan said, was to “foster the infrastructure of democracy—the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities—which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.”[3]

The Westminster Speech - June 8, 1982
Reagan delivering Westminster address on June 8, 1982. [Source:]
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Samuel P. Huntington [Source:]

At the NED’s inaugural conference, Harvard Professor and former National Security Council (NSC) staffer Samuel Huntington spoke about a new “third wave of democracy,”[4] that he said the U.S. was in a strong position to try to advance.

Publicly financed, the NED carried out its activities “proudly without the secrecy that tainted the CIA’s activities,” as David K. Shipler wrote in The New York Times in 1986.

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Keith Schuette, head of the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, an NED affiliate that bankrolled conservative political parties in foreign nations, said that “we engaged in almost missionary work. We’ve seen what the socialists do for each other. We’ve seen what the communists do for each other. And now, we’ve come along and we have a broadly democratic movement, a force for democracy.”

The CIA-NED connection was personified by Walter Raymond Jr., a propaganda expert and former senior officer in the CIA Directorate of Operations who supervised the NED under Reagan and served as its liaison to CIA Director William Casey.[5]

John Richardson, chair of the NED’s Board of Directors, was another old CIA hand, having been president of the CIA-sponsored Radio Free Europe from 1961 to 1968, of the International Rescue Committee, and director of Freedom House, which publicized human rights abuses in governments hostile to the U.S.[6] 

Carl Gershman [Source:]

The NED’s first director, Carl Gershman (1983-2021), was the former chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League (1970-1974) and Trotskyist who allied with the hawkish Henry “Scoop” Jackson/Daniel Patrick Moynihan wing of the Democratic Party after liberal-progressive George S. McGovern’s resounding defeat in the 1972 election.[7]

In 1975, Gershman wrote a book celebrating the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO)’s history of penetrating foreign labor unions and opposing communism. George Meany, the AFL-CIO’s president from 1955-1979 is the hero of the story dating from his emergence as an “opponent of American isolationism prior to Pearl Harbor.” Another hero is CIA asset Irving Brown who purged communists from labor unions in Italy and France and directed the breaking of communist-led strikes.[8]

Gershman’s neoconservatism was reflected in a 1977 pamphlet that he co-wrote with Bayard Rustin, an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, entitled “Africa, Soviet Imperialism and the Retreat of American Power.” It claimed that the pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)’s victory over the South African and U.S. backed National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) “exposed the total disorientation of American liberals still reeling from Vietnam” and “increased Africa’s vulnerability to a fate considerably worse than colonialism.”[9]

Gershman wrote another pamphlet in 1977 sponsored by the Social Democrats “After the Dominos Fell” criticizing antiwar activist Noam Chomsky and detailing the political repression gripping Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia following the communist victory in the Indochina War. Reprinted from articles in the right-wing Commentary Magazine, Gershman quoted from a Vietnamese refugee who characterized the Vietnamese communist government as “the most inhumane and oppressive,” and waxed nostalgia for the South Vietnamese gangster regime of Nguyen Van Thieu, whom Gershman praised for allowing publication of 27 daily newspapers which the communists shut down.[10]

A Harvard and Yale graduate, Gershman participated in the 1965 march in Selma Alabama for voting rights and was a member of the governing council of a Jewish lobbying organization affiliated with Commentary.[11]

In the early 1980s, he worked as an aide to Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who as U.S. ambassador to the UN was a key sponsor of the Contra War in Nicaragua.[12] In 1979, Kirkpatrick had written an influential article in Commentary, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which claimed that totalitarian regimes of the Left could never be reformed while right-wing authoritarian regimes backed by the U.S. could be made to transition to democracy.

The First Decade

Spending about $30 million per year, the NED financed democratic media, NGOs and writing by pro-Western dissidents. It provided grants to the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and to the Democratic and Republican National Institutes, which supported like-minded political parties in foreign nations.

A secret arm of the NED headed by Oliver North used $4.5 million in “assets” to help the Nicaraguan Contras—right wing-paramilitaries intent on sabotaging the socialist Sandinista government that came to power in a 1979 revolution and then won 1984 elections.

According to the Associated Press, North’s secret arm financed six aircraft warehouses, supplies, maintenance facilities, ships, boats, leased houses, vehicles, ordinance, muitions, communications equipment and a 6,520 runway in Costa Rica.

In another early project, the NED provided $180,845 to conduct literacy courses for rebel fighters in Afghanistan (Islamic fundamentalists), enabling them to publish textbooks with unflattering accounts of the Soviets, and supported the Afghanistan Relief Committee, which published an english language bulletin intended for western reporters.[13]

The NED additionally financed the right-wing New National Party (NNP) in Grenada, which won 1984 elections (monitored by the NED) that followed the Operation Urgent Fury ousting the left-wing New Jewel movement.[14]

Ronald Reagan with Herbert Blaize on his right, the head of the New National Party which won Grenada’s 1984 elections with NED support. After his victory, Blaize dismantled the social welfare programs of the New Jewel era, rewrote the labor code to maximize business competitiveness, privatized state-owned businesses, greatly lowered taxes and gave concessions to foreign firms and those that assembled for the export market. [Source:]

The New York Times reported that the NED in the 1980s was active in a) helping the anti-communist Solidarity labor union print underground newspapers in Poland; b) buying materials for anti-Sandinista newspapers in Nicaragua like La Prensa;[15] and c) bolstering the non-communist opposition to a U.S.-imposed military dictatorship in South Korea.

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Ambassador Daniel Fried, along with former NED Director Carl Gershman in November 2019 present Polish Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa with a framed print depicting the “Goddess of Democracy,” the statue erected by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989. [Source:]

The NED further a) monitored and publicized human rights abuses in communist Vietnam and Cambodia, and b) funded right-wing opponents of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who refused to go along with the Reagan administration’s anti-communist policy in Central America.

It also a) gave over $100,000 per year to the anti-Castro Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), a lobby group in Miami which the Cuban government accused of funding terrorist attacks within Cuba; b) funded a former Nazi collaborator in Hungary, Laszlo Pasztor; and c) poured in $9 million to coopt the movement that drove dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power in the Philippines in order to protect U.S. military bases.[16]


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Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, an NED subversion target in the 1980s. [Source:]

Additionally, the NED a) in violation of U.S. neutrality laws, helped to secure the 1984 election of Nicolas Barletta, a U.S. trained economist backed by Panama’s military, who narrowly defeated populist Arnulfo Arias in what the U.S.’s own ambassador called a “hair-brained project,” b) financed publications by anticommunist dissidents in Russia and China; c) financed a privatization initiative in Chile to make sure Allende-style socialism did not come back; d) poured in nearly one million dollars to help defeat the Bulgarian socialist party in June 1990 elections; and e) financed extreme right-wing political groups in France who opposed socialist François Mitterand.[17]

Finest Hour? Psycho-Political Warfare and the Demise of the Soviet Empire

In a September 1991 article in The Washington Post, David Igantius partially attributed the defeat of a hardline anti-Boris Yeltsin coup that spelled the end of the Communist Party’s seventy four year rule in Russia to a new weapon in the U.S. foreign policy arsenal—independent democracy aid.

“The old era of covert action is dead,’” Ignatius wrote, “Preparing the ground for last month’s triumph of overt action was a network of overt operatives who during the last 10 years have quietly been changing the rules of international politics. They have been doing in public what the CIA used to do in private–providing money and moral support for pro-democracy groups, training resistance fighters, working to subvert communist rule. And, in contrast to many of the CIA’s superannuated Cold Warriors, who tended to get tangled in their webs of secrecy, these overt operatives have been immensely successful.”[18]

David Ignatius [Source:]

Between 1984 and 1990, the NED provided $40 million with the goal of bringing down the “evil Soviet empire.”[19]

Hardline anticommunists in the national security establishment such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Richard Pipes, who were both of Polish background, worked with Carl Gershman in this period to identify dissidents in the Soviet Union’s constituent republics who could help destabilize the Soviet regime and financed anticommunist Soviet emigrés agitating for regime change along the model of the Polish anticommunist resistance.

Richard Pipes [Source:] Zbigniew Brzezinski [Source:]

The Soviet newspaper Pravda described the NED not inaccurately as a “CIA front engaged in psycho-political warfare;” it financed national minority groups from Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia and Crimean Tatars who were partnering with intelligence services to “foment subversive activity.”

Richard Pipes, according to Pravda was a “malicious falsifier” whose view of the Soviet Union as expansionist was “based on pathological hatred.” Literaturnaya Gazeta, another Soviet publication, referred to NED recipients like the journal Glasnost, as “CIA pawns tasked with inflaming nationalist conflicts in hot-spots like Crimea, Georgia and Latvia,” which indeed they had done.[20]

Defenders and Critics

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank (D-1981-2013) tried to halt funding for the NED in the 1980s, stating that “to say we were not going to fund public transportation or research on cancer because we’ve got to give money to a French union for political purposes just doesn’t seem reasonable.”

Congressman Barney Frank Archives Collection | Claire T. Carney Library -  UMass Dartmouth
Barney Frank [Source:]

Congressman Hank Brown (R-CO, 1981-1991) said that the French disclosures about funding of extreme right-wing parties “required Americans to ask how they would feel if they learned that the French government was giving millions of dollars to the AFL-CIO to oppose the policies of Ronald Reagan.”

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Hank Brown [Source:]

Paul Kanjorski (D-PA, 1985-2011) accused the NED of unaccountable and anti-democratic behavior in its foreign programs and at home—noting that an NED grantee, the Polish American Congress, organized opposition against him in his heavily Polish-American district.

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Paul Kanjorski [Source:]

When the House voted unexpectedly to defund the NED in 1993, Republicans John McCain, Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch, and Democrats Paul Wellstone, John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy and Carol Mosely Braun rallied to save it.

In 2003, Ron Paul (R-TX) wrote an op-ed stating that

the misnamed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is nothing more than a costly program that takes U.S. taxpayer funds to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED does in foreign countries, through its recipient organizations the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), would be rightly illegal in the United States. The NED injects ‘soft money’ into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favor of one party or the other. Imagine what a couple of hundred thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call U.S. manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’ How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?”[21]

Former Rep. Ron Paul hospitalized after livestreamed medical episode
Ron Paul [Source:]

Many Democrats disagreed with Paul. In June 2018, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Julian Castro (D-TX) attended an NED ceremony on North Korea that was designed to block President Donald Trump’s efforts to normalize relations with it.[22]

Nancy Pelosi at NED awards ceremony honoring alleged human rights defenders in China. [Source:]

When Trump threatened to slash the NED’s budget by 60 percent, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin moaned that the administration was guilty of an “assault on democracy promotion,” while uber-hawk Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pronounced Trump’s cut “dead on arrival,” stating that “this budget destroys soft power, it puts our diplomats at risk, and it’s going nowhere.” Which is where it went.

Who’s Who of Hawks

The list of the NED’s past Board members reads like a who’s who of neo-conservatives, Russophobes, regime-change specialists, and war hawks who constitute what Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes famously called “the Blob”—or foreign policy establishment. The list includes:

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Former Board member Francis Fukuyama speaks at NED. His 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man justified U.S. imperialism, claiming that U.S.-style democracy and capitalism had triumphed during the Cold War and was superior to any other political-economic system. [Source:]
  • Henry Kissinger
  • Victoria Nuland
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Frank Carlucci (Reagan’s Defense Secretary and key figure associated with the assassination of Patrice Lumumba)
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (extreme right-wing former congresswoman from Florida)
  • William Burns (current CIA Director)
  • General Wesley Clark
  • Norm Coleman (Republican supporter of the Iraq War who became Senator after his progressive opponent Paul Wellstone’s plane crashed)
  • Sally Shelton-Colby (late wife of CIA Director William Colby, former head of the murderous Phoenix operation. She served as treasurer of the NED in the mid 1980s)
  • Paula Dobriansky (State Department official who is the daughter of Ukrainian Nazi and holds sympathies with the far right)
  • Jean Bethke Elshtain (pro-war philosopher who advised President George W. Bush)
  • Francis “the end of history” Fukuyama
  • Richard Holbrooke
  • Fred Iklé (member of the Project for the New American Century)
  • Winston Lord (Kissinger associate and President of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1977 to 1985)
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter
  • Paul Wolfowitz
Victoria Nuland, right, and Anne Applebaum, middle, are part of star-studded NED panel about “defending democracy” in Poland, which is currently run by a Russophobic, right-wing government championed by the U.S. that underplays Poland’s role in the Holocaust. Applebaum is married to a former Polish Foreign Miniser. [Source:]

Love Me, I’m a Liberal

The NED’s most prestigious fellowship is named after Dante Fascell who was instrumental in founding the NED and served on its initial Board of Directors.

A Democrat representing Dade County, Florida, from 1955 to 1993, Fascell steered NED grants to the anti-Castro Cuban American National Foundation, whose founder, Jorge Mas Canosa, a wealthy Miami businessman, funded Fascell’s political campaigns.[23]

To Shed Love for your Country
Jorge Mas Canosa gives speech before CANF in 1980s. [Source:]

An early proponent of the Vietnam War and 1991 Persian Gulf War, Fascell worked in the 1980s as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to repeal the Clark Amendment, which barred the CIA from sending aid to right-wing UNITA rebels in Angola which fought against Cuban forces supporting the Angolan government.

After Fascell’s retirement from Congress, he became a partner in the notorious Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly lobbying firm, and continued to lobby his former colleagues to repeal the Clark Amendment.

Famous Pipe Smokers: Dante Fascell
Dante Fascell [Source:]

Penn Kemble is another NED luminary—he has a prestigious forum on democracy named after him—with lineage in the anti-communist Left.

Influenced by the thinking of Alex Garber, a professor of sociology who was an anti-communist social democrat, Kemble was a national secretary of the Socialist Party in 1968 and founding member of Social Democrats USA. In the late 1960s, he founded Negotiation Now!, a group which called for an end to the bombing of North Vietnam and a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam War, but opposed a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam.

In 1972, Kemble organized a protest of the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, featuring a picket line of 76 anti-communist Vietnamese. Subsequently, he founded the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM), an association of centrist Democrats that opposed the “new politics” of liberalism exemplified by Senator George McGovern (D-SD) who, in 1972, had campaigned on a “come home America” platform. 

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Penn Kemble at the time of his election as National Secretary of the Socialist Party in 1968. [Source:]

After working for neo-conservative Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Kemble became President of the Committee for Democracy in Central America (PRODEMCA), which criticized Marxist-Leninists in Central America, especially the Sandinistas and Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador. Kemble supported congressional funding of the Contras with the stipulation that the Reagan administration negotiate with the Sandinistas.[24]

A New Generation Draws the Line

The NED’s continued commitment to the goals of the Reagan doctrine is evident in its current President and CEO, Damon Wilson, who succeeded Carl Gershman following his retirement in 2021.

An enthusiastic proponent of NATO expansion from his time as a graduate student at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Wilson was Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in 2007, senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, and Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council, “NATO’s think tank in Washington” which has promoted aggressive policies toward Russia while receiving funding from dubious corporate actors profiting off the new Cold War.

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Damon Wilson—carrying forward the Reagan doctrine. [Source:]

The current chairman of NED’s Board of Directors, Kenneth Wollack, was honored by Lithuania’s right-wing anti-Russia government and was, from 1973 to 1980, legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC, aka the Israeli Lobby).[25]

Further reflecting its right-wing, Reagan-era roots, the NED has welcomed Elliott Abrams as a member of its Board. In the early 1980s, as Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, he helped manage the Contra War and cover up the El Mozote massacre carried out by U.S. proxy forces in El Salvador—the largest massacre in Latin American history.[26]

Abrams’ conviction for lying congress did not prevent him from being appointed to the National Security Council under George W. Bush, whose illegal invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan) he championed, or from being appointed in 2019 as a special envoy to Venezuela where he tried to engineer another right-wing coup.

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Elliott Abrams testifies before Congress amidst backdrop of protesters publicizing his history as a war criminal. [Source:]

Another of the well-known NED board members, Anne Applebaum, is a Washington Post columnist who championed the Iraq War in a 2002 Slate column entitled “You Can’t Assume a Nut Will Act Rationally.” Applebaum also called for “total war” against nuclear-armed Russia when Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia after the February 2014 U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine.

A supporter of Hillary Clinton’s doomed 2016 presidential campaign, Applebaum has written some deeply biased books about the Soviet Union, including Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, which blames Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin for deliberately starving Ukrainian peasants in the Holodomor. Historian Mark Tauger’s research uncovered that Ukraine’s famine had environmental causes, which Soviet policies aimed to overcome.

Anne Applebaum - Wikipedia
Anne Applebaum [Source:]

“National Endowment for Attacking Democracy”

The NED has carried on the legacy of its founding generation by working to fund opposition political parties and propaganda in countries ruled by pro-Russian or left-leaning leaders that defy U.S. global hegemonic designs.

Below is a regional breakdown of the NED’s major activities:

1. Southeast Asia:

According to its website, the NED in Southeast Asia prioritizes three countries: China—including Tibet, Hong Kong, and East Turkistan; North Korea and Burma.

The choice of countries is strategic and designed to destabilize China and its allies.

In Hong Kong—which received millions of dollars of NED grants over the last two decades—the NED-funded groups associated with the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition that organized protests which broke out in 2019 against an extradition law and which challenged China’s authority (sovereignty over Hong Kong had been transferred from the UK to China in 1997).

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Hong Kong politicians and activists opposed to China meet at NED forum in 2014. [Source:]

In 2020, the NED gave more than $2 million to “civic groups” in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet autonomous regions to sabotage the region’s stability. Some $1 million went for defending and advocating for human rights in Xinjiang, a mineral-rich province where China’s alleged genocide against the Uyghur people has been played up for political reasons.

Spokesperson发言人办公室 on Twitter: "The National Endowment for Democracy (NED)  said on Twitter that they have funded separatist forces in #Xinjiang since  2004. Have a look at the self-styled flag of East Turkestan.

In 2020, the NED gave more than $5 million to dissident and exile groups from North Korea to try to undermine North Korea’s communist government, which has resisted U.S. designs since the late 1940s.[27]

A significant portion of the money there went toward broadcasting North Korea’s alleged human rights crimes, and supporting anti-Kim regime media, including the South Korea-based internet newspaper, Daily North Korea, which received $848,000. The newspaper is known for publishing stories from North Korean defectors who are often of dubious reliability—in part because they receive large bounties from South Korea for their testimony ($860,000).[28]

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Former NED Director Carl Gershman with North Korean defector Ji Seong-Ho at the 2018 Democracy Awards. According to Max Blumenthal, the event was timed to coincide with President Donald Trump’s peace summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-Un. The ceremony appeared to be the opening shot of a massive public relations effort aimed at stifling normalized relations with North Korea. [Source:]

In the past couple of years, the IRI brought North Korean defectors to Mongolia to study its post-communist transition, even though unemployment there ballooned to over 20 percent and one-third of the population was left to live below nutritional starvation levels under the right-wing libertarian government that the U.S. helped bring to power in 1996.

Myanmar received more than $6 million in NED funds in an effort to topple the pro-Chinese military junta. Some of the funds were directed towards supporting oppressed minority groups (Kachin, Karen, Shan) who financed uprisings against the government through opium trafficking.[29]

Washington’s main desire is to control the coastline off Myanmar, which provides naval access to the Strait of Malacca, the narrow ship passage between Malaysia and Indonesia through which more than 80 percent of all China’s oil imports are shipped.[30]

How US government fronts shape media coverage of Myanmar upheaval,  propagandize for Western intervention - The Grayzone

In 2012, the NED gave a major award to pro-Western politician Aung San Suu Kyi, whose saintly façade crumbled with her active complicity in the government-directed butchery of Rohingya Muslims.

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Aung San Suu Kyi receives the 2012 National Endowment for Democracy award from Carl Gershman (left), President of the National Endowment for Democracy, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. [Source:]

The youngest daughter of the father of modern Burma, Aung San, Kyi was a leader of the 2007 NED-backed “Saffron revolution,” which featured “hit-and-run” protests with “swarming” mobs of Buddhists in saffron, internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, and protest cells that were run out of the U.S embassy in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Saffron Revolution: A Look Back
Made in the USA? Burma’s Saffron revolution. [Source:]

That same embassy more recently helped coordinate protests—assisted by more than $3 million in NED funds in 2020—demanding the overthrow of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Thailand’s monarchy which had turned to China. The NED sponsored an organization petitioning for a new constitution which reflected blatant political meddling.

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2. Eurasia:

Seeking to capitalize on the “historic opportunity…to build democracy in place of a centralized communist system,” the NED provided over $38 million in funding to Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union between 1990 and 1998.[31]

Some of the funding went to help swing Russia’s 1996 election to Boris Yeltsin, who acquiesced to rapid privatization (aka “shock therapy”) that devastated Russia’s economy and to NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.[32]

Yeltsin’s disdain for democracy had been evident three years earlier when he ordered troops to storm the Russian parliament after he faced impeachment for selling out Russia to foreign interests and corrupt oligarchs.[33]

When Yeltsin’s successor Vladimir Putin (2000-present) made clear that he would reassert Russia’s economic sovereignty and not be bullied by the U.S., the NED sprang into action with a campaign to undermine him. In 2020, $10.67 million was given to Russian civil society and opposition media groups and politicians for this purpose.

In April 2015, the NED supported a symposium honoring Boris Nemtsov, a former Yeltsin adviser and mafia connected oligarch associated with the shock therapy policies of the 1990s who had been accused of embezzlement of public funds.[34]

NED favorites Boris Yeltsin, left, and Boris Nemtsov in 1992. [Source:]

One of the panelists at the symposium, William Browder, was a hedge fund manager convicted in Russian court of failing to pay 552 million rubles in taxes ($16 million) and illegally buying up shares in Gazprom (Russian gas company), for which he was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison.

Browder was a driver behind economic sanctions targeting Russia that were named after his accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison after allegedly trying to expose a $230 million tax scam targeting Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital.

Carl Gershman considered the Magnitsky Act “the most important pierce of human rights legislation in the last generation.” However, the sanctions caused economic hardship and Magnitsky actually specialized in off-shoring money and was a suspect in the tax scam, which Browder may have himself initiated.

Sergey Magnitsky and William F. Browder [Source:]

In 2006, the NED gave a $23,000 grant to an organization that employed Alexei Navalny, another anti-Putin politician and con man who had been aligned with Russia’s far-right. Convicted for stealing $500,000 from a state-owned timber company and defrauding a cosmetics company, Navalny’s anti-corruption drive appeared to draw on information from Western intelligence agencies.[35]

The NED’s anti-Russia agenda was apparent in its financing the Russian-Chechen Friendship Association, a Finland-based NGO suspected of being a CIA-front that issued press releases claiming serious human rights violations by Russia in Chechnya.[36] In 2008, the society’s director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky, was convicted of incitement to ethnic or racial hatred.

In 2018, the NED gave its Democracy Service Medal to Mustafa Dzhemilov, a former Soviet dissident and leader of the Crimean Tatars who Russia accused of helping to coordinate an energy and food blockade of Crimea after it had voted to rejoin Russia in March 2014 following a U.S. backed coup in Ukraine.

A Russian prosecutor referred to the legislative body of the Crimean Taters which Dzhemilov was part as “puppets in the hands of big Western puppeteers who used the Crimean Tatar people as pawns in their game.”

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NED Director Carl Gershman awarding Mustafa Dzhemilev with Democracy Service Medal. [Source:]

The NED’s strategy was very clever in championing the cause of ethnic minorities in Russia and China, which offered a way to burnish its image as a human rights champion while demonizing and striking a blow at America’s geopolitical rivals.

The plight of minority groups victimized by U.S. clients, like the Roma in Ukraine, Muslims in Indian-occupied Kashmir, Saharawi people in Moroccan occupied Western Sahara, Papuans in Indonesia, and Palestinians in the Israeli occupied territory went largely unrecognized, meanwhile, along with oppressed groups in the U.S. like the Native and African-Americans.

Iboya Popp holding photos of her murdered husband, David Popp [Al Jazeera]
Roma woman in Kyiv holding photo of her husband who was killed by a right-wing gang. They are what Edward S. Herman once called “unworthy victims” in the NED’s calculations. [Source:]
FLastrucci Saharawi 222
Memorial to victims of Moroccan military aggression in Western Sahara. The cause of the Saharawi people is not one taken up by the NED because the U.S. government supports Morocco. [Source:]

In 2015, the Russian congress passed a law labeling the NED “undesirable.” The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that “we will never tolerate mentoring and open interference in our affairs by foreign structures.” It is believed that NED projects “aimed at destabilising the internal situation in countries which pursue independent policies in line with their own national interests, rather than following instructions from Washington.”[37]

These countries have included Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, and Kazakhstan, which have experienced color revolutions backed by the U.S. that were designed to pry them out of the Russian orbit and leave them in a position to accept NATO expansion.

In 2018-2019, the NED spent almost three million dollars in Belarus, which was targeted in a color revolution directed against Socialist Alexander Lukashenko, a close Russian ally who sustained considerable popular support because of the strength of his country’s social programs.[38]

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Protests in Minsk in August 2020 with the aim of bringing down Alexander Lukashenko’s socialist government. The protesters fly Belarus’s pre-revolutionary flag. [Source:]

Much of the NED funding was directed toward training youth activists in political organizing, strengthening NGOs and financing independent anti-Lukashenko media, which played a pivotal role in trying to stir up opposition and protests against him. The NED has also set out to publicize human rights abuses as a means of undermining Lukashenko’s legitimacy.[39]

The same approach has been deployed in Kazakhstan where the U.S. was supporting a color revolution led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a criminal fraudster who headed Kazakhstan’s main right-wing political party.

In 2020, the NED budgeted $61,450 for defending human rights$69,920 for what it called promoting and defending civil society, and $300,550 for independent news and commentary. All of these initiatives sound positive, but their primary intention is to stir anti-regime opposition with the hope of establishing a U.S. client government that will privatize the economy, grant privileges to multi-national corporations, allow for U.S. military bases and seek to join NATO.

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Protesters climb on top of a van in Almaty on January 6. [Source:; collage by staff]

When violent protests begin to escalate, the opposition media kick into high gear, depicting the president as a tyrant committing human rights crimes, and international media—including often even alternative media—follow suit. Regime change usually follows, though in the case of Kazakhstan, Russian and CSTO support, combined with the lack of organization and vision of the protest movement, resulted in the color revolution’s failure.

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Ablyazov arrives at court hearing in France in 2014. [Source:]

The NED achieved greater success in Moldova, where $1.8 million in grants contributed to the 2020 election of Maia Sandu, a pro-EU/NATO politician. She defeated Igor Dodon, a socialist who had allied Moldova with Russia and showed interest in forging greater ties with North Korea.

3. Eastern Europe:

In Eastern Europe, a centerpiece of NED activity has been in Ukraine, where it supported two color revolutions directed against pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych. NED Director Carl Gershman referred to Ukraine as the “biggest prize” for Russia, which he accused of adopting bullying tactics.[40]

The 2004 color revolution replaced Yanukovych with Viktor Yushchenko, who favored admitting Ukraine to NATO and issued a decree making World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera a national hero.


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NED activists employed a broad public relations strategy that included: a) busing paid out-of-town protesters into Kyiv; b) creating an online TV protest station and agitation paraphernalia; and c) providing offshore training to the anti-Yanukovych student leadership. The strategy was based on the writings of Gene Sharp and a template that the NED had successfully employed in Serbia with a youth group called “Otpor,” which helped secure the defeat of socialist Slobodan Milosovic in September 2000 elections.

A parallel approach was used during the 2014 Maidan Square uprising which resulted in Yanukovych’s ouster and the advent of a pro-Western regime in Kyiv that was infiltrated by the far right and triggered a war in eastern Ukraine that has left 14,000 civilians dead.

During the fall of 2013, the NED named as a Dante Fascell fellow Sergii Leschenko, a journalist who exposed how Yanukovych had paid Republican party strategist Paul Manafort $1.2 million as a political consultant.

Ukrainian who meddled against Trump in 2016 is now under Russia-corruption  cloud | TheHill
Sergii Leschenko. After the Maidan coup, he became a member of parliament advocating for Ukraine’s integration with Europe. After the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. [Source:]

As a sign of the NED’s influence, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (2014-2020)—a main beneficiary of the Maidan coup currently awaiting trial on treason charges[41]bestowed the Order of Princess Olga, one of Ukraine’s highest honors, on Dr. Nadia Diuk,[42] a former vice president and senior adviser to the NED for Europe and Eurasia.

Ukraine's Democratic Choice – Nadia Diuk - YouTube
Nadia Diuk, right, pontificates at NED forum. [Source:]

In 2020, the NED provided $4.6 million to Ukraine for purposes that included raising awareness of alleged human rights abuses by Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where it was the Ukrainian army and right-wing militias allied with it that had committed the most large-scale war crimes.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the NED provided $500,000 to civil society groups in Romania and Bulgaria to strengthen what it calls “democratic resilience to malign Kremlin influence” by “better equip[ping] stakeholders with tolls and information.” The IRI gave an additional $500,000 for countering the regional influence of the Chinese Communist Party.[43]

These programs reflect the reinvigoration of a Cold War mindset that equates Russia and China with authoritarianism and malign influence that could only be countered by the imposition of U.S. “democratic values.”

4. South America:

The NED has played an integral role in South America in trying to undermine the Bolivarian revolution, whose main purpose was to unify Latin American countries under socialism.

In 2002, on the eve of a U.S.-backed coup against Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chávez—a key leader in the Bolivarian revolution—the NED quadrupled its budget to more than $877,000.

Some $154,377 of that sum went to the American Center for Labor Solidarity, the international arm of the AFL-CIO whose Venezuelan branch led work stoppages that galvanized opposition to Chávez. The union’s leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly took over from Mr. Chávez, in challenging the government.

When Chávez was restored to power, the NED began sponsoring trips to Washington by Chávez critics.

In 2015, after the Obama administration characterized Venezuela as a “national security threat,” the NED pumped in more than $2 million in an attempt to facilitate regime change against Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.

Its yearly Democracy Award was given to Venezuelan political prisoners, including Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López, a mentor of Juan Guiadó—the right wing saboteur recognized by Donald Trump as Venezuela’s president—who as part of one of three families that had orchestrated the 2002 coup against Chávez.[44]

Censured for corruption while mayor of a wealthy district of Caracas, López was convicted in September 2015 of “instigating arson, damage and criminal gatherings” marked by the firebombing of government ministries, child care centers, city buses and TV stations.[45]

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Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo López receives a “Democracy Award” from the NED in 2015. [Source:]

While it was honoring Venezuela’s right-wing insurrectionists, the NED in 2015 spent some $1,047,818 in Ecuador and $883,620 in Bolivia supporting mostly right-wing groups. The investment bore fruit two years later with the election in Ecuador of Lenín Moreno, who abandoned predecessor Rafael Corrrea’s socialist policies and pushed for the expulsion of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Ecuador's journalists pin hope on new president after Correa's war on media  | Ecuador | The Guardian
Lenín Moreno, the ultimate sellout. [Source:]

In Bolivia, socialist Evo Morales was ousted in a right-wing coup in 2019 led by Jeanine Áñez, who has since been arrested on charges of genocide for having ordered the massacre of pro-Morales demonstrators.[46] In preparation for the coup, the NED poured $908,832 into Bolivia in 2018. The Journal of Democracy claimed that Morales had lost power not due to a coup but a citizen’s revolt, which the NED had helped to spark.

Many wanted Morales out. But what happened in Bolivia was a military coup |  Gabriel Hetland | The Guardian
Anti-coup protesters in La Paz. [Source:]

True to its Reagan-era roots, Nicaragua has been another key country targeted for regime change by the NED. Former National Security Council adviser John Bolton characterized it as being part of a “troika of tyranny” with Bolivia and Venezuela. Since 2006, the country has been ruled by former Reagan nemesis Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista revolution that the NED had worked to undermine in its first decade.

Under Ortega’s supposedly tyrannical rule, poverty and extreme poverty have been halved in Nicaragua, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition has been achieved. Basic healthcare and education were free, and illiteracy has been virtually eliminated.

The NED nevertheless provided $4.4 million in grants between 2014 and 2018 to opposition groups that sparked violent demonstrations in April 2018, which Ortega characterized as a coup attempt.

An NED-funded publication openly bragged that organizations backed by the NED had “spent years and millions of dollars ‘laying the groundwork for insurrection,’” adding that “‘the NED’s current involvement in nurturing civil society groups in Nicaragua sheds light on the power of transnational funding to influence political outcomes in the 21st century.’”

Of that total NED funding in 2018, $231,781 went toward the Center for International Private Enterprise. Other of it went into opposition media and efforts to broadcast Ortega’s alleged human rights crimes in an attempt to undermine him.

The Managua-based Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) received at least $260,000 from the NED between 2014 and 2018 for monitoring the “increased presence of Russia and China” in Central America.

The organization’s director, Félix Maradiaga—a key conduit for NED funds coming into Nicaragua—was charged by the Nicaraguan police with overseeing an organized criminal network that murdered several people during the April 2018 uprising.[47]

Maradiaga was caught on camera plotting with armed thugs at UPOLI, the first public university occupied by the coup plotters.

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Félix Maradiaga [Source:]

In 2021, the NED gave a Democracy Award to Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca Máswhich was “dedicated to preserving historical memory in Nicaragua and seeking justice for victims of the state-led violence unleashed by the Ortega regime in 2018.”

The NGO showed little interest, however, in commemorating the victims of the violent anti-Ortega protests, which may have outnumbered the ones killed by state security forces. The latter were initially kept in their barracks as Ortega initiated a national dialogue with the coup plotters.

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Nicaragua Nunca Más was founded in 2019 by Nicaraguan youth who tried to topple the popularly elected Daniel Ortega. The NED framed them as human rights defenders fleeing persecution, though many in Nicaragua would consider them as right-wing traitors. [Source:]

5. Middle East

Carl Gershman was a strong supporter of the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” in the Middle East, with Bush having asked Congress to double NED funding from $40 million to $80 million in 2004 for this purpose.[48] The NED played an important role in laying groundwork for the Arab Spring of 2011. A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from the IRI and NDI, which were part of the NED.

The overriding goal was to support social movement leaders who could be co-opted and would promote an open door for U.S. business and favor Israel. Journalist Emad Mekay argued that NED-backed groups in Egypt were supporting a “small circle of sloganeering politicians on the take from the U.S. government who are unpopular and discredited among their own people.” 

April 6 Youth Movement - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 6th Movement in Egypt which was financed by the NED. [Source:]

Over the last decade, the NED has provided grants to the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, which seeks to demonize and overthrow the Iranian government. It also financed anti-Assad and anti-Qaddafi activism in Syria and Libya[49], contributing to the destabilization of those countries and empowerment of Islamic fundamentalists.

The NED’s website specified that, in 2020, its grantmaking focused on “safeguarding democratic progress in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The later claim is farcical given that a) the climate of violence fueled by the U.S. occupation and war was not conducive to democratic development; b) the U.S. imposed leaders on Afghanistan starting with Hamid Karzai who never had popular support; and c) Afghanistan’s then-president Ashraf Ghani never won an election (Afghanistan’s electoral commission in 2019 received 16,500 complaints of voter fraud) and fled Afghanistan in disgrace in August 2021 with bagfuls of cash as the Taliban descended on Kabul.

Supporters of presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah rally in Kabul on November 29.
Rally in Kabul in November 2019 to protest electoral fraud. The NED’s alleged work to safeguard democratic progress in Afghanistan was generally a fraud. [Source:]

With regard to Iraq—which received $2.68 million in NED funding in 2020—the U.S. record has been absolutely abysmal since the 2003 U.S. invasion, which so many of the NED’s luminaries had supported.

The country’s Shia-dominated government is sectarian, corrupt, and has repeatedly massacred anti-government protesters. The hidden purpose behind the NED’s operation is exemplified by the $595,507 grant awarded to the Center for International Private Enterprise with the explicit purpose of strengthening Iraq’s private sector and advancing privatization initiatives designed to provide Western multinational corporations access to Iraq’s oil.[50]

6. Africa

In Africa, the NED focused heavily on trying to shore up a pro-U.S. regime in oil-rich Sudan led by Abdalla Hamdok which was toppled in a 2021 military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Since the 1980s, as part of a broader imperial strategy of divide and conquer, the NED had helped encourage southern Christian secessionist groups who succeeded in splitting up Sudan and forging their own independent oil republic.

In 2006, the NED awarded its democracy award to Alfred Taban, the publisher of the NED-funded Khartoum Monitor, for exposing Sudan’s purported genocide in Darfur.

The accusation of genocide—which the UN had ruled out—was advanced by the Bush and Obama administrations to justify support for a) the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a Christian guerrilla group criticized by Amnesty International for shooting down civilian airliners, indiscriminately using land mines, and recruiting child soldiers; and b) harsh sanctions directed against Sudanese President Omar al Bashir (1989-2019). He was a radical Islamist allied with China ​​who had moved with Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi and Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak before the “Arab Spring” to establish a gold-backed financing system outside of the IMF/World Bank to fund large scale development.

President George W. Bush meets in the Oval Office with NED Democracy Award recipients in 2006, including Alfred Taban on the left. [Source:]

Zimbabwe is another prime recipient of NED funding in Africa which received $1.6 million in grants in 2020. For the first thirty-nine years after gaining independence in April 1980, Zimbabwe was ruled by Robert Mugabe, a Marxist-Leninist, Pan-Africanist and hero of the liberation war against Southern Rhodesia’s white settler regime led by Ian Smith.

Mugabe angered the West by kicking the whites off their land and giving the best farmland back to Blacks.[51] In November 2017, he was succeeded by his vice president, Emmerson “the crocodile” Mnangagwa,[52] who has deepened Zimbabwe’s economic relations with China where he received military training in the 1960s—making him a potential target for regime change.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa (C) with Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on April 3, 2018.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, center, with Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on April 3, 2018. [Source:]

The NED for years financed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) through the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), whose leader until his death in 2018, Morgan Tsvangirai, adopted a neoliberal economic program that strove to open Zimbabwe back up to foreign exploitation and was accused of trying to assassinate Mugabe.[53]

In 2011, when Mugabe pushed for the nationalization of foreign-owned companies and reaffirmed a bill forcing foreign-owned companies worth over $500,000 to have at least 51 percent black ownership, Tsvangirai denounced the plan “as looting and plunder by a greedy elite.”

Morgan Tsvangirai speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2009. [Source:]

In theory, the NED could be a force for positive democratic change in countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan that have suffered from oppressive rule. However, these countries are singled out for political reasons, and the NED programs are intended to advance an underlying political agenda that is antithetical to genuine democratic development.

By funding certain organizations that advance women’s or LGBTQ rights exclusively along with human rights narrowly defined, the NED furthermore helps to channel political activism away from a focus on political-economy, class solidarity and anti-imperialism, which is key to its purpose.

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NED-funded activists show solidarity with LGBTQ community in Uganda. [Source:]

In Zambia, which received $3 13,000 in 2020, NED money went into a media campaign directed against President Edgar Lungu (2015-2021), who declared emergency state power in the face of an arson attack on Lusaka’s major market.

Lungu was a member of the Patriotic Front (PF) which tried to regulate multinational corporations and moved to nationalize the Mopani copper mine which was owned by the Swiss-based company Glencore, founded by white collar criminal Marc Rich.

Edgar Lungu [Source:]

Hakainde Hichilema (HH) of the United Party of National Development (UPND) won August, 2021 elections that the NED had helped to monitor and in a way manipulate. A millionaire cattle-rancher who profited from the country’s ill-designed privatization initiative in the 1990s, HH had mining companies and their Wall Street investors salivating with his pledge to loosen regulations and lower taxes combined with a promise to expand copper production.

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema waves
Hakainde Hichilema (HH) [Source:]

The NED’s house journal (Journal of Democracy) referred to HH’s election victory as a “hopeful turning point” for Zambia—whose growing geopolitical significance stems from the importance of copper in the manufacture of electric cars.

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NED-funded group, Bloggers of Zambia, march for World Press Freedom Day. The purpose behind this group is uncertain given the fact that, if Zambians were concerned about press freedom under Lungu, they could easily develop protests on their own. Why would they need external funding and what was the hidden agenda at play? [Source:]

The NED’s Reagan-era roots in Africa were reflected in its provision of $301,254 in grants to Angola with the purpose of building opposition to an old CIA nemesis, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which had since watered down its socialist program.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the NED provided $1.7 million largely to fund human rights groups, election transparency and give legal assistance to prisoners. This was at the same time the U.S. was helping to bankroll military operations in Eastern Congo that had provoked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

In 2020, the NED gave $280,500 in grants to Rwanda and $1.272 million to Uganda, which had invaded the Congo repeatedly and plundered its mineral wealth. Part of the purpose may have been to cultivate relations with potential successors to long-standing U.S./UK clients, Paul Kagame (1994-present) and Yoweri Museveni (1986-present), in anticipation of their political demise.[54]

In 2011, Uganda opposition leader Bobi Wine (Robert Kyagulanyi), a former rapper, was tapped by the NDI to produce a song on election violence as an appeal to Ugandan youth.

Subsequently Wine—who was featured in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)—tweeted out a picture of himself on a zoom call with right-wing Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó. This, combined with the adoption of a vague neoliberal economic platform, indicates that Wine was being groomed as a next-generation U.S. proxy.

Movements Not Saviors: Lessons from Bobi Wine’s Tweet for Juan Guaido
Bobi Wine—Uganda’s future. [Source:]

Joe Biden dutifully continues the “good work” of NED

Following his much vaunted “Democracy Summit” in December, President Joe Biden announced a presidential initiative for Democracy Renewal, which will provide $424.4 million for the kinds of initiatives that the NED has long financed, including supporting “free” and “independent” media in foreign countries, “fighting corruption” and “bolstering democratic reformers.”

President Biden praises free press at Summit for Democracy
Joe Biden during the Democracy Summit. [Source:]

The initiative is part of a renewed ideological Cold War offensive in which the world is divided between democratic states allied with the U.S. and authoritarian ones allied with Russia and China. The NED fits in very well with this imperial mindset and will no doubt continue to flourish under an administration whose world view has not evolved much from the 1980s.

  1. Ralph McGehee, another CIA dissident, described the post-1991 activities of the NED as “political action operations targeting China and Cuba,” which “mesh[ed] well with the gears of the globalised-economy machine.” McGehee further noted that “the NED’s hundreds of so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of them human rights groups, are little more than fronts for the operations of the CIA….Since NED sponsors human rights groups and other NGOs in 80 countries, this creates a massive worldwide mechanism for subversion.” Colin S. Cavell, Exporting ‘Made-in-America’ Democracy: The National Endowment for Democracy & U.S. Foreign Policy (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002), 108.

  2. Cavell, Exporting ‘Made-in-America’ Democracy:103. The invitees included Peruvian Hernando de Soto, whose book The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism (1986) discussed the failures of government enforced regulations regarding property rights and how underground economies became a dominating presence in Peru as a result, Vladimir Bokovsky, an anti-Soviet dissident, Polish free-market advocate Leszek Kolakowski and Mexican neoconservative Octavio Paz.

  3. In the same speech, Reagan stated that the Soviet Union faced “a great revolutionary crisis.” Its’ protracted economic decline, he said, was “rooted in the nature of the communist system that denied people the freedom necessary for economic progress in the modern world.”  Calling the dimensions of the communist failure “astounding,” Reagan famously predicted that Marxism-Leninism would end up “on the ash heap of history.”

  4. Huntington claimed that, between 1974 and 1990, at least 30 countries made a transition to democracy. Huntington later famously wrote about an inevitable “clash of civilizations” between the U.S. and Islamic world, which obscured the imperial policies adopted by the U.S. that provoked Muslim anger and terrorism directed against the U.S.

  5. Raymond was a close colleague of Oliver North, and part of the White House Working Group on Central America, which helped coordinate pro-Contra projects.

  6. Under Richardson’s direction, the NED began subsidizing Freedom House. Educated at Harvard, Richardson has been a paratrooper in Italy in World War II and lawyer with the fabled Sullivan and Cromwell investment banking house in New York which recruited many CIA luminaries. In the 1960s, he helped coordinate medical assistance to Polish refugees who were anticommunist.

  7. Gershman had opposed unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam. Acting as YPSL’s Vice Chairman at its 1972 December Conference, he wrote a thirteen-page, singly spaced, international-affairs document which called for the Cuba’s Castro regime to stop funding guerrilla movements and also for its “loosening the bonds” of repression; it was approved and an alternative document calling for the U.S. to recognize Cuba’s government was defeated. YPSL criticized the “New Politics” led by George McGovern, which had lost 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon in the 1972 election.

  8. Carl Gershman, The Foreign Policy of American Labor (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publishing, 1975). Meany was strongly anticommunist and a supporter of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam policy.

  9. Carl Gershman and Bayard Rustin, Africa, Soviet Imperialism and the Retreat of American Power (New York: Social Democrats USA, 1977), 2. CIA agents had concluded privately that the MPLA was the best qualified to rule Angola. UNITA was run by a warlord, Jonas Savimbi, known for the abducting of child soldiers and ruthless acts of brutality. See Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Washington and Havana in Africa, 1959-1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003). Characterizing détente with the Soviet Union as “an illusion destroyed by the Yom Kippur War, the final aggression in Vietnam, the war in Angola and rising concern over the relentless growth in the military and strategic power of the Soviet Union,” Gershman and Rustin in their pamphlet warned about a domino effect in Africa resulting from the “loss of Angola” to totalitarianism. They quoted approvingly from Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) who had warned that “if the communists won in Angola, they would considerably control the oil shipping lanes from the Persian Gulf to Europe,” and the “world would be different in the aftermath.” Gershman and Rustin criticized liberal New York Times columnist Tom Wicker for claiming that Moynihan’s warning was “apocalyptic.” They also criticized Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA) for suggesting that the Soviets were merely supporting “anti-colonialism” in Angola, and Dick Clark (D-IA) for suggesting the war in Angola was a tribal civil war and that the MPLA were nationalists. Further coming in for criticism was ace investigative reporter Seymour Hersh for his suggestion that a Soviet military buildup was a response to CIA intervention in Angola. Gershman and Rustin’s ties to the CIA along with Moynihan’s are strongly suspected.

  10. Carl Gershman, After the Dominoes Fell (New York: Social Democrats USA, 1977).

  11. In 1972, Gershman published a book with Irving Howe, Israel, the Arabs, and the Middle East (New York: Bantam Books 1972) which made the case that the “democratic left” should support Israel. Gershman’s contribution (“The Failure of the Fedeyeen”) criticized the New Left for embracing the myth of the Palestinian fedeyeens revolutionary virtuousness and invincibility. Criticizing the Fedeyeen for exaggerations in their propaganda, Gershman characterized the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, as “humane,” “benign” and an “improvement over the “Jordanian occupation which preceded it.” He claimed that there was freedom of expression and that unemployment dropped and the economy improved because of a flood of Israeli shekels, though he conceded to the Israeli demolition of the homes of those who collaborated with Fatah in a”selective counterinsurgency operations.” (p. 236).

  12. In many ways, Gershman had stayed true to his Trotskyist background as a supporter of worldwide revolution. In 1974, Gershman participated in a “national school” at the YPSL conference, where he gave lectures with other anti-communists and foes of the New Left movement and Students for Democratic Society (SDS) like Sidney Hook, and professors Seymour Martin Lipset and Robert Scalapino.

  13. Financing was also provided to the American-Afghanistan Friendship Society, which broadcast human rights abuses by the Soviets in Afghanistan. Under one NED sponsored program, Afghans were trained in the use of mini-cameras so they could provide a visual record of the war and Soviet abuses.

  14. The NNP was led by Herbert Blaize, a cabinet minister under former dictator Eric Gairy. As a consequence of his neoliberal policy, Grenada’s foreign debt neared $50 million and trade deficits rose to over $60 million. Unemployment was around 30% as prostitution, crime and other signs of social dissolution flourished.

  15. Max Blumethal reported in The Grayzone Project that the NED provided nearly $16 million in grants to anti-Sandinista politicians and media in Nicaragua in the late 1980s. La Prensa was owned by the family of Violeta Chamorro who won the 1990 elections. She was given an NED freedom award in 1989. See also Cavell, Exporting ‘American-Made’ Democracy, 103, 105, 106.

  16. Cavell, Exporting ‘American-Made’ Democracy, 105. In the Philippines, the Reagan administration and NED supported Corazon Aquino, the widow of the martyred Benigno Aquino who was convinced to retain U.S. military bases. After Benigno Aquino’s death, the NED had provided money to pro-Marcos trade unions in order to prevent the empowerment of the political left. Labor expert Kim Scipes wrote that “[R]eplacing Marcos with Aquino left a brutal state apparatus intact, which Aquino used to kill peasants, workers and the urban poor. In fact, KMU [Kilusang Mayo Uno-militant labor group] leaders told me that the human rights abuses under democrat Aquino were worse than under dictator Marcos: she couldn’t control her generals.” Michael Barker, “A Warning for Egyptian Revolutionaries: Courtesy of People Power in the Philippines,” Monthly Review, February 15, 2011,

  17. Cavell, Exporting ‘Made in America’ Democracy, 104, 126. The New York Times reported that NED money helped secure Vaclav Havel’s election victory in 1990.

  18. David Ignatius, “Innocence Abroad: The New System of Spyless Coups,” The Washington Post, September 22, 1991, C1.

  19. Cavell, Exporting ‘Made-in-America’ Democracy, 126.

  20. Kate Geoghegan, “A Policy in Tension: The NED and the U.S. Response to the Collapse of the Soviet Union,” Diplomatic History, 42, 5 (November 2018), 772-801.

  21. Ron Paul, “National Endowment for Democracy: Paying to Make Enemies of America,” October 11, 2003,

  22. Pelosi claimed that the NED “promotes human rights wherever they [are].” She made outlandish claims at the conference that North Korea executed people for simply trying to eat corn.

  23. Cavell, “Exporting ‘Made-in-America’ Democracy, 108.

  24. Kemble was subsequently appointed director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) under Bill Clinton and made a special representative of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to the Council for a Community of Democracies initiative. He died in 2005.

  25. Board member Scott Carpenter—now at Google—participated in the U.S. occupation of Iraq as a member of the “Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq” from April 2003 to July 2004 and is a member of the pro-war Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Another former NED Board member and congresswoman, Elise Stefanik (R-NY) belonged to the Foreign Policy Initiative, which promoted conflict with Iran.

  26. Abrams, who helped secretly funnel arms to the Contras, had claimed that only 300 people were killed at El Mozote—when the number was more than 1,000—and that the left-wing guerrillas in El Salvador were manufacturing the event for political advantage. When Guatemalan dictator Efrain Ríos Montt embarked on a campaign of genocide in the early 1980s, Abrams said that Montt had “brought considerable progress” on human rights. Abrams in turn defended Reagan’s lifting of a military aid embargo on Montt’s government, claiming the slaughter of civilians was “being reduced step by step” and that it was “progress” that had to be “rewarded and encouraged.See Branco Marcetic, “The Tragic Life of the War Criminal Elliot Abrams,” Jacobin Magazine, February 16, 2019.

  27. See Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Volume 1: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981). Cumings points out that U.S. designs centered on building up the U.S. network of military bases and integrating South Korea’s economy with Japan with a subordinate role for South Korea.

  28. See A.B. Abrams, Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2020).

  29. For the historical pattern, see Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drugs Trade (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003). The NED funded the Shan human rights group. It assisted the Shan cause and was used also to funnel money to Shan insurgents.

  30. As author William Engdahl points out, Myanmar is an integral part of what China terms its “string of pearls,” its strategic design of establishing military bases in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia in order to counter U.S. control over the Strait of Malacca chokepoint. There are also considerable energy resources on and off of Myanmar.

  31. Cavell, Exporting ‘American-Made” Democracy, 109. See also Geoghegan, “A Policy in Tension.”.

  32. See Stephen Cohen, Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001). The NED since 1990 supported the anti-communist Democratic Russia Movement which provided Yeltsin his political base. Cavell, Exporting ‘American-Made’ Democracy, 110.

  33. See Ron Ridenour, The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert (New York: Pluto Press, 2018), 261. Between 187 and 2,000 people were killed according to varying estimates including numerous legislators and nearly a thousand wounded by the Russian army. The parliament building was burned in the worst day of violence Moscow had seen since the 1917 revolution. On the eve of the 1996 election, the NED received USAID grants for providing seminars, conferences, and exchanges on party organization, message development, focus groups, polling methods, and television ads to members of Yeltsin’s political machine. Three American political consultants went to work on Yeltsin’s reelection bid, including George Gorton, a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan presidential campaigns, and Richard Dresner, a veteran of the Clinton campaign in Arkansas and associate of Dick Morris, Clinton’s top political adviser.

  34. Putin was accused of carrying out the assassination, though many suspect a mafia-related settling of scores. John McCain (R-Az) in an NED symposium referred to Nemtsov as a “good friend” and spoke of meetings he had with him in Washington, D.C. in his office. The NED symposium included screening of a film financed by Mikhail Khordokovsky, a billionaire former oligarch jailed by Putin for corruption. Previously, the NED had taken on as a consultant Michael McFaul the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama and a neoconservative hawk who advocated for regime change targeting Putin.
  35. In 2006, the NED gave a $23,000 grant to an organization that employed Navalny. Scott Shane, “Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too,” The New York Times, February 17, 2018.

  36. While Russia had indeed committed serious human rights abuses in Chechnya, the CIA lent support to Chechen separatists as part of a policy of destabilization, claiming to support moderate factions. Leading neoconservatives associated with the project for the New American Century supported the Chechen cause through the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. Its members included: Richard Perle, Midge Decter, an old collaborator of Gerhsman at Commentary, Bruce Jackson, the former vice president of Lockheed Martin and NED board member Elliot Abrams.

  37. A leading State Department official noted upon returning from Moscow that Kremlin officials believe that the “U.S. government or the West directs the activities of NGOs in order to weaken Russia, or in order to advance, as one Russian said, ‘your own geopolitical games in our neighborhood.’”

  38. On the success of Belarus’ social programs under Lukashenko, see Stewart Parker, The Last Soviet Republic: Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus (London: Trafford Publishing, 2007).

  39. Carl Gershman claimed in a speech at Vilnius University in March 2021 that the Lukashenko regime had “no legitimacy, no mandate, no support. It rules by force alone, propped up by Putin who fears that the fall of Lukashenka would threaten his own political survival.” These statements are inaccurate as whatever his flaws, Lukashenko did enjoy domestic support because of the success of his social programs and low inequality and poverty levels in the country which even the World Bank praised. The opposition movement was led by a woman, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, with no political experience who adopted a vague economic platform.

  40. Carl Gershman, “Standing Up to Russia,” The Washington Post, September 27, 2013.

  41. Poroshenko has been charged with treason for allegedly helping to arrange sales of large amounts of coal that helped finance separatists in the occupied Donbass region of eastern Ukraine—at the same time he was leading the Ukrainian army’s brutal assault on that region.

  42. Diuk previously had taught Soviet and Russian studies at Oxford University before marrying Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. The latter said that, “in the 1980s and 1990s, Nadia and I were husband and wife. But we were also partners in the struggle against Communism and for the emergence of democracy in the post-Soviet space.” After Diuk died of cancer in 2019 at age 64, Bart Barnes wrote in The Washington Post: “She was exuberant when the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine swept to power a pro-Western government in Kiev [sic].“ She wrote in The Post at the time: ‘There was something familiar about the atmosphere in Kiev this week. I had the same feeling as a student in Warsaw in 1980, when massive street demonstrations and the emergence of the Solidarity trade union threw Poland’s Communist government into a state of confusion. At that time, just one gesture, or the display of a symbol — the red-and-white logo of Solidarity — conveyed a whole set of aspirations, attitudes and emotions. Now the color orange is the symbol throughout the center of Kiev. Everyone understands what is at stake, and everyone stands united,’ she added. ‘The Czechs jingled keys, the Serbs showed a fist, the Georgians adopted the rose, and now the Ukrainians wear orange.’”

  43. Another $260,000 was given to a Czech media organization to strengthen understanding of China’s growing presence overseas with the goal of countering it. Yet more money was given to promote a book glorifying the 2014 Maidan square protest in Ukraine, which would erase the role played by neo-Nazi groups, the U.S. and EU.

  44. López was born in 1971 to one of Venezuela’s most elite families and studied at Kenyon College and the Harvard Kennedy School and helped lead street protests against Chávez on the eve of the 2002 coup.

  45. The NED also honored Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, the wife of former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, another key figure coordinating the 2014 violent uprisings—which dwarfed in scope the January 6th Capitol riots in Washington—who was charged with sedition.

  46. In August, Áñez tried to take her own life.

  47. Max Blumenthal reported in The Grayzone Project that Hagamos Democracia, or “Let’s Make Democracy,” was the largest recipient of NED funding, reaping over $525,000 in grants between 2014 and 2018. The group’s president, Luciano Garcia, who oversaw a network of reporters and activists, declared that Ortega had turned Nicaragua into a “failed state” and demanded his immediate resignation.

  48. Bush’s adversary in the 2004 election, John Kerry, called for tripling the NED’s budget.

  49. In 2011, the year the Arab Spring protests broke out, the NED provided $649,000 in grants to Syrians and $473,500 to Libyans.

  50. In 2011, over $1 million dollars was awarded to the international private enterprise institute in Afghanistan, showing similar priorities there.

  51. For a balanced assessment, see Sue Onslow and Martin Plaut, Robert Mugabe (Miami: Ohio University Press, 2018).

  52. Mnangagwa, who was also of the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), earned his fierce reputation as Mugabe’s intelligence director. He presided over a massacre in Matebland in the early 1980s which left more than 20,000 people dead.

  53. Tsvangirai, who enjoyed the support of white farmers, earned the anger of veterans of the country’s liberation war when he coordinated a strike that forced Mugabe to back down from raising the income tax to pay pensions for veterans. Afterwards, a group of veterans burst into his office and tried to kill him.

  54. In the past, the NED had given money to Uganda for encouraging privatization and reform in the energy sector after oil deposits were discovered in the country.

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  1. […] The extent to which the CIA is behind the media’s one-sided coverage of the Ukraine war is uncertain. In the past, the CIA has planted journalists and funded intellectual journals and continued to do so under the guise of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). […]

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