A Janus-faced call to defend democracy

By Wolfgang Effenberger.

On 25 June 2020, in the context of the threat to democracy posed by Corona, a powerful call for its defense was issued. “A Call to Defend Democracy”(1) was initiated as an open letter from the Stockholm-based “Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance” (IDEA) and the Washington DC-based “National Endowment for Democracy” (NED) and was supported “supported by 73 pro-democracy institutions as well as political and civic leaders around the world, including 13 Nobel Laureates and 62 former heads of state and government.”(2). Their statement that the coronavirus pandemic threatens not only the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, but also the future of liberal democracy, can be fully endorsed.

However, a look at some of the signatories raises doubts. They include Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa, Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, actor and Tibetan activist Richard Gere and former MEP Elmar Brok. All together they are not friends of China or Russia. Elmar Brok, a long-time EU-MEP and head of Bertelsmann’s Brussels lobbying office, spoke on Deutschlandfunk radio in 2019 at the height of the Venezuela crisis, saying that in the opinion of Germany and the EU “Maduro was not legally elected” and his challenger Guaidó “was the only one of the two who had democratic legitimacy“(3).

This view was also held at the time by the National Endowment for Democracy. This organisation was founded in 1983 by US President Reagan with the aim of relieving the CIA of reputation-damaging tasks. The US historian Allen Weinstein, who was involved in the drafting of the legislation to found the NED, declared in 1991:

“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”(4).  And Carl Gershman, the United States Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council during the first term of the Reagan administration, and president of the National Endowment for Democracy from 1984, said in 1986:

”It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the C.I.A. We saw that in the 60’s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.”(5) For the US-American journalist, Vietnam war opponent and critic of US foreign policy, William Blum, the “NED’s programs are in sync with the basic needs and objectives of the New World Order’s economic globalization, just as the programs have for years been on the same wavelength as US foreign policy.”(6).

So far the NED has successfully interfered in the internal affairs of numerous foreign countries through selected political groups, civic organizations, unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, etc. For this purpose technical know-how, training, teaching material, computers, fax machines, copiers, automobiles, etc. are made available. The NED usually describes the media it supports as “independent”, although these media are financially supported by the USA(7).

In the 1980s, this disguised CIA arm played an important role in the Iran-Contra affair and financed key components of Oliver North’s shadowy network “Project Democracy”. This network privatized U.S. foreign policy, waged war and distributed weapons and drugs. Blum, sums it up: “The NED, like the CIA before it, calls what it does supporting democracy. The governments and movements whom the NED targets call it destabilization.”(8)


1) https://www.idea.int/news-media/multimedia-reports/call-defend-democracy

2) https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/politik-gesellschaft/nobelpreistraeger-warnen-vor-gefahren-fuer-die-demokratie-li.89648?mktcid=smsh&mktcval=OS%20Share%20Hub

3) https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/deutscher-botschafter-soll-venezuela-verlassen-brok-guaido.694.de.html?dram:article_id=442907

4) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1991/09/22/innocence-abroad-the-new-world-of-spyless-coups/92bb989a-de6e-4bb8-99b9-462c76b59a16/

5) https://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/01/world/missionaries-for-democracy-us-aid-for-global-pluralism.html

6) William Blum:Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy https://williamblum.org/chapters/rogue-state/trojan-horse-the-national-endowment-for-democracy

7) William Blum:Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy https://williamblum.org/chapters/rogue-state/trojan-horse-the-national-endowment-for-democracy

8) William Blum: Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy https://williamblum.org/chapters/rogue-state/trojan-horse-the-national-endowment-for-democracy, William I. Robinson, A Faustian Bargain: U.S. Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era (Westview Press, Colorado, 1992)


Thanks to the author for the right to publish.


Image source: Andrey Khusnutdinov / shutterstock


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