By PATRICIA CARRINGTON
American foreign aid may not be as appreciated as it is intended to be. Dr. Ronald M. Childress a professor from the University of South Carolina and Rule of the Law Consortium in Moscow, said the United States is offering the wrong type of help for Russia and that too many “American values” are being imposed on the struggling nation.
Childress explained the Russian economic crisis to a group of interested students and faculty Monday at the Kennedy Center.
Childress tried to get the audience to envision the economic state of Russia by asking the audience to imagine waking up one morning and not having access to automobiles. He then asked the audience how they would feel if Japan tried to help them understand and cope in the absence of automobiles while imposing on Americans Japanese religion and culture.
Childress said the United States is trying to force Russia into a free-market economy when they are not ready for this type of change. One of the programs designed to implement this change is called social marketing.
“Social marketing is a skill used to change people’s behavior,” Childress said. One example of social marketing are the commercials promoting seat-belt use or the campaign discouraging smoking because it is bad for one’s health.
There have been commercial campaigns within Russia trying to encourage a free-market economy. Childress said the problem with these efforts is that Russia has more of a barter economy than a free-market economy.
“The Russian economy is 70 percent barter, only up to a certain extent is cash necessary in the Russian economy,” Childress said.
Childress said Russia has a virtual economy which includes such aspects as barter, substance and some money. Many Russians are paid in kind with goods such as textiles or rubber products, Childress said.
Childress suggested that Americans need to take the time and understand the needs in Russia before rushing in and offering help.
“There is a deepening anti-American attitude in Russia right now, and this is because Americans want to get things done rather than overcome the situation,” Childress said.
Devin Asay, of the Humanities and Research Center, said Americans perceive themselves to be helping out more than they actually are.
“We as Americans go riding in as knights in shining armor on white horses; we really ignore a lot of what the Russians really need,” Asay said.
Asay asked Childress to come and speak at BYU because he said he felt it was important for students to be prepared with answers other than the “pre-canned answers,” Asay said. “When students go into a foreign situation, they need to go in with an open mind.”
BYU student Sarah Paksima, 20, from Minnesota, majoring in international development, said this lecture was a good opportunity for students because it gives them a chance to expand their horizons.
“It is a way to take what you learn in the classroom and see how others apply it in the real world,” Paksima said.