January 5, 2003 - Time Magazine: Peace Corps' Man in Moscow won't waste words on the spying charges

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, January 06, 2003 - 1:14 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps' Man in Moscow won't waste words on the spying charges

Caption: Jeffrey Hay - the Peace Corps' man in Moscow


Read and comment on this story from Time Magazine on Jeffrey Hay, the Peace Corps' Man in Moscow, who won't waste his words on the spying charges that have the Corps leaving Russia. We happen to disagree with Mr. Hay on this point and think that whenever irresponsible charges are made against the Peace Corps, it is the duty of staff and RPCVs to defend the integrity of the agency calmly but firmly in unequivocal language.

Peace Corps programs are phased out all the time. The point is that normally when Peace Corps programs are phased out, no one is accused of espionage. Everybody knew that the Peace Corps visa problems in August were a clear signal that Russian leadership didn't want the Peace Corps any longer. It was a breakdown in communications and decision making within the Peace Corps that prolonged the situation to the point where spy charges were made in December - something that never should have happened. Read the story at:

A Diplomat to the Corps*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

A Diplomat to the Corps
The Peace Corps' man in Moscow, Jeffrey Hay won't waste his words on the spying charges that have the Corps leaving Russia


In Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, a U.S. aid worker in 1950s Saigon turns out to be a spy. The recent film version of the story hasn't come out yet in Russia, but Nikolai Patrushev, director of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, must be familiar with the plot. Last month he accused U.S. Peace Corps volunteers of illicitly "collecting information on the sociopolitical and economic situation in Russia," singling out one staffer for entering a closed zone on the Chinese border and a volunteer for trying to establish inappropriate contacts. Even in a world where Russia and the U.S. wage joint battle against terrorism, cold war suspicions die hard.

Patrushev's accusations grew into an international incident when all 27 American Peace Corps volunteers in Russia were essentially told to get out of the country. Caught in the storm is Jeffrey Hay, the Corps' acting country director for Russia, who was informed on the day after Christmas that Russia would have no further use for his services or those of his volunteers and 24 staffers (most of them Russian). Hay must now help the Corps volunteers scattered throughout Russia plan speedy departures.

The U.S. ambassador, Alexander Vershbow, is furious at the insinuations. Patrushev's comments, he says, "are outrageous, untrue and harmful to the work that Peace Corps volunteers are carrying on world-wide. We categorically reject allegations that Peace Corps volunteers have been engaged in spying." But in the midst of this verbal blizzard, Hay himself remains, well, the quiet American. He declines to denounce his now-inhospitable host country. "The way the Peace Corps works is that a host government invites us for the term they would like us to be there, and if they feel that it is no longer necessary to host the program, then that's fine," he says. "The Russian government has expressed appreciation for the work the Peace Corps has done and said that conditions in Russia have changed and that the need for the Peace Corps has changed."

Hay, 34, has been with the Peace Corps for nine of the past 11 years. He served as a volunteer in a small Hungarian village shortly after graduating from St. Michael's College in Vermont with a degree in literature (yes, he read The Quiet American). While there he became fluent in Hungarian and met his wife, also a Corps volunteer, with whom he has a three-month-old daughter. He served as a desk officer in Washington and an administrative officer in Mongolia before arriving in Moscow last year. When his predecessor left Russia last June, Hay became acting country director.

This is not his first brush with controversy. In August, 30 volunteers who'd been in Russia for a year were denied visa extensions. The Russian Education Ministry, which coordinates Corps' activities, "supported our requests for visas and passed them on, so it was a surprise when they were denied," says Hay. "We decided not to bring in a new group of volunteers."

Hay's mild words are clearly designed to ease tensions. And Corps director Gaddi Vasquez echoes his mellow view. "We're disappointed, but we respect a country's right to determine the merits of volunteer service," he says. "This is a situation we encounter from time to time. Last year we closed programs where economic development has grown sufficiently that the countries determined that a continuation would be unnecessary." But when those programs, in the Baltics, were phased out, no one was accused of espionage.

Hay refuses to dignify the spy charges by responding to them directly, stressing instead the accomplishments that over 700 Corps volunteers have made as teachers and mentors throughout Russia. But Patrushev, a friend of Vladimir Putin, is apparently not convinced. With little tradition of volunteerism in Russia, the one-time cold warrior may simply have trouble with the notion of idealistic young Americans coming to Russia to do good. Or maybe he's just been reading too much Graham Greene.

Questions and Answers with Jeffrey Hay

What's your reaction to the explanation that the Russian government is ending the Peace Corps agreement simply because there is no longer an economic need for the program?

I accept that. That's the way the Peace Corps works in every country. It's not up to us to decide what a country needs or doesn't need.

What about the spying allegations?

My reaction is to emphasize what Peace Corps and Peace Corps volunteers do, which is to come to a country for two years, learn the language and try to learn the culture. They go out to communities that have invited them and work in those communities, not only in a technical capacity but in a way that allows for an exchange of cultures.

But do you deny these specific allegations?

Again, all I can do is emphasize what Peace Corps does.

So you won't confirm or deny the allegations?


You won't even address them?


What legacy do you think the Peace Corps will leave in Russia?

Our volunteers have taught over 26,000 students, they've held thousands of seminars, taught teachers and students and helped develop resource and computer centers. Communities all over Russia welcomed volunteers into their homes and workplaces and helped create more open communication between our two countries.

Background on the Peace Corps in Russia

Read more background on the Peace Corps in Russia at:

Peace Corps responds to Russian Allegations
Peace Corps responds to Russian suggestions of intelligence gathering 3 January 2003

Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision
Exclusive: Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision 27 December 2002

Moscow to abandon Peace Corps agreement
New York Times: Russia bars future U.S. Peace Corps workers 28 December 2002

Pravda: Moscow informs Washington of intention to abandon Peace Corps agreement 27 December 2002

Associated Press: Russia Rejects U.S. Peace Corps 27 December 2002

US Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia
U.S. Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia, Citing Disputes 17 December 2002

Russian Spy claims "groundless" says US
Russian claims about Peace Corps volunteers "groundless" says US Embassy 16 December 2002

KGB accuses PCVs of "suspicious activities"
Update: KGB Chief says PCVs involved in suspicious activities 15 December 2002

KGB chief accuses Peace Corps workers of spying in Russia 15 December 2002

KGB refuses visas to religious workers
Russia refuses visas to religious workers 2 November 2002

What RPCVs say about the situation
Exclusive: Read the advice RPCVs gave the Peace Corps in August 18 August 2002

Russia is cooling to the Peace Corps
Time Magazine says Russia "Cooling To the Corps" 23 August 2002

Radio Free Europe makes the Case for the Peace Corps in Russia 18 August 2002

Secretary of State Powell makes no progress on Peace Corps visas with Russian foreign minister 14 August 2002

Russia refuses visas for Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps Moscow chief denies allegations of non-professionalism 13 August 2002

Russia Ousting Dozens Of Peace Corps Volunteers 12 August 2002

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