DEMOCRACY-BUILDING IN THE NEW INDEPENDENT STATES OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION: PROGRESS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. INTERESTS
CRS Report for Congress
Democracy-Building in the New Independent
States of the Former Soviet Union:
Progress and Implications for U.S. Interests
July 29, 1998
Analyst in Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
This report provides a discussion and analysis of democratization efforts in the New
Independent States of the former Soviet Union (NIS; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia,
Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan) and U.S.
democracy-building assistance. It lists benchmarks of democratization and groups NIS
according to their apparent democratization progress. It discusses problems of
democratization in the NIS and criticism of U.S. democracy-building efforts. The prominent
recent concerns of many in Congress and elsewhere with the effects of NATO enlargement
on Russia's democratization are presented. The paper highlights several issues for Congress
in assessing U.S. democracy-building efforts in the NIS, including the propriety of such
assistance, the kinds of assistance programs to promote, criteria to use in assessing who
receives assistance, and the effectiveness of democracy-building. Tables include a checklist
of democracy-building progress in each NIS; U.S. aid data ordered by democracy-building
program; and cumulative aid obligations for each NIS for FY1992-FY1997, the
Administration's FY1998 estimated spending, and the Administration's FY1999 aid request.
An Appendix presents brief information on democracy-building in each NIS and on
proposed Administration assistance programs for FY1999. The report will be updated as
democratization and legislation warrant. Related products include CRS Issue Brief 95024,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; CRS Issue Brief 93108, Central Asia's New States, and
CRS Issue Brief 92089, Russia.
Democracy-Building in the New Independent States of the
Former Soviet Union:
Progress and Implications for U.S. Interests
Since the end of the Cold War and the advent of independence for the former
Soviet republics, these new independent states (NIS) have made varying progress in
implementing democratic reforms. Some NIS such as Russia appear to be making
some progress, a few such as Kyrgyzstan appear to be faltering, and several such as
Turkmenistan appear to be making scant progress.
Successive U.S. Administrations have fostered democracy-building in the NIS as
a primary foreign policy objective. Broadly, U.S. policymakers have stressed that the
containment policy of the Cold War has been replaced with the policy of engagement
and enlargement to increase the world’s free market democracies. Democratic NIS
are regarded as more likely to conduct peaceful foreign policies and to uphold civil
and human rights. Also, U.S. trade and business would likely be attracted to
democratic NIS where the rule of law is respected. The Administration generally
adheres to the idea that democracy-building and the creation of market economies
can proceed simultaneously in the NIS as the best means to ensure stable reforms.
Several U.S. agencies carry out democracy-building programs, with the U.S. Agency
for International Development playing a prominent role.
In practice, U.S. democracy-building aid reflects various interests and aid goals
and particular needs in an NIS. Cumulative data for FY1992-FY1997 appear to
some degree to show that democracy-building aid has been targeted to NIS that are
faltering or making scant progress in order to bolster civil society. Democracy-
building aid to Belarus, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan has been aimed at bolstering the
growth of NGOs in countries where the political systems are largely undemocratic.
The Administration has placed some priority on democracy-building in Russia and
Ukraine because of their large populations and territory (and the strategic threat of
an unstable, nuclear-armed Russia), their geopolitical and cultural connections to
Europe, and the view that democratization in these NIS provides examples to other
NIS. Cumulative aid figures for Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan reflect a recent
shift to some democracy-building aid and efforts to relieve humanitarian suffering
related to conflict.
Most in Congress have supported aid for democracy-building in the NIS, though
there have been varying concerns about the duration, conditionality, and scope of
such aid. Some have urged earmarking or otherwise highlighting democracy-
building aid for Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and other NIS, while others have
criticized the effectiveness or pertinence of existing democracy-building and other
NIS aid. Foreign operations appropriations for FY1998 (P.L.105-118) reduced the
Administration’s request for aid to the NIS to $770 million (from $900 million), but
otherwise generally reflected a shift in program priorities to grassroots democracy-
building efforts. Congressional debate on the FY1999 NIS aid request appears
supportive of the Administration's plans for democracy-building programs in the
NIS, but less receptive to other NIS programs and requested funding levels.
What Is Democracy-Building?.......................................2
Democracy-Building in the NIS:
Progress and Problems..........................................3
National Identity Issues.........................................4
Crime and Corruption..........................................5
Grouping NIS by Progress in Democratization.......................6
Implications for U.S. Interests........................................8
Critiques of U.S. Democracy-Building Efforts.......................9
NATO and Russia's Democratization.............................10
U.S. Democracy-Building Assistance.................................12
Non-Freedom Support Act Democracy-Building Aid.................14
Recent Trends in Democracy-Building Assistance...................15
Issues for Congress...............................................18
Should the United States Foster Democracy-Building in the NIS?.......18
What Kinds of Democracy-Building Programs Should Be Promoted?....19
What Should Be the Criteria for Democracy-Building Assistance?......20
Is Aid Having an Impact on Democratization in the NIS?.............23
in the New Independent States...................................25
List of Tables
1. Checklist of Democracy-Building in the New Independent States.........7
2. Democracy-Building Aid to the NIS...............................12
the FY1998 Estimate, and the FY1999 Request.....................15
Democracy-Building in the New Independent
States of the Former Soviet Union:
Progress and Implications for U.S. Interests
Many analysts argue that a process of political liberalization undertaken by
former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s contributed to the
collapse and breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. The new independent1
states (NIS) that emerged from the breakup professed intentions to democratize and
to uphold human rights. These assurances were given to the United States when
diplomatic relations were established, and several NIS leaders on U.S. visits have2
repeated these assurances.
According to some analysts, the interest in democratization in the NIS is part3
of the expanding worldwide appeal of democratic governance. But democracy is
only one of several possible outcomes of transition from communist rule in the NIS.
Many observers optimistically argue that all the NIS have at least formally
disavowed communism. They contend that a majority of the NIS have made at least
faltering progress in democratization, despite the harsh obstacles and legacies the
NIS have faced. Other observers are less sanguine, concluding that only a few of the
NIS appear to be making much progress in becoming democracies. They also argue
that none of the NIS has made enough progress that democratization might be termed
consolidated, or unlikely to face reversal. This paper examines democratization in
the NIS, grouping them broadly into three categories based on their progress in
reaching various benchmarks. The paper will examine U.S. Administration policy
on democracy-building in the NIS and Congressional and other concerns and issues.
In practice, U.S. democracy-building efforts in each NIS reflect various interests and
aid goals, as well as the particular needs of an NIS and its receptivity to aid.
1The Baltic states regained their independence in September 1991. They are usually
considered in U.S. aid and policy discussions as part of Central Europe rather than as
members of the NIS, and are not included in this study.
2Jim Nichol, Diplomacy in the Former Soviet Republics, Westport CT: Praeger, 1995, pp.
61-64. Several analysts have stressed that the collapse of communism removed it as an
alternative model for developing states to follow. See Francis Fukuyama, The End of
History and the Last Man, New York: The Free Press, 1992.
3The fall of communism in Central Europe and the Soviet Union was preceded by the
collapse of authoritarian regimes in Southern Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. See
Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century,
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
The United States long has been committed to expanding the number of
democracies in the world. Broadly, U.S. policymakers have stressed that the
containment policy of the Cold War has been replaced with the policy of engagement
and enlargement to increase the world’s free market democracies. The
Administration has argued that good relations with Russia and Ukraine are a primary
objective of U.S. foreign policy and that fostering democratization in these and other
NIS is one of the central objectives of U.S. aid. Democratic NIS are viewed as a4
U.S. security interest, since democracies are considered unlikely to start wars. In
this view, a democratic Russia and other NIS could be integrated into the Western
community of democratic states and they would uphold international civil and
human rights standards. Also, U.S. trade and business would be attracted to
democratic NIS where the rule of law is respected, according to the Administration.
Congress has generally supported Administration efforts to foster democracy
in the NIS, with differences in emphasis and timing. Congress was at the forefront
in the early 1990s in calling for a coordinated U.S. aid response to the breakup of the
Soviet Union, and more recently in directing the Administration to devote more
resources to bolstering independence and democracy-building in the non-Russian
NIS. For FY1998, Congress also generally endorsed the Administration's
Partnership for Freedom Initiative (and partly funded it), which calls for shifting and
increasing aid resources devoted to civil society programs. At the same time, many
in Congress have voiced concerns about the long-term commitment of Russia and
other NIS to democratization, the effectiveness of U.S. aid programs in fostering NIS
democratization, and the aptness of Administration support for NIS engaging in
nondemocratic actions. (See below, Issues for Congress.)
What Is Democracy-Building?
Democracy-building is usually defined as those activities that aim at
establishing and strengthening democratic processes and institutions. Efforts to
promote democracy, according to the State Department, include civic education,
conflict prevention and resolution, ethnic, racial, and religious diversity programs,
human rights education and training, legislative, political party, public
administration, and trade union development, rule of law initiatives, support for
elections and electoral reform, and support for civilian control over the military.5
More generally, many observers have focused on several benchmarks of progress in
CThe establishment of civil peace (or at least the geographical containment of
conflict) is one of the precursors of successful democratization. Contending
4Some observers have warned that, while mature democracies have not been warlike,
democratizing states may pursue aggressive foreign policies. See Michael Doyle, The Ways
of War and Peace, New York, Norton, 1997; and Jack Snyder and Edward Mansfield,
Foreign Affairs, vol. 74, May-June 1995, pp. 79-97.
5U.S. General Accounting Office. Promoting Democracy. GAO/NSIAD-94-83, January
1994, pp. 1, 10; and U.S. General Accounting Office. Promoting Democracy: Progress
Report. GAO/NSIAD-96-40, February, 1996, p. 10.
ethnic, clan, or regional groups can stymie the development of a broadly6
CApproval or amendment of a constitution providing for representative
institutions, the separation of powers, and broad protection of human and civil
rights. Rights include freedom of speech and media, and protections allowing
the growth of myriad and influential interest groups.7
COccurrence of substantive and open debate and the passage of important laws
by the legislature.
CAdoption of a multiparty electoral system and repeated occurrence of free and
fair elections that result in a peaceful transfer of power.8
CMinimal public support for parties or groups opposed to democracy.9
These benchmarks do not necessarily all need to be present for democratization
to occur, but substantial progress on the benchmarks will usually lead to a
consolidated democracy (where reforms are less likely to be reversed). Some
analysts take the view that democracy-building marks its first success when the first
competitive and free and fair election occurs and seems more assured when the
second and third such elections take place. Many suggest that such elections and
other benchmarks can be seen as part of a continuum of gradual consolidation. The
Appendix discusses progress on benchmarks for each of the NIS.
Democracy-Building in the NIS:
Progress and Problems
Democratization faces more difficulties in the NIS than in long-existing
countries in Latin America and Southern Europe that have recently democratized,
according to many observers. The NIS face problems of national identity (including
defining citizenship), that are wrapped in issues of contested borders, separatism, and
ethnic tensions. In this view, a legacy of communist habits of thinking and acting
makes democratization more difficult, although such habits may be less entrenched
where NIS have had previous experience with some degree of democratization.
6Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation,
Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, 1996, pp. 366-400. Rogers Brubaker argues that titular ethnic
elites in the NIS tend to promote their language, culture, demographic strength, economic
welfare, and political hegemony, rather than democratic inclusiveness. See Theory and
Society, February 1994, pp. 47-78.
7Other important issues bearing on the effective separation of powers include the supremacy
of the rule of law and its exercise through a free judiciary, and control of military and
security forces by civilian leaders.
8Lawrence LeDuc, Richard G. Niemi, and Pippa Norris, eds., Comparing Democracies,
Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage, 1996. They argue that “elections are a central, if not the central,
institution of democratic governance” (p. 4).
9Richard Rose, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 8, No. 3, 1997, pp. 92-108.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia can point to brief periods of independence and
non-totalitarian existence after World War I as historical models. On the other hand,
it can be argued that the bad memories many citizens have of communism may spur
them to support democratization rather than permit backsliding.10
National Identity Issues
The cases of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan illustrate the difficulties of
state-building in multiethnic states. In these states, a democratization policy that
emphasized the inclusion of minorities in the political and economic life of the state
was not followed. Inclusive policies focusing on ethnic or regional representation
in the legislature, federalism, multiple official languages, teaching in multiple
languages, economic equality, and legal protections for minority rights can
sometimes allow democratization to occur in multiethnic states. Where leaders do
not follow these policies, minorities might be faced with choosing between
assimilation or secessionism, or face repression and "ethnic cleansing."
Setbacks to democratization in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (with the
latter resuming progress after 1995) and the uncertainties faced in Tajikistan are
signs that internal civil peace appears to be a basic condition for substantial and
consolidated democratization. Georgia’s and Moldova's progress will remain
conditional until internal dissension and the political status of ethnic minorities are
resolved, according to many experts. Armenia's relationship to Nagorno Karabakh
(NK; a breakaway part of Azerbaijan inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians) also
remains ambiguous (are NK Armenians citizens of Armenia?) and has given rise to
conflict and dissension.
Some observers argue that the underfunded and inadequately manned and
provisioned armed forces in the NIS threaten civilian leaders and democratization,
while others argue that a greater danger to democratization is posed by paramilitary
groups. In the case of Russia, some observers conclude that the military's
involvement in political disputes in 1991 and 1993 increases the possibility of its
future involvement, including a possible coup.11 More commonly, however, para-
military groups have posed regional or regime threats in Georgia, Moldova, Russia,
and Tajikistan. In Georgia, paramilitary coup forces were partly supported by a
badly split Georgian National Guard in overthrowing President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
Paramilitary forces led separatism in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (assisted by
Russian irregulars and military forces). Paramilitary groups successfully prosecuted
the Chechen separatist conflict in Russia. In Azerbaijan, paramilitary forces
(supplied with arms by the Russian military) pressured the resignation of President
Abulfaz Elchibey. In Moldova, paramilitary forces (assisted by the Russian
10Samuel Huntington, Global Resurgence, pp. 3-25; Kenneth Jowitt, Global Resurgence, pp.
11On the debate, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia's
Conventional Armed Forces, by Stuart Goldman. CRS Report 97-820, pp. 31-33; and
Russia's Civil-Military Relations, by Jim Nichol. CRS Report 94-631.
military) led separatism in the Transdniestr region. Military and paramilitary forces12
have clashed during Tajikistan's seven-year civil war.
The pace of democratization in the NIS is also influenced by the disposition of
ruling elites toward reform, as well as variations in mass political culture. Several
NIS leaders have discouraged democratic participation -- ranging from peaceful
demonstrations to elections -- sometimes leading to civil conflict. In the late 1980s,
Soviet Russia had developed many new interest groups that urged Gorbachev to
implement more reforms. Central Asia, in contrast, had lower levels of urbanization
and education, and local and clan-based loyalties were often more significant than
wider political engagement and civic responsibility.
Strong presidential systems in the NIS have hampered the emergence of13
political parties and effective legislatures. The presidents either feel themselves to
be “above politics” or head or back dominant communist-type parties. Several NIS
presidents altered their constitutions to enhance their powers relative to their
legislatures. Other analysts argue that presidential systems can be conducive to
democratization if power is shared more equitably among the branches of
Marking at least a concern with appearing democratic, NIS leaders have not
usually canceled elections, except in three Central Asia states, where referendums
on extending presidencies were held to circumvent competitive elections. Some NIS
leaders have delayed or forced early elections, such as legislative elections in
Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia (in the latter, the legislature was forcibly
dissolved). Efforts to manipulate or unfairly influence electoral results are more
common, as in the Armenian presidential elections of 1996, the 1993 Azerbaijani
presidential race, and the Tajik legislative races of 1995, where international
monitors did not judge the elections as free and fair.
A peaceful leadership transition is a stringent test of democratization. Peaceful
leadership transitions have occurred in Ukraine and Moldova. Undemocratic and
violent changes of executive power have occurred in Georgia and Azerbaijan. In
Belarus, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, presidents have clung to power
by holding referendums to extend their rule, without benefit of contested elections.
Crime and Corruption
While some observers argue that some crime and even corruption may be useful
in some cases in facilitating economic decision-making, the distribution of resources,
and even the development of free markets, others caution that rampant crime and
corruption are bound to erode and retard economic and democratic reforms.14
12Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Journal of Democracy, October 1995, pp. 18-34.
13Juan Linz, Global Resurgence, pp. 124-142.
14For details, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Crime in
According to a recent World Bank report, public officials in Russia, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan, were viewed as most corrupt in these NIS,
and corruption and crime in the NIS region were viewed as higher than in any other
area of the world.15 Where NIS officials are corrupt and crime is rampant, the issue
of aid diversion also becomes critical. Congressional concerns about corruption and
crime in the NIS and effects on aid contributed to a provision in P.L.105-118
(Foreign Operations Appropriations for FY1998) that some U.S. assistance to
Ukraine would be withheld until problems affecting U.S. private investment were
resolved, and to a conference report request (Conf.Rept. 105-401) for an
Administration assessment of the effects of crime and corruption in the NIS.16
Grouping NIS by Progress in Democratization
There have been various efforts to group NIS by their progress in
democratization. Prominent among these have been those carried out by the human
rights organization Freedom House, in cooperation with USAID. They have
undertaken to “assess the progress of ex-Communist countries in ridding themselves
of the shackles of a repressive political system” and a centralized economy. Their
1997 “Nations in Transit” project discerned three groups or subgroups among the
NIS, more and less advanced transitional states and autocracies. Freedom House
categorized all the transitional states as unstable democracies capable of progressing,
stagnating, or retrogressing, and stated that these countries may be most influenced17
by Western democracy-building aid.
Based on the benchmarks of progress reflected in Table 1, and other criteria
evaluated by Freedom House and the State Department, this report will discuss three
groups of NIS, those that are democratizing, faltering, and backsliding or failing to
democratize. Four NIS -- Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia -- appear to have
made some democratization progress. Three NIS -- Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and
Azerbaijan -- appear to have faltered, while the remaining NIS -- Belarus,
Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- have made scant progress
or have substantially reverted to autocracy. The groupings are suggestive rather than
definitive, and democratizing NIS may well "straddle" groups or move from one
group to another. The question of the future of democratization largely defines the
middle group of faltering states. Kyrgyzstan may strengthen its commitment to
Russia, by Jim Nichol. CRS Report 94-718F; Crime in Russia: Situation Update, by Jim
Nichol. CRS Report 95-486F; and Crime in Russia: Recent Developments and Implications
for U.S. Interests, by Jim Nichol. CRS Report 97-705F.
15World Bank. Improving the Environment for Business and Investment in the CIS and
Baltic Countries, Background Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development, 1997.
16See also Senator Mitch McConnell, Chair of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Senate
Appropriations Committee, Opening Statement, Hearing on Crime Programs, April 21, 1998.
17In consultation with USAID, Freedom House developed 46 questions to score the countries
on seven categories of economic and political transition. The categories correspond to major
programmatic concerns and funding emphasis at USAID and other U.S. agencies. Scoring
of the categories for each NIS was carried out by Freedom House and other experts.
democratization, while Armenia's March 1998 presidential election presented a
mixed picture of some improvement in voting procedures along with many voting
irregularities. Azerbaijan's future democratization appears more problematic, and
recent events surrounding the upcoming October 1998 presidential race raise critical
concerns of further backsliding. Among the states making scant progress in
democratization, Tajikistan’s future is still clouded by civil disorder, though the
reconciliation efforts between the government and former opposition raise hopes of18
progress toward stability and democratization.
Checklist of Democracy-Building in the New Independent States
1. NNY NY~ Y NY~NYNY
2. Y Y Y /N Y Y /N Y/Y~ Y Y Y~ N Y N
3A. YYY YN N NYNNYN
3B. NNN YY~ Y~ YYNNYN
4A. NN— —— Y~ YY——Y—
4B. ——— YN~ Y~ YY ——Y —
5. N~NN YY~ Y YYNNYN
6. Y Y --- Y --- Y Y N --- --- N ---
7. Y~ Y~ N Y N Y ~ Y Y~ Y~ N Y ~ N
Key: Y=Yes; N=No; ~=qualified Yes or No; Y/=constitution was later amended or superceded
1. Separatism is not a threat and civil war and conflicts have ceased
2. Democratic constitution has been approved
3A. Free and fair presidential election—first time
3B. Free and fair legislative election—first time
4A. Free and fair presidential election—second time
4B. Free and fair legislative election—second time
5. Multiple political parties at local level operate freely
6. Democratization is not threatened by extremist parties
7. The legislature is significant as a rule-making body
Sources: U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights; Freedom House, Freedom in the
World 1997-1998; Freedom House and USAID, Nations in Transit 1997, and information in the Appendix.
18The groupings examined here are broadly comparable in most instances with trends and
rankings on political rights and civil society as reported most recently in Freedom House,
Freedom in the World 1997-1998, March 1998.
Implications for U.S. Interests
To further its support for political and economic reforms in the NIS, the Bush
Administration submitted the Freedom Support Act to Congress in early 1992, and
an amended version was signed into law in October 1992 (P.L.102-511). It states
that the collapse of the Soviet Union presents a “historic opportunity” to the West to
encourage the new states to enter the “community of democratic nations,” and that
the United States should play a special role in fostering “the development of
institutions of democratic governance, including electoral and legislative systems.”
Other U.S. aid goals in the NIS include meeting urgent humanitarian needs, fostering
free markets systems, encouraging trade and investment, promoting food production
and distribution, enhancing health and human services, promoting educational
reform, fostering upgraded safety at civilian nuclear reactors, enhancing
environmental protection, improving transportation and telecommunications,
combating illegal drugs, and protecting and caring for refugees and displaced
The Clinton Administration has stressed that support for democratic reforms in19
Russia and other NIS are important objectives of U.S. foreign policy. More
generally, the Administration’s Strategic Plan and its National Security Strategy, and
the FY1999 Budget Request for international affairs declare that the core objectives
of U.S. foreign policy are enhancing U.S. security, promoting U.S. prosperity, and
fostering democracy worldwide, and form an integrated strategy of engagement. The
Strategic Plan argues that more and more states are seeking to democratize and that
U.S. and other international influence can be “crucial” to democracy-building. The
Administration has placed some priority on democracy-building support for Russia
and Ukraine because of their large populations and territory, their geopolitical and
cultural connections to Europe, and the view that democratization in these NIS
provides an example for similar democratization among other NIS. The
Administration has hailed "free and fair" legislative, presidential, and regional20
elections held in Russia since 1995. It also has welcomed democratization progress
in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova, though in recent years criticizing some
setbacks in Kyrgyzstan.21
19U.S. Government Printing Office. Budget of the United States Government, FY1999, p.
p. 607; U.S. Department of State, United States Strategic Plan for International Affairs,
September 1997, pp. 11-13, 37-38; President Clinton, A National Security Strategy for A
New Century, May 1997, pp. 2-5, 22, 25, 28.
20U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia's December 1995
Legislative Elections: Outcome and Implications for U.S. Interests, by Jim Nichol. CRS
Report 96-17F; Russia's Presidential Election, by Jim Nichol. CRS Report 96-620F;
Russia's Local Elections, by Jim Nichol. CRS Report 97-276.
21According to the U.S. Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(CSCE), "more than any other [member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe], the United States has urged genuine, if measured, progress in democratization"
in Central Asia. See Political Reform and Human Rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Kazakstan, March 1998, p. 5.
Critiques of U.S. Democracy-Building Efforts
The Administration generally adheres to the idea that democracy-building and
the creation of market economies can proceed simultaneously as the best means to
ensure stable reforms. Secretary Albright argued in early 1998 that “I do think that
there are a set of needs [in developing states] that need to be fulfilled practically
simultaneously . . . in the best of all worlds, [political development and economic
development] go together.” She was in part responding to criticism that U.S.
support for economic development should precede support for free elections and
other democratization efforts, because the latter could be destabilizing.22
Other critics have argued that the Administration should focus aid on NIS that
have made the most progress in democratization, rather than spreading it "thinly"
among most NIS. They lament that the progressive NIS are not receiving enough
U.S. aid to surmount their tendencies to “stagnate” and “decay” rather than fully
democratize. They criticize what they view as shallow U.S. efforts to merely foster
more free elections worldwide. They point out that in countries such as Kazakstan
and Belarus, where relatively free and fair elections have been held, democratization
since has faltered. Consolidation efforts should include more focused and longer-
termed efforts to foster individual rights and freedoms, the rule of law, the
separation of church and state, and checks and balances on executive power, they23
Among critics faulting U.S. democracy-building programs, professor Michael
McFaul has called for the Administration to devote more aid to buttress Russia's
substantial progress in democratization, rather than pessimistically to emphasize
NATO enlargement as a hedge against democratic collapse in Russia. Others
criticize a U.S. shift toward closer ties with a strategically significant Uzbekistan,
rather than with the more democratically-inclined Kyrgyzstan, warning that such an
emphasis does not encourage democratization in the region. They have endorsed,
along with some opposition leaders in the NIS, Administration plans to focus more
U.S. aid on grassroots democracy-building rather than continue aid programs viewed
as directly or indirectly supporting regimes that resist democratization. Opposition
figure Akezhan Kazhegeldin, former prime minister of Kazakstan, has urged that
“America should demand that Central Asia go forward with democratization [and]
liberalization. If you do not, you will lose. There will be expectations in society,
and all the Western companies will lose, as they did in Iran.” Opposition figure
22Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Remarks and Q&A Session at Center for
National Policy, January 13, 1998. The National Endowment for Democracy likewise
responded that U.S. policy should support broad democratization. See Marc F. Plattner and
Carl Gershman, Wall Street Journal, January 26, 1998. These officials were in part reacting
to articles by Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly, December 1997, pp. 55-80; and
Fareed Zakaria, Foreign Affairs, November-December 1997, pp. 22-43. Ross Burkhart and
Michael Lewis-Beck conclude in a cross-national analysis that while economic development
fosters democratization, the latter can be pursued for its own sake "without sacrificing
economic development." This view might be seen as supporting Administration policy. See
American Political Science Review, December 1994, pp. 903-910.
23Alexander Motyl, in Nations in Transit 1997, pp. 17-22; Zakaria, pp. 22-43.
Rasul Guliyev, former legislative speaker in Azerbaijan, too warned in February
1998 that the lack of democratization in Azerbaijan meant that unexpected
government changes in the future there could lead to the confiscation of U.S.
Secretary Albright appeared to address such criticism in her Congressional
testimony on February 10, 1998, when she argued that U.S. democracy-building
efforts were tailored to needs and receptivity in each NIS and had proved helpful to
democratic groups in the NIS. She stated that “In recent months, some have
criticized America for, in their words, trying to ‘impose’ democracy overseas. They
suggest that it is hopeless and sometimes damaging to encourage elections in
countries that are not yet developed. They appear to assume that our efforts are
limited to the promotion of elections . . . America’s aim is to assist democratic
forces, where and when we can . . . we employ a wide variety of means from25
vigorous diplomacy to training judges to providing technical advice.”
NATO and Russia's Democratization
Prominent among recent criticism of the Administration's democracy-building
policy has been the argument that U.S. security interests in NATO's enlargement
could be harmed by a countervailing rise to power of nondemocratic ultra-26
nationalists and militarists in Russia. The Administration has countered that NATO
enlargement will bolster democracy in Europe, including democratization in Russia,
Ukraine, and other NIS. However, the Administration also has attempted to take
these concerns into account by backing NATO-Russia cooperation efforts. In
signing the NATO-Russia Founding Act on May 27, 1997, President Clinton stated
that because “Russia has opened itself to freedom . . . we see a future of partnership
too long delayed, that must no longer be denied.” He stressed that NATO would be
dedicated “to advance the security of every democracy in Europe — NATO’s old
members, new members, and nonmembers alike.”27 In a speech a few days later, he
argued that NATO enlargement, NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP), and special
accords with Russia and Ukraine, “will erase the artificial line in Europe that Stalin
drew .... we must not fail history’s challenge at this moment to build a Europe
peaceful, democratic, and undivided, allied with us to face the new security threats28
of the new century.”
24Michael McFaul, Foreign Affairs, January-February 1995, pp. 87-99; and Washington Post,
May 19, 1998, p. A21; and Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics, New Haven, Yale
University Press, 1989, pp. 316-317; Bess A. Brown, Authoritarianism in the New States of
Central Asia, Berichte des Bundesinstituts fur ostwissenschaftliche und internationale
Studien, 1996; New York Times, February 17, 1998; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
Newsline, February 6, 1998.
25Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, February 10, 1998.
26Michael Mandelbaum, The Dawn of Peace in Europe, 20th Century Fund, 1997.
27Remarks by President Clinton...At NATO/Russia Founding Act Signing Ceremony, White
House, May 27, 1997.
28Remarks by the President at the U.S. Military Academy Commencement, White House,
The impact of NATO enlargement on Russian democratization was a major
concern among many in the Senate during debate on the resolution of ratification on
the accession of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO. Many
opponents of enlargement highlighted the dangers it posed to Russia's democracy and
peaceful foreign policy, and the possible negative impact on U.S. national security.
Many proponents countered that enlargement would have no effect on Russia's
democratization or would even support it. Others argued that stepped-up U.S. and
NATO ties and aid could preclude possible harm to Russia's reforms. The
Resolution of Ratification to Treaty Doc. 105-36 reflects a consensus that it is in the
interest of the United States for NATO to pursue good relations with a democratizing
Senator Paul Wellstone, in opposing enlargement, contended that the forces
supporting democracy in Russia would suffer, and argued that "a democratic Russia
is unlikely to ever threaten its neighbors." He warned that many Western experts and
Russian democrats think that enlargement "is likely to sow the seeds for the re-
emergence of antidemocratic and chauvinistic trends in Russia." Senators Daniel
Patrick Moynihan and Dirk Kempthorne likewise urged support for strengthening
democracy and free enterprise in Russia rather than creating security problems for
the West. Senator Patrick Leahy similarly warned that "the enlargement of NATO,
no matter how benign, can only strengthen the hand of left and right-wing extremists
in Russia." Senator Bob Smith concurred that "we ought to be doing everything in
our power" to bolster democratization in Russia as the best way to preserve the29
independence of Central Europe.
In contrast, Senator Alfonse D'Amato voiced views common to many of those
endorsing enlargement that "Russian democracy will be better served by having
healthy, stable, and prosperous democracies on its western border," and that "a
failure to expand NATO and the European Union ... would be a victory for the anti-
democratic forces in Russia." Senator Joseph Biden concurred that "if you want to
give antidemocratic forces in Russia a boost," then vote against enlargement. At the
same time, he called for bolstering the U.S. "hand of friendship and help to Russia."
Senator William Roth argued that NATO's relations with Russia serve to draw it out
of isolation and hence bolster its reforms. Senator Lugar argued that, despite years
of debate over NATO enlargement, democratization in Russia has continued to make
progress. Russia has cooperated with the West on some foreign policies and not on30
others, and this will not change with NATO enlargement, he concluded.
May 31, 1997. Others have disagreed with these arguments. On the debate, see U.S. Library
of Congress. Congressional Research Service. NATO Enlargement and Russia, by Stanley
Sloan and Steve Woehrel. CRS Report 95-594S; and NATO Enlargement and Russia, by
Steve Woehrel. CRS Report 97-477F.
29Congressional Record, April 27, 1998, pp. S3632-S3633; April 30, 1998, pp. S3836,
S3743-3744, S3857, S3889.
30Congressional Record, April 27, 1998, pp. S3603, S3617-S3620, S3633, S3638-3639,
S3643; and April 30, 1998, pp. S3837, S3880. For further details, see U.S. Library of
Congress. Congressional Research Service. NATO: Congress Addresses Expansion of the
Alliance, by Paul Gallis. CRS Issue Brief 95076, updated regularly.
U.S. Democracy-Building Assistance
Even before the
Table 2collapse of the Soviet
Democracy-Building AID to the NISUnion, a debate occurred in
Cumulative Obligations (million dollars)*the United States and in
Freedom Support Act Funds:other Western countries
Agency for International Development:about aiding Gorbachev’s
Eurasia Foundation79.77reform efforts. After the
NIS Exchanges & Training 160.11Soviet Union broke up in
U.S. Department of Commerce:1991, this aid debate
SABIT Business Intern Training 15.57intensified. Some observers
Commercial Law Development 3.00have argued that reforms in
United States Information Agency (USIA):Russia could be bolstered
Freedom Support Act Exchanges283.76with significant U.S.
U.S. Department of State: assistance. The 1992
Anti-Crime Training & Technical Aid2Freedom Support Act
1(P.L.102-511) reflected a
7consensus in Congress and
U.S. Department of Justice: Criminal Law3.6the Administration that
Peace Corps51.35increased aid for reforms
U.S. Department of Agriculture Exchange:should be given to Russia
Cochran Fellowship Program7.11and other NIS. The in-
Faculty Exchange Program1.33coming Clinton
Congressional Research Service4.69Administration in early
Non-Freedom Support Act Funds:1993 highlighted assistance
U.S. Department of Agriculture:for reforms in Russia and
Cochran Fellowship Program5.18the NIS as a national
USIA Base Budget190.95
U.S. Department of State: International security priority of the31
Military Exchanges & Training 7.26United States.
Peace Corps Base Budget27.26
Total1121.8 The Freedom Support
*as of September 30, 1997Act (Sec. 498) calls for
Note: Democracy-building programs as administered bysupport for the estab-
the Democratic Initiatives Division, NIS Coordinator'slishment of democratic and
Office, U.S. State Department.free societies in the NIS
through programs to foster:
(1) political, social, and
economic pluralism; (2) respect for human rights and the rule of law; (3)
development of institutions of democratic governance, including electoral and
legislative processes; (4) improvement of public administration at all federal levels;
(5) free media; (6) effective control by civilians over the military; and (7) a strong
justice system. Criteria for aid (Sec. 498A) include making significant progress and
commitment to creating democracy based on the rule of law, individual freedoms,
and representative government formed by free and fair elections.
31For background, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. U.S.
Assistance to the Soviet Union and Its Successor States 1991-1996, by Curt Tarnoff. CRS
The Democratic Initiatives Division of the State Department's Office of the
Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to the NIS oversees USAID and other agency
democracy-building and training and exchange aid to the NIS.32 The branch also
consults with the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and
Labor on policy issues of interest to the Bureau. The Coordinator's Office works
closely with USAID and other agencies to establish country levels of aid. Factors
determining aid levels include the strategic importance of the country to the United
States, the country's commitment to moving toward democracy and free markets, and
how well U.S. aid efforts achieve results. A country where U.S. aid is not achieving
results might face cuts in aid, or a refocusing of aid.33 Country aid levels are also
established by Congressional earmarks or strong Congressional views. Within each
NIS, planning for aid for democracy-building and other programs is carried out by
resident USAID offices and approved by the U.S. ambassadors.
U.S. democracy-building aid for the NIS is partly extended under the umbrella
of the Democratic Pluralism Initiative “to promote democratization by supporting
democratic processes and institution-building, with a special emphasis on promoting
the rule of law, democratic local governance, and a strengthened civil society and
independent media.”34 Democracy-building programs administered by the
Democratic Initiatives Division of the Coordinator's Office also include activities of
the Eurasia Foundation and various agencies' training and people-to-people
exchanges that are deemed to at least partly enhance respect for the rule of law and
civil society (see Table 2). The Democratic Initiatives Division works with the
Economic Division of the Coordinator's Office in overseeing economic training and
exchange programs such as the Cochran fellowships.
Freedom Support Act funds are administered by USAID or transferred by it to
other agencies, and account for the largest share (80%) of U.S. aid for democracy-
building in the NIS. USAID's democratic pluralism initiatives have been grouped
into three broad components (enhancing citizen participation, legal system reforms,
and local government reforms) and five programs:35
CCitizen Participation, Political Process Programs: These strengthen local,
regional, and national democratic institutions and processes by supporting the
32Office of the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance to the
NIS, U.S. Department of State, Democratic Initiatives Division, Table, Cumulative
Obligations for NIS Democracy-Building Programs by Country as of 9/30/97.
33U.S. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Testimony of
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs John Shattuck.
Hearing, September 14, 1993, p. 29.
34Freedom Support Act Annual Report FY1996, p. 99; USAID, FY1998 Planning Sheet:
Democratic Pluralism Initiatives. The Democratic Pluralism Initiative was launched by
USAID in 1990 to sharpen its focus on democracy-building in Asia, the Middle East, and
Eastern Europe. The NIS were added with the passage of the Freedom Support Act in 1992.
According to the initiative, political reform can facilitate economic development as well as
vice versa. See USAID, The Democracy Initiative, December 1990.
35USAID, Congressional Presentation, Annex III, FY1999; Office of the Coordinator of U.S.
Assistance to the NIS, FY1996 Annual Report and FY1997 Annual Report.
development of political parties, civic organizations, and independent labor
movements, and promoting free and fair elections.
CCitizen Participation, Civil Society Programs: These help NGOs to provide
services and participate in public policy-making. USAID-funded U.S.-based
private voluntary associations (PVOs) assist NIS counterparts by training
trainers in leadership, fund-raising and networking, and by providing seed
grants for the implementation of small projects. Local NGO and PVO staffs are
trained in project design and organizational management and in networking,
communication, and participation in public policy-making.
CCitizen Participation, Independent Media Programs: These support the devel-
opment of independent newspapers and broadcast media by providing
journalists with training, technical aid, and equipment.
CLegal System: Rule-of-law programs to support U.S.-based NGOs whose
mission is to promote the development of transparent legal and legislative
processes, foster human rights, and enhance the free flow of legal information.
These NGOs help establish independent, effective court systems by providing
training to judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, help establish bar
associations, help develop the capacity to provide legal education, provide
expert commentary on draft commercial and criminal codes and draft
constitutions, and promote grassroots legal reform by supporting public law
clinics. A program of parliamentary development encourages the transparency
of law-making and its effectiveness as a check on executive power.36
CLocal Government: The public administration program aims to help local gov-
ernments become more transparent, accountable, and responsive. Several pilot
projects have been undertaken to introduce new management and financial
practices and to help upgrade service delivery. Advisors have helped municipal
officials to prepare presentations of their budgets, identify spending priorities
and account for municipal expenditures through media and town meetings.
Non-Freedom Support Act Democracy-Building Aid
Some other agency funds are used for NIS democracy-building besides Freedom
Support Act funds. The State Department's International Military Exchanges and
Training (IMET) program, administered by the Department of Defense, helps foster
military respect for democratic institutions and civilian control over the military.
The Peace Corps has volunteers in most NIS who carry out some democracy-related
education. Some portion of USIA's base budget bolsters democracy-building in the
NIS. In FY1998-FY1999, USIA obligated or proposed aid to the NIS of about $24
million a year, of which about one-half is used by USIA's Office of Eastern Europe
and the NIS for democracy-building programs. These include fostering free
elections, helping to improve legislation governing human rights, protecting the
36USAID funded technical support to the legislatures in Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine to
increase their institutional capacity. For background on the CRS program in Russia, see U.S.
Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia’s New Legislature, by Jim
Nichol. CRS Report 96-878F.
independence of the judiciary and media, and introducing civic education into the
schools. Other USIA programs involving aspects of democracy-building in the NIS
include those dealing with law enforcement, the free flow of information, and
international cooperation.37 Besides agency programs included in the table, other
U.S. activities might also be included, such as transfers from the Foreign Military
Financing Program to NATO’s PFP, some of which foster democratic civil-military
relations in the NIS.
Recent Trends in Democracy-Building Assistance
Freedom Support Act assistance was initially considered by the Administration
to be transitional “to help move the countries of the region far enough along the road
to becoming market-based democracies that they can . . . complete the journey on
Democracy-Building: Cumulative Obligations by Country,
the FY1998 Estimate, and the FY1999 Request
CountryCumulativeAs PercentFY1998 FY1999 As Percent
Obligations*of CountryEstimate** Request** of Country
Obligations for FY1999
Russia 545.55 12.0 41.575 96.9 43.0
Ky rgy zstan 35.87 10.8 6 .71 10.0 34.5
Uzbekistan 38.52 36.2 5 .85 11.05 34.5
Tajikistan 13.59 7.5 2 .2 5.75 30.7
Kazakstan 64.02 13.9 8 .23 14.0 30.4
Ukraine 208.13 14.1 41.37 64.0 28.6
Azerbaijan 13.37 11.9 4 .19 8 .0 25.4
Armenia 40.42 5.6 21.745 19.0 23.8
Turkmenistan 19.26 13.2 1 .3 3.5 23.3
Georgia 27.12 5.5 25.45 16.2 20.1
Total (Average)1121.8(11.0)175.505280.7 (30.3)
*as of September 30, 1997; includes Freedom Support Act and non-Freedom Support Act funding;
in addition, $64.79 million in regional aid is used for democratization and is included in the total.
**includes only Freedom Support Act democracy programs; for the FY1998 estimate, $7.915
million in NIS regional aid was estimated for democratization and is included in the total; for
FY1999 planning, $13.3 million in NIS and Central Asian regional aid was planned for
democratization and is included in the total. Democracy-building efforts administratively include
democratic pluralism initiatives, the Eurasia Foundation, and various training and exchange
Source: State Department
their own” as aid winds down.38 The South Caucasus and Central Asian states,
37USIA, USIA FY99 Budget Proposal; USIA, USIA Performance Plan FY1999.
38USAID Congressional Presentation, Annex III, FY1998, p. 8.
among other NIS, were felt to need longer-term assistance, but all Freedom Support
Act aid was proposed to end by the year 2002.
The Partnership for Freedom (PFF) aid initiative unveiled by the
Administration in early 1997 indefinitely extends the anticipated duration of aid to
the NIS to reflect a more long-term view of U.S. relations. It ostensibly focuses on
NIS that have come the farthest in their transitions “and are ready for trade,
investment, rapid growth, and a multitude of economic, political, and cultural ties to
the West," although the Administration also has highlighted PFF programs for
Central Asian regimes that have made little progress in democratization.39 The
democratic component of PFF calls for enhanced cooperative aid to encourage the
development of civil society through grassroots partnerships between U.S. and NIS
organizations and exchange programs. At the same time, some technical aid, in the
guise of support for U.S. experts who advise recipient governments on policy40
reforms, will continue.
In its Congressional Presentation for FY1998, USAID proposed aid for
enhancing citizens’ participation by supporting NGOs for all NIS except Moldova
and Belarus, and to foster more effective, responsible, and accountable local
government for Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Ukraine. Support for legal
system reforms was proposed for Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine. USAID
also anticipated that increased funding under the PFF initiative would be used to
increase cooperative U.S.-NIS activities to promote lasting ties and civil societies in41
Actual FY1998 Freedom Support Act funding for democracy-building fell short
of the Administration's request for most NIS, because of Congressional earmarks and
reductions in funding, and changing program needs and country receptivity. USAID
indicated in Congressional testimony that, if its request was not fully funded, it42
would give priority to economic restructuring and democratic initiatives. The latter
appeared to suffer substantial reductions, however. Estimated funding by USAID
in most NIS for democratic pluralism initiatives for FY1998 amounted to about one-
half of what USAID originally requested. In Georgia and Armenia, however,
Congressional earmarks apparently protected democracy-building programs. In the
case of Russia, estimated democracy-building funding in FY1998 is substantially less
than what USAID requested, being reduced from $69.8 million to $12.8 million.
39USAID Congressional Presentation, Annex III, FY1998, p. 10.
40U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. The Partnership for Freedom,
by Curt Tarnoff. CRS Report 97-342F, updated May 8, 1997. These goals for PFF were
reiterated by Donald Pressley, Acting Assistant Administrator for Europe and the NIS,
USAID, in testimony before the House International Relations Committee on March 26,
of the NIS from Western influences.
41USAID, Congressional Presentation, Fiscal Year 1998, Annex III, Europe and the New
Independent States, pp. 2, 9-10, 13, 17, 53-54, 122-125, 162-165, 185-188, 282-285, 356-
42Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related
Programs, House Appropriations Committee, March 19 and April 17, 1997, p. 401.
The State Department's Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for
FY1999 requests $280.7 million in Freedom Support Act aid for the NIS for
"increasing [the] adherence to democratic principles." This is an increase from
estimated spending for democracy-building of $175.505 million in FY1998 (22.8%
of Freedom Support Act funding in FY1998 compared to 30.3% proposed for
FY1999),43 reflecting the objectives of expanding civil society and local economic
and exchange programs under PFF. Cumulative funding for Freedom Support Act
and Non-Freedom Support Act aid to the NIS for democracy-building, broadly
defined, is about 11% of all obligated funds 1992-1997 ($1.1 billion out of $10.2
The cumulative rankings do not clearly parallel the three groups of NIS ranked
by progress in democratization (Table 3). In practice, democracy-building aid
appears to some degree to have been targeted to NIS that are faltering or backsliding,
in order to bolster civil societies in these states, although the cumulative data also
reflect other U.S. interests, aid goals, needs and receptivity of an NIS, or
Congressional earmarks. The FY1998 estimates and FY1999 planning data (Table
3) also reflect varying objectives and do not precisely parallel the rankings. In some
NIS, the Administration and Congress have placed greater emphasis on targeting aid
for civil society initiatives where the governments have made little progress in
democratization or are backsliding (Belarus, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan),
while in others, aid has supported further progress in democratization (the cases of
Russia and Ukraine). Democracy-building aid to Belarus, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan
has been aimed at bolstering the growth of NGOs where the political systems are
largely undemocratic. In the case of Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan, cumulative
aid figures reflect a focus until recently on relieving humanitarian suffering caused
In the case of democracy-building support for backsliding NIS, the
Administration has argued that support for grass roots and other local civil and
human rights efforts can contribute to popular pressure that may eventually result in
changes of leadership or other top-level support for wider democratization. Such
programs have been endorsed by some human and civil rights advocates of these
NIS, though some have doubted their usefulness where regimes stifle meaningful
dissent, or warn that close attention must to paid to keep such programs from
bolstering authoritarian regimes. In his Congressional testimony in March-April
1998, Richard Morningstar, then-Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary
of State on Assistance to the NIS, argued that PFF efforts are particularly salient to
democracy-building in South Caucasian and Central Asian states where "we have
foot-dragging on democratic reform" by authoritarian leaders. In these states, the
United States has tried to "pry open the door of progress, focusing in particular on
43Amended estimated spending provided by the State Department, May 29, 1998.
44Besides democracy-building aid, about 23% of cumulative obligations are for Nunn-Lugar
or DOE programs and 28% are food assistance, with the rest devoted to economic and other
supporting NGOs as key components of grassroots democracy," and training and45
exchanges such as for legislators and law enforcement personnel.
Issues for Congress
Most in Congress have supported aid for democracy-building and economic
reforms in Russia and other NIS. Over the six years of Freedom Support aid, some
Congressional observers have urged greater emphasis on democracy-building in
Russia, while others have criticized the effectiveness or pertinence of existing
democratization and other U.S. aid to Russia and other NIS.46
The increased funding for the NIS region contained in the FY1998 PFF
initiative was partly supported by Congress (Congress reduced the Administration’s
FY1998 request for aid to the NIS from $900 million to $770 million, but increased
the level of aid over the $625 million allocated the previous year). The House
Appropriations Committee reported that it welcomed the PFF shift in program
priorities to private sector investment and grassroots democracy-building efforts.
Further support for NIS democracy-building was provided when Congress approved
a provision in Foreign Operations Appropriations for FY1998 (P.L.105-118) that
permitted government-to-government democracy-building aid to Azerbaijan. At
Congressional hearings in the first half of 1998 on the FY1999 NIS aid request,
many in Congress appeared supportive of the Administration's plans for PFF
programs in the non-Russian NIS, but less receptive to other NIS programs and
requested funding levels. S.2334, Foreign Operations Appropriations for FY1999,
was reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Appropriations on July 21,
1998. It provides for $740 million for NIS assistance, below the Administrations
request of $925 million, and earmarks aid to Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine. The
Committee reported that its earmarks and other NIS support strengthen free market
democracies there and "enhance U.S. interests through increased stability, security,
and prosperity" (S.Rept.105-255).
Should the United States Foster Democracy-Building in the NIS?
While a consensus supports democracy-building in the NIS, some voices
believe that current U.S. aid policy may not be the most effective means to reach this
goal. Some believe that the United States should not seek to impose the U.S. system
of governance on NIS but rather allow them to develop their own democratic
systems. Some call for less reliance on U.S. taxpayer-provided assistance and more
recognition and support for the substantial private efforts of U.S. citizens, companies,
and media to spread democracy. Others call for other democratic countries and
45Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar, Statement Before the House International Relations
Committee on Assistance to the NIS, March 26, 1998; Statement of Ambassador Richard L.
Morningstar, On Assistance to the [Caucasian and Central Asian] NIS, House International
Relations Committee, April 30, 1998.
46U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia and U.S. Foreign
Assistance, by Curt Tarnoff. CRS Report 96-261F; and The Former Soviet Union and U.S.
Foreign Assistance, by Curt Tarnoff. CRS Issue Brief IB95077, updated regularly.)
international organizations to shoulder more of the NIS aid burden. Some warn that
U.S. aid to foster democracy-building in the NIS might cause a backlash by
nondemocratic and ultra-nationalist groups in these states and harm the efforts of
indigenous democrats. Others argue that democracy-building efforts might
contribute to civil disorder if NIS governments are not able to cope with increased
citizen participation and demands, possibly harming U.S. trade and private
investment interests. The general consensus in Congress supporting NIS democracy-
building aid may come into question if NIS democratization efforts encounter
mounting setbacks and reversals.
What Kinds of Democracy-Building Programs Should Be
There are narrow and broad criteria of what constitutes democracy-building
programs. Democracy-building can be narrowly defined as encompassing support
for writing constitutions, setting up free and fair electoral systems, and executive,
legislative, and judicial branch institution-building. Support for upholding the broad
range of human rights is also sometimes included, as are many or most economic
reforms. Many would include such programs as crime fighting and fostering civilian
control over the military as democracy-building. Many have also advocated that
democracy-building aid be targeted to localities and private groups as well as to
central governments, and that central governments receive less aid when they are
resistant to reforms. The State Department, as noted, has taken an expansive view
that people-to-people exchanges that bring NIS citizens and officials to the United
States, and some in-country training such as that conducted by Peace Corps
volunteers, expose NIS participants to principles of the rule of law and to modes of47
behavior in a civil society.
Virtually all observers agree that the kinds of programs and their scope should
be tailored to each NIS rather than implemented across the board. USAID in part has
based its democracy-building programs on reviews it has carried out in each NIS.
In its FY1997 review for Kazakstan, for instance, USAID assessed Kazakstan as
moving forward in creating effective, responsible, and accountable local government,
so recommended beginning a program of training and assistance in local democracy-
building in FY1998. In the case of Georgia, the review for FY1997 concluded that
there had been good progress in USAID programs to foster citizen participation and
legal reform, but less progress in creating effective, responsible, and accountable
local government. It recommended a pause on large-scale local government aid or
even curtailing the program if the central government did not pursue48
47On U.S. democracy-building aid for Russian legislative, judicial, party, electoral, and NGO
development, see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia and
U.S. Foreign Assistance: Current Issues, by Curt Tarnoff, March 20, 1996, pp. 25-26.
48USAID, Kazakstan: Results Review and Resource Request, April 1997; USAID,
Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, p. 120; and USAID, Results Review and
Resource Request: Georgia, June 1997, pp. 2, 24. USAID's Congressional Presentation for
FY1999, Annex III, requested less funding for local government democratization, pending
local government elections (p. 102).
The question of what kinds of democracy-building programs to support also
depends on the amount of NIS aid appropriated and earmarked, as well as on changes
in the receptivity of each NIS to assistance. While Administration planning through
FY1997 called for NIS aid to be wound down shortly after the year 2000, there were
discussions about what programs important to the United States should be retained
in the coming years. Crime-fighting training, some people-to-people exchanges, and
civil society programs were among democracy-building programs many proposed
should continue, and these programs have been highlighted as part of PFF.
What Should Be the Criteria for Democracy-Building Assistance?
Another issue is prioritizing which NIS to assist in bolstering their
democratization. What are the criteria for determining which NIS are to receive the
most aid, which NIS are progressive enough that they require reduced or no
democracy-building aid, and which NIS are so nondemocratic that they should not
receive any U.S. aid? U.S. assistance to the NIS, including democracy-building aid,
has been conditioned on a wide variety of factors, including the Freedom Support
Act and other legislation, as well as Administration policies. The Administration has
mentioned criteria including whether an NIS is strategically important to the United
States or is a regional power, the prospects for the creation of democracy and free
markets, how open an NIS is to U.S. aid efforts, and whether democratization may49
have a demonstration effect on other NIS in the region. Other conditions bearing
on whether an NIS receives U.S. assistance, perhaps including democracy-building
aid, include whether an NIS adheres to arms control agreements, does not wage war
against its neighbors, does not support terrorism, does not transfer materials or
technology that can be used to construct mass destruction weapons, and upholds
human rights. Specific legislative conditions on aid to Russia that potentially affect
U.S. democracy-building efforts have included whether it upholds religious freedom
and abjures assisting Iran in building nuclear reactors and ballistic missiles.
Rarely does an NIS have a clear-cut record in democratization that makes policy
choices simple. The Administration contends that U.S. ties with Uzbekistan,
Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan are important for economic reasons, and because of
Uzbekistan's regional power status, despite their poor receptiveness to democracy-
building. In these cases, aid levels are not perfectly related to the ranking of NIS in
terms of democratization progress. But even in the case of Russia and Ukraine,
besides their democratization progress, policy-makers have emphasized the
geopolitical importance of these populous and territorially-large NIS, as well as
strategic concerns with reducing nuclear weapons in Russia. Even in backsliding
NIS, in practice the Administration has pursued some engagement to advance human
rights and democracy-building at the grass roots level (see Table 3).
The range and scope of conditions on democracy-building aid to the NIS have
been a perennial issue of concern to Congressional authorizers and appropriators.
In February 1998, Representative Lee Hamilton reflected arguments of many in
Congress and the Administration that rather than giving up on supporting democracy
where NIS governments have faltered at reforms, the United States should maintain
49U.S. Congress. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Administration of Justice Programs.
Hearing. Testimony of John Shattuck, September 14, 1993, p. 29.
support for successful programs to aid democratic reformers.50 On the other hand,
Representatives Gilman, Gerald Solomon, and James Traficant have questioned the
usefulness of giving aid to Yeltsin until he attacks high-level corruption and
implements meaningful economic and foreign policy reforms. Answering those who
might caution against cutting off aid to a democratizing Russia, Senator Gordon
Smith stated that no country that suppresses religious freedom can be democratic.
In May 1998, after receiving assurances in Russia that religious rights would be
upheld, he emphasized the U.S. interest in a Russia that chooses the path of
"democratic government, the rule of law, and friendly relations with its neighbors."51
Congressional concern over particular U.S. and international security interests
at times has been considered to clearly outweigh broader security interests ensured
through democracy-building support. Annual foreign operations appropriations
since FY1996 have called for a partial aid cutoff to Russia -- possibly including some
democracy-building aid -- if Russia assists Iran's nuclear and missile programs (a
presidential waiver has been provided if Russia makes progress in curtailing such52
programs and on national security grounds). Similarly, NATO's enlargement was
widely supported in Congress as a core U.S. security interest, though in this case,
concern over a possible clash of U.S. interests caused many in Congress to also urge
stepped-up support for democracy-building in Russia. Senator Robert Torricelli
highlighted this view when he argued that "if Russia is democratic and capitalistic
and free, [then] Eastern Europe is secure," and that by enhancing Russian
democracy, the United States enhanced its own security. Senator Patty Murray
similarly stressed that "Russia matters to our own future ... peace and security," and
called on the Administration and Congress to "rebuild" ties with "those in Russia
who are advocating and following the course of democracy." Senator Strom
Thurmond, while arguing that enlargement would provide a hedge against "a future,
resurgent Russia," also urged continued support for Russia's transition to a peaceful
free market democracy as "America's primary national security goal in Europe."53
Congressional debate and funding priorities have placed greater emphasis in
recent years on U.S. aid to the non-Russian NIS, earmarking or strongly supporting
appropriations for assistance for Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. These
earmarks usually have been accorded to NIS demonstrating at least some progress
in democratization, though other considerations, such as urgent humanitarian needs
50Congressional Record, February 3, 1998, p. E63. He was supporting the National
Endowment for Democracy against critics of U.S. democratization policy. For a similar
argument, see Representative Steny Hoyer, Congressional Record, July 30, 1997, p. H6357,
during debate on H.R. 2159, covering appropriations for FY1998 to the NIS.
51Congressional Record, June 19, 1998, p. 4873; April 16, 1997, p. H1546; November 5,
European Affairs Subcommittee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 20, 1998.
52U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia's Religion Law, by Jim
Nichol. CRS Report 97-696F; and Russian Missile Technology and Nuclear Reactor
Transfers to Iran, by Stuart Goldman, Kenneth Katzman, and Robert Shuey. CRS Report
53Congressional Record, April 30, 1998, pp. S3829, S3847, S3868, S3876-3877, S3886-
in Armenia and Georgia, also have entered into earmarking decisions. Support for
non-Russian NIS to enhance their sovereignty and independence has been
prominently stressed by Senator Mitch McConnell.54 The Foreign Aid
Appropriations Act for FY1998 (P.L.105-108) reflects these emphases, earmarking
assistance to Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia for democracy-building and other
purposes. The Act also states that U.S. policy should promote democratization and
other goals in the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia. The Silk Road
Strategy Act (H.R.2867/S.1344) introduced in the House and Senate in late 1997,
calls for added policy emphasis on the South Caucasian and Central Asian NIS.
Representative Gilman, in introducing the bill in the House, stated that the first
priority of U.S. involvement in these NIS should be to "see democratic government
take root in these states. Stability in the region and in the broader Eurasian region
may well depend on the successful consolidation of democratic governance in these55
Among non-Russian NIS that have been of special concern to Congress,
Armenia has received support from an Armenian Caucus of Members of Congress
and other Members who have advocated increased aid and diplomatic support.
Senator Jesse Helms stated on June 8, 1998, that increased aid to bolster
democratization in Georgia would be a priority. Senator Sam Brownback on
February 10, 1998, warned that "if democracy is allowed to fail in Georgia, it is
unlikely to succeed anywhere in the region," and urged the Administration to
articulate to those who might try to destabilize the South Caucasus states that "we
will do everything we can to facilitate democracy and free markets" among these
states. Senator McConnell similarly stated on January 28, 1998, that Georgian
President Eduard Shevardnadze’s “vision for a free, prosperous, and democratic56
Georgia is one I support and believe him to be uniquely qualified to deliver.”
Representative Bob Shaffer on April 23, 1998, emphasized that “Ukraine has
moved cautiously and steadily toward a free-market economy and multi-party
democracy.” While calling for Ukraine to improve its business climate for foreign
investors, he also stated that the United States should “continue to engage this
aspiring, recovering independent nation and encourage the constructive reform
Ukraine has already initiated.” He warned that “rebuking Ukraine” rather than
engaging it would demonstrate that the United States had lost confidence in57
Ukraine’s ability to reform and possibly harm its democratization.
Representatives Gilman and others introduced a resolution on March 5, 1998,
deploring limitations on human and civil rights in Belarus and calling for renewed
democratization. Representative Smith stated that “the rights and liberties of the
54Congressional Record, November 1, 1995, p. S16473.
55Congressional Record, November 7, 1997, p. E2240.
56Congressional Record, February 10, 1998, p. S547; January 29, 1998, p. S208; February
57Congressional Record, April 23, 1998, pp. E641-642.
Belarusian people are being eroded by their own authorities” and that “serious58
backsliding and a turn to the Soviet past” are occurring.
Is Aid Having an Impact on Democratization in the NIS?
It is difficult to assess what effect U.S. government programs have on
democratization, since indigenous efforts, U.S. private investment, and other nations'
foreign aid also may have a substantial effect. Program successes may also be
difficult to assess, especially in the short term, complicating the debate over future
aid. The Administration has admitted that expectations in the early 1990s that
democratization in the NIS would progress rapidly were exaggerated, and has
proposed increased assistance over an open-ended time-span. Some observers have
argued that U.S. aid to Russia and other NIS may have at most an effect at the
margins, but might be usefully considered where extra support might bolster
democratization efforts by reformers or localities.59 Others counter that U.S. aid for
democracy-building in the NIS has been largely ineffective because of corruption,
crime, and mismanagement in these states, and argue either that aid should be cut off
or that these problems must receive priority aid (see above, Crime and Corruption).
USAID's reviews in the NIS attempt to measure the democracy-building success
of U.S. programs. In some cases, surveys and other data were used to assess
progress toward objectives, but in other cases a qualitative "anecdotal narrative
approach" was used, which included State Department's human rights assessments
and other materials. USAID has generally argued that its reviews show that its
democracy-building programs have facilitated and strengthened NIS
democratization. In its review for Armenia, USAID judged Armenia as not meeting
expectations in developing political parties and reforming electoral and legislative
systems, and stated that some aid efforts had been recast or suspended. Nonetheless,
it concluded that U.S. aid had improved some aspects of the electoral process. It
blamed the "seriously flawed" and "questionable" 1996 presidential election and
turmoil afterward on the still low level of political culture. In Georgia, USAID
evaluated progress in citizen participation and legal reform as broadly meeting
USAID expectations, although there appeared to be less progress in developing
decentralized local governments. By USAID measures, Kazakstan has been meeting
or exceeding expectations on some measures of democratization. The numbers of
local NGOs formed and improvements in local public administration there have
Severe backsliding in Belarus has shown that earlier positive Administration
assessments of U.S. democracy-building there proved unsustainable. Nonetheless,
USAID argued that its democracy-building aid proved useful in Belarus and that
58Congressional Record, March 5, 1998, pp. E312-313.
59U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Russia and U.S. Foreign
Policy: Parameters of the Current Debate, by Mark M. Lowenthal. CRS Report 94-491F,
June 10, 1994.
60USAID, Results Review and Resource Request: Armenia, June 1997; Results Review and
Resource Request: Georgia, June 1997; and Kazakstan: Results Review and Resource
Request, April 1997.
continued aid would nurture reformist forces. USAID stated that "clearly,
individuals who participated in USAID democracy-building programs became vocal
and tireless advocates of democratic ideals." USAID concluded that "the negative
trends [in Belarus] highlight the extreme importance" of PFF-type programs "aimed
at sustaining the independent media, strengthening NGOs, developing respect for the
rule of law at the grassroots level, and assisting in privatization."61
Other observers have viewed democracy-building programs as less successful.
The U.S. General Accounting Office (USGAO) in early 1996 assessed U.S.
democracy programs in Russia as having “mixed results in meeting their stated
developmental objectives," since half of the programs reviewed did not "contribute
to significant changes in Russia's political, legal, or social system." In responding to
the USGAO report, the State Department and USAID agreed with USGAO that
short-term results often were not significant, but stressed that U.S. democracy-
building efforts in Russia were being refocused to longer-term efforts. Instead of
support for central institutions and political parties where progress has proved
difficult to achieve, they averred, a longer time-span for assistance would be adopted
and support would be focused more on grass roots efforts to build a popular
consensus for democratic reforms (in line with the subsequently announced PFF62
61USAID, Belarus: Results Review and Resource Request, May 19, 1997.
62USGAO. Promoting Democracy: Progress Report on U.S. Democratic Development
Assistance to Russia, pp. 2-9.
in the New Independent States
This appendix provides assessments of democratization in the NIS, and
proposed U.S. democracy-building aid. The NIS are provisionally grouped
according to the benchmarks discussed above into those that have made progress in
democratization (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia), those that have faltered
(Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan), and those that have made scant progress or
are substantially backsliding (Belarus, Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and
According to the State Department, Russia’s constitutional structures are
democratic and citizens exercise the right to change their government peacefully,64
though democratization has proceeded slowly. The legislature and the president
faced elections in 1995-1996 that were judged by most international observers as
largely free and fair, with a broad range of political parties and movements65
contesting office. The judiciary shows signs of limited independence. Local
elections in 1996-1997 were mostly free and fair, though some residency, age, or
other requirements in some localities were considered illegal by the Central Electoral
Commission. Crime and corruption increasingly threaten democratization,
Many analysts have argued that democratization in Russia was retarded by
Yeltsin’s reluctance in late 1991 to call for new Russian legislative elections and a
new constitution, at a time when the reformist movement was strong. Instead, his
63Besides sources noted below, for background see U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional
Research Service. CRS Reports for Congress 96-179, Armenia; 97-522, Azerbaijan; 95-776,
Belarus; 97-727, Georgia; 97-1058, Kazakstan; 97-690, Kyrgyzstan; 95-403, Moldova; 98-
Azerbaijan, and Georgia.)
64U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997; Thomas
Remington, in Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott, eds., Democratic Changes and
Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, Cambridge University
Press, 1997, pp. 69-129. See also George Breslauer, Political Succession, Problems of
Post-Communism, September-October 1997, pp. 32-37.
65Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), International Observers
Mission: Russian Presidential Election, Final Statement, June 18 and July 5, 1996. See also
the generally positive assessments by Yitzhak Brudny, In Pursuit of the Russian Presidency,
Communist and Post-Communist Studies, September 1997, pp. 255-275. Other analysts
placed greater emphasis on Yeltsin's manipulation of the media and violations of campaign
spending limits, among other transgressions. For a negative assessment, see Boris
Kagarlitsky, Russia Chooses -- And Loses, Current History, October 1996, pp. 305-310.
66Freedom in the World 1997-1998, p. 428.
administration focused on economic rather than political reforms. The economic
reforms were opposed by the legislature. The wrangling between the executive and
legislative branches on economic and other issues was finally resolved with Yeltsin’s
forcible dissolution of the legislature in October 1993 with heavy loss of life, a
setback for democratization. Another setback to democratization was posed by
Russia's December 1994 military and police crackdown in Russia's breakaway
Chechnya Republic, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian and other casualties
and displaced persons and refugees, and massive economic damages. Highly
unpopular among most Russians, the conflict was wound down in August 1996 with
a cease-fire arranged during the Russian presidential campaign.
Although Russia has pledged to abide by existing borders with other NIS, some
ultra-nationalists and communists in Russia have called for incorporating transborder
areas such as those in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and northern Kazakhstan where
many ethnic Russians reside, or even urged reconstituting the Soviet Union. There
are serious questions about the results of the December 1993 constitutional
referendum that have never been addressed by the Yeltsin administration, but most
political parties endorsed Yeltsin's proposal in 1994 to work within the constitutional
framework. In the 1996 presidential race, Communist Party of the Russian
Federation (CPRF) head Gennadiy Zyuganov stated that he would fundamentally
amend or replace the constitution. The CPRF and the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDPR; Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's party) won large numbers of seats in the State
Duma in 1993 and 1995, but these and other ultra-nationalist or anti-government
deputies have not been able to revamp the constitution, since agreement is required
in the Federation Council and in the regions.
The electoral system for the State Duma was stable for two elections, but the
Federation Council has shifted in its representation, and it remains to be seen
whether it will be durable. There also may be changes in the State Duma electoral
system, since Yeltsin and others have called for doing away with proportional
representation by party lists or lowering the 5% threshold. The CPRF has regional
units and the LDPR has some local though declining presence. The Our Home party
has relied on support provided by regional leaders, and the Yabloko party has
endeavored to create a grassroots organization, but other democratic parties tend not
to have a local presence. There has not been a transfer of presidential power yet as
a test of democratization, but the acceptance by the CPRF of the results of the 199667
presidential race set a fragile precedent. The legislature is constitutionally
constrained in initiating legislation involving appropriations, but has asserted itself
in altering appropriations measures and passing some important laws. Yeltsin has
vetoed many bills approved by the legislature and the government has often been lax
in implementing laws.
67Heinz Timmerman argues that there has been a "surprising" degree of political stability in
Russia since 1993, because the CPRF has in practice worked within the political system
rather than acting disruptively. Acquiescence by several CPRF deputies for Sergey
Kiriyenko's confirmation as prime minister in May 1998 is a recent example of this stability.
See The Communist Party of Russia, Berichte des Bundesinstituts fur ostwissenschaftliche
und internationale Studien, No. 9, January 1998.
Yeltsin's "state of the federation" addresses to the Russian legislature in 1997
and 1998 stressed his continued commitment to democratization. In 1997, he urged
the legislature not to try to amend the constitution but “to learn to respect [it], let us
learn to live by it . . . And only after that will we think of amendments.” He also
warned that regional/republic efforts to circumvent laws will not stand: “I have
enough will to ensure that the Constitution ... operates fully and over the whole
territory of the country." His 1998 address reiterated this commitment to reforms.
He stated that "we have built a system of democratic institutions" and that a
"civilized political process" was emerging. He criticized the "poor juridical quality"
of many laws passed by the legislature, though he also criticized executive branch
agencies for laxity in formulating draft laws, some of which also were of poor
juridical quality. He called for added support for NGOs in Russia to build a civil
society. He decried the existence of dozens of political parties in Russia, calling for
passage of a law on parties that would facilitate development of a "normal multiparty
system," and for effective laws on campaign financing and electoral monitoring.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The Administration requested $96.9 million
in Freedom Support Act funds for FY1999 for democracy-building (more than
double last year's estimated spending), including USAID's request of $15.9 million
for enhancing citizen's participation in political and economic decision-making and
$5 million for fostering a more democratic and market-oriented legal system. The
Administration plans to stress U.S.-Russian private-sector and community-based
partnerships and exchanges under the PFF program, as carried out by USIA, USAID,
and other agencies. While these programs will emphasize economic reforms, the
Administration maintains that they also foster respect for the rule of law.
USAID will provide grants to the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the
International Republican Institute (IRI) to encourage political party-building at the
national and local levels and the strengthening of democratic institutions, and to
other U.S. NGOs to carry out civil society, rule of law, and independent media
programs. USAID's Regional Investment Initiative will focus partly on increasing
citizen participation in local government. USAID legal assistance funding to the
U.S. Justice Department, the National Judicial College, and the American Bar
Association's Central and East European Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI) will buttress
Russian criminal justice reform, law enforcement, legal education and training, legal
ethics, commercial law drafting, and local NGO advocacy of civil rights. Other
proposed programs with democracy-building components include IMET assistance
to foster military justice and civilian control over the military.68
According to the State Department, Ukraine has continued its slow progress in
building a law-based civil society. The new Ukrainian constitution adopted in 1996
creates a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. The
judiciary is funded as an independent branch, but remains subject to political
interference. Citizens exercised the right to change their leaders in 1994 when they
68U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp.
213-216; The Secretary of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for
FY1999, pp. 666-667.
elected a new president and a new legislature representing a wide range of parties.69
Ukraine joined the Council of Europe in 1995 and is undertaking implementation of
human rights standards required by the Council. Increasing crime and corruption,
however, threaten democratization in Ukraine and other NIS.70
There are many political parties registered, but they are weakly supported by
the citizenry. Some in the Ukrainian Communist Party and others call for integration
with Russia, and some ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and Crimea urge
secession, but most observers do not view such calls as a potent threat to Ukraine's
independence or integrity. Ukraine's fragile integrity has been challenged by the
strength of the Ukrainian nationalist party Rukh in the western areas of Ukraine,
while the Communist Party has received its greatest support in eastern Ukraine.
There have been positive signs of democratization in Ukraine. The legislature
has passed important laws after debate, including privatization, ratification of the
Lisbon Protocol on Ukraine’s non-nuclear status, the constitution, and on the status
of Crimea. The Presidential election of December 1991 was deemed free and fair by
most observers, with Leonid Kravchuk winning against five other candidates. The
presidential election of June-July 1994 resulted in the peaceful transfer of power
from Kravchuk to Leonid Kuchma. A cumbersome electoral process, requiring a
major turnout by voters and a majority win by a candidate, created confused and
time-consuming repeat legislative elections during 1994, though international
observers judged the process generally free and fair. A new electoral law of October
of the candidates would be elected from single-mandate districts and 50% from party
On March 29, 1998, Ukrainian legislative elections were held, along with
elections to the Crimean legislature and local council races. The Ukrainian
legislative election resulted in about an even split between reformist and communist-
oriented members. Thirty parties and electoral blocs successfully registered for the
vote, out of 54 registered parties in Ukraine. Eight parties able to receive at least 4%
of the vote gained representation in the legislature. Of the 450 seats, the Communist
Party won 121, Rukh 40, the National Democratic Party (NDP) 30, the Ukrainian
Peasant Socialist bloc 36, Hromada 32, the United Social Democrats 17, the
Progressive Socialists 16 and the Greens of Ukraine 19. Some parties that did not
gain representation via party lists managed to have some members elected in the
single-district races. Candidates not announcing a party affiliation won 114 seats.
Communists gained over three dozen seats over their previous numbers in the
legislature, while Rukh gained about two dozen. President Kuchma's favored party,
the NDP, did not do as well as he expected, but observers argued that the
Communists and kindred factions would be blocked on many issues by reform-
oriented factions. Some elections were challenged or invalidated and new elections
69U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. According
to Ilya Prizel, Ukraine has a chance to make further democratization progress and not decline
into authoritarianism and dependency if it can improve its economy. See Dawisha and
Parrott, Democratic Changes, pp. 330-369.
70Freedom in the World 1997-1998, p. 517.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the
Council of Europe election monitors stated that the election marked progress in
democratization — that voters were generally free to express their will and the
results appeared to reflect their will — but was tarnished by violations of freedom
of the press and expression. There were procedural problems in accommodating
large turnouts in several districts. Monitors also decried the ineligibility of most
Crimean Tatars to vote in elections to the 100-seat Crimean legislature held at the71
same time as the country-wide election. In the assessment of the U.S. CSCE, the
composition of the new Ukrainian legislature made it unlikely that it would be "a
force for significant reform. At the same time, the likelihood of significant72
backsliding from reform is small."
The almost even split between the right and left wings in the legislature led to
difficulty in forming legislative bodies. Wrangling over the speakership, other
leading posts, and committee chairs stretched into July 1998, when a boycott by
most rightist and pro-presidential deputies allowed Socialist-Peasant Party official
Oleksandr Tkachenko to be elected speaker by leftist and anti-presidential deputies.
In the interim, Kuchma — whose presidential powers are somewhat more
circumscribed than Yeltsin's in Russia — issued several economic decrees instead
of asking for the legislature to first enact them. He explained in a national address
that the "political squabbles in parliament" and the need for reforms necessitated his
action, and called on legislators to support his reforms.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration requested $64
million in Freedom Support Act funds for FY1999 for democracy-building in
Ukraine, a sizable boost over FY1998 estimated spending. This includes USAID's
request of $5 million to foster increased citizen participation in political and
economic decision-making, $2.5 million to bolster legal system reforms, and $5.5
million for strengthening the accountability and effectiveness of local government.
USAID plans continued grants to Freedom House, Internews, NDI, IRI, International
Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the NIS-US Women's Consortium, the
International Foundation for Electoral Studies (IFES), and the Eurasia Foundation
to foster independent media, democratic electoral processes, and public policy and
human rights advocacy by private groups. USAID also plans to continue grants to
Associates in Rural Development, ABA/CEELI, the U.S. Association of Former
Members of Congress, and other U.S. groups to provide training, material assistance,
and technical advice to the Ukrainian legislature, presidency, and Ministry of Justice,
to the judiciary, to public prosecutors, to law schools, and to human rights, legal, and
legal advocacy NGOs. Support for legal reforms includes aid for law drafting as
well as for combating crime and corruption. USAID plans to continue grants to the
Research Triangle Institute, IREX, USIA, the Eurasia Foundation, and other U.S.
groups to improve local government management, financial planning, municipal
71According to the OSCE, "the Ukrainian elections were conducted under a generally
adequate legal and administrative framework. However, the campaign was marred by
incidents of violence, arrests and actions against candidates and abuse of public office that
represents a serious shortcoming in the conduct of the campaign, and raises questions about
the neutrality of the state apparatus in the election." See OSCE, Republic of Ukraine
Parliamentary Elections, 29 March 1998, 1998.
72U.S. CSCE, Ukraine's Parliamentary Election, March 29, 1998.
services, housing and land management, zoning, local legislative procedures, citizen
relations, and legislative-executive relations. Besides these programs, increased
funds were requested to support IMET efforts to foster military justice and respect
for civilian control over the military.73
In 1994, Moldova adopted a constitution that provides for multiparty
representative government with divided powers. One constitutional provision states
that organizations that oppose the sovereignty and independence of Moldova are
unconstitutional, which some critics charge as discriminating against groups
advocating reunification of Moldova with Romania. Competitive multiparty
legislative elections took place in 1990, before the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Another legislative race in 1994 was judged open and fair by international observers,
as was the presidential race in 1996. The peaceful transition of presidential power
represents further progress in the transition to democracy, according to the State
Department. The judiciary is increasingly independent but still influenced somewhat
by the prosecutor’s office. Moldova remains ethnically divided, with Slavic
separatists controlling the Transdniestrian region along the Ukrainian border. The
separatists continue to demand status as a separate state in a loose confederation with
the rest of Moldova. A cease-fire has been observed since 1992, but a May 1997
agreement on principles of a settlement has not resulted in substantial progress.74
Elections to Moldova's legislature were held on March 22, 1998. Nine parties,
six electoral blocs, and over 1,400 candidates vied for the 101 legislative seats.
Officials in the breakaway and nondemocratic Transdniestrian region refused to
allow polling, but permitted a few residents to cross the border to vote. Parties had
to gain more than 4% of the votes to win representation in the legislature. Four blocs
and parties surmounted this barrier, with the pro-presidential Democratic and
Prosperous Moldova Bloc (DPM) winning 24 seats, the heavily pro-Romanian
Democratic Convention of Moldova (DCM) winning 26 seats, and the Party for
Democratic Forces winning 11 seats. Reflecting societal discontent with the poor
economy and wage and pension arrears, the Communist Party won the largest share
of seats -- 40 -- in the new legislature. International observers found the election
largely "free and fair."75
To keep the Communist Party from gaining power, the other winning blocs and
party formed a legislative coalition on April 21 called the Alliance for Democracy
and Reforms. This Alliance agreed that the speakership would be held by a DPM
member, that most committee chairs would be held by Alliance members, that the
73U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp.
268-273; The Secretary of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for
74U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. See also
William Crowther, in Democratic Changes, pp. 321-322.
75According to the OSCE, "The election process was as a whole satisfactory. The candidates
could compete under generally good conditions, and the voters could freely express their will
on election day. A major exception to this positive assessment was Transdniestria." See
Preliminary Statement issued on 23 March 1998 by the Election Observation Mission.
prime minister would be a DCM member, and cabinet posts would be shared among
the Alliance partners. In May 1998, however, President Petru Lucinschi insisted on
his constitutional right to nominate the prime minister, and the DCM agreed to the
appointment of DPM member Ion Cubuc in order to preserve the Alliance and to76
"watch against Communists' coming to power." The head of one party in the DCM
and the Alliance leader is Mircea Snegur, who lost the 1996 presidential race to
Lucinschi. The fragility of the Alliance and its blocs and the rivalry between
Lucinschi and Snegur threaten the effectiveness of the legislature, according to some
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration has focused mostly
on enhancing Moldova's economic reforms. Marking a partial shift, it requested $9.5
million in Freedom Support Act funds for FY1999 for democracy-building, a sizable
boost over last year's estimated spending. This includes USAID's request for $1.5
million to increase citizen participation by providing legal education for law
students, lawyers, and judges, strengthening NGOs that affect public policy or
provide social services, and strengthening independent media. IFES provided
information on elections and workshops and exchanges to foster civil society. IFES
also set up the NGO Training and Consulting Center to hold seminars on public
administration. It also sponsors a Mass Media Working Group, a Voter Education
Working Group, and an NGO Working Group.78
According to the State Department, citizens in Georgia exercised their right to
freely change their leaders in October 1992 and November 1995. Despite some
violations, international observers judged these elections as generally free and fair.
Local leaders remain appointed by the president, however, and plans to hold local
elections in 1997 were not fulfilled. The governments of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia are ruled by undemocratic leaders, according to the State Department.
Ajaria is “self-governing under conditions resembling a police state.” Problematic
voting took place in Ajaria during Georgia-wide elections in 1995 and its regional79
elections in 1996.
Although progressive elections have been held several times, most recently in
1995, there has been no change of leadership at the presidential level since the
violent change in executive leadership in early 1992 to test the norm of a peaceful
transfer of power. The 1995 legislative race was progressive in that the electoral law
provided for most deputies to be elected by proportional representation and some
through single-member constituencies, the former theoretically strengthening party
formation. However, an extremely large number of parties (54) fielded candidates.
This, and the mandated requirement that a party receive over 5% of the total vote in
order to gain seats, resulted in only three parties winning representation on the party
76Mircea Snegur, Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: Central Eurasia,
May 6, 1998.
77Vladimir Socor, Quo Vadis, Moldova? Prism, May 1, 1998.
78USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp. 159-160, 170-171.
79U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997.
ballots, wasting a large number of votes. The ruling Citizen's Union party, which
won 23% of the vote, gained nearly 50% of the seats because of these factors. The
Citizen’s Union and the National Democratic Party have some local organization.
Regional parties include the Rivalist Union of Ajaria, Traditionalists based largely
in Gori and western Georgia, and Zviadists in western Georgia.
Despite passage of a liberal constitution in 1995, the constitutional issue of
unitary vs. federal relations was not resolved, so the basic form and structure of the
state remains provisional and the possibility of further separatism cannot be ruled
out.80 Movements opposed to the constitutional order have declined. Some Zviadists
boycotted the 1995 legislative and presidential races as illegitimate, and Abkhazia
and South Ossetia oppose the present Georgian Constitution. As a result of
negotiations with Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Ajaria, there is the possibility of
altering the constitution, including the formation of a federal upper legislative
chamber, and changing the electoral system.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. USAID states that although progress in
Georgia toward democratic governance has been impressive, institutions, policies,
and practices are still fragile.81 Political parties, independent media, and NGOs are
"nowhere near being sustainable" and need continued aid, USAID avers. In the
political realm, democratic rule is taking root. Citizen participation in the political
process through parties and NGOs is increasing. Since economic and political
stability has begun to emerge since 1995, USAID has been able to shift aid from
humanitarian to other reform needs. U.S. aid has been instrumental in advancing
democracy-building goals, though political evolution is not complete, USAID
reports. The Administration requested $16.2 million in Freedom Support Act funds
for FY1999 for democracy-building (a reduction from the previous year's earmarked
funding), including USAID's request for $3.72 million to support citizen
participation, $1.8 million to support judicial reform, and $800,000 to support local
government reforms. Problems of corruption also will be addressed by supporting
legal and judicial reform.82
This category includes states that have suffered setbacks in democratization or
whose progress is unsteady and tardy. Armenia and Kyrgyzstan appear to possess
somewhat better prospects for further progress than Azerbaijan, according to some
observers. Recent trends in Azerbaijan appear disquieting and may result in further
setbacks (see below).
80Linz and Stepan would say that Georgia is not yet a democracy, since the constitution has
not settled the issue of unitary vs. federal relations (p. 4).
81Researcher Stephen Jones states that "it would be naive to expect a smooth road ahead for
any society that has recently emerged from authoritarianism.” He notes, however, that "the
principles and procedures for resolving political and ethnic crises peacefully are in place and
Georgians are already benefitting from their democratic gains,” though reforms are
vulnerable to setbacks. See Current History, October 1996.
82USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp. 99-102.
Kyrgyzstan's citizens have had a declining ability to change their government
peacefully, according to the State Department. A new constitution was approved in
May 1993, establishing a democratic presidential system upholding the separation
of powers and expansive human rights guarantees. This constitution led some U.S.
policymakers to view Kyrgyzstan a model of democratization among the NIS.
However, Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev orchestrated the early disbandment of a
legislature he found troublesome in 1994, and took over legislative power pending
new elections. He decreed an October 1994 referendum to approve amendments to
the constitution, including provisions creating a bicameral legislature and weakening
it relative to the presidency. He argued that legislative and other provisions of the
May 1993 constitution were too "idealistic" since the Kyrgyz "people are not
prepared for democracy," and that a "transitional period" was needed. The
amendment process, like the dissolution of the legislature, contravened the
constitution, according to the State Department. The referendum questions were
approved by over 96% of voters with a questionable 96% turnout, again according
to the State Department. After the October referendum, detailed constitutional
provisions were published for popular debate in early 1995, to be given final form83
and approval by the newly elected legislature.
The early 1995 legislative races were considered by many international
observers as generally reflecting the will of the people, although campaigning and
voting were marred by some irregularities and confusion. Few candidates were
elected in the first round of voting, and repeat rounds stretched into mid-1995. In
September 1995, Akayev's supporters submitted a petition signed by 1.2 million
(52% of the voting age population) urging the legislature to approve a referendum
extending Akayev's term to the year 2001. After contentious debate, the legislature
rejected holding a referendum, and Akayev instead announced that an early
presidential election would be held in December 1995. Thirteen candidates were
registered, but ten were disqualified. Akayev handily won re-election to a five year
term in elections deemed generally "free and fair" by international observers, though
questions were raised about the disqualifications and other irregularities.
Akayev spearheaded another constitutional referendum in early 1996. Although
the turnout appeared low to media observers, Kyrgyz authorities announced a 97%
turnout and a 95% approval margin. According to the State Department, the
referendum violated the law on referendums and was marked by rampant fraudulent
voting. It gave Akayev greater powers to veto legislation, dissolve the legislature,
83There are differing assessments of democratization in Kyrgyzstan. OSCE electoral
observers considered the 1995 legislative and presidential races as generally progressive,
despite irregularities. See OSCE, ODIHR Activity Report for 1995, October 1, 1995. Others
have placed greater stress on signs of problematic democratization. See U.S. State
Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997; and
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 1997-1998, pp. 321-323. See also U.S. CSCE,
Parliamentary Elections in Kyrgyzstan, February 1995; and Political Reform and Human
Rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan, March 1998, pp. 16-26. Eugene Huskey,
Kyrgyzstan, Conflict, pp. 242-276, provides a detailed analysis of drawbacks to the 1995
legislative race. See also Amnesty International, Kyrgyzstan: A Tarnished Human Rights
Record, May 1996.
and appoint all ministers without legislative confirmation, while making
impeachment more difficult, along the lines of the Russian Constitution. The
legislature increasingly has asserted itself by passing a large number of bills and
overriding some presidential vetoes. In 1995, a Constitutional Court was sworn in,
and judicial reforms were begun in 1996, though the judiciary remains under the
influence of the executive branch. Most local officials are appointed by the
president. Political parties are weak. Although nearly two-dozen are registered,
some are inactive. Less than half the members of the legislature claim party
affiliation, and voting rarely takes place along strict party lines.
President Akayev's supporters have petitioned the Constitutional Court to
decide whether Akayev could run for a "second" term as allowed by the 1993
constitution (disregarding his election in 1991 under a previous constitution). The
Constitutional Court agreed in July 1998 that Akayev could run again, leading some
observers to criticize the decision as violating the spirit if not the letter of the rule of
law. Other indicators of lagging democratization in mid-1998 include passage of a
law requiring a permit to hold demonstrations (apparently violating a constitutional
safeguard of the right to assembly) and the consideration of a draft electoral law
calling for most legislators to be indirectly elected by local administrations.84
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. According to the U.S. Administration, the
challenge for U.S. aid is to ensure that Kyrgyzstan serves as an example of political
and economic reform for other Central Asian states. Kyrgyzstan is "a 'laboratory' for
demonstrating that democracies can work in Central Asia," according to USAID.
The Administration has requested $10 million in Freedom Support Act funds for
FY1999 for democracy-building, a slight increase over FY1998 estimated spending.
This includes USAID's request for $2.05 million for citizens' participation and $2
million for local government programs. Democratic reform and respect for the rule
of law took a step forward, USAID has reported, with a successful USAID-assisted
housing program that included property auctions, construction, and the development
of condo associations. USAID also has endeavored to strengthen civil society by85
supporting NGOs and the legal and media professions.
Armenia is in the early stages of an uneven transition to democratic order and
free market economy, according to the State Department and others. Until 1994,
Armenia appeared to be making progress in democratization, but in recent years
authoritarian tendencies have caused a mixed picture to emerge. Armenia was
among the first Soviet republics to begin building democracy, and it endeavored to
secede from the Soviet Union in a peaceful and lawful fashion. Its legislature was
freely elected in 1990 and its president was democratically elected in 1991.
However, other events less favorable to democratization included the fortification
of existing networks of favoritism, nepotism, and corruption among various
government officials, enterprise directors, and leading families, according to some
observers. The conflict over Nagorno Karabakh (NK; a breakaway part of
84Kyrgyzstan Bulletin, July 15, 1998.
85USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp. 125-127, 133-135.
Azerbaijan inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians who are supported by Armenia)
has also impeded democratization. Some militant nationalists have stressed national
security issues and a “united front” in the conflict over NK as more important than
democratization. In 1994-1995, the Armenian government banned the major
opposition party, the Dashnaktsutiun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation or ARF),
increased controls over the press, and manipulated the 1995 legislative elections and
constitutional referendum, according to some observers. These observers also allege
that the constitutional referendum was presented to voters as a decision on whether
or not to have a constitution, rather than a vote on the merits of the presidential
republic it created. OSCE election monitors called the 1995 legislative race "free but
not fair," reflecting the ban on the ARF and media and other manipulation of the86
electoral campaign by President Ter-Petrosyan.
The Armenian government manipulated the results of the 1996 presidential
election, thereby restricting the ability of citizens to change their government
peacefully and contributing to a lack of public confidence in the integrity of the
electoral process, according to the State Department. OSCE observers of the 1996
presidential election also concluded that there were "serious violations of the election
law" that "raise questions about the integrity of the election process," and the official
vote count, although they noted that it is uncertain whether the irregularities would87
have affected the basic outcome of the race. Other observers have argued that,
although the election was flawed, the conduct of the campaign was an improvement
over the 1995 legislative elections. Although the constitution provides for
independent judicial and legislative branches, in practice they are not insulated from
political pressures from the executive branch.88 The constitution allows the
president wide scope to dissolve the legislature and the power to appoint the cabinet,
chief prosecutor, and members of the Constitutional Court. There is an absence of
a viable legal and regulatory framework for institutions such as the judiciary and
procuracy, and the relative weakness of civil society impedes democratization,
according to many observers.
In February 1998, Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan announced his
resignation, stating that the "power bodies" (the security ministries) had "demanded"
that he step down, and that he had acceded in order to prevent "destabilization in the
country." Prime Minister Kocharyan, who had been critical of Ter-Petrosyan's NK
policy, assumed the duties of acting president (after the speaker of the legislature,
next in the constitutional line as acting president, also resigned). A presidential
election was scheduled to be held on March 16, with a runoff on March 30 between
the two top candidates if no one received over 50% of the vote. Twelve candidates
successfully registered on March 13. No candidate won over 50% of the 1.46
million votes cast (a 63.97% turnout) as required, so the two top candidates -- acting
86Nora Dudwick, Political Transformations in Postcommunist Armenia, in Karen Dawisha
and Bruce Parrott, eds., Conflict, Cleavage, and Change in Central Asia and the Caucasus,
Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 69-109; USAID, Congressional Presentation for
FY1999, Annex III, pp. 29-30, 38-40; U.S. CSCE, Report on Armenia's Elections and
Constitutional Referendum, 1995.
87U.S. CSCE, Report on Armenia's Presidential Election of September 22, 1996, 1996.
88U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997.
President Robert Kocharyan and the former Armenian Communist Party leader --
were scheduled for a runoff election on March 30. Electoral observers from the
OSCE witnessed myriad voting irregularities and judged the first round of voting as
"deeply flawed," although they noted that the irregularities did not alter the basic
outcome. Kocharyan received 59.49% of 1.57 million votes cast (a 68.49% turnout)
in the runoff (CEC statement of final results, April 6). Based on reports from almost
140 electoral observers, the OSCE concluded that the voting irregularities observed
did not affect the outcome. It stated that the election was a step forward from the
troubled 1996 presidential race but did not meet OSCE standards.89 Kocharyan's
party coalition in the presidential race appeared to be unraveling in mid-1998, with
the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh Veterans seeming to vie with the Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) Party for elite support ahead of
legislative races planned for mid-1999.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. Despite setbacks, there have been some
positive democratization efforts, many achieved with U.S. aid, according to USAID.
Legislation on a new civil and criminal code is nearing completion. The judiciary
and the legislature are becoming more capable. USAID has fostered the growth of
NGOs and opposition parties, enabling them to aggregate interests. An independent
print and broadcast media are emerging. The Administration requested $19 million
in Freedom Support Act funds for democratization for FY1999, a slight decline over
FY1998 estimated spending. This includes USAID's request for $7.7 million to90
enhance citizens' participation and $4.3 million to support legal systems reforms.
Azerbaijan's democratization efforts have faced damaging setbacks. Despite
months of political turmoil, Azerbaijan had a progressive multi-candidate
presidential election in mid-1992, although there were some balloting irregularities
associated with family voting. However, popularly-elected president Abulfaz
Elchibey proved slow in implementing political and economic reforms and in
negotiating a settlement of the NK conflict. Even these efforts were set back when
he was overthrown by paramilitary forces in mid-1993 and replaced by former
Azerbaijani Communist Party leader Heydar Aliyev. A subsequent late 1993
presidential election was declared undemocratic by international observers. Aliyev’s
rule has been authoritarian, with intolerance of political opposition and criticism,
according to many observers.91
According to the State Department, the Azerbaijani government widely
interferes in the electoral process, thereby restricting the right of citizens to change
the government peacefully. International monitors found irregularities in the 1995
legislative races and declared them neither free nor fair. The flawed election resulted
in domination of the legislature by the New Azerbaijan Party, led by Aliyev, and
89OSCE, Republic of Armenia Presidential Election, March 16 and 30, 1998: Final Report,
April 13, 1998.
90USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp. 38-40.
91Audrey Alstadt, Azerbaijan’s Struggle Toward Democracy, Conflict, Cleavage, and
Change in Central Asia and the Caucasus, pp. 100-155.
other parties and independent deputies loyal to the president. Opposition party
candidates were in many cases barred from running and these parties won only eight
seats. Serious irregularities, including the apparent inflation of turnout, also put into
question the constitutional referendum held at the same time. Aliyev, while
acknowledging that the election and referendum did not meet international
democratic standards, argued that they showed some democratization progress.92
Although democratic political reforms are "blunted" in Azerbaijan, "a
modicum of press freedom and increasing citizen participation in various types of
political and social service delivery organizations is laying the foundation for future93
political change," according to USAID Also, despite government harassment, some
opposition parties continued to be active, another sign that democratic tendencies
have not yet been extinguished, according to the State Department.94 The
government continues to deny registration to two prominent opposition parties. The
legislature is only marginally independent from the executive branch, exercising
little legislative initiative. Aliyev forced the increasingly popular and independent
Rasul Guliyev to step down as legislative speaker in 1996. Initially, Guliyev was
accused of insufficient loyalty to Aliyev for urging stepped-up economic reforms,
but later was accused of corruption and supporting terrorism.95
Azerbaijani presidential and belated municipal elections are scheduled for
October 1998. The run-up to the presidential race, however, raises increased doubts
about the future of democratization in Azerbaijan. An election law approved in June
1998 by the legislature — which is controlled by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party
— calls for one-half of the Central Electoral Commission to be appointed by the
president and one-half by the legislature. Several opposition parties have objected
to this law as preordaining Aliyev's re-election and have threatened to boycott the
presidential race. According to oppositionists, pro-Aliyev forces have responded to
this boycott threat by fielding straw candidates to give the appearance of a multi-
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. A provision of P.L.105-118, signed into law
in November 1997, relaxes the restriction on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan by
permitting government-to-government democracy-building aid. Reflecting this
change, the Administration requested $8 million in Freedom Support Act funds for
democracy-building in FY1999 (double FY1998 estimated spending), including
92U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997; OSCE/UN
Joint Electoral Observation Mission in Azerbaijan, On Azerbaijan's 12 November 1995
Parliamentary Election and Constitutional Referendum, January 1996.
93USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp. 43. In April 1998,
Azerbaijan halted rebroadcasts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) programs,
citing a license dispute. However, some critics linked the halt to increased attempts at
censorship by the Aliyev regime prior to the presidential race, boding ill for a "free and fair"
election. See Mirza Michaeli, Azerbaijan: Protest Fast To Renew RFE/RL Broadcasts
Grows, RFE/RL Newsline, May 4, 1998.
94FY1997 Freedom Support Act Annual Report, p. 1.
95U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997.
USAID's request for $3 million for citizens' participation programs such as electoral96
BACKSLIDING OR FAILED DEMOCRATIZATION
According to Freedom House, Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and
Turkmenistan rank lowest in democratization. Some civil liberties appear to be
upheld in Kazakstan, but legal and constitutional restrictions on civil and human
rights, and the question mark over Kazakstan’s ethnic stability, place it in this group
of NIS where democratization is problematic, though not impossible, according to
some observers. Analyst Richard Rose, in noting the absence of substantive
democratization in these states (he also includes Azerbaijan), states that “democracy
is not necessarily the destiny of all post-communist countries.” He observes that
“Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan equal Burma, Iraq, and Sudan in the
denial of freedom.”97 There may be some nascent democratization efforts in
Tajikistan (see below).
Belarus is substantially backsliding in its democratization. According to the
State Department, the government severely restricts the right of citizens to change
their government peacefully. After gaining independence in 1991, Belarus continued
to be ruled by hardline Communists in the government and legislature who forged
ties with kindred Russian hardliners. By 1994, they had forced out the moderate
legislative speaker Stanislau Shushkevich, just before elections were held for the
newly created presidency. The presidential race of mid-1994 pitted the hardline
prime minister Vyacheslau Kebich against obscure legislator Alyaksandr
Lukashenka. Lukashenka ran on an anti-corruption platform and won the second
round of the presidential race with 80% of the vote. International observers judged98
the race as free and fair. In contrast, the mid-1995 legislative races were afflicted
by irregularities, including a media blackout on campaign information, harsh
restrictions on campaign expenditures, onerous electoral procedures that in effect
favored rural Communist Party candidates, and government propaganda aimed at
discouraging turnout and reducing the appeal of nationalist parties.99 Even after a
second round of voting, many seats in the legislature remained unfilled, and
Lukashenka used this opportunity to rule by decree. Many Communists and other
members of the outgoing legislature opposed Lukashenka's effort to eliminate the
legislature, and pressed for further electoral rounds. Relenting, Lukashenka
permitted two rounds of voting in late 1995 that raised the number of seats filled in
96U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, p. 47.
97Rose, p. 95; Linz and Stepan, p. 449n.
98U.S. CSCE, The Belarusian Presidential Election, June and July 1994, 1994.
99The OSCE concluded that the electoral process leading to the elections "fell short of the
commitments contained in paragraph 7.7 of the Copenhagen Document of the OSCE with
respect to political campaigning. The provisions dealing with secrecy of voting were not
strictly enforced. Taking into account the deficiencies of the electoral legislation, the voting
itself was, despite some irregularities, conducted in a generally adequate manner." See
OSCE, ODIHR Activity Report 1995, October 1, 1995.
the legislature to 198 (out of 240). This legislature convened in early 1996, but
growing calls by many for Lukashenko's impeachment caused him to propose a new
constitutional referendum in late 1996 that would expand his powers.100
The constitutional referendum held in November 1996 was neither free nor
fair, according to most international observers. The Belarusian Constitutional Court
objected that the draft constitution would give the executive branch unacceptable
control over the legislative and judicial branches, and ruled that the referendum
could only be advisory. The Belarusian Central Electoral Commission head refused
a demand that he proclaim that the referendum had passed even before the ballots
were counted and was fired, and the prime minister also resigned. Following the
vote, Lukashenka implemented the constitution despite the Constitutional Court’s
ruling. The constitution created a bicameral legislature. The president appointed
eight of the 64 members of the upper chamber, while his regional and Minsk city
officials appointed the rest. Lukashenka selected incumbent pro-government
legislators elected in 1995 to fill other seats, sidestepping a new election.
International electoral and human rights groups condemned these procedures as
undemocratic. On July 7, 1998, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly overwhelmingly
voted to refuse to recognize a delegation from the new legislature and to continue to101
accredit members of the disbanded legislature.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. In March 1997, the Clinton Administration
announced that it was curtailing planned aid to Belarus, including government-to-
government exchanges of legislators and judicial personnel, because of mounting
human rights abuses. The Administration has requested $7 million in Freedom
Support Act funds for democracy-building efforts in Belarus during FY1999,
primarily for nongovernmental and private exchanges and training programs such as
those of the Eurasia Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, and
USIA's Democracy Commission. USAID did not formally request democracy-
building funds for Belarus, but indicated that it plans to support some activities.
These include the ABA/CEELI program to foster respect for the rule of law by
strengthening local bar associations and supporting legal education. Grants to
IREX/PROMEDIA will assist media associations to improve laws and promote
freedom of speech.102 Deteriorating U.S.-Belarusian relations in mid-1998 has
contributed to added and proposed U.S. restrictions on aid to Belarus.
100Kathleen Mihalisko, Belarus, in Dawisha and Parrott, eds., Democratic Changes, pp. 223-
101U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. See also
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Annual Report 1997. According to the
Federation, Lukashenka has "undermined all the prerequisites for a democratic and open
society based on the separation of powers, democratic pluralism, the rule of law, and respect
for civil rights." Parrott too has classified Belarus as a "personal dictatorship." See
Democratic Changes, p. 7; and Kathleen Mihalisko, Belarus, Democratic Changes, pp. 223-
102U.S. State Department; Secretary of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign
Operations for FY1999, pp. 651-652; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999,
Annex III, pp. 50-51.
In March 1995, President Nursultan Nazarbayev orchestrated the dissolution
of a newly elected legislature he found obstructive and ruled by decree. A
referendum held in April 1995 extended his term until the year 2000, although the
constitution then in force called for a presidential election. He drew up a new
constitution which was overwhelmingly approved in mid-1995. In December 1995,
Nazarbayev supporters won all seats in mostly uncontested races to the upper
chamber of a new legislature (and some were appointed directly by the president),
and the presidential party won most seats in the lower chamber. The elections and
referendums of 1995 were considered nondemocratic by international observers.
According to the State Department, the Kazak government infringes on the
right of citizens to change their government peacefully. The constitution
concentrates power in the presidency, giving it substantial control over other
branches of government. The constitution cannot be amended without the
president’s agreement. A Constitutional Council, which replaced the Constitutional
Court in 1995, has three of seven members appointed by the president, limiting its
independence. The regional governors are appointed by the prime minister but serve
at the discretion of the president, who also has the power to annul their decisions.
The legislature cannot initiate changes in the constitution or exercise oversight over
the executive branch. The president has broad powers to dissolve the legislature,
while the legislature has highly limited power to remove the president. A
presidential decree of December 1996 added to the president's power by designating
the president as the supreme arbiter of foreign and domestic policy and the guarantor
of state power, the constitution, and human rights. He also assumed the power to
order legislative elections, annul laws, and dismiss the government. Most legislative
activities occur behind closed doors and ties with constituents are nonexistent.
During 1997, legislators made some use of their power to introduce bills, a sign of103
democratization progress, although Nazarbayev retained a firm grip on power.
Observers warn that Kazakstan faces problems of state building posed by its
large minority ethnic Russian population. Attempts to create a "Kazakstan for the
Kazaks" cannot be pursued through democratic means. Such efforts could lead
Russians in Kazakstan to appeal to nationalists in Russia for support and to greater
support for secessionism among northern and eastern regions where most of
Kazakstan's six million ethnic Russians reside.104
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration has used Freedom
Support Act funds to promote legal and infrastructure improvements needed to help
create a democratic and civil society in Kazakstan. For FY1999, the Administration
has requested $14 million for such programs, a sizable boost over FY1998 estimated
spending. This includes $7.5 million requested by USAID to help independent
television to become sustainable, $3 million for local government initiatives, and
$4.5 million for citizens' participation programs such as strengthening the legislature
103U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. See also
Freedom Support Act FY1997 Annual Report, p. 1; and U.S. CSCE, Political Reform and
Human Rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan, March 1998, pp. 27-38.
104Linz and Stepan, p. 32.
and developing NGOs to ensure grassroots involvement. USAID states that the
legislature and parties are not yet a vehicle for popular involvement in political life,
so NGOs, fledgling media, and social and economic movements are supported to
help fill the void. USAID has stated that it will work to enhance development of the
electoral system in anticipation of 1999 legislative races. Since FY1993, USAID
has tried to improve citizen participation by developing NGOs, of which there are
now over 440. Independent media are also increasing. A local bar association is
being helped to operate to contribute to democratic change. USAID implemented
the Municipal Finance and Management Project in Central Asia as part of the
Democratic Pluralism program from 1994-1996 in the town of Atrau. The town
drew up a development strategy and adopted Western accounting practices. A new
program was launched in FY1998 to train local officials in municipal management
and problem solving and financial accounting and procurement, helping residents
manage privatized housing developments, and training city council members in105
democratic local governance.
According to the State Department, during 1997 Tajikistan remained a largely
authoritarian state, where the government limited the right of citizens to change their
government peacefully and freely. The constitution was adopted in a questionable
referendum in 1994. It created a strong president who has broad powers to appoint
and dismiss cabinet members and other officials. The presidential race, held at the
same time as the referendum, pitted Tajik leader Imomali Rakhmanov against one
semi-opposition candidate, with other candidates excluded. The exclusion of
effective opposition participation in the electoral, constitution-drafting, and
referendum processes led to a boycott by international observers. The legislative
election of 1995 was similarly boycotted by international observers. The race was
marred by many irregularities such as voter intimidation and ballot-box stuffing that
precluded election of an independent legislature. Some members of the legislature,
however, have challenged the government on some policies. The judiciary is not
independent. Significant movement toward ending the civil war was marked by the
signing of a comprehensive peace accord in June 1997 and the inauguration of a
National Reconciliation Commission in July. This Commission has proposed a
coalition government and planned legislative elections in 1998.106
The prospects for democratization in Tajikistan remain uncertain. Although
the Reconciliation Commission named several oppositionists to ministerial posts, the
legislature, dominated by former communists, in May 1998 refused to confirm
prominent oppositionists as ministers. It also violated provisions of the peace
accords by banning religious parties, aimed against the oppositionist Islamic Revival
Party. This ban created widespread oppositionist and international protest, leading
to government pledges to rework the law. No date has been worked out for early
105U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp.
106U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. For
background and current information on the Tajik peace process, see U.S. Library of
Congress. Congressional Research Service. Central Asia's New States, by Jim Nichol. CRS
Issue Brief 93108, updated regularly.
legislative elections, which are opposed by the sitting legislature. Sporadic fighting
between the government and maverick oppositionist groups and brigands jeopardizes
the fragile peace.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration has requested
$5.75 million in FY1999 Freedom Support Act funds, a boost over FY1998
estimated spending, though overall aid still focuses heavily on humanitarian needs.
The request includes USAID proposed spending of $1.875 million to support
increased citizen participation in political decision-making. In the past, USAID has
assisted Tajik NGOs to develop and to enhance their roles and effectiveness. A U.S.
organization gave advice on setting up a lawyers' code of ethics. Internews has
helped independent media remain in operation. IFES is working to ensure free and
fair future elections. USAID envisages devoting more aid to elections if they are
held during FY1999 and, if the peace process continues, to more actively promote
According to the State Department, Turkmenistan has made little progress in
moving from a “Soviet-era authoritarian style” of government to a democratic
system. Turkmenistan has registered no opposition parties and continues to repress
opposition political activities. Citizens of Turkmenistan have no real ability to effect
peaceful change of their government and have little influence on governmental
policymaking. The 1992 constitution drafted by President Saparamurad Niyazov
was unanimously approved by the legislature. The constitution calls Turkmenistan
a secular democracy and provides for the separation of powers between the various
branches of government, but in actuality the president has absolute power and
Turkmenistan remains a one-party state, according to most observers. It creates a
"presidential republic" where the president is also the prime minister, has the power
to appoint all executive, judicial, and regional officials, and has wide authority to
rule by decree and to control the legislative process. It is silent on how the
legislature (Mejlis) initiates and approves laws and on relations between the Mejlis
and the quasi-legislative Khalk Masilkhaty. Following the adoption of the
constitution, Niyazov was re-elected president in an uncontested race. Opposition
groups were given inadequate time to organize and qualify to submit a candidate.
A 1994 referendum to extend the term of the president until the year 2002 was
reported as garnering the support of 99.99% of the voters. The 1994 legislative races
were judged to be nondemocratic, because no opposition participation was allowed
and the elections were uncontested. The president controls the judicial system.
Although the Mejlis has no genuine independence, it has moved to become108
more professional and does amend and debate some draft legislation. The lack of
107U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, p.
108U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. Parrott
terms Turkmenistan a "personal dictatorship." See Democratic Changes, p. 7. The U.S.
CSCE has judged Turkmenistan as having "the most repressive regime in all the former
Soviet republics." See Political Reform and Human Rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and
democratization in Turkmenistan was displayed during the April 11, 1998 election
of sixty unpaid "people's representatives" to the Khalk Masilkhaty (these people's
representatives make up a small fraction of the Khalk Masilkhaty, which also
includes members of the Mejlis, ministers, judges, and regional executives). Turnout
was reported at 99.5%, though some of the candidates ran unchallenged and no real
campaigning or political party contestation occurred.
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration has requested $3.5
million in Freedom Support Act funds for FY1999 for democracy-building programs,
mainly for exchanges and training, the lowest proposed funding among the NIS.
USAID has requested no FY1999 funds for its democratic pluralism programs in
Turkmenistan, citing Turkmenistan's inadequate commitment to reforms.
According to the State Department, Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with
limited civil rights. Although the constitution provides for separation of powers
between the branches of government, in practice the president dominates the
government. The judicial branch is heavily influenced by the executive branch.
Citizens cannot exercise their right to change the government peacefully. The
government “severely represses” opposition groups and “applies strict limits” on free
speech. No opposition groups are allowed to function legally or participate in
government. President Karimov was elected in a limited multi-candidate election in
1991. In 1995, he won support by 99.6% of 11.25 million voters in a referendum to
extend his presidential term until the year 2000, a percentage the U.S. State
Department noted “could not have been valid.” He has extensive decree powers,
primary authority for drafting legislation, and control of virtually all government
appointments. The dominant party is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of
Uzbekistan -- the renamed former Communist Party -- and most government officials
belong to the PDP. The December 1994 legislative races were limited to candidates
from the PDP and one other pro-government party. Since then, some other pro-
government parties have fielded candidates in unchallenged by-elections and gained
representation in the legislature. The legislature has remained largely a rubber-stamp
U.S. Democracy-Building Aid. The U.S. Administration requested $11.05
million in Freedom Support Act funds for FY1999 for democracy-building programs
in Uzbekistan, a sizable boost over FY1998 estimated spending. This includes $3.28
million requested by USAID to enhance citizens' participation in political and
economic decision-making. According to USAID, the United States is the major
international donor of aid for democracy-building in Uzbekistan. The Counterpart
Consortium will focus on NGO training and the Eurasia Foundation will provide
grants to organizations to encourage engagement in policy issues. USAID also
Kazakstan, March 1998, p. 4.
109U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. See also
U.S. CSCE, Political Reform and Human Rights in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan,
March 1998, pp. 5-16; and William Fierman, Political Development in Uzbekistan, Conflict,
Cleavage, and Change, pp. 360-408.
encourages the formation of independent media, but has had limited success because
of Uzbek government policies. There are plans to assist in strengthening election
laws, forming an independent electoral commission, training election officials, and
educating voters in preparation for legislative and presidential elections in 1999, if110
the Uzbek government appears committed to freer elections.
110U.S. State Department; USAID, Congressional Presentation for FY1999, Annex III, pp.