Russian National Security Policy After September 11
Report for Congress
Russian National Security Policy
After September 11
August 20, 2002
Stuart D. Goldman
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Russia’s National Security Policy After September 11
Russian President Putin appears to have made a strategic decision to shift
Russian policy toward cooperation with the United States and the West. This is a
major departure from the policy that Putin inherited from his predecessors, which
saw Russia as the leader of a coalition aimed at opposing U.S. “global domination.”
Putin seized upon the events of September 11 to promote his new policy by:
cooperating with the United States against Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan; softening Russian opposition to NATO enlargement, including
admission of former Soviet republics, and establishing a new cooperative relationship
with NATO; acquiescing in U.S. decisions regarding withdrawal from the ABM
Treaty, strategic nuclear force reductions, and missile defense; and closing Russia’s
large military intelligence base in Cuba.
The principal reason given by Putin for the new policy is that Russia must
integrate with the West in order to reconstruct its own economy and achieve a decent
living standard for its people. Putin also acknowledges Russia’s weakness and
inability to act globally in opposition to the United States. He may also have rejected
as unwise, the previous policy of de facto alliance with China against the United
States, instead seeing China as a possible long-term threat to Russia. Putin’s new
policy does not seem to enjoy strong support among Russian political elites, the
military and foreign policy establishment, and the general public. Putin’s overall
political power and prestige, however, may be sufficient to sustain the policy.
The Bush Administration responded positively to the new Russian policy after
September 11. The Administration, however, did not make many concessions on key
issues related to arms control, missile defense, and NATO. It has been more
forthcoming on some economic issues.
The implications of Russia’s pro-western policy are overwhelmingly positive
for the United States in the war on terrorism and in relations with Russia and China.
Russia’s strategic choice of integration with the West reduces the danger seen by
some of Russo-Chinese cooperation against the United States. By depriving China
of its erstwhile Russian partner, it may encourage China to seek improved relations
with the United States – or risk geostrategic isolation.
Some sore points remain between Washington and Moscow in which Congress
takes a strong interest, such as Russia’s continued and possibly expanded plans to
construct nuclear reactors in Iran, its support of Iraq, and its heavy-handed policy in
Chechnya. There is also friction on some trade issues.
Critics of Bush Administration policy argue that it has not been sufficiently
responsive to Putin and risks losing the new cooperativeness. Others reply that
Russia has no choice but to continue its pro-western course, in view of Russia’s
weakness and its self-interest in integrating with the West. In this view, the
endurance of Russia’s pro-western policy ultimately may depend on Putin’s success
in reviving the economy and improving Russians’ well-being.
In troduction ......................................................1
Background: The Primakov Vision....................................1
Russia’s New Policy...............................................2
Implementing the New Policy....................................3
Reasons for the New Policy......................................8
Domestic Political Context of New National Security Policy...........12
Putin’s Policy: Tactical Shift or Strategic Decision?..................14
Bush Administration Responses.....................................15
Implications for U.S. Interests.......................................18
New U.S.-Russian Relationship..................................19
Cooperation Against Terrorism..................................19
Arms Control and Missile Defense...........................23
NATO Enlargement and the NATO-Russia Council..................24
Trade and Russian Debt........................................25
Relations with China..........................................28
Competing Views of How the United States Should Respond to
Russia’s New National Security Policy.......................30
Russian National Security Policy After
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have made a strategic decision to
reorient Russian national security policy from a posture of antagonism, if not
hostility, toward the United States and its allies, to a policy of more cooperation with
the United States and the West. Indications of this shift were discernible even before
the terrorist attacks of September 11. But Putin seized upon September 11 as an
opportunity to transform dramatically the bilateral relationship along cooperative
lines, making that date appear to be a real turning point in U.S.-Russian relations.
Among the more notable results of this shift in Russian national security policy
were: Russia’s political and military cooperation with the U.S. campaign against the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan, including U.S. military deployments in former Soviet
states in Central Asia; Moscow’s decision to close its electronic intelligence base in
Cuba; and the softening (nearly to the point of abandonment in some cases) of
Russia’s previously tough positions on NATO enlargement, the ABM Treaty, missile
defense, and strategic nuclear force reductions.
This report will examine the implications of the shift in Russian national
security policy for near-term U.S.-Russian relations and for broader U.S. security
interests. It will seek to show the motives behind Putin’s decision to reorient Russian
policy and assess the prospects for the new policy’s endurance. This report will also
examine the Bush Administration’s response(s) to the new Russian policy,
congressional interests and congressional levers to influence U.S. policy toward
Russia, as well as competing opinions on what U.S. policy toward Russia should be.
Background: The Primakov Vision
President Putin is the unchallenged – and seemingly unchallengeable – master
of the Russian political scene today. He has no credible political rivals and has
enjoyed consistently high standing in Russian public opinion polls (over 70%
approval rating) for more than two years. Yet few foresaw these developments in
August 1999, when a physically and politically exhausted President Yeltsin plucked
Putin from political obscurity to become Russia’s fifth Premier in two years. Prior
to the premiership, Putin had headed the FSB, Russia’s internal security agency for
a year (July 1998-August 1999), and before that had been a nearly invisible, though
increasingly influential, bureaucrat in the Presidential Administration (1996-1998).
Many in Russia and the West initially viewed Putin as a political lap dog for Yeltsin.1
Within days of becoming premier, Putin confronted a crisis involving the breakaway
republic of Chechnya and terrorist bomb attacks in Russia. Putin adopted a very
tough policy toward Chechnya, which he rode to popularity and power. Yeltsin
abruptly resigned as President on December 31, 1999 (six months before the
expiration of his term), naming Putin Acting President. Three months later (March
The national security policy that Putin inherited from Yeltsin, and that he
continued to pursue for a year or more after succeeding Yeltsin, was shaped by
Yevgeny Primakov, who served as Foreign Minister and then Premier in the late
He saw the United States as Russia’s natural, inevitable foe. In view of Russia’s
diminished economic, political, and military means, Primakov sought to build an
undeclared coalition of states, with Russia at its head, to oppose what he saw as U.S.
global domination. He called this a policy of “multi-polarity.” Primakov viewed
China, India, and Iran as key partners and sought support among other states that
opposed U.S. policy and/or resented U.S. power. In December 1998, as U.S. and
British planes bombed Iraq in a dispute over U.N. arms inspections, Primakov called
for a Russia-China-India alliance to oppose U.S. “global hegemonism.” This was the
essence of Primakov’s vision of Russian national security policy – a Eurasian-based
strategy of coalition politics, led by Russia, aimed at diminishing U.S. influence and
thwarting (most) U.S. goals, worldwide.3
Russia’s New Policy
During Putin’s first year in power, while dealing with the initial military phase
of the conflict in Chechnya and consolidating his domestic political position, the new
Russian leader showed some signs of flexibility on national security policy but
seemed mainly to continue along the path laid out by Primakov.4 But after a year or
1Putin’s first career, for 15 years, was as a KGB foreign intelligence officer. He served in
East Germany for several years in the 1980s. After the collapse of the U.S.S.R., Putin
returned to his home town, Leningrad (previously, and now again, St. Petersburg), where
he served in the administration of the prominent liberal Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, rising to
the post of Deputy Mayor. When Sobchak lost power in 1996, Putin was invited to take a
mid-level bureaucratic post in the Kremlin Administration of President Yeltsin.
2Primakov, a leading Soviet-era Middle East specialist, befriended and supported Saddam
Hussein, Hafez al-Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, and Yasser Arafat. Primakov was the last
head of the Soviet KGB’s Foreign Intelligence Division and the first head of its Russian
successor under Yeltsin, who appointed him Foreign Minister (January 1996 to September
3Ariel Cohen, The “Primakov Doctrine:”Russia's Zero-Sum Game with the United States,
Heritage Foundation, FYI No. 167, December 15, 1997.
4Putin maintained Moscow’s hard line against missile defense and against Baltic accession
to NATO through the end of the Clinton Administration. In November 2000, Moscow
renounced the 1995 U.S.-Russian agreement limiting Russian conventional arms sales to
so – by mid-2001 at the latest, i.e., before September 11 – Putin appeared to be
moving away from the Primakov vision. After September 11, it became clear that
Putin was moving Russia in a different direction.
Implementing the New Policy
The first meetings between Presidents Bush and Putin (their brief meeting in
Slovenia in June 2001 and a month later at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy) were
notable for the emphasis (in public, at least) on personal rapport over political
substance. Much was made of President Bush’s assertion that he had “looked into”
Putin’s “soul” and found him “to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Putin
responded publicly with praise for the new and untested U.S. President. It is not
clear whether, and/or to what extent, the softening of Russian policy toward the
United States may have been influenced by personal rapport between the two leaders.
Some believe that Putin, a career KGB foreign intelligence officer, was unlikely to
be swayed by such ephemera as personal chemistry and had made up his mind in
advance to seek a friendly relationship with Bush and improved relations with the
Even before September 11, there was softening of Russia’s previously
outspoken opposition to U.S. missile defense plans and to the U.S.-backed accession
to NATO of the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Putin may have concluded there was an inevitability related to U.S. missile defense
and NATO enlargement and sought to moderate the outcomes as much as possible,
if only marginally, rather than continuing to fight and gain nothing in the process.
This could be seen in Moscow’s abandonment of its “red line” rhetoric regarding
Baltic accession to NATO5 and its movement toward modifying the ABM Treaty.
September 11, however, seemed to provide a turning point or breakthrough in U.S.-
Immediately after the September 11 attacks, it was obvious that if the United
States was going to take action against Al Qaeda and its host, the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan, Russian cooperation would be very valuable, perhaps indispensable.
Many observers initially assumed that Moscow would adopt a tough position along
the following lines: Now the Americans need us. Very well, what is the most that we
can extract from them and the minimum cooperation that we must offer in return?
This assumption was based on the belief that Putin, the ex-KGB agent, viewed the
United States negatively, only grudgingly had begun to soften Russian policies, and
Iran. In 2000, Russia staged – and publicized – several military exercises with a pointedly
5For several years, the Russian Government had warned that if NATO expanded into the
territory of the former Soviet Union, it would cross a “red line” that would wreck NATO-
Russia relations and trigger “dangerous” Russian political and military countermeasures.
Putin signaled a major policy shift during a trip to Finland on September 2-3, 2001, when
he declared that Russia does not plan any "campaign of hysteria" over Estonia's, Latvia's and
Lithuania's determination to become NATO members. "It is their choice,” he said.
Jamestown Monitor, September 6, 2001, May 30, 2002.
would gladly revert to a harder line once the September 11 attacks had strengthened
his hand.6 Events showed that Putin took a different view. He appears to have
decided immediately after the terror attacks to seize upon those epochal events as an
opportunity to transform U.S.-Russian relations.
Although Putin may have decided to move Russia closer to the United States
before September 11, the Bush Administration did not appear eager to reciprocate at
that time. To the contrary, most of the Administration’s top agenda items regarding
Russia were negative issues for Moscow: missile defense; the ABM Treaty; NATO
enlargement; Russian transfers to Iran of nuclear reactors, missile technology, and
conventional arms; Russian support of Iraq; Russian abuses in Chechnya; and
suppression of press freedom in Russia. September 11 gave Putin the opportunity to
change the subject. The new dominant issue would be cooperation against
international terrorism. Since late 1999, Putin had been trying to interest Washington
in the idea of joint action against terrorism as the new core issue for bilateral
cooperation. Neither the Clinton nor the Bush Administration was receptive to this,
in view of Putin’s claim that his military campaign in Chechnya was a prime example
of anti-terrorism in action.
On September 11, only hours after the attacks, Putin, using the hot line, was the
first world leader to speak to Bush, in Air Force One, about the tragedy. Putin
reminded Bush that Russia had suffered a series of dreadful terrorist bombing attacks
against apartment buildings in Moscow and other cities two years earlier that had
killed hundreds of Russians. Putin attributed those attacks to radical Islamic
Chechen terrorists.7 Beyond personal and official condolences, Putin informed his
American counterpart that he was ordering the immediate cancellation of military
exercises scheduled to begin the next day that included long-range bomber flights in
the direction of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, and Iceland.
Sailing orders for Russian submarine and surface naval units were also cancelled.8
He may have wished to avoid false alarms. In a somber speech to the Russian
people, Putin compared the September 11 attacks to Nazi atrocities, which some
observers took as a sign of Putin preparing the public for a possibly dramatic shift in
Russian policy, i.e., strategic cooperation with the United States.
Within days, the Bush Administration began to focus on action against Al Qaeda
and the Taliban regime. The possibility of U.S. military deployments in Central Asia
was prominently mentioned by U.S. officials and in the press. The immediate
response from Russian officials was strongly negative. Even Defense Minister Sergei
Ivanov, perhaps Putin’s closest political associate, said on September 16 that there
were “no prospects” for U.S. military forces to operate in any of the C.I.S. states.
Putin personally intervened to change that policy. He publicly contradicted his
defense minister and declared that U.S. military deployments in Central Asia could
6A typical example was an AP story that ran on September 12, “Russia Voices Solidarity
with US but Looks to Exploit Terrorist Attacks.”
7Not all observers are fully satisfied with Moscow’s account. Some claim that Russian
security forces may have been involved, using the bombings as a pretext to re-invade
Chechnya and give Putin a national security emergency to bolster his authority and prestige.
8“Nuclear Conflict Scenario Set Aside,” Vremya Novostei [Moscow], September 12, 2001.
be viewed positively under certain circumstances. U.S. Air Force and Special Forces
units reportedly began flying to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on September 19.9
There are divergent accounts of Moscow’s initial role in the U.S. deployments
to Central Asia. Some say that at first Russian officials tried to prevent Central Asian
leaders from offering Washington military bases on their territory. Others say that
Moscow facilitated, or at least did not stand in the way of, the U.S. deployments.10
Perhaps there is some truth in both accounts, reflecting early divisions in Moscow on
this issue. Ultimately, Russia could not prevent sovereign states in Central Asia from
hosting U.S. military forces if they saw it as in their interest to do so, which was
clearly the case in Uzbekistan. But Russian influence in Tajikistan is very strong,
and some say that U.S. deployments there would not have been possible if Moscow
had objected strongly.11 The fact that U.S. combat forces were deployed in large
numbers to military bases in Central Asian Soviet successor states would have been
unimaginable a few months earlier. Regardless of his own initial reaction to this
development, Putin put the best face on it, offering political and logistical assistance.
Russian cooperation in the campaign against the Taliban was not based solely
on a desire to draw closer to the United States. Moscow had long viewed the Taliban
as a serious threat to Russian security because of that regime’s role in promoting the
spread of radical Islam in Central Asia. This was an immediate threat to the secular
Central Asian regimes along Russia’s southern frontier, which might ultimately
destabilize Russia’s own large Muslim population.12 To counter Taliban-supported
insurgency, Russia provided covert and open support to the anti-Taliban Northern
Alliance. Despite a five-year Russian effort, however, the Taliban had expanded its
control to over 90% of Afghan territory by September 2001 and squeezed the
Northern Alliance into a small pocket near the Afghan-Uzbek border. Thus, U.S.
operations in Afghanistan after September 11 served a double interest for Moscow:
the opportunity to demonstrate concrete strategic cooperation with Washington, and
the elimination of a serious security threat on its vulnerable southern flank.
Russian support for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan was not limited to the
deployment of coalition forces in Central Asia. Russia greatly increased its arms
supplies to the Northern Alliance, including heavy weapons such as tanks, artillery
and helicopters. In addition, Russian military specialists such as tank commanders,
artillery officers, pilots, and other skilled personnel were attached to Northern
9 “Warplanes Begin Deploying to Gulf, Central Asia,” Washington Post, September 20,
10 Discussions with U.S. officials. See also, Jamestown Monitor, May 30, 2002; and
Vladimir Votapek, “Russia and the United States,” in Toward an Understanding of Russia,
New European Perspectives, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 2002, p.193-4.
11 Russia’s 201st Motorized Infantry Division has been stationed in Tajikistan since a civil
war there in the early 1990s, making that country dependent on Russia for internal security.
12This is explicit in Russia’s official Military Doctrine, approved by Putin in April 2000.
The text of the Military Doctrine can be found in Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], April 22,
Alliance forces during the decisive operations in October-November 2001. U.S.
Defense Department officials credit these Russian efforts with having contributed
substantially to the rapid defeat of the Taliban in the North.13
At the same time that Moscow was giving Washington unprecedented
cooperation in Afghanistan, it was showing a willingness to compromise on missile
defense, the ABM Treaty, and strategic force reductions. In mid-November, in the
run-up to the Bush-Putin summit in Washington and Crawford, Texas, U.S. and
Russian media carried reports of a possible negotiating breakthrough that might result
in a big “package deal” on these issues.14 These reports proved premature, however,
because the United States did not back off many of its demands and positions. The
November summit yielded few major substantive results and three weeks later Bush
announced that the United States would unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty.
Putin, while “regretting” the U.S. decision, insisted that it was “not a tragedy,” and
that it would not destabilize otherwise excellent bilateral relations. As with NATO
enlargement, Putin appears to have decided that it was futile to continue trying to
resist the inevitable, and that Russian interests were best served by minimizing the
damage on missile defense and the ABM Treaty and by getting the best deal he could
on strategic nuclear force reductions. On this, too, Putin eventually yielded on
virtually all substantive points in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions
(Treaty of Moscow) signed on May 24, 2002.15
During this evolution on strategic nuclear issues, another significant indication
of Putin’s shift in national security strategy received relatively little public attention.
On October 17, 2001, Putin announced that Russia would close its electronic
intelligence base at Lourdes, Cuba. This listening post, established in 1964, was
Moscow’s largest and most important intelligence facility outside its borders and was
considered a thorn in the side by the United States.16 To the extent that Russia
viewed the United States as an adversary, the base at Lourdes, which was manned
by 1,500 Russians and provided 60%-70% of Russia’s electronic intelligence data on
the United States, was a significant strategic asset. The decision to close it was more
than a symbolic move; it was a strategic decision.17
13 Despite Pentagon expressions of appreciation for Russian assistance, the U.S. role was
decisive. Moscow undoubtedly noted that the United States accomplished in 5-6 weeks
what Russia had been unable to accomplish in 5-6 years, in a theater remote from the United
States and in Russia’s backyard. Moscow’s sense of satisfaction in its new partnership may
have been overshadowed by its awareness of the widening gap between U.S. and Russian
14 See, for example, Walter Pincus, “U.S., Russia Likely to Agree on Arms; Summit Could
Lead to Historic Cuts,” Washington Post, November 11, 2001, p. A-43.
15 CRS Report RL31448, Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.
June 10, 2002.
16In 2000, the House adopted a measure (H.R. 4118) to prohibit the rescheduling or
forgiveness of Russian debts to the United States unless Russia closed the base at Lourdes.
17Jamestown Monitor, December 4, 2001. Some argue that Putin’s decision to close the base
was driven more by the cost of maintaining it than by a desire to accommodate Washington.
Other aspects of Russian defense policy under Putin support the idea of a shift
away from confrontation toward cooperation with the United States and the West.
One of the most significant moves was Putin’s decision (August 2000) that Russia’s
strategic nuclear forces would be unilaterally reduced from nearly 6,000 deployed
warheads to 1,500 in this decade.18 This acknowledgment of Russia’s inability or
unwillingness to maintain quantitative parity with the United States in strategic
nuclear forces was a significant step. In 2001, the Ministry of Defense announced
plans to further reduce Russian military manpower from 1.2 million to 850,000. In
2002, the government announced plans to accelerate the transition from a mainly
conscript to a mainly professional army. In the long-run, a smaller professional force
may be more capable in many respects than a mass conscript army. But mass was
traditionally the Russian Army’s strong suit and the basis of its presumed offensive
capability vis-a-vis NATO.
In the early 1990s, Russian defense spending was cut drastically and
procurement of major new weapons systems virtually came to a halt.19 The
government’s fiscal situation improved substantially after 1999 and defense spending
has increased somewhat, but the increment has gone mostly to pay military salaries.
Large-scale serial production of major weapon systems has not yet resumed.20
In the late 1990s, into the early stage of Putin’s presidency, Russian military
exercises were given an almost ostentatiously anti-NATO, anti-American edge. This
tendency has been reduced since September 11. Also, in the past two years, Putin has
instituted major personnel changes in the military high command, removing a
number of outspoken advocates of anti-western, anti-U.S. military policies.21
The case of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, which sank on August 12,
2000, sheds light on the shift in Russian defense policy in several respects. The
military exercise in which the Kursk sank was the prelude to sending a powerful
Russia paid Cuba $200 million annually for use of the base. Others find this argument
unconvincing, noting that: a) the Russian economy was stronger in 2001 than at any time
since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that there was actually a budget surplus in 2001, and
that if Moscow could afford the payment in earlier years, it could better afford it in 2001;
b) Russia’s payment to Cuba was mainly not in hard currency but in more affordable below-
market-price oil deliveries and other commodities such as military spare parts, and; c) Putin,
as a former career intelligence officer, would be expected to value the Lourdes base.
18U.S. analysts had been predicting such a cut for several years, based on the inability of the
Russian economy to sustain the 6,000 warhead force level permitted under START I. CRS
Report RL30660, Arms Control After START II: Next Steps on the U.S.-Russian Agenda.
Updated June 22, 2001.
19CRS Report 97-820, Russian Conventional Armed Forces, On the Verge of Collapse?
September 4, 1997, p. 7-10.
20The Military Balance, 2000-2001, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London,
21The most significant such move was the dismissal of notoriously anti-American Colonel-
General Leonid Ivashov as head of the Treaties and International Cooperation Department
of the Ministry of Defense.
Russian flotilla into the Mediterranean, reportedly meant “to send NATO a signal of
Russia's intention to maintain a ‘blue-water’ offensive naval strategy.”22 The
Mediterranean deployment was cancelled. Most of the Russian military
establishment claimed that the Kursk sank after colliding with a U.S. or British
submarine and stuck to that story for more than a year. In July 2002, the Russian
government released an official report that a faulty torpedo had exploded inside the
Kursk. In the meantime, Putin replaced the Commander and Deputy Commander of
the Northern Fleet, the Navy Chief of Staff, and the Minister of Defense, among
others. In a televised interview soon after the Kursk sank, Putin said that, "[O]ur
armed forces should match our needs on one hand and the possibilities of the state
on the other," adding that the military must be "compact, modern and well paid....
We have been talking about military reform for how long? At least eight years and
perhaps a whole ten years, but there has been little change in this area.”23 After the
Kursk, Putin began to make changes. That was thirteen months before September 11,
Soon after September 11, a somewhat skeptical Polish analyst wrote that there
were two key questions in judging Putin’s policy. The first was whether Russia
really sought full-fledged cooperation with the West; the second was the price of
such cooperation. “Russian participation in an anti-terrorist offensive,” he continued,
“together with only moderate demands in return, might be a substantial indication of
Russian preparedness to become a reliable partner of the West. It is exam time and
we can only hope that Russia will not fail.”24 Putin appears to have passed this test.
Reasons for the New Policy
If Putin really has fundamentally reoriented Russian policy toward cooperation
and integration with the West, one may well ask why. Does the former KGB agent
have a cultural or ideological affinity for the United States and the West? I.e., does
he like us? Does he like western democracy? Most observers would say, “no.”
Instead, Putin’s change of course seems to be based on a sober assessment of
Russia’s vital interests and its current limitations.
First and foremost, from the day Putin became Acting President to the present
time, he has insisted that Russia’s most urgent need and his top priority is the
reconstruction and vitalization of the economy. In a speech on December 13, 1999,
he warned that, “Russia is in the midst of one of the most difficult periods in its
history. For the first time in 200 or 300 years, it is facing a real threat of sliding to
the second, possibly the third, echelon of world states.” The catastrophic economic
collapse of the 1990s had to be reversed in order to ensure the strength of the state,
the dignity and well-being of the Russian people... and Putin’s political future. Putin
established as a primary goal for Russia the transition to a functioning market
economy whose gross domestic product (GDP) was growing at a healthy, sustainable
22Robyn Dixon, “Russian Navy Is Adrift in an Ocean of Problems,” Los Angeles Times,
August 27, 2000.
24 Votapek, “Russia and the United States,” p. 193.
rate. This would assure rising living standards for Russian citizens and provide the
basis for a strong central state.
Putin sees Russia’s economic reconstruction and vitalization proceeding from
its integration in the global economic system dominated by the advanced industrial
democracies, i.e., economic integration with the West. He said this clearly in his
April 2002 State of the Nation address. “I must once again make a firm statement
today on our priorities as far as Europe is concerned.... [W]hat is clear are our...
numerous and concrete steps towards integration with Europe. We will continue to
work actively with the European Union, designed to create a single economic
space.”25 It is axiomatic that this requires a relatively benign international
environment for Russia. Russia’s economic integration with the West cannot be
accomplished in an atmosphere of political/military confrontation or antagonism with
the West and/or with the United States.
It follows from this that Russian national security policy must support Russia’s
preeminent economic objectives. Putin underlined this point in a conference of
Foreign Ministry officials, including virtually all ambassadors, who were ordered to
Moscow for the purpose (July 12, 2002). This was the second such conference in the
202-year history of the Foreign Ministry. The first was convened by Mikhail
Gorbachev in 1986 to lay down his principles of “new thinking” in foreign policy and
of “glasnost” and “perestroika.” Putin also intended to lay down new principles. He
lectured the assembled foreign policy bureaucracy, criticizing them on various
shortcomings, and noted that under his leadership, “Russia has managed to get out
of the long period of confrontation” and now sought “truly reliable, businesslike”
relations. He went on to say that the new basis of Russian-U.S. relations “lies in a
new reading of the national interests of the two countries....” Lest they miss the
point, he declared, “I will reemphasize: the confident partnership between Russia and
the U.S.A. is not only in the interests of our people. It exerts a positive influence on
the entire system of international relations and therefore remains one of our absolute
priorities.”26 (Emphasis added.) General Vasily Lata, former Deputy Commander
of Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, put it more bluntly. "Economic policy is
dictating all the other aspects of international relations.... Putin sees that without
positive economic development, Russia has no future."27
Putin’s drive for economic integration with the West alone may be sufficient
explanation for his abandonment of the Primakov line and his reorientation of
Russian national security policy toward cooperation with the West. But there are
probably other factors as well. Putin is known as a realist. He is intelligent and well
informed. He has first-hand understanding of the West, having served for years as
an intelligence officer in Germany. Many observers believe that underlying Putin’s
25BBC translation of live, televised speech, April 18, 2002.
26Speech by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at Enlarged Conference
with Participation of Russian Federation Ambassadors at MFA [Ministry of Foreign
Affairs] July 12, 2002. On the web site of the Russian Foreign Ministry
[ h t t p : / / www.mi d.r u/ ]
27Cited in Peter Baker, “Putin’s Concessions to the United States Are Limited by the Bottom
Line,” Washington Post, August 16, 2002, p. A15.
frequent assertion that Russia must adjust its foreign and defense policies to its
(limited) capabilities is his conclusion that Primakov’s concept – of maintaining
Russia’s status as a great power and the leader in the struggle against American
“hegemonism.” – was a losing strategy in view of the preponderance of U.S.
economic, political, and military power compared to Russia.28
Putin may also have had doubts about the wisdom of Primakov’s reliance upon
China as a key partner and preferably an ally, vis-a-vis the United States. Russian-
Chinese relations are friendly and the two states share a number of important
interests, including: opposition to U.S. or international interference in a country’s
internal affairs on the basis of human rights violations; opposition to the spread of
radical Islam in Central Asia; mutual support in suppressing separatist tendencies in
Chechnya and Tibet; and resentment of the economic dominance of the advanced
industrial democracies. Both states felt threatened by proposed U.S. missile defense
plans and by the principle of U.S.-led military intervention in Yugoslavia’s Kosovo
conflict without U.N. or OSCE approval.29 As both China’s and Russia’s relations
with the United States soured in the late 1990s and into the first year of the Bush
Administration over these and other issues,30 Russo-Chinese condemnations of
“global hegemonism,” a thinly veiled reference to U.S. dominance and unilateralism,
seemed to some to be moving in the direction of alliance against the United States,
as envisioned by Primakov.31
There is ample reason, however, for Moscow to be wary of such a policy. While
Primakov and like-minded Russian nationalists saw China as an opportunity to be
exploited in the short-term to counterbalance U.S. predominance, other Russians saw
– and see – China as a long-term threat. The basic reasons for this are the apparent
trajectories of Russian decline and Chinese ascendance and Russian concerns about
a possibly dangerous China as a neighbor in the future. Russia is by far the largest
nation in the world in terms of territory, but whereas the Soviet population in 1991
28The director of a Russian think tank said to be close to Putin put it this way: “[S]ince the
United States is the center of world power and strength, the closer Russia is to it, the
stronger Russia is.... We are present at the formation of a new world order shaped by the
United States, and for Russia to resist this and to look for an adequate reaction to every
move Washington makes is counterproductive.... [N]ow we are a matador and the United
States is a bull with which we should not clash." Komsomolskaya pravda [Moscow], March
29Russian nationalists warned, “today Kosovo, tomorrow Chechnya.” Beijing worried about
possible U.S. military intervention in support of Taiwan. The accidental U.S. bombing of
the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade (1999) further inflamed anti-American sentiment in China.
Russia and China were in almost continuous consultation during NATO’s air assault – until
Moscow unilaterally decided to join the West in pressing Milosevic to accept NATO terms.
30Other issues with China included the Taiwan Straits confrontation of 1996, President
Bush’s statement that the United States would “do whatever it takes” to protect Taiwan’s
independence, and the mini-crisis over the collision of a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane
and a Chinese jet fighter near Hainan Island (April 1, 2001 ).
31For a recent summary of the development of Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation, see
Jeanne L. Wilson, “Strategic Partners, Russian-Chinese Relations and the July 2001
Friendship Treaty,” Problems of Post-Communism, May-June 2002, p. 3-13.
was 286 million, Russia’s population then was only 149 million. Today it stands at
144 million – despite substantial net in-migration of ethnic Russians from other
Soviet successor states – and it is falling rapidly. Russia is experiencing an
extraordinary demographic crisis. Putin frankly acknowledges this as one of Russia’s
most urgent problems. In April 2002, the Russian State Committee on Statistics
(Goskomstat) published its official projections for the population of the Russian
Federation in the year 2050. There were three variants: optimistic - 126 million;
pessimistic - 77 million; and median (presumably the most realistic official estimate)
- 100 million.32 Furthermore, the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia, that huge
expanse east of Lake Baikal, a territory larger than the contiguous 48 United States,
has a population of barely 6 million, which is contracting more rapidly than the
general population as Russians migrate back toward the European heartland to escape
harsh climatic and economic conditions.
In contrast, China’s population today is about 1.3 billion, and growing. China
faces a perceived scarcity of land and resources. Much of resource-rich Eastern
Siberia and the Russian Far East was seized from China by Tsarist Russia in the
second half of the 19th century, in what the Chinese call “unequal treaties.” Nearly
all the territory yielded by China to other imperialist states (notably: Britain, France,
Germany, and Japan) in 19th and 20th century “unequal treaties” has been recovered
by China. Russia is the outstanding exception. The giant Asian neighbors have
officially resolved virtually all territorial issues along their 3,000 mile border and
they have concluded numerous other agreements, including a 25-year Friendship
Treaty signed in July 2001. They have important, mutually beneficial trade relations.
Both parties want and need continued friendly relations in the near- and medium-
term future as they focus on domestic development. Many Russians worry, however,
that eventually China could become a threat.
Russian concerns about China tend to focus on the possibility of China
becoming a superpower with sustained economic growth that eventually generates
great political and military power, vis-a-vis a relatively weak Russia. China experts
are by no means agreed that China will continue to enjoy rapid economic growth and
become a superpower. Another school of thought foresees stagnation, economic
decline, and instability for China.33 Curiously, this scenario too is a source of
concern for Russia. In a troubled and unstable China, there could be uncontrolled
population movement toward Russia’s sparsely populated eastern regions. More
worrisome for Moscow is the prospect that the Chinese Communist Party – or its
successor – having already virtually abandoned Marxist-Leninist ideology as a
legitimizing principle, might turn to patriotic nationalism as a means of maintaining
political legitimacy and national cohesion. Increased Chinese nationalism could
revive territorial claims against Russia – as Mao did in the 1960s-1970s. Thus, it is
arguable that whether China evolves into a superpower, or fails in its transition and
becomes a troubled, unstable state, the prospects for Russia in either case could be
32Alexei Chernyak, “Analysis of Demographic Situation in Russia,” Vremya
Novostei, No. 54, April 2002.
33For these opposing views of China’s future, see Edward Timperlake and William C.
Triplett II, Red Dragon Rising, Regnery, Washington, D.C., 1999; and Gordon G. Chang,
The Coming Collapse of China, Random House, New York, 2001.
disturbing.34 This may be another reason why Putin turned away from Primakov’s
policy of reliance on China against the United States. Some analysts suggest that
eventually, Moscow may have to turn to the United States and NATO for security
Domestic Political Context of New National Security Policy
In the first two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian national
security policy seemed remarkably (critics would say, naively) pro-American.
Yeltsin and his Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev seemed to say to the United States,
“Just tell us what you want....” By late 1993, this began to change. The continued
sharp contraction of the economy and commensurate impoverishment of much of the
population eroded Yeltsin’s popularity. His erratic, undisciplined, hands-off
leadership style made things worse. Communists and ultra nationalists dominated
the Duma through the mid- to late 1990s. This political opposition and a rising
Russian disillusionment with perceived U.S. unresponsiveness to Russian needs and
interests gave rise to increasing assertiveness and nationalism in Russian foreign and
defense policy. In January 1996, Yeltsin appointed Primakov to replace the pro-
western Kozyrev, and U.S.-Russian relations became more strained.
Many observers in Russia, Europe, and the United States caution that Putin’s
new national security policy, like Yeltsin’s a decade earlier, lacks solid domestic
political support. Indeed, the dominant view among Russian specialists is that the
new policy is so much Putin’s policy that it is virtually a one-man show. Some say
that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a Putin loyalist, is perhaps the only senior leader
who truly embraces the policy.35 Senior military leaders, the Foreign Ministry
bureaucracy, the majority of political elites – and indeed much of the general
population – is said to be opposed to, or not very supportive of, the policy of
cooperation with the United States.36 Some specialists dispute this view, claiming
that even “most conservative political elites, in private discussions, admit that Putin’s
course of integration with America and the West is the only way to modernize the
economy.” (Emphasis added.) According to the same source, “although Putin
personally makes key decisions, there is an impressive brain trust behind the
34The view that either China’s successful transition to superpower status, or its failure to
make that transition, could pose dangers to Russian security is succinctly argued by Yuri
Federov, “Sub-Strategic Nuclear Weapons: Russia’s Security Interests and Prospects of
Control,” Digest of the Russian Journal, Yaderny Control, Vol. VII, No. 4, 2002, p. 21-22.
35Ivanov and Putin served in the same KGB unit in 1976. When Putin became head of
Federal Security Service, he named Ivanov his Deputy Director. When Putin became
Premier, he brought Ivanov in to head the Security Council. In March 2001, President Putin
made Ivanov Minister of Defense. He is unrelated to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
36This is based on extensive discussions with Russian, European, and U.S. experts, as well
as many published accounts. See, for example, Daniel Williams, “Putin’s Tilt to the West
Riles Three Key Groups,” Washington Post, November 25, 2001, p. A24; “Who Are Putin’s
Naysayers?” RFE/RL Political Weekly, May 22, 2002.
president... a talented and deep cadre in the Russian bureaucracy that supports the
president’s policy toward the United States.”37
While there may be uncertainty about the level of political support for Putin’s
policy of integration with the West, there is little doubt about his overall political
strength and popularity. As noted above, Putin is the unrivaled master of the Russian
political stage and continues to enjoy public approval ratings over 70%.38 Putin was
fortunate to come to power near the beginning of an economic upturn. The Yeltsin
regime’s attempt to implement a rapid transition from the most militarized command
economy in history to a rudimentary market system led to a recession in which output
fell by 40%-50%, followed by a financial crisis in 1998. After the financial crisis,
the sharply devalued ruble and major increases in the world price of oil spurred a
mini economic boom in Russia (1999 to 2001). Domestically, Putin got political
credit for the improving economy. He then seized this opportunity to adopt an
ambitious – and potentially risky – reform strategy. The first element of that strategy
is domestic economic reform. The second element is integration into the global
economy. The third element is strategic partnership with the United States and the
West.39 If it is true that the public is not generally supportive of his pro-western
policy, this is not reflected in any decrease in his popularity or political effectiveness.
Putin successfully has extended government control over the principal broadcast
media. He has curbed the power of the previously independent business “oligarchs”
as a class, driving some of them into exile and neutralizing or winning the support
of others. Putin has enjoyed strong support in the Duma since the beginning of his
presidency. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) is the only
major party that opposes his shift toward cooperation with the United States. In April
2002, the dominant pro-Putin bloc in the Duma staged a political coup, stripping the
CPRF of most of its committee chairmanships and other leadership posts.40 Now
there appears to be no effective parliamentary opposition to Putin’s domestic or
foreign policies. Furthermore, the Russian Constitution (tailored to Yeltsin’s
37Clifford Kupchan, "The Russian-American Agenda: Today and Tomorrow, " in A New
Agenda in U.S.-Russian Relations, Moscow, Institute for Applied International Research,
2002, (forthcoming). Kupchan, former professional staff member of the House International
Relations Committee, is vice president of the Eurasia Foundation.
38A public opinion poll conducted in late May 2002 found that Putin's popularity rating had
reached 75%, up 4% from April. The same polling organization found that nearly half of
those polled disapproved of Russia's recent foreign policy of cooperation with the United
States. Only 25% supported the Kremlin’s pro-American policy. Reported in FRE/RL,
Newsline, June 3, 2002.
39See John Hardt, “Overview,” Ben Slay, “The Russian Economy, How Far from Sustainable
Growth?” and James Millar, “Long-Run Prospects for the Russian Economy,” in Russia’s
Uncertain Economic Future, A Compendium of Papers submitted to the Joint Economic
Committee of the Congress of the United States [by CRS], December 2001, p. xi-xxii, 25-
40After the December 1999 Duma election, the pro-Putin forces entered into an alliance with
the CPRF. As Putin’s policies became more market-oriented and pro-western, the CPRF
became less cooperative. The “coup” of April 2002 was seen by many as removing a
political obstacle to Putin’s economic reforms and his shift toward the West.
specifications in late 1993, after he forcibly disbanded the previous parliament),
concentrates political power in the President’s hands to such an extraordinary degree
that Russia is a “super-presidential” republic. The institutional power of the
presidency, combined with Putin’s personal prestige and popularity, are such that
there is no significant political opposition in Russia today. At present, there is no
effective means of translating unhappiness with Putin’s pro-western course into
political pressure that could force him to change that policy – as long as he personally
believes in it.
Those who are concerned about the lack of support for Putin’s pro-western
policy caution, however, that Russia’s large and unwieldy government bureaucracy
could find many ways to delay, obstruct, undermine, and sabotage that policy.
Putin’s Policy: Tactical Shift or Strategic Decision?
As the shift in Russian national security policy became evident in 2001, some
in the United States saw it as a short-term tactical response to the September 11
attacks and their aftermath. In this view, a principal goal of Putin was to assure that
Russia was on the right side of – and not targeted or jeopardized by – any U.S.-led
anti-terrorist operations and also to channel the upsurge of U.S. anti-terrorism
sentiment into support for Russia’s campaign in Chechnya. As Putin’s policy has
evolved, however, most analysts have come to see it as a fundamental strategic
reorientation of Russian policy, based on Putin’s assessment of Russian national
interests – domestic economic as well as geostrategic.
Those who see the new Russian policy as a strategic decision argue that the
numerous changes of position that Putin has made on major issues in relations with
the United States are cumulatively so substantial that they seem too high a price to
pay in exchange for some short-term tactical objective(s). Putin has declared
repeatedly that Russia’s economic future is tied to its integration with the West. The
bulk of his domestic economic and national security policies point in that direction.
Many of the above concessions that Moscow made to Washington in the past year
could be difficult or impossible to reverse.
The change in Russia’s strategic relationship with China may also fall into this
category. Although the Chinese and Russian governments do not say so officially,
there can be little doubt that Beijing was and is displeased with Putin’s turn away
from the Primakov policy of strategic cooperation with China, toward integration
with the West (see p. 29-30, below). From the Chinese perspective, this was the third
time in five years that Moscow had “surrendered” to the West after initially declaring
strong opposition to western policy. The first case was the accession to NATO of
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. From 1995 to 1997, Moscow insisted that
taking the former Warsaw Pact states into NATO would poison East-West relations,
with dire political and military consequences. In the end, Yeltsin acquiesced, flew
to Paris, and signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act (May 27, 1997).41
41See CRS Report 97-666, NATO Enlargement: The Process and Allied Views, updated July
The second perceived “surrender” was over the U.S.-led NATO military
intervention in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict. Moscow consistently took
the Serbian side, to the point that the NATO air war precipitated a crisis with Russia
in the spring of 1999. Russia enlisted Chinese support in this clash with the West.
After U.S. planes accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, China
became even more strongly committed to this cause. In the end, however, Moscow
decided to join in the NATO pressure on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to
accept NATO’s terms on Kosovo.42
In the Chinese opinion, the third “surrender,” Putin’s post-September 11
concessions to the United States, is more sweeping and strategic in scope. Again,
Moscow had made a point of soliciting Chinese support for resistance to U.S. missile
defense plans and in support of the ABM Treaty, and then abandoned that policy –
and China. Moscow and Beijing also had emphasized their strategic cooperation in
co-sponsoring the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, July 2001), an
underlying, though undeclared, principle of which was Sino-Russian cooperation to
thwart U.S. influence in Central Asia.43 Within months, Russia cooperated with U.S.
military deployments to Central Asia, into states bordering on China’s sensitive
western frontier. Moscow did not consult with Beijing prior to this move.44
The fact that Putin and Bush cemented their post-September 11 strategic
cooperation in a private meeting during the APEC Conference in Shanghai (October
2001) may have seemed a further affront to the Chinese. By demonstrating, yet
again, Russia’s unreliability as a partner and potential ally of China vis-a-vis the
United States, Putin may have forfeited the option of the “China card” that Primakov
had worked so hard to create. This too would seem a very high price for Putin to pay
for some short-term tactical objective.
This is not to say that Russia‘s new western orientation is permanent and
unchangeable. The economic revival that Putin seeks through integration with the
West could eventually strengthen Russia to the point that it is able revert to previous
patterns of antipathy toward the West. On the other hand, the economic revival that
Putin seeks, and other changes in Russia and in the international environment, might
transform Russia and its perception of its place in the world such as to anchor it in
the West. In any case, Putin seems to acknowledge that for the near- and medium-
term future, cooperation with the West is a necessity.
Bush Administration Responses
In its first year-and-a-half, the Bush Administration, with missile defense as a
high priority, took a harder line toward Russia than its immediate predecessors.
Before September 11, the Administration saw Russia on most issues as “part of the
42See CRS Report 31053, Kosovo and U.S. Policy, updated July 3, 2002.
43CRS Report RL31213, China's Relations with Central Asian States and Problems with
Terrorism, December 17, 2001, p. 18.
44CRS interview with senior Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.
problem.” After September 11 and the war on terrorism, the Administration has
tended to see Russia generally as “part of the solution.”
Some would argue that this generalization is too glib and glosses over the fact
that reportedly there are significant splits within the Administration on Russia policy.
The conventional wisdom holds that Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld take a harder, less conciliatory line toward Moscow. Secretary of State
Powell is reportedly more willing to compromise. National Security Advisor Rice’s
position is less clear-cut, but reportedly more often leans toward Cheney and
Rumsfeld.45 Secretary Powell has been known to quip that he sometimes has an
easier time discussing U.S.-Russian relations with Foreign Minister Ivanov than with
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Putin’s willingness to acquiesce on many issues – even
some that Moscow had long held to be core interests that it would defend tenaciously
– is seen by some as validating the less conciliatory approach reportedly favored by
the Vice President and Defense Secretary.
The Bush Administration made the most of Russian cooperation in Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokesmen praised Russia’s contributions, but it is primarily a U.S.
operation, the outcome of which may serve Russia’s security needs as much as
America’s. Other aspects of America’s war against terrorism are less pleasing to
Some Russian officials have publicly fretted over the duration of the U.S.
military presence in Central Asia. The Central Asian governments, however, appear
to view longer term U.S. military presence as powerful assistance in their struggles
against radical Islam and also as a healthy counterweight to the previously
predominant influence of Russia and China. Russians who are wary of China’s
ambitions in the region may also welcome the United States as a helpful
Many Russians criticized the Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP),
announced by the Bush Administration in March 2002, of sending a U.S. military
contingent to Georgia to assess Georgian military, security, and border forces to help
them combat Chechen, Arab, Afghani, al-Qaeda, and other terrorists who allegedly
have infiltrated Georgia.47 In view of the tension between Moscow and Tbilisi over
alleged Russian support for the Abkhazian separatist movement in Georgia, and
Russia’s continued occupation of military bases in Georgia against the wishes of the
Georgian government, and Russian claims that Georgia is harboring Chechen
terrorists, some Russians have expressed concern that U.S. training and equipment
might be turned against Russian interests. Some Russians also worry that the small
45“Is Russia Worth Paying Attention to Anymore?” RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly, May
46CRS Report RL31213, China's Relations with Central Asian States and Problems with
Terrorism, December 17, 2001, p. 18.
47CRS Issue Brief IB95024, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and
Implications for U.S. Interests, regularly updated.
(150 men) U.S. military contingent in Georgia might grow and become more
permanent. U.S. officials reply that GTEP is a temporary mission which also serves
Russian interests, in that it will enhance Georgia’s ability to deal with security threats
arising from the presence of Chechen refugees and fighters in the Pankisi Gorge area
of Georgia, adjacent to Chechnya.48
After September 11, the Bush Administration substantially reduced, although
it did not entirely stop, its criticism of Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya.
The Bush Administration pushed ahead with plans for NATO enlargement,
likely to include the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. At the
same time, the Administration reached out to Moscow, agreeing to a new NATO-
Russia Council in which Moscow will have an equal voice, and vote, on certain
issues (see below, p. 24-25), but not on core Alliance collective security issues or on
admitting new members.
After the inconclusive November 2001 Washington/Crawford, Texas summit,
the Bush Administration went ahead with withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and
stuck to its guns on strategic nuclear force reductions, eventually yielding only on
designating the resulting agreement an international treaty, subject to legislative
approval, as the Russians – and the U.S. Senate – had demanded.49 Between the two
summit meetings, news of the Bush Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review ruffled
Russian feathers. The new NPR continued to list Russia as a potentially hostile state
against which nuclear contingencies might have to be planned, despite U.S. claims
that it no longer sees a Russian “threat” as the basis for sizing and structuring U.S.
The Bush Administration has been more forthcoming in addressing what Putin
says is his top priority, Russian economic interests. On June 4, 2002, the U.S.
Department of Commerce made good on a pledge the President made the previous
year, officially certifying Russia as a "market economy." This will facilitate bilateral
trade, ease the burden that Russian exporters face in anti-dumping and countervailing
duty procedures, and bring Russia a step closer to WTO membership. The Russian
government hailed this as an important step. Some critics of Bush Administration
policy toward Russia fault the length of time the Commerce Department took to act,
arguing that certification should have been completed before the November 2001
Bush-Putin summit, and certainly before the May 2002 summit. But certification
came two weeks after the May summit. This could be interpreted as an insult, a sign
that Russia’s most urgent interests are not so urgent in Washington. On the other
hand, others could argue that the deliberate pace of Commerce Department action
was a positive sign that Russia was finally being treated like a “normal country,” the
48Paul J. Saunders, U.S.-Russian Relations: Uneasy Road to Strategic Partnership, The
Nixon Center, May 2002, p. 2-3.
49CRS Report RL31448, Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategy Offensive Reductions Treaty.
June 10, 2002.
50The seven states against whom nuclear contingencies are envisioned in the Nuclear
Posture Review are: China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Libya.
issue handled in a businesslike way, decided on its merits because real commercial
issues were at stake, not pushed through as a political case requiring special handling.
Moscow complains about still being subject to the “freedom-of-emigration ”
requirements of the Jackson-Vanik amendment (Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974),
which is linked to granting Russia “permanent normal trade relations” (PNTR) status.
At their November 2001 summit meeting, Bush promised Putin that he would work
with the Congress to grant Russia PNTR status. Two bills have been introduced in
the 107th Congress (H.R. 3553 and S. 1861) to grant PNTR status to Russia. Some
critics of U.S. policy toward Russia argue that the Bush Administration has not made
the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment’s application to Russia a high enough
In the past year, President Bush has repeatedly stated his wish to see U.S. trade
with and investment in Russia increase. Many Russian officials are disappointed
with the level of U.S. trade and investment.52 Having grown up in a command-
economy environment, many Russians may not fully appreciate that trade and
investment flows are mainly responsive to market forces rather than to political
pronouncements. Under Putin’s leadership, the Russian government has made
administrative changes and the legislature has enacted laws aimed at creating a more
market-friendly climate for trade and investment. Most western specialists agree,
however, that although a good start has been made, the task is far from complete and
that foreign business interests want to see more implementation of market reforms,
especially in such areas as contract enforcement, protection of shareholders’ rights,
reform of the banking sector, and clarification of tax authority among federal,
regional, and local governing structures.53
Implications for U.S. Interests
The shift in Russian national security policy and the Bush Administration’s
responses to that shift have important implications for future relations between two
nations. Below is a brief discussion of possible effects of the new dynamic in U.S.-
Russian relations on selected issues, with an eye toward issues of congressional
interest and congressional means of exercising influence on those issues.
51For a discussion of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and PNTR for Russia, see CRS Report
RS21123, Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian
Economic Ties, Feb. 26, 2002.
52The United States was Russia’s second largest trade partner (behind Germany) in 2000,
the last year for which complete figures are available. But total U.S. trade turnover with
Russia ($10.6 billion) is small in absolute terms and a tiny fraction (0.5%) of total U.S.
foreign trade. International Monetary Fund, Direction of Trade Statistics Quarterly,
Washington, D.C., March 2002, p. 215, 266.
53See Russia’s Uncertain Economic Future, p. 25-211.
New U.S.-Russian Relationship
In the decade of the 1990s, U.S.-Russian relations lurched from declarations of
the end of the Cold War, to pledges of “strategic partnership” and “alliance,” to
disillusionment, recrimination, and neo-Cold War antagonism. The new leadership
in both Washington and Moscow seem intent on avoiding such dramatic swings. At
the Bush-Putin summit in May 2002, the two leaders issued a Joint Declaration on
the New Strategic Relationship, couched in relatively realistic terms, listing specific,
concrete areas of planned cooperation and identifying issues on which their interests
diverged. The two pledged that their countries would, “...continue an intensive
dialogue on pressing international and regional problems,” noting candidly that,
“Where we have differences, we will work to resolve them in a spirit of mutual
respect.” To help keep bilateral relations on an even keel, Bush and Putin established
the Consultative Group for Strategic Security, which includes the U.S. and Russian
foreign and defense ministers. Implicit in the Presidents’ Joint Declaration, and in
the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed the same day, is Russia’s
recognition of current U.S. geostrategic dominance. This statement in the Joint
Declaration, affirmed by both leaders but reflecting Putin’s priorities, is the key:
“...[T]he security, prosperity, and future hopes of our peoples rest on a benign
security environment, the advancement of political and economic freedoms, and
international cooperation.”54 An important element of U.S.-Russian economic
partnership is cooperation in key sectors such as energy and finance and in
improving Russian corporate governance. Russia could gain a great deal from an
economic partnership with the United States. The United States is the world’s
largest market, generates the most investment capital, and has a leading role in the
policies of international financial and economic institutions such as the IMF, World
Bank, EBRD, OECD, and WTO.55
If Putin continues to believe that Russia’s economic recovery and future
prosperity require “a benign security environment”and economic cooperation with
the United States, Russia may be a good deal more cooperative on security issues in
the next few years than in 1996-2000. Some Russian foreign policy specialists
suggest that the United States should come to regard Russia in much the same way
it regards France: as an important country, an ally with shared strategic interests, but
a “thorny ally” with which it also has significant policy differences.
Cooperation Against Terrorism
As noted above, Putin began promoting the idea of U.S.-Russian cooperation
against terrorism well before September 11. This remains a key element in both
countries’ security agendas, although with the Taliban regime gone, their emphases
and priorities differ somewhat. Both countries excoriate Al Qaeda and like-minded
radical Islamic movements. Cooperation in Central Asia may continue on that basis
54[ ht t p: / / www.whi t e house.gov/ news/ r el eases/ 2002/ 05/ 20020524-2.ht ml ]
55Matthew J. Sagers, “The Russian Energy Sector: Current Conditions and Long-Term
Outlook,” and Jonathan Sanford, “Russia and the International Financial Institutions: From
Special Case to a Normal Country,” in Russia’s Uncertain Economic Future, p. 213-252.
as long as Russia does not feel threatened by the U.S. presence there. At their May
2002 summit, Presidents Bush and Putin announced that the U.S.-Russia Working
Group on Afghanistan would be given a broader mandate and renamed the U.S.-
Russia Working Group on Counter terrorism, which would, among other issues,
address the threats posed by nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism. But whereas
Moscow characterizes Chechen rebels almost exclusively as terrorists, Washington
has doubts about the accuracy of that picture. Similarly, the Bush Administration’s
denunciation of Yasser Arafat’s leadership as irremediably tainted by its links to
terrorism, is not shared by Moscow, among others – although the Russian
government flatly condemns Palestinian suicide bombings.56 In the 1990s, Russian
support for Iraq was a sore spot in U.S.-Russian relations, particularly during
Primakov’s stewardship of Russian policy. Some Russian officials, scholars, and
think-tank analysts recently hinted that Moscow might not object too strongly to U.S.
military action against Iraq, provided that: a) Washington does not act unilaterally
and, b) Russian economic interests in Iraq are respected.57
U.S.-Russian activities in the area of preventing WMD proliferation have two
distinctly different aspects. The first involves cooperative efforts to safeguard
dangerous nuclear, chemical, and biological materials and related weapons
technologies inside Russia and other Soviet successor states. This has been
addressed in the past through high-level initiatives such as the Nunn-Lugar
Comprehensive Threat Reduction (CTR) program, in which Congress has taken a
leading role.58 In today’s atmosphere of U.S.-Russian strategic cooperation, such
programs are believed likely to continue, and perhaps increase. For example, the
Russian Federation Debt Reduction for Nonproliferation Act of 2001 (S. 1803),
would authorize the President to engage in debt-for-nonproliferation exchanges to
56Moscow’s attitude toward the Israeli-Palestine conflict is increasingly influenced by
sympathy with the large and growing Russian diaspora in Israel, which now numbers about
one million, some 20% of the population of Israel.
57Discussions with Russian officials and scholars, January-May 2002. The admonition
against unilateral action means that Moscow wants Washington to secure U.N. or other
international approval before any attack. Baghdad owes Moscow over $7 billion for Soviet-
era arms sales. Russian energy firms also hope to reap immense profits on new contracts
once economic sanctions against Iraq are lifted. Putin’s Russia seems more interested in
these economic interests than in preserving Saddam Hussein’s regime. Some Russians
believe that Moscow might be more likely to attain its economic objectives after a regime
change in Iraq, since the United States seems determined to maintain economic sanctions
as long as Saddam is in power, and as long as the sanctions remain in force, Russia is
unlikely to be repaid or be able to implement new contracts. Baghdad may hope to buy
stronger Russian support through the $40 billion five-year economic cooperation agreement
with Russia announced on August 16, 2002. See p.22-23, below.
58See CRS Report 97-1027, Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Programs: Issues
for Congress, updated Mar. 6, 2002; and CRS Report RL31368, Preventing Proliferation
of Biological Weapons: U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet States, updated Apr. 19, 2002.
reduce the amount of Soviet-era debt owed by Russia to the United States.59 Another
example is the so-called “10 plus 10 over 10” plan, backed by the United States and
adopted at the G-8 summit in Canada in June 2002. This plan, if implemented,
would add up to $10 billion from the other six (non-U.S.) G-7 countries to the $10
billion pledged by the United States, over the next ten years, to finance WMD
nonproliferation programs in Russia and other Soviet successor states.
The other key aspect of the Russian WMD proliferation issue concerns Russian
transfers of nuclear reactors and ballistic missile technology to certain states,
particularly Iran.60 This has been a vexing issue in U.S.-Russian relations since the
mid-1990s. The Clinton and Bush Administrations and the Congress have treated
these as very high priority issues, but have had little success in convincing Russia to
halt either its nuclear reactor construction program at Bushehr, Iran, or the covert
transfers of missile technology from Russian institutes and enterprises to Iran.61
Moscow argues that the Bushehr reactor project is legal, proper, and safe.
Washington replies that while the program may be legal – in that it violates no
treaties or international obligations to which Russia is a party – it will be used by Iran
to advance a clandestine nuclear weapons program which will be a grave security
threat to the United States, its allies and friends, and to Russia as well.62
The question of missile technology transfer is less clear cut. Different Russian
authorities have claimed at various times that: a) there were no such transfers; b)
there were some unauthorized transfers, but they have been stopped; c) the transfers
were/are being done illegally by shadowy entities that elude Russia’s best efforts at
export control; d) the alleged illicit transfers are of legitimate dual-use technology not
covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).63
One of the results of recent Bush-Putin summitry was a decision to address
questions of Russian nuclear reactor and missile technology transfers to Iran more
systematically. A standing bilateral working-level group was established for this
purpose. There had been some speculation that an understanding might be reached
in which Russia would complete the single Bushehr reactor, with enhanced
safeguards, but would provide no additional nuclear cooperation to Iran. In late July,
however, the Russian press reported that the Ministry of Atomic Energy
(MINATOM) had adopted a plan to build five new nuclear reactors in Iran over a ten-
year period, three more at Bushehr and two at another site. According to a senior
Bush administration official, "... the White House was infuriated by that and
59S. 1803, sponsored by Sen. Biden, was passed unanimously by the Senate on January 20,
60See CRS Report RL30551, Iran: Arms and Technology Acquisitions, updated January 26,
61The Clinton Administration tried persuasion for several years, then began applying
economic sanctions against specific Russian enterprises and institutes. Congress enacted
the Iran Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 106-178) which was signed into law in March 2000.
62The arguments on both sides can be found in CRS Report 98-299, Russian Missile
Technology and Nuclear Reactor Transfers to Iran, updated December 14, 1998.
extremely surprised.... What we were told was: It's a draft and it's not done." A high-
level U.S. delegation made a previously planned visit to Moscow to urge Russia to
cancel this deal. Recent reports quote the head of MINATOM as saying that the ten-
year plan was “theoretical” and might be reevaluated in light of “political factors.”64
While the outcome of the Russia-Iran agreement remained unclear, reports of
new Russian ties with Iraq and North Korea drew attention. On August 16, 2002,
Iraq’s Ambassador in Moscow announced that the two countries would soon sign an
economic cooperation agreement worth $40 billion. A senior Russian official
confirmed that a five-year agreement with Iraq, encompassing the oil, electrical,
chemical, agricultural, and transport sectors, under consideration for several years,
has been approved by the relevant ministries and is being readied for signing. He
also said the contracts would not violate U.N. sanctions against Iraq. The official
U.S. response downplayed the reported deal. A White House spokesman said that
Putin remained a strong supporter of the war against terrorism and that Washington
expected Moscow to continue honoring the sanctions regime against Iraq.65 Also in
mid-August, Moscow announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would soon
visit the Russian Far East. Putin is expected to meet with him there.
Continued Russian nuclear reactor and missile technology transfers to Iran could
become a critical test of Putin’s policy of cooperation with the United States. On the
one hand, Moscow sees Teheran as a stable, friendly regional power and a vitally
important market for its cash-strapped nuclear power and defense industries. On the
other hand, the United States sees Iran as a leading state sponsor of international
terrorism and is absolutely committed to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons and long-range missiles. Some observers question whether Putin’s claim
of being America’s chief ally in the fight against terrorism can be considered credible
in the face of continued – and expanded – Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran.
Congressional support for the Russian Debt for Nonproliferation Act (S. 1803), inter
alia, might be adversely affected by such a Russian policy.66
It may be that the Russian reactor construction program in Iran was drafted by
enthusiasts at the Ministry of Atomic Energy or elsewhere, without prior Kremlin
approval, and that it will ultimately be buried. Alternatively, the ten-year, five-
reactor plan might be a negotiating ploy aimed at getting Washington to agree to a
more limited expansion of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran. A more cynical
interpretation might be that the reported plan is a ruse, meant to be floated and then
withdrawn as a “concession,” to ease U.S. pressure on the original Bushehr project.
Similarly, the Russia-Iraq economic cooperation agreement can be interpreted
in different ways. Baghdad is eager to muster as much international support as
64Peter Baker, “U.S. Team To Press Moscow on Iran Issues, Wider Nuclear Plan
Complicates Mission,” Washington Post, July 30, 2002, p. A-11; Steven Lee Myers, “Russia
Says It May Reconsider Its Nuclear Plant Deal With Iran,”New York Times, August 3, 2002.
65Peter Baker, “Russia, Iraq Plan Deal to Bolster Ties,” Washington Post, August 17, 2002,
p. A1; Dan Morgan, “Bush Aide Plays Down Significance of Russia-Iraq Deal,”
Washington Post, August 19, 2002, p. A10.
66Discussion with congressional staff.
possible in the face of a possible U.S. military attack, and may have offered Moscow
an especially rich plum in order to bolster Russia’s support. Moscow may have been
motivated primarily by financial gain. On the other hand, Russia’s deal with Iraq,
together with the Iranian reactor plan and the invitation to Kim Jong-il –
encompassing all three elements of Bush’s “axis of evil” – may be a signal that
Moscow is displeased with current U.S. policy.
Arms Control and Missile Defense
During the Cold War, arms control often dominated the U.S.-Soviet agenda.
Moscow has sought to maintain that arrangement, which inherently treats the two
parties as equals and provides opportunities for Moscow to try to restrain Washington
from further tilting the military balance in America’s favor. The Bush
Administration takes the position that the Cold War is over and that friendly states
do not need arms control treaties to protect them from one another. Some in the
Administration and Congress also maintain that Russia is too weak economically,
politically, and militarily to prevent the United States from acting unilaterally in its
best interests on vital questions of nuclear forces and missile defense. Many others,
critical of the unilateral approach, argue that Russia remains a nuclear superpower
and that U.S. security and nonproliferation are best served by maintaining the arms
control process with Russia.
There is general agreement that in the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty,
Moscow acceded to the U.S. position on virtually every substantive issue.67 Most
observers think that the Treaty will win approval easily in the Senate. It is also
widely believed that Putin’s political power and prestige ensure parliamentary
approval of the Treaty in Moscow. Both sides officially agree (Russia reluctantly)
that the ABM Treaty and the (unratified 1993) START II Treaty are both dead letters.
That leaves missile defense as the principal item remaining from the old strategic
arms control agenda.
Russia still seeks to slow or shape U.S. missile defense activities as much as
possible, arguing that missile defense will be destabilizing bilaterally and globally,
and will accelerate nuclear weapons proliferation among non-weapon states.68
Russian authorities appear to understand, however, that acting alone, they lack the
leverage to prevent the Bush Administration from going forward as rapidly as
possible with missile defense, a strategic initiative to which it is deeply committed.
67Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, Director of the Nuclear Strategic Forces Center of the
Russian Military Academy in Moscow, said in an interview, that Russia had been forced to
accept the U.S. position on such issues as storing rather than destroying decommissioned
nuclear weapons, and on monitoring and verification, because Russia simply had no
negotiating leverage. “What does Russia have in terms of leverage to be used against the
Americans? After all, any treaty is a form of exchange. You give me this, and you get that
from me. Now, Russia has nothing to give. Moscow announced immediately [before the
negotiations] that it would bring down its nuclear arsenals to 1,500 warheads.” Ivan
Safronov, Kommersant [Moscow], May 24, 2002.
68See CRS Report RL30967, National Missile Defense: Russia's Reaction, updated June 14,
Although Washington and Moscow continue to disagree on missile defense, the Joint
Declaration at the May 2002 summit suggests that Washington has the upper hand.
In it the United States and Russia:
... acknowledge that today's security environment is fundamentally different than
during the Cold War.
... agreed to implement a number of steps aimed at strengthening confidence and
increasing transparency in the area of missile defense, including the exchange of
information, ... reciprocal visits to observe missile defense tests, and observation aimed at
familiarization with missile defense systems....
... agreed to study possible areas for missile defense cooperation, including the
expansion of joint exercises... and the exploration of ... programs for joint research and
development of missile defense technologies....
... will, within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, explore opportunities for69
intensified practical cooperation on missile defense for Europe.
It would seem that Russia’s main hopes for altering or slowing U.S. missile
plans defense lie outside the realm of bilateral relations. Moscow will probably
continue trying to rally international opposition to missile defense, including
opposition from U.S. allies in Europe and Asia. Congress, through the budget
process and other means, has a critical role in the future of missile defense. In view
of the sharp divisions within the Congress over missile defense in general and the
Bush Administration approach in particular, this is bound to remain a contentious
NATO Enlargement and the NATO-Russia Council
Russia, having given up trying to block NATO enlargement, including accession
of former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, has removed some of the
drama from the issue. Under these circumstances, NATO states, and Congress, can
consider which candidates to invite to join the Alliance on the basis of their merits,
without being overly concerned about possible negative responses from or
repercussions with Russia.
The creation of the NATO-Russia Council in May 2002 opens a new chapter in
relations between Russia and the Alliance formed 53 years earlier to resist Soviet
encroachments in Europe. The new Council, which will bring Russia together with
the 19 (at present) Alliance members to discuss security issues, is similar in many
respects to its predecessor, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), created
in May 1997. The new Council, however, is both more ambitious and more limited
than its predecessor in important ways. It is more ambitious in that it will give
Russia an equal voice and an equal vote in its deliberations and decisions. It is more
limited in that the PJC set out to address a very broad but vaguely defined range of
issues, global in scope, numbering fifty-six in all. The new Council begins with a
more narrowly and clearly defined work plan: counter terrorism, nonproliferation,
arms control and confidence-building measures, theater missile defense, peace
69[ ht t p: / / www.whi t e house.gov/ news/ r el eases/ 2002/ 05/ 20020524-2.ht ml ]
keeping and crisis management, search and rescue at sea, civil emergency
preparedness, and military-to-military cooperation and military reform.70
In the old PJC, characterized initially as 19+1, the Russian representative took
an antagonistic, obstructionist position. In response, Alliance members adopted the
practice of arriving at a common NATO policy before a PJC meeting and presenting
Russia with a fait accompli, which Moscow derisively characterized as 19 vs.1.71
The new Council, characterized as NATO-at-20, begins with a higher level of trust
on both sides, but also with built-in safeguards. The Council will operate on the
basis of consensus, but if it fails to reach consensus on an issue, that issue can be
withdrawn and referred to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s main decision-
making body. Also, any member state can request that an issue be withdrawn from
the NATO-Russia Council. It remains to be seen what kind of role Russia will play
in the new NATO-at-20 Council. Optimists hope that Russia will behave like an ally,
if at times a “thorny ally.” Skeptics worry that Russia will try to use the new Council
to weaken and divide the Alliance. Some critics also worry that certain Alliance
members, particularly small states near Russia, may feel intimidated by Russia’s
presence in the Council and might not speak or act as they would otherwise.
In an indication of increased congressional interest in NATO, Senators Daschle
and Lott reestablished a bipartisan Senate NATO Observer Group (SNOG) of
Senators that will monitor developments in NATO in light of the new relationship
with Russia and the run up to the Prague summit (November 2002), when invitations
to join NATO will be extended to candidate members. Adding new members to the
Alliance, of course, would require Senate approval.
Trade and Russian Debt
The high priority that Putin gives to domestic economic development, and the
linkage between that and his reorientation of Russian national security policy,
increase the importance of economic issues in U.S.-Russian relations. During the
Cold War, bilateral economic relations usually were subordinated to political
considerations by both sides. That attitude still lingers in both countries. Bilateral
trade and U.S. investment in Russia to date have been minuscule by global standards.
A functioning market economy in Russia, however, could provide a major market for
U.S. goods, services, and investments. Such a development could be mutually
profitable and further anchor Russia in the capitalist West.72
Putin and Bush both say they want the relationship between their two countries
to be more “businesslike.” The U.S. Commerce Department’s certification of Russia
as a market economy is a step in that direction. As Congress and the Administration
70NATO-Russia-Relations: A New Quality, Declaration by Heads of State and Government
of NATO Member States and the Russian Federation, May 28, 2002.
[www.nato.int/docu/ basictxt/b020528e.htm] .
71Discussion with U.S. officials and non-government analysts.
72Inga Litvinsky, Matt London, and Tanya Shuster, “U.S.-Russian Trade and Investment:
Policy and Performance,” Russia’s Uncertain Economic Future, p. 411-424.
consider another step in that direction – “graduating” Russia from Jackson-Vanik
amendment restrictions – several trade issues may receive prominent attention. Chief
among these are steel, chicken, and oil.
A trade dispute over Russian steel exports to the United States arose in the late
1990s as U.S. steel imports surged. Analysts attributed the sudden growth in steel
imports to a rapid increase in U.S. demand, insufficient domestic capacity, and the
appreciation of the dollar. The U.S. steel industry filed a number of anti-dumping
complaints with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade
Commission against foreign steel exporters, including Russian steel, claiming that
the steel was being sold in the United States at less than fair value. In lieu of
completing the Commerce and ITC antidumping investigations, Russia agreed in
1999 to two pacts that impose quotas and set minimum prices on Russian steel
exports to the United States. Russian steel exporters and political leaders were not
pleased with this outcome, but could have faced costlier restrictions if the
antidumping investigations had run their course and high dumping tariff margins
were imposed on Russian steel.73 On March 5, 2002, the Bush Administration
imposed tariffs on steel imports, including Russian steel, to protect domestic
producers. U.S. policy on steel remains a source of aggravation with Moscow,
At about the same time that the Bush Administration imposed steel tariffs, a
dispute arose over U.S. poultry exports to Russia. Poultry is the largest single U.S.
export product to Russia. Russia is the largest single foreign market for U.S. poultry
exports.74 Russia’s domestic poultry industry suffered in the 1990s as the overvalued
ruble made imports highly competitive and U.S. imports won a large market share.
On March 1, 2002, the Russian Veterinary Service suspended the issue of licenses
for imports of poultry from the United States, citing health concerns over bacterial
contamination and growth hormones. A complete ban was imposed on March 10.
Many in the United States saw this as retaliation for the U.S. steel tariff.75 High-level
U.S. remonstration resulted in Russian authorities announcing an end to the import
ban on April 15; but that did not end the problem. The Russian Veterinary Service
allowed the resumption of some U.S. poultry shipments, but continued to block most
imports, pending agreement on a new, more stringent veterinary certificate.
Negotiations over the new certificate dragged on for months while most U.S. poultry
remained shut out of the Russian market. On July 24, U.S. trade officials said that
73This summary of the steel issue is based on CRS Report RS21123, Permanent Normal
Trade Relations (PNTR) Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties, Feb. 26, 2002,
74U.S. poultry exports to Russia in 2001 exceeded 1 million tons, valued at over $600
million, accounting for over 20% of total U.S. exports to Russia. International Trade
Reporter, July 25, 2002.
75The fact that the Bush Administration was considering imposing steel tariffs had been in
the news for several weeks. Moscow’s March 1 import license suspension could be viewed
as a warning to Washington. The steel tariffs were imposed on March 5. The ban on
chicken imports was imposed March 10.
they were close to agreement with their Russian counterparts on a new certificate that
would again allow U.S. poultry to enter Russia.76
The third major trade issue, oil, highlights the potential for cooperation rather
than friction. Russia currently is the world’s second largest oil producer and
exporter, behind Saudi Arabia, which leads in both categories. Russia’s proven oil
reserves are twice as large as those of the United States. Although Russia’s reserves
are much smaller than Saudi Arabia’s, its production has been comparable to Saudi
Arabia’s. According to a prominent recent assessment, Russia is now engaged in a
contest with Saudi Arabia for dominance in the world energy market.77 As the global
economy slowed in 2001-2002, Saudi Arabia and its OPEC partners cut their oil
production to shore up prices. In both 2000 and 2001, Russia increased its oil
output.78 Russia’s political and corporate leaders are portraying Russian oil
companies as reliable sources of supply, willing and able to add output to the market
to keep prices reasonable and thus help revive the global economy. This has
economic as well as political significance. Economically, it helps Russia integrate
itself into the industrialized West. Politically, Russia’s energy policy increases its
leverage in its prospective partnership with the United States.79
Russia is not expected to replace Saudi Arabia as the oil price setter – as Saudi
Arabia replaced Texas decades ago. What Russian export policy might do, however,
is increase competition, keeping oil prices at stable, moderate levels. This would
help avoid inflationary pressure in the United States and other developed countries.
On August 6, 2002, OPEC Secretary-General Alvaro Calderon arrived in Moscow
to discuss disagreements over the volume of Russia's oil exports and target prices.
Calderon told journalists that while OPEC believes that oil should cost $22-$28 a
barrel, Russia prefers a lower range of $20-$25.80
At the Bush-Putin summit in May 2002, the two leaders emphasized the
importance of Russia’s role as a reliable oil supplier in partnership with the United
States. Their Joint Statement on the New U.S.-Russian Energy Dialogue pledged
bilateral cooperation aimed at reducing volatility and enhancing predictability of
global energy markets and supplies. They foresaw enhanced interaction between
76Inside U.S. Trade, July 26, 2002.
77Edward L. Morse and James Richard, “The Battle for Energy Dominance,” Foreign
Affairs, March/April 2002, p. 16-31. Another study disputes Russia’s ability to displace
Saudi Arabia in oil market dominance, but does not deny Russia’s role as a major player.
Fiona Hill and Florence Fee, “Fueling the Future: The Prospects for Russian Oil and Gas,”
Demokratizaziya [forthcoming], summer 2002, viewable on the Brookings Institution web
s i t e,[http://www.brookings .edu/dybdocroot/views /papers/hillf/200205_ d e mo kr a t i za t s i ya .
78After publicly resisting Saudi pressure to cut its production, Moscow agreed to a symbolic
reduction of 0.15 mbd in the winter quarter of 2001. This reflected a normal seasonal
adjustment by Russian producers operating in the extreme cold of Siberia. “Fueling the
Future,” p. 2.
79“The Battle for Energy Dominance,” p. 16-18.
80RFE/RL Newsline, August 6, 2002.
U.S. and Russian energy companies in exploration, production, refining,
transportation, and marketing. In the Joint Declaration, Bush pledged to encourage
U.S. investment to further develop and modernize Russia’s fuel energy and sector
and expand its oil and gas production.81 He also pledged cooperation with Russia’s
energy transportation infrastructure.
In August 1999, the Paris Club of official government creditors (of which the
United States is an influential member), provided a "framework agreement" reducing
Russian interest payments on its Soviet-era debt (of over $50 billion) and deferring
payment of principal until after 2001. In February 2000, Russia reached an
agreement with the London Club of commercial creditors, writing off 36.5% of
Russia's $32.8 billion Soviet-era commercial debt outright, with the remainder to be
converted into 30-year eurobonds with lower interest rates and an 8-year grace
period. This amounts to a total of 52% debt forgiveness in current net value terms.
"Comprehensive" Paris Club negotiations have begun, to determine whether western
government creditors will grant Russia more large-scale debt forgiveness, or offer
debt rescheduling without forgiveness. Germany, which holds 48% of that debt, is
calling for full repayment. Some of Moscow's critics contend that Russia's recent
economic upturn and its substantial increases in defense spending should be taken
into account by western governments considering further debt forgiveness for Russia.
The United States holds about 5% of Russia's Paris Club debt, about $3 billion.
Some Members of Congress have expressed interest in helping Russia reduce its
Paris club debt as a way of accelerating economic recovery, or for more targeted
aims, such as funneling more money into Russian nonproliferation activities. In
December 2001, the Senate unanimously passed the Russian Federation Debt
Reduction for Nonproliferation Act of 2001 (S. 1803), sponsored by Sen. Biden, and
sent it to the House, where it is being considered as part of the State Department
authorization bill (H.R. 1646). This bill would link U.S. debt forgiveness for Russia
to Russian efforts in WMD nonproliferation. The Bush Administration is believed
to have been leaning toward supporting Russia's quest for debt forgiveness. The
House International Relations Committee held hearings on this bill July 25, 2002.
Political support for this idea, however, might be adversely affected by Russia’s
reported plan to build more nuclear reactors in Iran.
Relations with China
As noted above, implicit in Putin’s strategic decision to seek integration of
Russia with the West is a rejection of the Primakov vision of a Russian-Chinese axis
of cooperation against the United States as the core of Russia’s national security
strategy. Beijing and Moscow continue to proclaim good will and harmonious
relations between them. Indeed, both countries want and need calm, friendly, stable
bilateral relations. And the Cold War-era, triangular, zero-sum game of U.S.-Soviet-
81The U.S. Government can increase the incentives for U.S. firms to cooperate with Russian
oil producers by expanding Ex-Im Bank credits and loan guarantees. On May 16, 2002, the
U.S. Ex-Im Bank announced plans to add a long-term financing program in Russia to its
current short- and medium-term programs, thus greatly expanding its loan guarantee
potential in Russia (currently $1.8 billion).
Chinese relations no longer holds sway. Nevertheless, Putin’s turn toward the West
does have significant implications for Russian-Chinese and U.S.-Chinese relations.
There is still some triangularity in these relationships. Putin’s western orientation
works to the advantage of the United States vis-a-vis China by reducing Russian
support for China vis-a-vis the United States.
An analysis carried by Reuters after the May 2002 Bush-Putin and NATO-
Russia summits, entitled, “Russia Ends Cold War with NATO, China Shivers,” calls
attention to Chinese concerns that Russia’s geostrategic shift could bring U.S.-led
forces right up to China’s western borders. “It is probably something that is very ...
worrying,” said one western diplomat in Beijing, “because there is a risk of isolation
of China.”82 If Russia turned toward strategic cooperation with the United States
while the antagonism in U.S.-Chinese relations remained, that could leave Beijing
in the position of being, or appearing to be, the leading anti-American power. That
could be a costly and risky position for China, at a time when it is still struggling to
accelerate and complete its economic modernization.
The antagonism in U.S.-Chinese relations noted above (p. 11), however, has not
remained unchanged. In the past year there has been a warming, or at least an easing
of tension, between the two. At the outset, the new Bush Administration promised
a tougher approach to China than either the Clinton or the earlier Bush
Administration, describing China as a "strategic competitor" of the United States.
In the aftermath of the collision ( April 1, 2001) of U.S. and Chinese military aircraft
near Hainan Island, the antagonism on both sides deepened. After this rocky start,
however, the events of September 11 appeared to alter the policies in both
Washington and Beijing. The Bush Administration appeared to see the potential for
Sino-U.S. cooperation against global terrorism as a priority, and U.S. officials
down-played differences and problems in the relationship as they sought Chinese
support with Asian states and in U.N. initiatives. For their part, after September 11
Chinese leaders have taken steps to improve Sino-U.S. relations, soften U.S.
criticism of their policies, and demonstrate that China can be a responsible global
pl ayer. 83
The apparent softening of Chinese policy (or rhetoric) toward the United States
is probably driven by many factors. One of these is likely to be domestic political
struggle in the run up to the 16th Communist Party Congress (Fall 2002), at which key
leadership changes are expected, including the succession to President Jiang Zemin.
Many analysts have described part of the internal political dynamic as a conflict
between proponents and opponents of western-style economic reforms. Relations
with the United States gets caught up in this because those who favor more market-
oriented reform of the economy also tend to favor closer economic and political
cooperation with the advanced industrial democracies, including the United States.
Many opponents of further market reform also oppose more opening to the West.
Thus, disagreement and political conflict over foreign policy among Chinese political
82Cited in Brian Roads, “Russia Ends Cold War with NATO, China Shivers,” Reuters, May
83CRS Issue Brief IB98018, China-U.S. Relations, updated regularly.
elites can become a subset of – and sometimes even a surrogate for – struggle over
fundamental domestic issues.
It is also possible that concern grew among Chinese leaders in 2001, after the
crisis surrounding the April 1 collision of the U.S. EP-3 aircraft and the Chinese jet
fighter, and especially after September 11, that relations with the United States were
deteriorating to a dangerous level. With a new and unpredictable Administration in
Washington that seemed inherently unfriendly to China, Beijing may have decided
independently to ease some of the tension as a precautionary measure, regardless of
At some point in 2001, Putin’s policy shift toward the West probably entered
into Chinese calculations and debates about relations with the United States. Those
in the Chinese leadership who opposed the hard-line confrontational approach to the
United States could use the Russian shift as an argument against a dangerous Chinese
course that risked conflict with America, without the prospect of Russian support.
Those in Beijing who advocated a tougher line toward Washington must have been
encouraged by Primakov’s policy of partnership with China against the global
hegemon – and discomfited by Putin’s abandonment of that policy. In the internal
Chinese debate over policy toward the United States, Putin’s westward tilt may not
have been the most important consideration. But it most likely was one of the factors
that shaped, and is shaping, Chinese policy. Thus, it seems likely that Russia’s turn
toward the West influenced China to move in the same direction – although not to
the same degree nor for the same reasons.
Competing Views of How the United States Should Respond
to Russia’s New National Security Policy 84
There is an active debate about the appropriate U.S. response to Putin’s policy
of integrating Russia with the West. American, European, and Russian critics of
Bush Administration policy toward Russia make many of the same arguments. The
essence of their criticism is that the United States should do more to reciprocate
Putin’s cooperativeness and ensure that Russia stays on this course.
Some argue that Putin’s shift toward the West lacks strong domestic political
support and therefore is fragile. Some compare Putin to Gorbachev, warning that
Putin’s pro-western policy could meet a similar fate – arousing domestic opposition
like that which led to the August 1991 coup that almost toppled, and fatally
undermined, Gorbachev’s leadership. Others, who see Putin’s political position as
relatively secure, warn that Putin himself might conclude that his cooperation with
the United States is not yielding the desired reciprocity from Washington, leading
him to move away from a “failed” policy. Another line of criticism is based on a
longer-term view. I.e., Russia’s current weakness may be such that it has no choice
but to accede to heavy-handed U.S. dominance – however, Russia is likely to recover
and once again be a great power, and when it does, it will harbor resentment and
animosity toward the United States because of arrogant and short-sighted U.S.
84The views in this section are based on numerous news reports, congressional hearings,
analytical studies, and discussions with U.S., European, and Russian officials and analysts.
policies that ignored Russian vital interests and offended Russian national dignity.
All three versions of this criticism cite the same list of U.S. actions that allegedly are
offensive to Moscow, such as withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, missile defense,
NATO enlargement, and U.S. military deployments in Georgia and Central Asia.
On the other hand, many observers believe that the Administration’s approach
to Russia is fundamentally sound. Some supporters of Administration policy argue
that Russia simply does not matter very much any more – that with a population
smaller than Brazil, a GDP smaller than the Netherlands, and armed forces that have
little ability to project power beyond its borders, Russia should not be treated
deferentially, as a great power, by the United States. Some who hold this view are
dismissive of Russia – whether Russia succeeds in becoming a modern state with a
functioning market economy is their business, not ours. Others view the relationship
in terms of “tough love,” helping Russia adjust to its proper status as a regional,
rather than a global, power. Still others, focused on the Cold War rivalry, are happy
to see Russia as a weak, defeated foe and want to keep it that way.
Some supporters of U.S. policy toward Russia contend that Putin’s repeated
concessions to U.S. positions and acceptance of faits accomplis, acknowledging U.S.
force majeure, confirm the correctness of that policy – that there was, and is, no need
to make undue concessions to Moscow, because Russia has no choice but to go along
with the United States, due to Russia’s weakness vis-a-vis the United States and
because of Russia’s objective need to join the western world, on the West’s terms.
Some of those who oppose being deferential to Moscow say that many of
Putin’s domestic policies are undemocratic, and that the United States should not
hesitate to criticize such tendencies and press the Kremlin to do better. They argue
that U.S. silence in the face of Russian government abuses such as restrictions on
freedom of the press and religion, control over the formation of political parties,
persecution and imprisonment on false charges of political dissidents, and massive
human rights violations in Chechnya, are a betrayal of U.S. values and a signal to
Russian authorities that the United States is not really serious about democracy in
Russia as long as Moscow cooperates on security issues.
Those who question the wisdom of Administration policy warn that at some
point, if Washington is not more forthcoming to Moscow, Russian policy may swing
back in the direction that Primakov favored, and that this would be a tremendous lost
opportunity for the United States.
Others reply that to the extent that there is a danger of Putin’s pro-western
policies being reversed, it will hinge not on whether the United States and the West
reward Russia, but on whether Putin’s domestic economic policies succeed. After
all, these observers contend, Putin’s fundamental rationale is that Russia must
integrate with the West in order to reconstruct its economy and achieve a decent
living standard for its people. If that goal, or appreciable progress in that direction,
is not achieved in a reasonable period of time, the pro-western policy will be difficult
to sustain. If this is true, then the United States has not only a humanitarian interest
but also a strong self interest in Russia’s economic recovery.