Putin's Russia: How Should the U.S. Respond?

Report Europe

Putin's Russia: How Should the U.S. Respond?

October 20, 2000 Over an hour read

Authors: Ariel Cohen, Richard Haass, Dimitri Simes, Dov Zakheim, Yurii Shchekochikhin, Representative Curt Weldon and Sarah Mendelson

Russia is in the news: a crackdown on the media and the oligarchs; the Kursk submarine disaster; restructuring of the Federation, including the creation of seven federal superdistricts headed mostly by generals; and a change in the way members of the upper house of the Federal Assembly are appointed. President Vladimir Putin has visited London, Berlin, Pyongyang, the Okinawa G-7 Summit, and the U.N. Millennium Summit, and U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Moscow in June. Meanwhile, the Kremlin remains adamantly opposed to deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) by the United States.

On July 25, 2000, The Heritage Foundation assembled some of America's most prominent experts on Russia at a conference to explore these and other issues. What follows is an edited version of the proceedings of this conference.

Richard Haass

I've been asked to give an overview of U.S. policy toward Russia, in the process providing some guidelines for whoever comes next in American foreign policy.

To begin with, we need an accurate picture of Russia. Despite the bounce that the Russian economy has gotten from the recovery in oil prices and the devaluation of the ruble, this is a country essentially in economic decline. We ought not to let these recent developments obscure the larger picture of economic deterioration.

Second, the Putin government seeks to restore the economy, to recentralize political authority, and to deal not simply with Chechnya but with the more general phenomenon of a loosening of control of the center over the periphery. As a society, you have a country that is feeling somewhat humiliated; hence the nationalist reaction that one sees in Russian politics.

I would end this introduction with the suggestion that many people hold an image of a country--first the Soviet Union, now Russia--that is going through terrible times economically and politically but that is on the road back. I would simply throw out the opposite possibility: that the idea that Russia is recovering and will once again be a great power in Europe and beyond is not a sure thing. Indeed, I am suspect of that prediction.

That said, Russia is still a major power that matters. It has the residue of its nuclear investment. It has the capacity, through technology, arms, and its scientific establishment, to diffuse conventional and unconventional technology around the world. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which gives it particular authority there. It is a member of the G-8. And it has a diplomatic role in various regional disputes around the world.

Still, I would largely describe Russia as a negative power. By that I mean it has the capacity, mostly, to detract from order in the post-Cold War world. I don't see many areas where it has the inclination or the capacity to be a positive power to add to order.

What ought to be our goal vis-à-vis Russia? The principal goal ought to be to try to get Russia to play a positive role, or at least to minimize the negative role that it plays, in the post-Cold War world, that it ought not to become an obstacle to our attempts to shape international relations along certain lines.

What might these lines be? A world that reflected U.S. preferences would be open economically, more transparent, embrace liberal trade, demonstrate a greater respect for human rights, and avoid genocide--the sorts of things that trigger humanitarian interventions. We ought to try to reduce the number and role of unconventional weapons. We should try as well to reduce the role that military force plays as a currency in international affairs. Overall, what we ought to try to do is, where possible, sign Russia up to these standards or at least minimize the chance that it blocks them from coming to fruition.

A second aim is to see Russia become a more open society politically and economically. But I would put that second; the principal purpose of American foreign policy ought to be foreign policy. Here we have a better chance at realizing our aims. If we try to make the emphasis of our policy the remaking of Russian society, I do not think we will succeed.

Let me just mention a few areas that we should focus on in our relations with Russia. One is missile defense and the relationship between defense and offense in general. There, the United States and Russia still have the opportunity to work out a new strategic relationship.

The sorts of levels that the United States is contemplating on defense do not pose a threat to Russia's offensive or deterrent capability. The sorts of levels that we are contemplating coming down to on offense would leave Russia as a major nuclear power. A cooperative transition to a new offense-defense mix is a possibility. By no means is it out of the question.

On the other hand, if we cannot arrange a cooperative transition, then we ought to make a transparent transition, one in which we would speak very openly about where we were going, why, and what the limits would be. We would try to do tacitly what we could not do formally.

Second, regarding NATO enlargement, I would argue that the process needs to continue as countries meet the criteria. The rationale for that is twofold: We ought not to be drawing a new line in Europe, and we ought not to remove the incentive that NATO membership holds out to these countries.

On the other hand, we do need to try to reassure Russia in the process. There are some things we can do here, including continuing the principle of no permanent stationing of NATO forces and no stationing of nuclear weapons in any of these new members. We can ask these new member states to make explicit their commitment to protect the rights of Russian minorities. That would send a very reassuring signal to Moscow. We should make it clear that the idea of Russian membership in NATO is not out of the question. Obviously, that would mean a very different kind of NATO, but if we get to that point in the evolution of European security, it is something we ought to think about seriously.

As for Chechnya, if I had to boil it down to a bumper sticker, our criticism ought to be limited to means and not ends. There is no way that we could ever dissuade Russia from maintaining Chechnya within Russia, something that is legitimate. What is not legitimate is the way they are going about it.

On the diplomatic side, we could learn from real estate, where there are three laws: location, location, and location. The laws governing relations with Russia are consultation, consultation, and consultation. Russia has the capacity to upset a lot of apple carts, including with Iraq where it could unilaterally break sanctions, with North Korea, in the Balkans, in the Middle East, or in the U.N. where it could block support for humanitarian interventions. So consultation to bring Russia on board to try to stabilize regional disputes makes a lot of sense.

On the economic side, any economic help ought to be heavily conditioned on economic reforms. It should not to be a form of charity. It should not, certainly, support corruption. I would oppose linking economic help to political conditions. The goal should be to de-politicize IMF support and base it on economic change. It is in our long-term interest that Russia move in a more market direction, that it become more transparent and less corrupt.

If economic aid, in the form of IMF credits, can be used to lubricate Russia's movement in these directions, we ought to support that even if, in the near term, we have disagreements with things that Russia is doing. We should not deny ourselves the opportunity to help facilitate positive developments in Russia. Nor should we kid ourselves. The use of linkage or sanctions is not going to get Russians, for example, to change their policy on Chechnya.

As for promoting democracy, it should not and cannot be the centerpiece of our policy, but that is no reason to ignore it. There are strong arguments for promoting civil society and the rule of law. These should not be made conditional. It is in our long-term interest to do these things and to de-politicize them and avoid linkage.

So where does this leave us overall?

We have to remember that we are dealing with a declining and possibly deteriorating country. In some ways, Russia might be the opposite of China, but both challenges are difficult. History is filled with the challenge of dealing with rising or declining superpowers. The China challenge is difficult in its own right, and the Russia challenge is no less difficult, even if their trajectories may be going in different directions.

Despite Russia's problems economically and politically, despite the fact that it has been reduced, it still has the capacity to have a tremendous impact on the nature and character of post-Cold War international relations and on the success of American foreign policy. As a result, the United States ought to give Russia a lot of attention.

Appearances matter here. The appearance of consultation, of continuing to accord Russia major power status, is important in and of itself. There is the chance that the time devoted to consultations with the Russians may also pay dividends in influencing Russia's behavior around the world and toward various regional conflicts.

And as we go about these consultations, we ought to avoid the temptation to practice linkage. Where it is possible to find areas to cooperate with Russia, we should, regardless of the reality that in many other areas we will be unable to cooperate with Russia. But we ought not to mix the two. Wherever we can influence for the good, we should. Where we can't, we ought to try to limit the damage.

Richard Haass is Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. He also is a consultant to NBC News. From 1989 to 1993, he was Special Assistant to President George Bush and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs of the National Security Council. In 1991, he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for his contribution to the development and articulation of U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Mr. Haass is the author or editor of 10 books on foreign and defense policy issues.

Sarah E. Mendelson

Opposition and advocacy groups in Russia now face their greatest challenge since the Soviet period. Over the last year, Russia has become an increasingly difficult and dangerous place to be a political activist or a journalist. Simply put, life with Vladimir Putin has coincided with a decline in human rights. Putin's ascent to the presidency is not the sole cause of a political environment increasingly hostile to civil liberties and human rights. As important: Putin's politics are shared by many.

Putin not only speaks fluent German, but he is pretty good at speaking Western. We need to pay special attention not to what Putin says but to what he does; he says what Westerners want to hear, but then he does as he likes at home, which too often looks and smells like tactics used by the KGB. While some in the West may say, "We don't know who Mr. Putin is," activists in Russia feel they know all too well. Specifically, the FSB has become em-boldened under Putin's leadership, beginning when he was director of the FSB.

This fact has had very real consequences for Russia's fragile democratic institutions. It is harder today to be an activist than at any other time in the post-Soviet period. While service-providing organizations, for example, that work with the disabled or the elderly, orphans or veterans, appear to be left alone, Putin's politics target advocacy groups and opposition media. Many believe that Putin's ultimate goal, whether or not he is capable of achieving it, is not only to harass and intimidate, but to stop criticism, control competition, and neutralize opposition.

Let me explain what I mean by this. You all know about the treatment of Andrei Babitsky, about the FSB raid on Media-Most, and about Vladimir Gusinsky's arrest. These were all brazen and drew a lot of attention, but what you may not realize is that these acts are part of a larger pattern that has grown steadily worse over the last year and a half.

There are numerous cases of other journalists as well as environmentalists, human rights activists, and academics--Russians but also Americans and Europeans--who have been intimidated, interrogated, trailed, jailed, robbed, accused of treason, run out of the country, and, in the case of Mr. Babitsky, "disappeared," all by the federal authorities. The list of harassment and indignities is long and grows every day, from student volunteers from the Yabloko political party to foreign missionaries. I don't have time to go into all the different cases. I'll just note a few trends.

Most important is the arbitrary use of administrative means to crack down on groups that the state does not like. Over the last two years, according to Russian groups, regional and local authorities have subtly but doggedly tried to get rid of "`undesirable' organizations." This is really out of a Kafka novel: By not being allowed to register with federal authorities, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are vulnerable to being shut down by the authorities for not being registered.

In addition, numerous NGOs, including well-known human rights groups in Moscow and St. Petersburg, were told that the phrase "the protection of citizens' rights" had to be deleted from the organization's name, goals, and objectives. Why? According to officials, NGOs do not have the right to protect citizens; the protection of citizens' rights is the business of the state.

Putin alone cannot create this hostile climate. Many people and institutions participate. For example, in addition to the work of the FSB, there is the office of the Prosecutor General, who deserves special mention, as does Mikhail Lesin, Minister of the Press. The Ministry of Press now wants the law on the media to be amended to revoke licenses of foreign media considered by the authorities to be "hostile to the Russian state." Radio Liberty is at the top of this list.

Putin plays an extraordinary role in creating a political environment hostile to democracy. Activists say that the climate of fear is fueled by how Putin uses language. Statements about the need to develop a "dictatorship of law," a vow to "rub out" rebel fighters in Chechnya even "in the outhouse," and referring to humans as animals, as he does when speaking about Chechen rebels, have suggested to many that Putin's KGB background is a highly salient factor when analyzing his politics.

His claim in a July 1999 newspaper interview, for example, that environmental groups were in the employ of foreign intelligence agencies not only seems to reflect how FSB agents perceive environmentalists, but has also helped to create a permissive climate for systematic investigation into the work of activists. In the fall and winter of 1999, several environmentalists were detained in connection to various bombings in Moscow. Russian groups that have received Western assistance or have links to Western groups have come under the closest watch of the state.

Environmental groups here and in Russia believe that the state is doing this not because it is seeking out terrorists but because many government officials see the strengthening of civil society as a security threat. Specifically, the authorities have objected to the fact that some environmental groups have thrown a spotlight on the wrongdoings of the state, as they do in countries around the world.

Not all harassment is equal. Some pay small bribes and fees. Others have been less lucky. Igor Sutyagin, a researcher at the U.S. and Canada Institute in Moscow, was arrested by the FSB in October 1999 and is still sitting in jail. His crime? The Russian authorities have charged him with treason for working on a survey of civil-military relations in Russia, funded partially by two Canadian universities.

And then, of course, there is the war in Chechnya. The way this war is being waged by the Russian Federal Forces constitutes the most violent part of the Putin path. Abundant and consistent testimony gathered by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and several other NGOs indicates systematic and indiscriminate use of force against both civilians and those who care for the wounded. Evidence suggests that Russia is in violation of the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Among the most powerful pieces of evidence is a survey that is soon to released by the Physicians for Human Rights. This organization interviewed 1,143 refugees from Chechnya who were displaced by the war to Ingushetia. When I compare the findings of this survey with a similar one they did in Macedonia with Kosovar Albanians in the spring of 1999, I see that the level of violence committed in Chechnya by Russian Federal Forces against the civilian population is significantly greater than the violence in Kosovo by Serb forces against the civilian population.

Western Response. The Putin Path seems to be pretty clear, with many people treading on it. Yet the Western response has been deeply inconsistent, undermining the very norms and ideas that policymakers in the West profess to be supporting.

What do I mean by this? As the G-8 meeting last weekend reinforced, Western leaders have been quick to make friends with Putin even as he makes clear to them that human rights do not interest him. Remember: In between his night at the opera with Tony Blair and his tea with Queen Elizabeth, Vladimir Putin refused to see Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, when she was in Russia in April.

That Putin was able to snub a representative of the U.N. investigating war crimes but then was embraced (literally) by a series of Western statesmen and royalty is one of many reminders that the Western treatment of Russia is riddled with inconsistencies. It is a reminder that this war and all the problems faced by activists in Russia are not front and center for policymakers, even as officials emphasize the importance of democracy in Russia.

The actions of the international community send deeply contradictory messages to the Russians. For example, as more and more evidence of atrocities in Chechnya surfaces, one realizes that NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson's rapprochement with Putin in February came just after some of the worst moments of the war. Yet NATO officials grow weary when they are told that evidence from Chechnya suggests a situation more gruesome than the one that prompted them to respond with force in Kosovo. "We need to get NATO-Russia relations back on track," they argue.

That track, however, must look anything but straight to the Russians. NATO engagement with Russia is at times highly permissive of noncompliance with international humanitarian law, and not just in Chechnya. NATO sends mixed signals to the Russians on many different levels.

For example, NATO officials consistently categorize the interaction of NATO troops with Russians serving in Bosnia as a success. Yet various international groups that I have talked to have evidence that Russian SFOR troops in Bosnia, that work inside the military zone operated by the Americans, have long been trafficking in women from Eastern Europe. NATO officials in Brussels and in Bosnia do not deny that trafficking occurs. Instead, most shrug their shoulders over what to do about it. One high-ranking military official even took a "boys will be boys" attitude. Surely, this merits serious investigation by NATO and SFOR unless trafficking is one of the shared values that NATO hopes the Russians embrace.

In terms of abuses in Chechnya and the broader threat to democratic institutions in Russia, the problem is not that the international community is doing nothing. The problem is that the response is deeply contradictory. NATO has attempted to pursue a back-to-business-as-usual approach even as Russian defense officials hosted indicted Serbian war criminals. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights issued a resolution that was guaranteed to make no one happy. The Clinton Administration refuses to call what is going on in Chechnya war crimes.

Here's one I particularly loved: Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, in the Financial Times wrote that Europe sees "reasons for optimism," citing Putin's commitment to "reform and open[ness] to European ideals."

Lessons for the Post-Clinton Era. The next Administration must strive for greater consistency in its foreign policy rather than engage in selective preoccupation with human rights in certain states while ignoring them in others. This change would go far beyond policy towards Russia, but it would help set a different tone in our interactions with the Russian government. If the next Administration worked to make rhetoric and policy more complementary--that is, make how it walked more in line with how it talked--then it would be clearer to the Russian leadership precisely what the United States values.

Consistency in action and beliefs would greatly bolster the policy of engagement that the United States and other Western states have pursued since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I want to suggest some very straightforward ways to do this.

First, meet and greet. The next President needs to make a habit of, when in Russia, showing solidarity with those who believe in the plurality of views. He could do this by meeting publicly with activists and opposition journalists. That would be a change from the usual schedule of recent Administrations; high-level officials from the U.S. government throughout the 1990s always talked about the importance of creating democratic institutions, civil society, and respect for human rights, but they rarely met with the people who worked on these issues.

Given the recent pattern demonstrated by the Russian authorities, the next President of the United States on his trips to Russia should regularly hold roundtable discussions with investigative journalists, meet with environmental NGOs, and visit with Russian human rights groups. Such gestures would send signals not only to those in Russia who care about democracy, but to those in Russia who do not. As it is--and I want to underscore this point--activists feel nothing but isolated from the West as leaders and organizations instead embrace Putin.

Second, match words with money. The next Administration could show Russians that the United States is really committed to democracy and human rights, particularly when the going is rough, by working with Congress to adequately fund democracy assistance to Russia. I should note that I have worked and studied democracy assistance programs closely, and I encourage discussion of this very misunderstood aspect of engagement.

There has long been a crisis of governance in Russia. This in part has given way to the rise of Putin and his calls for "the dictatorship of law." In order to combat creeping statism, in the next few years we all should step up our work with Russians who are trying to make existing institutions, like civic organizations, function better.

The U.S. government's budget at present for democratic initiatives in Russia is $16 million. That's a small fraction of the budget that goes for other forms of engagement with Russia, and pocket change compared to what the U.S. spent on defense during the Cold War. More money should be added to the democracy assistance budget to show that the U.S. government supports a plurality of views. This would be real help to real people--in other words, money to help Russians and not the Russian government.

Third, speak the truth. To date, Western leaders, and especially those in the Clinton Administration, have been publicly reluctant to acknowledge that Russian political and social institutions do not function as they should. They call elections in Russia free and fair despite accounts of manipulation. They imply that the number of NGOs in Russia signifies the health of democracy in Russia while never mentioning the harassment or pressure these NGOs currently face.

This rhetoric comes at a price and should be corrected; it tends to undermine the very efforts at globalization that Western governments and groups want to support.

Globalization in this context stands for the spreading of ideas, norms, and practices that underpin democratic institutions that actually function. What is occurring in Russia, and what the West too often applauds, is instead internationalization; ideas have spread but have little or mixed affect on the authorities. There's form but little function. Russian political rules, and indeed Russian laws, resemble those enforced in democracies, but non-democratic procedures still permeate and drive much of Russian politics.

The next President of the United States would be showing those involved in the struggle for democracy in Russia that he has a greater understanding of their situation if he were to acknowledge this fact rather than providing Putin with the approval that the Russian President seeks at the same time he is undermining the very institutions necessary for a democratic state.

Finally, recast our understanding of democracy in Russia as a U.S. national security interest. There has been a tendency on the part of U.S. policymakers to talk about democracy and human rights when it seems strategically convenient. But they let democracy and human rights fade from the agenda when they think it threatens pursuing traditional security matters, such as an agreement on nuclear weapons.

A selective focus on democracy undermines democrats inside Russia as well as the larger process of helping to build democratic institutions, always a rhetorical cornerstone of this Administration's policy toward Russia. It makes the U.S. commitment to democracy appear hollow. Moreover, it suggests that policymakers do not understand that the promotion of democracy is defense by other means, which then leads them to miss opportunities to enhance Russia's security and our own.

The next Administration should learn an important lesson from such missed opportunities. There are excellent reasons to do so; ultimately, the more Russia becomes like-minded with the democratic states, the less need for traditional forms of security. After all, it is not the fact of having nuclear weapons that causes concern; it is who has the nuclear weapons.

I want to close by quoting Sergei Kovalev, the Duma deputy and long-time human rights activist, from an article that appeared in the New York Review of Books earlier this year. I find him an excellent moral barometer. He writes: "I fear, it is very likely that the year 2000 will someday be referred to as the `twilight of Russian freedom.'"

If the last months are an accurate indication--and many believe they are--then politics in the Putin era are likely to be secret, hidden, and corrupt. We in the West must do all that we can to encourage Putin instead to make them public, open, and transparent. In this endeavor, we will be in the good company of thousands of activists in Russia who are committed to making Russia's path a democratic one.

Sarah Mendelson is a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She also has been a Resident Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Research Coordinator for evaluating NGO strategies for democratization and conflict prevention in the former communist states. She is the author of numerous articles, a major Carnegie Endowment study of democracy, and Changing Course: Ideas, Politics, and the Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Dov Zakheim

The complexity of the issue that we face is summed up by the very last example that Sarah just gave you. It is difficult for me to imagine, in the Soviet era, a human rights activist serving in the Supreme Soviet and publishing in the New York Review of Books. There are far more shades of gray in Russia than we realize.

Let me give you another example. The manifesto of the Union of Right Forces, which comprises the liberal activists, lists several Russian heroes. One of them is Stolypin. Stolypin was the Czar's chief minister. Among the activities he oversaw was the Okhrana, which is the forebear of the KGB and pretty much operated the same way, though probably a lot less efficiently.

This is further evidence that Russia has a big label on it called "handle with care." It is in some ways an Okhrana republic. Of course, the U.S. dealt with Czarist Russia too. We must therefore deal with Russia as it affects our interests.

We could indeed hold out a kind of carrot, if the Russians were interested, by extending an offer to join NATO but requiring that Russia does what everyone else does when they join NATO, which is to reform democratically. My suspicion is that Mr. Putin isn't going to rush to join NATO, maybe for that very reason, so I'm not so sure that Russia is about to think about coming into NATO; but I do believe we should hold out the opportunity for them to clean up their act.

There are a number of issues with Russia that concern our immediate security, and Russia's being democratic in no way guarantees that security. There was a consensus in this country that we should fight the Persian Gulf War. The two countries from which we operated, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, were and are not particularly democratic. I was just in Saudi Arabia. Nine years later, it still isn't terribly democratic. If Sarah were there, she'd be covered up in black and probably forced to remain at home. In Kuwait, she would have to cover her hair, but at least she would be able to go to college.

What it means to be democratic and how that relates to American interests is therefore not a straight-line projection. We have some immediate interests vis-à-vis Russia that we have to confront. Obviously, one of them is the whole question of strategic offensive and defensive forces. Frankly, whether Russia is democratic or not is not going to blow up the United States. Whether they fire missiles at us will.

We have a major interest in working with Russia to reduce warhead levels. I am not a lawyer. Unlike lawyers, I'm not hung up on treaties, which have kept them busy for many years. If indeed we can do what we did in the last years of the Bush Administration and simply cut back on strategic warheads as the Bush Administration reduced tactical ones, I am convinced the Russians will do the same thing for good economic reasons. If there is a package that the Russians are prepared to accept that ties defenses to offensive weapons, so much the better.

I agree with Richard that we should engage them on this issue. There is no inherent reason why the Russians should be opposed to missile defense. In fact, Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin was not opposed to missile defenses. We pushed that opposition down the Soviets' throats because [former Secretary of Defense] Bob McNamara did not like the idea and made sure that all DoD analyses came out against it.

Of course, the technology was different then too. Defenses are feasible now. The Israelis have proved that. If you do not believe our missile defense tests, believe those of the Israelis. The Arabs seem to believe the Israelis.

President Vladimir Putin himself has talked about a new concept of boost phase intercept, something the U.S. is thinking about. There is some common ground here. We have to explore it. We have to keep cultivating it. We have to remember that if we do not develop that common ground, one thing that we might do is drive the Russians and the Chinese into each other's arms.

The Chinese, as you know, are hiding behind Russia's skirts. They oppose all kinds of missile defense. Senior Chinese leaders recite their opposition in a mantra: No NMD, TMD, BMD. BMD, ballistic missile defense, of course, incorporates the other two, but the mantra is good, with three parts like a harmony. Its point is that any kind of missile defense bothers them because any kind of missile defense will change the balance vis-à-vis Taiwan.

So it is exceedingly convenient for the Chinese to hide behind Russia's skirts on this issue, and they are encouraging the Russians to resist any compromise. We need to do something about that. We must try to work out an arrangement, and we simply cannot give Putin a bloody nose over activists and similar matters, much as we might emotionally want to, if we wish to do business with him at the same time.

There are some things regarding which we can choose inaction, however. One of them is not to pay terribly much attention to Russia's rantings over NATO enlargement. It is hard to understand what actually is bothering the Russians. Lithuania is unlikely to mount an invasion of Moscow. If Napoleon could not do so, Lithuania can't either.

Russia's concerns make little sense other than in terms of a desire to maintain a sphere of influence at least as great as it was under the Czars, if not under the Soviets. That desire does not, of course, excite Russia's neighbors. Absent that concern, there is little for Russia to fear from NATO, especially as some of its larger neighbors, like Ukraine, are not even seeking NATO membership. We must make it clear to them that we will not accept a veto on this issue. There are no Russian filibusters. They do not have votes in the Congress. It is as simple as that reality.

That is how we should deal with the Russians: on the basis of reality. Realistically, Russia can contribute to the better interests of both our nations.

Russia still co-hosts the Middle East peace talks. There is still much work to be done in that particular arena. If there is a "Camp David" agreement, there will be a need for other follow-on actions. Those will require coordination with other states. There will be a lot of arm-twisting to meet the need to finance the agreement. The Russians cannot contribute the money, but they can certainly contribute the arm-twisting. You just heard 20 minutes of how they do it.

We need their help there. We need to insure that they do not pursue what my Indian friends tell me they keep trying to pursue: an Indian-Russian-Chinese alliance against the United States. The Indians have resisted, the Chinese don't trust the Russians, and the project has not gone very far, but that kind of impulse is hardly pleasing to Americans.

Regarding economic assistance to Russia, it is my view that it should not take the form of state-to-state aid. We should promote investments in Russia's regions. We should have a sense of where the money is going and avoid the fate of Nunn-Lugar money that has gone into institutes and then disappeared. We should be able to track assistance of all kinds.

Companies tend to track their investments far better than governments do because of their bottom lines and their need to explain their activities to their shareholders. It is targeted, traceable, private investment that we should foster. At the same time, we should tell the Russians that if they really want us to invest in their country, they have to clean up their company law; they have to clean up corruption; they have to clean up their courts.

I remember Richard Nixon saying just before he died that it was ironic that there was so much more investment in China than in Russia, even though China wasn't democratic and Russia was. He said the Chinese, even though they, too, had corruption and a legal system that was different from ours, nevertheless went further in catering to the concerns of business people. Today, there are tens of billions of Taiwanese investments in China, for example, not to mention the investments of other states, as well as our own.

We have to create incentives for the Russians to welcome investment. The only way they can do that is by cleaning up their legal act, which is the underpinning of economic development.

Also, as we demonstrated in South Africa, investment can help to change the political system internally. I agree with Sarah. I think we need a consistent policy on democracy. We should stop being schoolmarms. We should stop our hectoring. We should stop because we are hypocritical anyway. Moreover, if we think that the leaders of one country do not pay attention to our hypocrisy vis-à-vis the leaders of another country, we are kidding ourselves.

There are ways of supporting democracy that make some sense, that are realistic, and that can be consistently supportive. There are other ways that just make us look like fools. Most people around the world currently say that we are looking foolish and hypocritical. We have to set our relationship with Russia on a stable basis, on a businesslike basis, and on a serious and consistent basis.

Finally, we should not be preoccupied with Russia. We have had a very bad habit, in the last seven or so years, of not paying attention to our friends. Ask the Japanese, for example. When there is some kind of hiccup, we come to them for help. Then we do not understand why they do not fall all over themselves in their enthusiasm to support us. We need to begin with our friends.

The Russians are neither our allies nor our bosom buddies. The Russians are not Britain, or France, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia. They have their place. They are important. They are a great power. They need to be dealt with seriously. But we should not be obsessed with them, either vis-à-vis security or vis-à-vis democracy. The less obsessive and emotional we are, the more likely it is we will have a decent relationship with them.

--Dov Zakheim is Corporate Vice President of System Planning Corporation, a high-tech research, analysis, and manufacturing firm in Arlington Virginia. A former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Planning and Resources, he is still a consultant to the Secretary of Defense for policy. He has served in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations and in 1986 received the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal. Mr. Zakheim is the author of Flight of the Lavi: Inside a U.S.-Israeli Crisis.

Yurii Shchekochikhin

I have little time, because I am a member of the official delegation of the Russian Duma to the U.S. Congress.

As we stand here at this time, the relationship of an older brother to the younger brother should be over. We were taught how to build democracy. When I was a speaker at the Finance Committee, I was asked how the United States can help democracy in Russia, and I said, "Do not help, thank you. All of your aid resulted in our beautiful dachas and beautiful houses."

Mr. Putin has very sensitively, very finely used the consciousness and frustration of the Russian people, and that has helped him to amass power. In one of the conversations, I told my American friends, "You're only helping the communists in Russia to continue to promote communism. It's not good to develop a unipolar world."

I am a member of the Security Committee and the anti-Corruption Commission and very much involved in questions of corruption. Just recently, we were looking at the questions of aid and where the aid is going in Russia.

(COMMENT FROM THE FLOOR: Always, item number one, bring foreign consultants.)

Yes, and item number two is always an agreement and payment to consultants. So please, don't give out these consultations any more. These consultations have always led to helping keep the communists in power.

We should build anew. We should build a different relationship between the United States and Russia today. We have to move from the general language about democracy to the normalization of the situation in the 21st century.

Yurii Shchekochikhin, one of Russia's foremost investigative journalists and editors, is also a member of the Duma, Vice Chairman of the Security Committee of the Duma, and Deputy Editor of Novaya Gazeta. He became a member of Parliament in 1989 as People's Deputy of the U.S.S.R.; he was elected to the State Duma, again from Yabloko Party, in 1995 and in 1999 was elected from the Federal District, the national slate of the Yabloko Party. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including Served with the KGB: A Religion of Treason.

Representative Curt Weldon

I've been very sad for the last couple of years. I was as optimistic as all of you were when Yeltsin was the new leader emerging in Russia and democracy and capitalism were blooming, and I remember vividly those pictures of Yeltsin up on top of that tank and the historic efforts to forge this new democracy.

Then I shift my visual images from the days of young Russians carrying the American flag in the streets of Moscow, proclaiming through Yeltsin that there's a new alliance, a strategic alliance between Russia and the West and America, to last fall when I saw the same visual signs that you saw on national TV as thousands of young Russians paraded in the streets of Moscow, throwing paint and weapons, and firing weapons at our embassy where they burned the American flag.

The basic feeling in Moscow--and I was there about that time--was one of hatred that I hadn't felt in all the years that I'd been going to Russia, and I've been there 21 times, and all the relations I've had with Russia's people. I think to myself, how did that happen in just eight short years? Was it all Russia's fault that we soured our relations so badly? Do we blame Yeltsin for all of this?

I've come to the conclusion that, yes, Yeltsin and the Russians certainly have a large part of the blame in terms of what's happened inside their country, in the economy, instability, proliferation; but I've also come to the conclusion that we in America have to accept a significant part of the responsibility for what happened in Russia.

Why do I say that? I say that because I think all along, we saw the signs of what was occurring in Russia. We saw Yeltsin, who was strong at the beginning, become weaker and surround himself with, in many cases, corrupt or inefficient people who became oligarchs, who were basically handed the key institutions in Russia that became the centers of banking and finance, and we sat by and didn't want to embarrass Yeltsin.

We saw evidence, time and again, of proliferation that was basically out of control. I did a speech two years ago where I documented 17 violations of arms control agreements by the Russian Army. We imposed the required sanctions on those treaties zero times.

In fact, it was so bad that when we finally realized that what Israel was telling us about Russia's cooperation with Iran, with Shahab-3 and Shahab-4, was true, the response by the Administration was, instead of responding aggressively, to force Dr. Gordon Oehler out of office. Dr. Oehler was the head of the non-proliferation center at the CIA, and in my opinion one of the most honest brokers in the federal government who was simply telling the Congress what the Congress was asking: Did we have evidence that supported what the Israelis claimed was direct Russian cooperation with the Iranians?

So if you look, you can see a pattern of evidence where our policy was based on this one-on-one relationship between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin and the one-on-one relationship between Al Gore and Victor Chernomyrdin. That was not in itself a problem; the problem was that that superseded any other efforts that should have been taken by our government to be honest and candid with Russia, to let Russia know that we were not supporting an individual or personality, but that America was interested in the long-term stability of a democracy and eventually having a strong parliament, the Duma.

Instead, when Yeltsin called the Duma a bunch of thugs, and the Duma had problems, we basically gave the impression we were going along with Yeltsin. I might even give a couple of examples in the Congress of people who might fit that bill in the opinion of some people. But instead of distancing ourselves from those comments, we were silent and allowed those feelings about the Duma to be perceived as though they were really the American position.

When we had evidence of IMF funds being abused and we knew what was happening, it wasn't some strange action. I can recall four years ago questioning the Administration about oversight of IMF and World Bank dollars, including some of our own U.S. tax dollars going into Russia. I'd had people testifying before my subcommittee that out of every $10 of the American money going into Russia, all but $2 was being siphoned by some other entity and not actually benefiting the Russian people--the purpose for which the money was intended. All of this resulted in a loss of credibility from the Russian standpoint in what America was really about.

Yeltsin was strong early on, and the people were behind Yeltsin. As Yeltsin became weak politically, as Yeltsin became surrounded by, in my opinion, criminals, including his own family, and people like Boris Berezovsky, where was America standing up for what was right? We were silent because we didn't want to embarrass Boris Yeltsin.

We had evidence of IMF theft. We didn't want to raise those issues because it might cause political instability in Russia. We had evidence of Russia transferring accelerometers and gyroscopes to Iraq not once, not twice, but three times. It happened to be Yeltsin's re-election year. We didn't want to raise that issue even though that was a requirement contained in the Missile Technology Control Regime. We should have held Russia accountable, not because we wanted to embarrass Yeltsin, but because that's what the treaty required. We would do it in America.

I'm the first to stand up if Loral or Hughes or Lockheed or Boeing violates an arms control. I want them held accountable. I want somebody's neck. So how is it different if we catch entities in Russia that are violating these treaties and we sit on our hands and pretend it's not happening? What kind of a signal have we sent to Russia?

We sent the wrong signal. We said to the Russian people that America's only concern was keeping a puppet in place that could be our person, and that person happened to be Boris Yeltsin.

So in the end, it wasn't surprising to me that the polls last year showed that less than 2 percent of the Russian people were behind Boris Yeltsin. The only support behind Boris Yeltsin last year was Bill Clinton and our Administration here in Washington, and we wonder why the Russian people lost confidence in America.

Billions of dollars siphoned off that should have gone to build roads and bridges and schools for the Russian people, siphoned off for oligarchs setting up Swiss bank accounts, U.S. real estate investments, and what did America do? We sat back and pretended we didn't know it was happening. Now, all of a sudden, there's a grand jury investigation. Where was all of this accountability and transparency that should have been in place, not to embarrass Yeltsin, but certainly to say to Russia, "Look, there are certain standards that we're going to require you to adhere to." We didn't do that.

I think we're paying a price for that right now in terms of our relationship with Russia. If I were a Russian, I would feel the same way about America. Russians aren't stupid people. They're people who are very smart and very intellectually capable of analyzing a situation.

We wonder why Russia's raising Cain about missile defense today. If I were a Russian, I'd raise Cain too. I'd think back, and I'd think, "Wait a minute. Bill Clinton is for missile defense?" In 1992, George Bush accepted the challenge of Boris Yeltsin to have high-level discussions on joint missile defense cooperation. I remember these talks. They went very well. They were going extremely well, in fact. A new Administration comes in, and what's one of its first actions? It cancels the talks.

I was in Kokoshin's office about four years later, and I was talking about joint missile defense work when he was Yeltsin's national security adviser. He said, "Curt, wait a minute. You were the ones who cancelled the discussions with our side about cooperation." I said, "Yes, you're absolutely right, and I have no excuse or no answer for that."

In 1996, the Administration which now talks about strategic stability with Russia tried to cancel the funding for the only joint missile defense program we have with Russia, called the RAMOS Project. Without any forewarning, this Administration announced they were canceling the funding for the RAMOS Project, which is set up on the Russian side by the Kometa Institute and academician Savin. The Russians went crazy. I had calls from the former Russian ambassador in the U.S., Vladimir Lukin, and a letter from Mr. Mikhailov, the former Minister of Atomic Energy, and they said, "Congressman Weldon, what's going on here? You tell us all along that you want to work with us, and now your government is telling us they're canceling the RAMOS program."

So I went over and saw Carl Levin, and he and I, as members of the Armed Services Committee, fought that battle and restored the funding for the program. But what kind of a signal did that send to Russia?

Then, in 1997, the Administration is over negotiating in Geneva substantive changes to make the ABM Treaty tighter as opposed to more responsive to changing world threats. I didn't understand what they were doing, so I went to Geneva. I'm the only Member of Congress who traveled over there and asked to sit across from the Russian negotiator. We sat across from each other for two hours. Alongside of me was the chief American negotiator.

The first question I asked the Russian general was, "Why does Russia want to include Kazakhstan, Ukraine, as equal signatories to the ABM Treaty? They don't have ICBMs." He looked at me and said, "Congressman, you're asking that question of the wrong person. We didn't propose to preserve the ABM Treaty. The person sitting next to you did." So I said, "You're telling me that our side proposed to bring in these other six? Our side wanted to make it more difficult to modify that treaty?"

The second point was, how did they arrive at this artificial demarcation? How do you differentiate between theater and national missile defense? So I asked the Russian general, how did he arrive at those numbers? Range? Interceptor speed? "Oh, Congressman, these were very deliberate discussions between your State Department and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I can't tell you all the technical considerations, but they were very deliberate discussions."

I'm a student of missile defense. To Israel, our Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program is a national missile defense. It's a theater missile defense to America. So how do you differentiate between a theater missile defense system for one country and a national missile defense system for the same country? I didn't get the answer there.

A year later, I got the answer. I'm in my office, reading a news account from a Tel Aviv newspaper about how the Russians are trying to market a brand-new missile defense system called the ANTI-2500. I had never heard of the ANTI-2500, so I called over to the CIA and said, "What is this system? I know about the S-300. Very capable. In fact, we have one. It was a front-page story. We acquired one through our intelligence services to study. But what is the ANTI-2500?" A week later, they sent an analyst over from the intelligence agency, and he said, "Congressman, here's the brochure the Russians were using to market this system at the Abu Dhabi Air Show a couple of months ago."

I looked at the brochure. Nice color photographs of this missile defense system, and it's being touted--in English, by the way--as the best missile defense system in the world. Manufactured by the Russians who, interestingly enough, are trying to sell it to Israel to defend against the very rocket Russia sold to Iran, or helped Iran acquire the technology for. As I looked at this brochure and saw the pictures and the illustrations, the back page struck my attention because the back page was a listing of all the technical capabilities of the ANTI-2500: the range, the speed, interceptor speed.

As I looked at it, something clicked in my head. I looked over at the CIA agent and said, "Tell me if I'm mistaken, but aren't these capabilities right below the threshold of the demarcation that our Administration just agreed to in Geneva?" He said, "Yes."

So I found out where the artificial delineation came. We got sucked in on an agreement by the Russians to allow them to sell a system they had not yet completed while we limited ourselves by not being able to improve the capability of the THAAD and Navy area wide programs. How dumb can you get? That's where a demarcation came from the Russians, who marketed the ANTI-2500, which is now known as the S-400 stationary system.

When I went over it with Secretary Cohen this past year a month ago, I had the chance, while he was meeting with others, to meet with the Deputy Defense Minister of Russia. I had found out through my personal discussions that Russia had developed the technology for a brand-new missile defense system, the S-500. When we met with that official, he said, "Yes, Congressman, we developed a mathematical model. We know it can work. We just don't have the money to build it." He said, "It's a state-of-the-art system, better than anything you're developing in America."

Guess what we have found out since? If they deploy that system, it would violate the very demarcation that we allowed ourselves to get sucked into by the Russians. How can we expect the Russians to respect us if we don't provide a sense of candor? It doesn't mean we have to battle Russia all the time, but you have to call things the way they are. When things are going wrong, you have to let the Russians know it's unacceptable.

It doesn't mean you have to be the enemy of Russia. I want to engage Russia. I want to help them build a mortgage system for their people to develop a middle class to provide stability. I've been working on it for three years. You know what the response of this Administration has been? Zero.

We had all the Republican leaders in the Congress three years ago, working with the Duma, develop a model mortgage program based on Western guidelines. The Duma was ready to move. We came back here and could not get the Administration to respond, so I took two Duma deputies with me to the White House to meet with Leon Fuerth.

I said, "Leon, look what the Russians have done. Almost every governor of every region has signed off. There's their seal. Why won't you respond to a Western-style mortgage program with some discipline so we don't just hand money to oligarchs, but rather set the standards? But then the Russians have to meet to qualify for these funds in a competitive way, because the Russians are ready to do it."

This is what Leon Fuerth told me. He said, "Congressman, I can only think of three possible answers." He's now distancing himself from the White House, because we're in the Old Executive Office Building. He pointed over to the West Wing and said, "Number one, they don't trust that the Congress will follow through on the program," "they" being the Clinton Administration. "Number two, they don't trust that the Duma will follow through on its part of the bargain in Russia. Number three--and I think this is the real reason--this idea was created by Republicans, and this Administration is not going to accept any Republican idea and support for a program that they didn't come up with."

That's a pretty sad indictment of our system, when you have Republicans trying to work with a Democratic Administration to help Russia and they basically thumb their nose at us. In fact, that was about the time when NATO expansion was the hottest issue in Russia in terms of the instability that was beginning to build from the Russians into the American side.

When we came back from one of our trips, Congressman Charlie Taylor, a very successful banker who has really been the lead on this whole effort, and I went to Ambassador Richard Morningstar, then Coordinator of Assistance to Russia and New Independent States at the Department of State. We said, "Ambassador Morningstar, we have something we think can help the President. Russian people perceive NATO in a negative way.

"If you study Russian history, you can understand that, because Russia's had a history of being invaded from the west, from the north, from the south. So it's understandable there'd be a little paranoia, and the nationalists like Zhirinovsky and the others can play to that with the Russian people and convince them that somehow we have some hidden agenda.

"First, you support the initiative Congress has come up with"--Jesse Helms agreed to let some funding be used to start this mortgage program to create a seed fund--"and go to the member countries of NATO and ask them to contribute on a per-capita basis and create an international mortgage fund for Russia based on our guidelines that would have every NATO country involved. Then the Russian people would see that the NATO countries were not trying to back Russia into a corner politically or militarily, but rather really want to see Russia succeed."

That idea went the same way that every other idea went when we offered constructive help to this Administration on our Russian policies.

The point is that time and again, I have seen a pattern where we have denied the reality of the situation in Russia. We've denied the reality of the effect of the political and military instability in Russia. We denied the reality of arms transfers to the point where this Congress--I have never seen, in my 14 years, a Congress rise up in such a strong bipartisan way to slap an Administration across the face as this Congress did last session when we passed the Russia-Iran missile sanctions bill. You don't get that kind of a vote unless there is a total lack of confidence by the Congress in the Administration's policies toward Russia.

In fact, Vice President Gore twice called a group of us down to the White House, once in the fall of 1998. I was there, Senator John McCain was there, Senator Carl Levin was there, Senator Bob Kerrey was there, and Representative Lee Hamilton. We were all sitting around the table in the Old Executive Office Building meeting room with the Vice President, and he had with him Leon Fuerth.

The Vice President for two and a half hours lobbied us not to allow the Iran-Russia missile sanctions bill to come up for a vote on the House floor. He said, "It will undermine our relationship with Russia." We said, "Mr. Vice President, you just don't get it. There's no confidence on the part of the Congress in your relationship with Russia on arms control. We can't stop it."

The bill came up for a vote, and 398 Members voted in favor. That's not a partisan vote when 398 Members vote to slap the Administration across the face after Vice President Gore personally lobbied us to the contrary.

We broke for the winter holidays. We came back in February, and the Senate was going to take up the same bill. Again, the Vice President called us down. Again, the same people were there. Jon Kyl was there, John McCain, Paul Evans, senior people from both parties and both houses. This time he had Jack Caravelli with him from the NSC. He said, "You people can't allow this to come up on the Senate floor. It'll be terrible in our relationship with Russia."

The bill came up for a vote in the Senate, and 96 Senators voted in favor despite the Vice President's personal lobbying. If that doesn't send a signal of a complete lack of confidence by this Congress, in both parties, with this Administration on Russian policy, I don't know what does. That's why no arms control agreement will get through this Congress until this Administration is out of office.

That's why the Russian leaders and the Russian people have lost confidence in us. We've been so willing to say the right thing and pretend things aren't what they are in Russia, and the Russians see that as though we're weak. One thing I have learned in the years I've been going to Russia and meeting with a lot of Russian friends: They respect you when you're candid and honest. They don't respect you when they know you're saying things that don't really exist or aren't really true.

That's why we have the problems today that we have with Russia: They don't have confidence that this Administration, and therefore our country, has Russia's best interest at heart over the long haul.

I'm convinced the Russians will work with us on missile defense, but the Russians have told me repeatedly, "Congressman, we know your President doesn't really believe in missile defense. For seven years, he fought every step of the way. He only came out and reversed himself because he wanted to remove the issue from the campaign of Al Gore for the presidency. Therefore, we could get by this year, and if Gore wins the election, we think things will go back to the way they are."

Well, I've got news for them. The Congress is not going to change. We are convinced, based on the Rumsfeld Commission report, based on what the CIA is now telling us, that we have threats. Those threats aren't coming from Russia, except for the instability in their military. Those threats are coming from rogue states, which we can't even call them now. All of a sudden, Madeleine Albright has come up with some reclassification: "nations of concern."

What hogwash. One day they're rogue nations; the next day, all of a sudden, they're "nations of concern." They're still the same countries they were, and the same proliferating activities are still going on. The same threats are still being developed against America, her allies, and our troops around the world.

What, then, do we do with Russia? My own crusade for the past six years, since I formed and have chaired the Interparliamentary Commission, has been twofold. Number one, it's been aimed at strengthening the institution of the Duma in Russia. As you know, Russia has a very strong presidency. My goal is to help the Duma understand the way our Congress operates and to give the Duma the ability to understand it can play a more forceful role in helping in the governing of Russia.

The Administration would say all along, "You know the reason we supported Yeltsin so much is we didn't want the alternative, which would be, heaven forbid, the communists." Well, at least the communists in Russia were elected. Tell me how you justify that when you deal with China. I don't know when was the last time a communist in China was elected, and we fall all over China in terms of our relations.

The point is, we have to work with whom the Russian people pick, whether it's communist, whether it's LDPR headed by Zhirinovsky, whether it's Yabloko, whether it's the new Primakov-Luzhkov faction, whether it's the Union of Right Forces. Whatever the factions, we have to work with them because they're elected.

There are good people there. I'm hosting 10 of them in my district this week. I meet with them all the time. We need to work with those people to help them see how our democracy operates--Russia will never be a mirror of America; we shouldn't want that--so that they can understand how they can play a more legitimate role in helping Russia govern itself.

The second thing we have to do is help Russia build a middle class. Imagine if we had taken that $18 billion to $20 billion of IMF money that went down a rat hole and had used it to create a mortgage program. At a minimum, you would have had millions of Russian people in decent housing. What do we have to show for that $18 billion? I can't point to one thing. The $300 million for reforming the coal industry, down the tubes. The money for housing, for schools, down the tubes. What do we have to show for our investment? A bunch of rich fat cats living off of the coast of our country, who basically siphoned off money intended for Russia's people?

We've got to do things differently. We've got to help Russia have the tools to create a middle class. I'm convinced that one of the ways to do that is through a private mortgage program modeled very strictly along Western guidelines.

We've had the Duma leadership ready to accept that. We had the communist speaker of the Duma endorsing a Western-style capitalist mortgage system three years ago, and we haven't responded. Instead, we keep going through the existing banks where they charge 8 percent to 25 percent interest, which no average Russian can afford, and the money is not being used for the intended purpose of helping to create a middle class.

Some say we can't trust the Russian people. In my travels to Russia, I went with Charlie Taylor, who's the CEO of one of the largest banks in North Carolina. Charlie Taylor has given mortgages to Russian couples from his bank in North Carolina with no collateral. Talk about risk. I've been in Moscow sitting with Charlie Taylor at dinner when young couples drive six hours to give him the year's mortgage payments in advance for the home that he helped them buy in Russia.

You need to understand: The Russian people are basically good people, but we can't play games with them. We can't not be honest and candid in our assessment of our relationship with Russia. For that reason, I think we can establish programs like mortgages and programs like economic development that don't just throw money at problems, but rather create strict controls to allow us to make sure we're achieving the desired results.

Along that line, we need to create an interparliamentary commission, made up of elected officials from the Federation Council and the Duma and the U.S. House and Senate, that has a staff director on each side of the ocean, a Russian staff director and an American director, and that doesn't determine where money is to go but simply has the responsibility and the capability to monitor that that money is going for the intended purpose in Russia, whether it's IMF money, World Bank money, or U.S. tax dollars, which is about $1 billion a year. We need to create the credibility that elected officials from both countries are monitoring where those dollars are going.

I have a tough time in the Congress selling my colleagues of programs like cooperative debt reduction and continuing efforts in investment with Russia. It's a shame, because in the end, the short- sighted attempts to cut off relations with Russia are only going to hurt us. We've got to build a credible process that lets us in America, and the Russian leaders, feel confident in how we're monitoring dollars that are going into Russia.

Russia in the end has got to salvage their own economic problems. We can't expect to throw in hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars from America and think that somehow we're going to straighten out the economic turmoil that Russia has. We've got to build it in a credible way, step by step by step. It basically comes down to a very simple relationship with Russia based on consistency and candor.

We in America have sometimes sent some very wrong signals to Russia. We've got to, first of all, admit that we haven't always been right. When I meet with the Russians, I say, "Look, there are times when I don't trust my government. There are times I don't trust my military. But I have the ability, as an elected official, to challenge my government and my military leadership when I think things aren't what they should be, and I want the same from your side."

They say to me, "What do you mean by that?" I say, "Let me give you an example."

Six years ago, I was co-chairing a hearing on one of my top issues environmentally, which is Russia's nuclear waste problem. I've been to Murmansk. I've been to Severomorsk. I've seen the ships. I know the problems at length. I had Dr. Alexei Yablokov testify before my committee three times over here about the nuclear waste problems--the dumping of nuclear reactors in the oceans off of Russia's coasts.

At this particular hearing, I had a Navy official testifying. He was lambasting the Russians. He was saying, "Russia's not being transparent. They're not allowing our scientists to get out the Komsomolets," which, if you know Russian history, is a Russian nuclear submarine which sank on the bottom of the ocean right off of Scandinavia's coast with its crew and its nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors on board.

He said, "This is outrageous. Russia won't allow our scientists to get anywhere near this ship to see whether or not there's any damage being done to the environment around this sunken ship." I said, "You're right." I think it was a civilian Navy leader. I said, "You're right; you're absolutely correct. Russia should be more transparent. Now, will you talk to me about the Thresher and the Scorpion?"

"Oh, no, Congressman. This is a public hearing. I can't talk in public about the Thresher and the Scorpion. That's all classified." I said, "Wait a minute. You want to sit here in a public hearing and criticize Russia for not allowing us to have access to Komsomolets, but you don't even want to acknowledge to the American people that we've had nuclear accidents. We have crews on the bottom of the ocean floor with nuclear materials."

If we're going to deal with Russia and expect to get a response, we've got to be transparent and candid both ways. That means if Russia has questions of us that they feel need to be answered, we ought to answer them. I tell my Russian friends all the time that I'll answer them or I'll get the answer for you, but I want to know what you're doing in Aman Tau Mountain, a secret facility in the Ural Mountains. I want to know why you're still investing billions of dollars in a deep underground city capable of withstanding a first strike nuclear hit when you've got people who are out of work, when you've got soldiers not being paid.

I want to know what the details are of the Mitrokhin files where the highest-ranking KGB archivist came out last fall with a book by Dr. Christopher Andrew and documented the Soviets' pre-positioned military hardware in foreign nations, including the U.S. I want to know the answers to that. If you can't get them for me, then don't expect us to respond in kind.

The problem basically boils down to one of candor--being willing to push the Russians to be as candid as they would want us to be. If we don't do that, I'm convinced we can't have the kind of long-term stable relationship we need. But I'm optimistic.

Obviously, I have a partisan approach to this with Governor Bush running, but I'm not going to give a partisan speech here. Whoever is elected President, I want to have a candid assessment in our relationship with Russia. If Al Gore leads, I'm going to hold him accountable and Leon Fuerth accountable every step of the way. If Governor Bush leads, I think he'll take a much more pragmatic, honest, candid view of our relationship with Russia. I'm convinced it will be to our benefit and Russia's benefit.

When I travel to Russia, they say, "Curt, you're Russia's best friend, but you're also Russia's toughest critic." The day before I came over here, I had a group of Russian senior Duma deputies in my office, and one of them is a good friend of Rogozin, who is one of the new leaders in the Duma and chairman of the International Affairs Committee. He said, "Congressman, Rogozin speaks well of you. He told me to listen to what you say. He said you'll be tough, but he said you're clear-minded. He said you're honest in your assessment of Russia, and in the end, you're the kind of person that will create a strong friendship between America and our country."

That's the best endorsement we can have in terms of where we need to go. That should be our approach in our relationship with Russia: honesty, candor, straightforward talk. Where there are differences, we have to try to work out those differences, and sometimes that's going to be difficult because there are things that still need to be addressed, like the advantage Russia has in tactical nukes, which is a major arms control issue; issues like the Aman Tau Mountain development; issues like the continuing development of chemical and biological weapons. All of these issues need to be addressed, but it can be done in a spirit of candor, friendship, and relationship as long as the Russians see that we're going to be honest in that relationship and, in the end, that we really want Russia to succeed and be an equal partner to us.

With that in mind, I hope that we can continue this dialogue. The Heritage Foundation always does a great job in forcing Congress to pay attention on key policy issues like where we're going with Russia. I look forward to the results of your discussions.

I am a member of the Speaker's task force on Russia. Our report will come out sometime in the beginning of September, and it will be a candid assessment of what we think we've done wrong--and not just the presidency, because there have been mistakes by the Congress as well. More important will be what we could do to change that in a new Administration, whether it be George W. Bush or Al Gore.

The Honorable Curt Weldon has represented Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987. He is a senior member of the Committee on Armed Services and Chairman of its Military Research and Development Subcommittee. The only member of the House to have majored in Russian studies, Representative Weldon has worked with Russian leaders on a variety of issues, including efforts to improve Russia's energy supply, correct environmental damage, protect against ballistic missile attack, and deal with corruption. He also serves as an adviser to Governor George W. Bush on Russian issues.

Dimitri Simes

At the conference recently with Mikhail Gorbachev and our speaker today, Yurii Shchekochikhin, who is a good friend to Mikhail Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev complained to me that he was engaging in reminiscences of the past, and he complained that he was misperceived by some in the United States once he came to power, myself included: that some people called him a Stalinist.

Then there was a pause. I said, "Well, looking back, perhaps I was wrong, at least to some extent."

I thought it was an honest, introspective observation, because when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, he really was a student of Andropov. He really believed in quick fixes; he really believed in emphasizing discipline and imposing solutions from the top. But then pragmatic American diplomacy contributed to his change in a very constructive way.

I am not going to assign percentages to what extent it was Russian domestic developments, to what extent it was Gorbachev's discovery that he was presiding over the system which could not be reformed but only could be got rid of, to what extent it was President Reagan; I don't know. But it is quite clear that we have contributed to Mr. Gorbachev's critical choices in the 1980s, and we have done it in a very constructive way.

Now we're facing the situation with Mr. Putin. He is a former KGB officer. When he was in charge of the Federal Security Service under Boris Yeltsin between 1998 and 1999, he had demonstrated his willingness to use some very unfavorable techniques against Yeltsin's political opponents. He clearly was showing that his KGB education was still very much a part of his political persona. At the same time, we are dealing with someone who, for whichever reason, by whatever combination of circumstances, became the Russian leader, and he has to grow and he has to learn totally new responsibilities, which in the past were foreign to him.

He was not a Duma member. He was not a member of the Federation Council. He was not a governor. He was not dealing with big issues. It never was a part of his political background. He's in a very new situation. I think he knows that he is a strong Russian nationalist and that he wants to restore Russian greatness. I think he also knows, however, that there is no way back to the communist-Soviet imperial past and that to dream about something like that is fine, but to try to act on the basis of these dreams would be disastrous.

There is one thing which I respect about Mr. Putin: Unlike most of his Soviet and Russian predecessors, he does understand that decisions have consequences. He realizes that it is easy to give you a long laundry list of your priorities, but unless he establishes a certain hierarchy of his priorities, it will only be a fairly meaningless declaration of intentions. Several of his subordinates told me how, once he is told that if he goes too far in his relationship with Beijing, there may be an important setback in his relationship with the United States, he immediately starts asking what kind of price they will have to pay.

We're dealing with a Russian leader who can walk and talk at the same time, who has learned a lot of tricks in the KGB and how to demonstrate a different persona to different people. His conduct and rhetoric in Beijing last week had absolutely nothing in common with his performance in Okinawa. When he was in Pyongyang, he was praising North Korean leaders as being totally modern. He talked about, believe it or not, North Korean economic reforms and stated that, on most important issues, there was no real difference between Russian and North Korean leadership. Then he comes back from North Korea to the Okinawa G-7 summit and acts almost like he was a G-7 ambassador to Pyongyang, as if everybody should be grateful to him for his indispensable service.

The Russian media were reporting that his whole performance in Pyongyang and Beijing served one purpose: to put the United States on the defensive. I think there was consensus among Russian foreign policy observers that Putin's conduct had a very strong anti-American connotation. He comes to meet President Clinton and the G-7, and he is one of them. He is their friend. He acts as an "objective observer" who brings inside information from this Beijing and Pyongyang trips. This is quite a performance.

Obviously, if we perceive him primarily as a rival--which he is--this is not good news. He is going to be much more difficult to deal with than good old, bumbling Boris Yeltsin, who would engage in a lot of bravado, who would talk about Russian greatness, but at the end of the day would do yet another favor for his friend Bill because he did not know how to stand on his own without foreign loans. He really felt not just a special attachment to President Clinton, but he felt that he did not know how to run his own country without strong U.S. Administration support.

Putin is very different in this respect. He expects and hopes that he will be much more able to stand on his own. That is bad news to the extent he is a rival. The good news is that we can contribute to his critical choices. He is, in my view, quite correct in his understanding that Russia cannot expect massive foreign economic assistance. He also is quite correct in thinking that foreign loans not only were counterproductive in terms of giving the Russian leadership an opportunity to move forward much-needed meaningful economic reforms, but also made it very difficult to have any kind of meaningful relationship between Russia and the United States.

We can talk for hours about the relationship with Russia, but as long as we are paying their bills, there can be no equal relationship. You will always find Members of Congress who, again, quite correctly would feel that if we're rescheduling Russian debt, if the people are so poor that we have to subsidize their mortgages, then they have to abide by a certain code of behavior and we, as lenders, are entitled to write this code. The Russians don't like it. The Russians resent it, and the Russians increasingly feel that they are in the period of economic recovery when they are not sufficiently dependent upon the United States to tolerate this kind of perceived humiliation.

Accordingly, we have to start building a new relationship with Russia. We have to remember that the last years of the relationship have left a bitter taste both in the United States and Russia. Pretending that this did not happen, that we can start from scratch, would be another illusion.

What we should do is to start treating Russia as another serious country with which we have important relationships, where we have important interests which we should be able to communicate to the Russians. We should be able to explain to them that the United States is willing and able to be effective in defending important American interests. But as Congressman Weldon and Duma member Shchekochikhin also said quite eloquently, we should not pretend to know all the answers. We should not try to offer them indispensable guidance on how to run their domestic affairs and whom they should have in their own government.

In my experience, at least, the Russians are very much prepared to understand what important American interests are. As long as we define them sufficiently narrowly, pragmatically, and as long as we are consistent in presenting them to the Russians, I think there is an opportunity for a serious and meaningful dialogue.

Let me say one thing about national missile defense. National missile defense is a phony issue. For years, I was trying to make this case when we were discussing NATO enlargement. The reason I was convinced that the Russians were not seriously opposed to including three Central European nations in NATO was that every time I would talk to Russian officials privately over a dinner table, this issue would never come up. It would come up only during public meetings when they have to deliver their obligatory denunciations.

I have the same situation today with national missile defense. I think that if you look at the Russian strategic arsenal, you just know that nothing we can conceivably do with national missile defense during the next 10 to 15 years can seriously damage Russian security.

So you have to ask yourself, why are they so agitated about national missile defense? This answer is quite simple. They sense the American public is not engaged on this issue. They sense that this is a controversial issue inside the United States. They sense that this is an effective tool to create additional alienation between Washington and Beijing. They feel, of course, that they get some mileage exploiting this issue with the West Europeans. That is essentially what it is about.

We have to be realistic and pragmatic about that. I am not suggesting that we jump into major commitment to do national missile defense before we have decided that we have the technology, before we have defined what the threat is, and of course before we know what is the likely cost.

I think that the Russian factor is a nuisance at most. Serious consideration should be given to our relationships with the allies. Serious consideration should be given to our ties in Beijing, because NMD may be a threat to the Chinese nuclear deterrence. As far as the Russians are concerned, they're simply exploiting this issue. It's important for us to communicate with the Russians that this kind of activity is not productive, that this kind of activity tells us certain things about their intentions which cannot work to their advantage.

Mr. Putin was quite successful in Okinawa in impressing the leaders of the G-8 with the strength of his position, and I think he successfully put President Clinton on the defensive. But I wish his foreign policy advisers told him, and I wish we encouraged Putin's foreign policy advisers to explain to the Russian president, that whatever he wants to gain in terms of anti-American mileage he is going to lose in terms of American good will, in terms of American help with the International Monetary Fund, Russian debt restructuring, and--most important--foreign investment.

These are things which are really essential to Mr. Putin if he wants to restore Russian greatness. I think that we have to make it clear to him that certain kinds of behavior may have consequences which would outweigh any possible benefits.

Dimitri Simes, founding President of the Nixon Center, also has served as Chairman of the Center for Russian and Eurasian Programs at the Carnegie Endowment; Director of the Soviet Institute of Research and Research Professor, Soviet Studies, at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies; and Senior Research Fellow and Director of Soviet Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Born in Moscow, he graduated from the Faculty of History of Moscow State University and worked for the Institute of World Economy and International Affairs. His most recent book is After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place As a Great Power.

Ariel Cohen

I would like to focus on how domestic policy is driving Russian foreign policy.

The group that today is running the Kremlin and running policy in the Kremlin basically is divided into three factions. One is the more liberal, reform-oriented St. Petersburg faction of economists primarily--people like German Gref, Aleksei Kudrin, and others.

The second group, most prominently represented by Prime Minister Kasyanov, is the old "Yeltsin's family" group with connections to such business tycoons as Roman Abramovich and the banker Aleksandr Mamut. There is a debate about Berezovsky and the role he is playing now. It looks as if the falling out between Berezovsky and the Kremlin is serious.

Third--and important--is a group of former FSB (Federal Security Service) internal KGB officers.

I believe that these groups have different visions for Russian foreign policy and especially for Russian domestic policies. These groups have different approaches to how to handle freedom of the media, democracy, issues that Sarah Mendelson so ably addressed. Also, these groups have different priorities as to the survival of the business tycoons, of the oligarchs.

What we don't see coming from either Mr. Putin himself or his top decisionmakers is a rhetoric that we would expect if he was serious about the rule of law as opposed to what Putin calls "dictatorship of law." You have a lot of rhetoric about "dictatorship of law" or, as Dimitri so aptly put it, how much dictatorship--and how much law--there is going to be. But law enforcement today is not applied evenly to everyone and is completely driven by the Kremlin political agenda.

We have not heard, in the Putin State of the Federation Speech, any discussion of the civil society. We have not heard discussion of the freedom of the press. He did say he supports the freedom of the press but then immediately jumped into discussing the anti-state role of the press and how bad the private ownership of the press is. This smacks very much of Soviet-style language.

Second, I believe that the new structure that Putin is building to govern Russia is a vertical structure with the Kremlin at the apex. It's a structure with seven federal districts led by supergovernors or governors general, who happen to be generals of the military, the police, and the KGB--five out of seven--to supervise the elected governors.

The right of the president to dismiss governors, and the ability of the governors to dismiss elected mayors, undermine the federal nature of the Russian Federation and the local governments. This is a much more centralized structure in a country that spreads across 11 time zones, a country that has distinct and pronounced regional specificity or ethnic components. It is not a monoethnic country; it's a multiethnic country. That super-centralization may be dangerous.

So Putin is trying to create a new constitutional structure without revising the constitution. As a response to that, the upper house, the Council of the Federation, is now raising the possibility that a law on constitutional reform, a law on constitutional assembly, should be promulgated and the constitution should be changed.

If you go to changes in the constitution in Russia when there is a confrontation between the presidency, the executive branch, and the upper house of the Parliament on one hand, and the presidency and the leaders of the business community on the other hand, as well as between the presidency and the media, that is a prescription for instability. That is a prescription in which we do not really know what kind of outcome we may get.

In terms of the lack of respect for the rule of law, Chechnya was covered by Sarah Mendelson pretty extensively, but we did not discuss avenues of how Russia may integrate with the West. As Putin said, his priority is having Russia be a European power, having Russia attract foreign investment, having Russia be culturally European and part of the global economy. How would this instability, together with his strongarm tactics, assist Russia's integration into the Western community?

Furthermore, Putin goes to China and to North Korea and uses the vocabulary and body language to build a coalition between Russia and China. As Professor Steve Blank of the U.S. Army War College pointed out elsewhere, Russia is inviting India to join the Shanghai Five, a group that includes China, Russia, and Central Asian countries. How is that going to work out if Russia is supporting Chinese threats and conditions vis-à-vis Taiwan--for example, demands that the U.S. allows no arms sales to Taiwan, no missile defense to Taiwan? If Russia is on record for all that, how are they are going to improve their relations with the United States?

I think Dimitri Simes pointed out that maybe Putin does not always understand that this kind of rapprochement may have its price and its consequences in the relationship with the United States. But can Moscow drive a wedge between Western Europe and the U.S. over missile defense? I personally doubt it, but we should not underestimate the ability of at least some of our European allies to shoot themselves in the foot. Hopefully, the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Europe that goes back over 100 years is indeed strong, and Russia will not be able to wreck it.

In the area of economic reform, Putin is always talking about state centralization, about the role of the state--but not about the rule of law. He is not stressing the importance of the private sector and the role of the NGO sector. This does not look like a successful prescription for an effective economic reform.

Finally, in addition to these three big conflicts--presidency versus the upper house, presidency versus the media, presidency versus the business community--under Mr. Putin, the military started to fight with each other. We have never seen anything approximating the public row between Marshal Igor Sergeyev, the Defense Minister, and Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin.

These two military leaders advocate starkly opposite models of the military structure. Sergeyev supports pretty much more of the same. Kvashnin advocates a drastic cut in the strategic nuclear posture and a revamped conventional force; he is fighting a group of generals who come from strategic nuclear forces. All these issues have direct implications for how and what Russia is going to do vis-à-vis the outside world in its military posture and foreign policy.

To conclude, we have to watch how Mr. Putin strikes a balance between the values and the priorities that he pursues internally and his foreign policy. We have to recognize the linkage and the nexus between his domestic policy and his foreign policy. An authoritarian, xenophobic, anti-Western Russia would be a very different Russia than a country that would be democratic, pursuing foreign investment and willing to genuinely integrate with the West.

Mr. Putin is indeed a master of presenting different persona to different audiences. I don't know if it's his training, his professional career, his personality, but approaching the G-8 prime ministers and presidents saying, "Guys, let's keep in touch by e-mail," was very different from approaching Chairman Jiang Zemin of China and saying, "Let's figure out what we can do about the United States and Taiwan."

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. His book, Russian Imperalism: Development and Crisis, was published by Praeger in 1998.


Ariel Cohen
Ariel Cohen

Director, CENRG and Senior Fellow, IAGS

Richard Haass

Visiting Fellow

Dimitri Simes

Counselor to the President

Dov Zakheim

Senior Visiting Fellow, Japan

Yurii Shchekochikhin

Senior Research Fellow

Representative Curt Weldon

Policy Analyst in Empirical Studies

Sarah Mendelson