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Monday, February 22, 2010

U.S.-Russia Meat and Poultry Trade Issues

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Geoffrey S. Becker
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

In December 2008, the United States and Russia signed a protocol aimed at resolving various emerging trade issues between the two countries in order to continue U.S. livestock and poultry exports to Russia through the end of 2009. By December 2009, however, Russia had escalated these trade issues in a series of actions that could effectively shut out U.S. livestock and poultry exports. These actions, in part, follow on Russia's threats throughout 2008 and 2009 regarding its concerns about antimicrobial use in U.S. meat production. 

Russia has continued to cite food safety concerns about antimicrobial residues and the use of chlorine rinses on U.S. meat exports, and has identified several U.S. poultry and meat processing companies as ineligible to export meat to Russia. In 2008 and again in 2009, Russia announced that it was banning poultry imports from several U.S. establishments due to safety concerns. In addition, throughout 2008 and 2009, Russia refused imports of pork products from several U.S. plants because trace amounts of antibiotics were found in some of the meat tested. As part of these actions, Russian officials signaled that U.S. permits to import poultry and pork under that country's quota system might be restricted. (Russia also banned pork products for most of 2009 from several countries, including the United States, following reports about the H1N1 influenza virus in April 2009.) 

In December 2009, Russia announced that it would implement its previously proposed ban on poultry imports treated with chlorine washes from all exporting countries, effective January 1, 2010. This action is expected to effectively ban all U.S. poultry exports to Russia, since pathogen reduction rinses are commonplace in U.S. poultry production. A similar European Union (EU) prohibition has kept U.S. chicken out of the EU since 1997. 

Also in December, reports emerged that Russia will reduce its 2010 import quotas for U.S. pork and poultry below 2009 quota levels. Russia's import quotas for U.S. beef, however, will increase above 2009 levels. Quota allocations for U.S. pork and poultry are expected to be reduced even further in both 2011 and 2012. 

Many U.S. producers believe that Russia's restrictions on U.S. antimicrobial use are not sciencebased, but are instead intended to protect and promote Russia's own growing domestic pork and poultry production. Some further point out that Russia's perceived "zero tolerance" regarding antimicrobial use is the most restrictive among all U.S. trading partners. For U.S. poultry and meat producers, the economic stakes of Russian import actions are significant. In 2008, Russia was the single largest export market for U.S. poultry products, with exports valued at more than $820 million (about 18% of total U.S. poultry exports). Russia was also among the leading export markets for U.S. pork and beef products, valued at $330 million and nearly $70 million, respectively. All these export products had also experienced strong growth in the Russian market. 

In January 2010, the United States and Russia initiated formal discussions in an attempt to resolve these trade issues. In Congress, some are pointing to the growing frequency of trade-based restrictions the use of certain antimicrobial drugs and on certain production practices, including the use of pathogen reduction treatments (PRTs) and water solutions containing chlorine. Members of Congress with important poultry and meat industry constituents are likely to monitor events and ongoing negotiations between the United States and Russia to resolve these disputes. 



Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar amendment, authorizing U.S. threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union, in November 1991, after a failed coup in Moscow and the disintegration of the Soviet Union raised concerns about the safety and security of Soviet nuclear weapons. The annual program has grown from $400 million in the DOD budget to over $1 billion per year across three agencies—DOD, DOE, and the State Department. It has also evolved from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union, to a more comprehensive threat reduction and nonproliferation effort, to a broader program seeking to keep nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from leaking out of the former Soviet Union and into the hands of rogue nations or terrorist groups, to a global program to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction. 

The Department of Defense manages the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, which provides Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan with assistance in transporting, storing, and dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. U.S. assistance has helped these nations eliminate the delivery systems for nuclear weapons under the START Treaty, secure weapons storage areas, construct a storage facility for nuclear materials removed from weapons, construct a destruction facility for chemical weapons, and secure biological weapons materials. 

The State Department manages the International Science and Technology Centers in Moscow and Kiev. These centers provide research grants to scientists and engineers so that they will not sell their knowledge to other nations or terrorist groups. The State Department has also provided assistance with export and border control programs in the former Soviet states. The Department of Energy manages programs that seek to improve the security of nuclear warheads in storage and nuclear materials at civilian, naval, and nuclear weapons complex facilities. It also funds programs that help nuclear scientists and engineers find employment in commercial enterprises. DOE is also helping Russia dispose of plutonium removed from nuclear weapons and shut-down its remaining plutonium-producing reactors by replacing them with fossil-fuel plants. 

Analysts have debated numerous issues related to U.S. nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance. These include questions about the coordination of and priority given to these programs in the U.S. government, questions about Russia's willingness to provide the United States with access to its weapons facilities, questions about the President's ability to waive certification requirements so that the programs can go forward, and questions about the need to expand the efforts into a global program that receives funding from numerous nations and possibly extends assistance to others outside the former Soviet Union. 

This report will be updated as needed. 


Date of Report: February 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 64
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Stability in Russia’s Chechnya and Other Regions of the North Caucasus: Recent Developments

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs


Terrorist attacks in Russia's North Caucasus—a border area between the Black and Caspian Seas that includes the formerly breakaway Chechnya and other ethnic-based regions—have appeared to increase in recent months. Moreover, civilian and government casualties are reaching levels not seen in several years and terrorist attacks again are taking place outside the North Caucasus. Illustrative of the new level of violence, the Nevskiy Express passenger train was bombed after leaving Moscow in late November 2009, resulting in over two dozen deaths and dozens of injuries. 

Before the recent rise in terrorist attacks, it seemed that government security forces had been successful in tamping down their range and scope by aggressively carrying out over a thousand sweep operations ("zachistki") in the North Caucasus. During these operations, security forces surround a village and search the homes of the residents, ostensibly in a bid to apprehend terrorists. Critics of the operations allege that the searches are illegal and that troops frequently engage in pillaging and gratuitous violence and are responsible for kidnapping for ransom and "disappearances" of civilians. Through these sweeps, as well as through direct clashes, most of the masterminds of previous large-scale terrorist attacks were killed. 

Some observers suggest that the increasing scope of public discontent against zachistki and deepening economic and social distress are contributing to growing numbers of recruits for terrorist groups and to increasing violence in the North Caucasus. Inter-ethnic and religious tensions are also responsible for some of the increasing violence. Many ethnic Russian and other non-native civilians have been murdered or have disappeared, which has spurred the migration of most of the non-native population from the North Caucasus. Russian authorities argue that foreign terrorist groups continue to operate in the North Caucasus and to receive outside financial and material assistance. 

The United States generally has supported the Russian government's efforts to combat terrorism in the North Caucasus. However, successive Administrations and Congress have continued to raise concerns about the wide scope of human rights abuses committed by the Russian government in the North Caucasus. The conference agreement on Consolidated Appropriations for FY2010 (P.L. 111-117), calls for $7.0 million to continue humanitarian, conflict mitigation, human rights, civil society and relief and recovery assistance programs in the North Caucasus. It also repeats language used for several years that directs that 60% of the assistance allocated to Russia will be withheld (excluding medical, human trafficking, and Comprehensive Threat Reduction aid) until the President certifies that Russia is facilitating full access to Chechnya for international non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to displaced persons. 
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Date of Report: January 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
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Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs


The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states' ties with the West in part to end the dependence of these states on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian-Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. The former Bush Administration supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan's energy sector as a means of increasing the diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of the U.S. global war on terror, the U.S. military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia's military and security forces. Azerbaijani troops participated in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Armenian and Georgian personnel served in Iraq. The South Caucasian troops serving in Iraq had departed by the end of 2008. 

On August 7, 2008, Russia and Georgia went to war involving Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops quickly swept into Georgia, destroyed infrastructure, and tightened their de facto control over the breakaway regions before a ceasefire was agreed to on August 15. The conflict has had long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but the United States and nearly all other nations refused to follow suit. Russia established bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that buttress its long-time military presence in Armenia. Georgia's military capabilities were degraded by the conflict, and Georgia has requested military assistance to rebuild its forces. The conflict temporarily disrupted railway transport of Azerbaijani oil to Black Sea ports and some oil and gas pipeline shipments, but no major pipelines were damaged. Although there were some concerns that the South Caucasus had become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan later began to barge oil across the Caspian Sea for transit westward, and the European Union still planned eventually to build the so-called Nabucco gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria. 

Among the key issues in the second session of the 111th Congress regarding the South Caucasus are supporting Georgia's integration into Western institutions, including NATO; Azerbaijan's energy development; and Armenia's independence and economic development. At the same time, concerns may include the status of human rights and democratization in the countries; the ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region; and threats posed to Georgia and the region by Russia's August 2008 military incursion and its diplomatic recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Congress will continue to scrutinize Armenia's and Georgia's reform progress as recipients of Millennium Challenge Account grants. Some Members of Congress believe that the United States should provide greater attention to the region's increasing role as an east-west trade and security corridor linking the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, and to Armenia's inclusion in such links. They urge greater U.S. aid and conflict resolution efforts to contain warfare, crime, smuggling, and Islamic extremism and to bolster the independence of the states. Others urge caution in adopting policies that will heavily involve the United States in a region beset by ethnic and civil conflicts. 
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Date of Report: January 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 38
Order Number: RL33453
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bosnia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs


In recent years, many analysts have expressed concern that the international community's efforts since 1995 to stabilize Bosnia are beginning to come apart. They noted that the downward trend has been especially evident since 2006, with the election of leaders with starkly divergent goals. Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two semi-autonomous "entities" within Bosnia, has obstructed efforts to make Bosnia's central government more effective and has at times asserted the RS's right to secede from Bosnia. Efforts to reform Bosnia's constitution have made little progress. 

There has been a debate about the future role of the international community in Bosnia. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), chosen by leading countries and international institutions, oversees implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. An EU peacekeeping force, called EUFOR, is charged with keeping the peace in Bosnia and overseeing the Bosnian armed forces. The international community has vowed to close OHR after Bosnia meets a series of reform objectives, ending direct international oversight. After OHR's closure, international support for Bosnian reforms would be limited to aid and advice from the United States, European Union, NATO, and other institutions, with the prospect of eventual NATO and EU membership. An EU Special Representative (EUSR) would remain in Bosnia, although the post would likely have a smaller staff than OHR. In addition, it would likely be limited to an advisory and reporting role, lacking OHR's powers to veto legislation and remove local officials. 

There has been pressure within the EU to scale back EUFOR, which has a current strength of about 2,100 troops. Citing the improved security situation in Bosnia, France and other EU countries have called for EUFOR to be sharply reduced in size and limited to an advisory function. However, in January 2010, the EU did not agree on a reduction, perhaps out of concern about the lack of progress on reforms in Bosnia. 

Some observers are concerned that the combination of increasing internal tension within Bosnia and a declining international role could seriously set back over a decade of peace in Bosnia, perhaps leading to violence and the destabilization of the region as a whole. They call for greater international engagement in Bosnia, including an increase in EUFOR's capabilities and strong powers for the EUSR, if OHR leaves. The United States has strongly supported Bosnia's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. However, the U.S. role in the country has declined in recent years as the EU role has increased. 
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Date of Report: January 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kosovo: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs


On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. On February 18, the United States recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Of the 27 EU countries, 22 have recognized Kosovo, including key countries such as France, Germany, Britain, and Italy. Serbia and Russia have heatedly objected to the recognition of Kosovo's independence. Independent Kosovo faces many challenges, including its relations with Serbia and Serbs in Kosovo, as well as weak institutions, an underdeveloped economy, and the impact of the global financial crisis. Vice President Joseph Biden visited Kosovo on May 21, 2009, after stops in Bosnia and Serbia the previous two days. He received a hero's welcome in Kosovo, where he declared that the "success of an independent Kosovo" is a U.S. "priority." For background on Kosovo, see CRS Report RL31053, Kosovo and U.S. Policy: Background to Independence, by Julie Kim and Steven Woehrel.


Date of Report: January 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

Steven A. Hildreth
Specialist in Missile Defense

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager


Although Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000 (first as prime minister, then as president), according to most observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) came to be dominated by government-approved parties, and opposition democratic parties were excluded. Putin also abolished gubernatorial elections, placed controls on the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and established government ownership or control over major media and major industries, including the energy sector. Putin's suppression of insurgency in the Chechnya republic demonstrated his government's generally low regard for the rule of law and respect for human rights, according to these observers. Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's chosen successor and long-time protégé, was elected President in March 2008 with about 70% of the vote. Immediately after the election, Putin became Prime Minister. President Medvedev generally has continued policies established during the Putin presidency. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin "tandem" directed wide-scale military operations against Georgia and unilaterally recognized the independence of Georgia's separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions that most of the international community have censured. 

The sharp decline in oil and gas prices since mid-2008 and other aspects of the global economic downturn put a halt to a Russian economic expansion that had begun in 1999, resulting in an officially reported 9.5% drop in gross domestic product in 2008 and an estimated 8-9% drop in 2009. These declines exacerbate existing problems: 15% of the population live below the poverty line; inadequate healthcare contributes to a demographic decline; domestic and foreign investment is low; inflation hovers around 12%-14%; and crime, corruption, capital flight, and unemployment remain high. 

Russia's military has been in turmoil after years of severe force reductions and budget cuts. The armed forces now number about 1.2 million, down from 4.3 million Soviet troops in 1986. Readiness, training, morale, and discipline have suffered. Russia's economic revival allowed it to substantially increase defense spending. Some high-profile activities were resumed, such as multi-national military exercises, Mediterranean and Atlantic naval deployments, and strategic bomber patrols. Stepped-up military efforts were launched in late 2007 to further downsize the armed forces and emphasize rapid reaction and contract forces. The global economic downturn and strong opposition within some segments of the armed forces appears to have slowed down force modernization. After the Soviet Union's collapse, the United States sought a cooperative relationship with Moscow and supplied almost $17 billion to Russia from fiscal year 1992 through 2008 to support urgent humanitarian needs, to encourage democracy and market reform, and to support WMD threat reduction. U.S. aid to reduce the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in recent years has hovered around $700-$900 million per fiscal year, while other foreign aid to Russia has dwindled, due in part to the phase-out of some aid and to congressional conditions. Despite rising U.S.-Russia tensions in recent years on issues such as NATO enlargement, Kosovo's independence, and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe, Washington and Moscow found some common ground on Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues and on nuclear non-proliferation in general. The August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict threatened such cooperation. The Obama Administration has endeavored to "reset" relations with Russia to reinvigorate and expand bilateral cooperation. Russia welcomed the Obama Administration's announcement in September 2009 of the cancellation of the planned missile defense setup in Eastern Europe. The 111th Congress has held several hearings, introduced and passed legislation, and otherwise has debated the future of U.S.-Russian relations.



Date of Report: January 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 42
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Serbia: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Steven Woehrel
Specialist in European Affairs

Serbia faces an important crossroads in its development. It is seeking to integrate into the European Union (EU), but its progress has been hindered by a failure to arrest remaining indicted war criminals and by tensions with the United States and many EU countries over the independence of Serbia's Kosovo province. 

Parliamentary elections were held in Serbia on May 11, 2008. On July 7, the Serbian parliament approved a new government coalition led by pro-Western forces, but which also includes the Socialist Party (once led by indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic). The global economic crisis poses serious challenges for Serbia. The downturn has required painful budget cuts. In January 2009, the International Monetary Fund approved a $530 million stand-by loan for Serbia and another $4.2 billion loan in April. Serbia has also received loans from the World Bank and EU. 

Serbia's key foreign policy objectives are to secure membership in the European Union and to hinder international recognition of Kosovo's independence. The European Union signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia on April 29, 2008. It provides a framework for enhanced cooperation between the EU and Serbia in a variety of fields, with the perspective of EU membership. In December 2009, the EU agreed to allow the trade provisions of the SAA to be implemented, although ratification of the accord and the implementation of the remaining provisions awaits an EU determination that Serbia is fully cooperation with the former Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal. In late December 2009, Serbia submitted an application to join the EU. It hopes to join the organization as early as 2014, although many observers are skeptical about the likelihood of such a rapid accession. 

Serbia has vowed to take "all legal and diplomatic measures" to preserve Kosovo as part of Serbia. So far, 65 countries, including the United States and 21 of 27 EU countries, have recognized Kosovo's independence. However, Russia, Serbia's ally on the issue, has used the threat of its Security Council veto to block U.N. membership for Kosovo. Serbia won an important diplomatic victory when the U.N. General Assembly voted on October 8, 2008, to refer the question of the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence to the International Court of Justice. A decision on the case is expected later this year. 

In December 2006, Serbia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) program. PFP is aimed at helping countries come closer to NATO standards and at promoting their cooperation with NATO. Although it supports NATO membership for all of its neighbors, Serbia is not seeking NATO membership. This may be due to such factors as memories of NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999, U.S. support for Kosovo's independence, and a desire to maintain close ties with Russia. U.S.-Serbian relations have improved since the United States recognized Kosovo's independence in February 2008, when Serbia sharply condemned the U.S. move and demonstrators sacked a portion of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. During a May 2009 visit to Belgrade, Vice President Joseph Biden stressed strong U.S. support for close ties with Serbia. He said the countries could "agree to disagree" on Kosovo's independence. He called on Serbia to transfer the remaining war criminals to the ICTY, promote reform in neighboring Bosnia, and cooperate with international bodies in Kosovo. 


Date of Report: January 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
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