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Friday, June 15, 2012

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


Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but according to many observers, this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000. 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 and established government ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The methods used by the Putin government to suppress insurgency in the North Caucasus demonstrated a low regard for the rule of law and human rights, according to critics. Dmitriy Medvedev, Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor and long-time protégé, was elected president in early 2008 and immediately designated Putin as prime minister. President Medvedev continued Putin’s policies. 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 denounced by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he and Medvedev had decided that Putin would return to the presidency and that Medvedev would become his prime minister. At the March 2012 presidential election, Putin was reelected by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration on May 7, 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister.

Russia’s economy began to recover from the Soviet collapse in 1999, led mainly by oil and gas exports, but the decline in oil and gas prices and other aspects of the global economic downturn beginning in 2008 contributed to an 8% drop in gross domestic product in 2009. Since then, rising world oil prices have bolstered the economy. Russia continues to be challenged by an economy highly dependent on the production of oil, gas, and other natural resources. It is also plagued by an unreformed healthcare system and unhealthy lifestyles; low domestic and foreign investment; and high rates of crime, corruption, capital flight, and unemployment.

Russia’s military has been in turmoil after years of severe force reductions and budget cuts. The armed forces now number less than 1.0 million, down from 4.3 million Soviet troops in 1986. Troop readiness, training, morale, and discipline have suffered, and much of the arms industry has become antiquated. Russia’s economic growth during most of the 2000s allowed it to increase defense spending to begin to address these problems. Stepped-up efforts were launched in late 2007 to restructure the armed forces to improve their quality. Opposition among some in the armed forces, mismanagement, and corruption have appeared to slow force modernization efforts.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States sought a cooperative relationship with Moscow and supplied almost $19 billion in aid for Russia from FY1992 through FY2010 to encourage democracy and market reforms and in particular to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). U.S. aid to reduce the threat posed by WMD proliferation has hovered around $700 million-$900 million per fiscal year, while other foreign aid to Russia has dwindled in recent years. In the past, U.S.-Russia tensions on issues such as NATO enlargement and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe were accompanied by some cooperation between the two countries on anti-terrorism and non-proliferation. Russia’s 2008 conflict with Georgia, however, threatened such cooperation. The Obama Administration has worked to “re-set” relations with Russia. The Administration has hailed the signing of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April 2010, the approval of new sanctions against Iran by Russia and other members of the U.N. Security Council in June 2010, and cooperation in Afghanistan as signifying the “re-set” of bilateral relations. 
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Date of Report: June 7, 2012
Number of Pages: 76
Order Number: RL33407
Price: $29.95

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests


Jim Nichol
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism; proliferation; and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons. Other U.S. objectives have included promoting free markets, democratization, human rights, energy development, and the forging of East-West and Central Asia-South Asia trade links. Such policies aim to help the states become what various U.S. administrations have considered to be responsible members of the international community rather than to degenerate into xenophobic, extremist, and anti-Western regimes that contribute to wider regional conflict and instability.

Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian “front-line” states offered over-flight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan hosted coalition troops and provided access to airbases. In 2003, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also endorsed coalition military action in Iraq. About two dozen Kazakhstani troops served in Iraq until late 2008. Uzbekistan rescinded U.S. basing rights in 2005 after the United States criticized the reported killing of civilians in the town of Andijon. In early 2009, Kyrgyzstan ordered a U.S. base in that country to close, allegedly because of Russian inducements and U.S. reluctance to meet Kyrgyz requests for greatly increased lease payments. An agreement on continued U.S. use of the Manas Transit Center was reached in June 2009. In recent years, most of the regional states also participate in the Northern Distribution Network for the transport of U.S. and NATO supplies into and out of Afghanistan.

Policymakers have tailored U.S. policy in Central Asia to the varying characteristics of these states. U.S. interests in Kazakhstan have included securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear and biological weapons materials and facilities. U.S. energy firms have invested in oil and natural gas development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and successive administrations have backed diverse export routes to the West for these resources. U.S. policy toward Kyrgyzstan has long included support for its civil society. In Tajikistan, the United States focuses on developmental assistance to bolster the fragile economy and address high poverty rates. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan—the most populous state in the heart of the region—were cool after 2005, but recently have improved.

Congress has been at the forefront in advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and in providing backing for the region for the transit of equipment and supplies for U.S.-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Congress has pursued these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance; security issues; and human rights. During the 112th Congress, the Members may review assistance for bolstering regional border and customs controls and other safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combating trafficking in persons and drugs, encouraging regional integration with South Asia and Europe, advancing energy security, and countering terrorism. Support for these goals also has been viewed as contributing to stabilization and reconstruction operations by the United States and NATO in Afghanistan. For several years, Congress has placed conditions on assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan because of concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization. Congress will continue to consider how to balance these varied U.S. interests in the region.



Date of Report: May 31, 2012
Number of Pages: 61
Order Number: RL33458
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

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


Jim Nichol, Coordinator
Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs

Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but according to many observers, this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000. 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 and established government ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The methods used by the Putin government to suppress insurgency in the North Caucasus demonstrated a low regard for the rule of law and human rights, according to critics. Dmitriy Medvedev, Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor and long-time protégé, was elected president in early 2008 and immediately designated Putin as prime minister. President Medvedev continued Putin’s policies. 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 denounced by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he and Medvedev had decided that Putin would return to the presidency and that Medvedev would become his prime minister. At the March 2012 presidential election, Putin was reelected by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration on May 7, 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister.

Russia’s economy began to recover from the Soviet collapse in 1999, led mainly by oil and gas exports, but the decline in oil and gas prices and other aspects of the global economic downturn beginning in 2008 contributed to an 8% drop in gross domestic product in 2009. Since then, rising world oil prices have bolstered the economy. Russia continues to be challenged by an economy highly dependent on the production of oil, gas, and other natural resources. It is also plagued by an unreformed healthcare system and unhealthy lifestyles; low domestic and foreign investment; and high rates of crime, corruption, capital flight, and unemployment.

Russia’s military has been in turmoil after years of severe force reductions and budget cuts. The armed forces now number less than 1.0 million, down from 4.3 million Soviet troops in 1986. Troop readiness, training, morale, and discipline have suffered, and much of the arms industry has become antiquated. Russia’s economic growth during most of the 2000s allowed it to increase defense spending to begin to address these problems. Stepped-up efforts were launched in late 2007 to restructure the armed forces to improve their quality. Opposition among some in the armed forces, mismanagement, and corruption have appeared to slow force modernization efforts.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States sought a cooperative relationship with Moscow and supplied almost $19 billion in aid for Russia from FY1992 through FY2010 to encourage democracy and market reforms and in particular to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). U.S. aid to reduce the threat posed by WMD proliferation has hovered around $700 million-$900 million per fiscal year, while other foreign aid to Russia has dwindled in recent years. In the past, U.S.-Russia tensions on issues such as NATO enlargement and proposed U.S. missile defenses in Eastern Europe were accompanied by some cooperation between the two countries on anti-terrorism and non-proliferation. Russia’s 2008 conflict with Georgia, however, threatened such cooperation. The Obama Administration has worked to “re-set” relations with Russia. The Administration has hailed the signing of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in April 2010, the approval of new sanctions against Iran by Russia and other members of the U.N. Security Council in June 2010, and cooperation in Afghanistan as signifying the “re-set” of bilateral relations.



Date of Report: June 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 76
Order Number: RL33407
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.