As the Clinton administration prepares for its June 4th - 5th meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Carnegie Senior Associates Michael McFaul, Joseph Cirincione, Martha Olcott, and Anatol Lieven shared their expectations for this summit. They anticipate that Clinton and Putin will discuss -- among other issues -- arms reduction, economic reform, oil in the Caspian region, international crime, and Chechnya.
McFaul pointed out that the Clinton administration has been clearer about what the summit will not address than about what it will accomplish. First, there will be no "grand bargain" on arms reduction in which, for example, the US would agree to START III in exchange for Russian support for the deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) system. Second, the summit will not focus on a major Western aid package to Russia. Discussion of the West's role in Russia's economic reform will relate mostly to restructuring Soviet-era debts.
For McFaul, less emphasis on arms reduction and Western aid signifies progress in US-Russian relations. A myopic focus on arms control has limited the Clinton administration's willingness to address the United States' broader national security concerns, said McFaul, while the IMF's "tranches for promises" strategy has produced few concrete results in Russia.
Without a clear arms reduction or aid agenda, McFaul argued that it is difficult to understand what Clinton hopes to gain from the summit. Officially, the Clinton administration claims that this is a "get-to-know Putin" meeting. But, McFaul questioned, why does Clinton need to foster better personal relations with Putin when Clinton's term ends in eight months? Furthermore, the two presidents are scheduled to meet three more times before the end of the year. It is unclear why Clinton cannot wait until later in June to meet with Putin at the G-7 Summit in Okinawa.
As for Putin, McFaul said that the Russian president clearly benefits from the summit. Putin has employed an aggressive foreign policy strategy in the last two months. He has met with the prime ministers of Britain and Japan, twice in the case of the former. He plans to meet with all significant heads of state except the German chancellor prior to Okinawa. He has pushed START II and the Conventional Test Ban Treaty through the State Duma. And now he has Clinton coming to visit him in Moscow. "They [the Russians] don't want anything concrete out of this other than the photo-op with the president of the United States saying 'We see you as the legitimate leader of Russia,'" explained McFaul.
McFaul concluded by proposing that the summit should focus on a philosophical discussion about what it means to draw Russia into the Western world. Russia's biggest concern, argued McFaul, should be democracy, rather than market economic reform or arms control, for democracy in Russia is now at risk. The summit should analyze what it means to be an "European power," a term Putin recently used to describe the future he wants to create in Russia. For seven years, Clinton has made Russian integration into the West a central theme of his foreign policy agenda. He should stick to this message now.
McFaul warned that there currently is a limited and very significant window of opportunity in Russia. As in the first months of 1992, each minor policy decision will have a lasting impact on Russia's future. The United States must be careful not to squander its chance to encourage Putin to further Russian democracy.
Cirincione focused on arms reductions. Originally, he explained, the Clinton administration billed the meeting as an arms control summit. Clinton was confident that the Russians could be persuaded to lessen their opposition to NMD. This idea has faltered for several reasons. First, the Clinton administration has presented Russia with a vague proposal. Rather than a limited NMD system, the Russians view the United States' proposition as a "never-ending system" that allows the United States to continually renegotiate additional deployments of missile defenses. Second, the Russians perceive that Clinton does not have the support of the Senate. "He doesn't own the bridge he's trying to sell," said Cirincione. Finally, the Russians have realized that a parade of former high-level foreign policy officials and scientists have recently voiced their support for delaying the deployment of an anti-missile system. The Russians, therefore, have little reason to negotiate over a system that may never be deployed.
Cirincione additionally elaborated on why the Russians want arms reductions. By 2010, most of their current ICBMs will be out of service. In 2010 Cirincione projected that the Russians will have only around 700 warheads on two or three types of missiles. They currently have an estimated 6,000 missile warheads.
The collapse of his Russian strategy has placed Clinton in a quandary. Throughout his time in office, Clinton has not signed a single new arms reduction treaty. He has essentially been implementing the treaties negotiated by former presidents Reagan and Bush. Now George W. Bush, Jr. has made Clinton seem even less committed to arms reduction by pledging to unilaterally reduce the US nuclear arsenal.
Still, Cirincione remarked that the Clinton administration has had some successes with regard to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Some of these successes -- such as initiatives to prevent Russia's nuclear scientists from working for potential new proliferators, agreements to dispose of excess plutonium, and limitations on the civil reprocessing of plutonium -- will likely be part of Putin's and Clinton's discussion in June.
Olcott analyzed potential US-Russian conflicts in Central Asia. She noted that US Secretary of State Madeline Albright's recent tour of this region had heightened Russian concerns about US motives. However, the most notable aspect of Albright's trip, explained Olcott, was its lack of substance. Albright mentioned oil, for instance, just once during the entire trip. Most of her speeches focused on state and democracy building.
Meanwhile, Russia's relations with its neighbor states are improving, said Olcott. Putin has just returned from meetings with the presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks and Russians agreed to cooperate on shared security concerns, such as drugs and terrorism. Putin's visit to Turkmenistan was less successful, however; he failed to secure a 30-year contract on natural gas that would have limited Western access to Turkmenistan's natural resources.
The biggest potential cause of US-Russian conflict in Olcott's view stems from Russia's renewed desire to demarcate its ownership over the Caspian Sea. This will make the development of trans-Caspian pipelines to the West risky. Russia is additionally hindering Western investment in oil and gas pipelines by arguing that all participating countries must agree to a common ecological standard before proceeding with economic development.
In contrast to oil issues, Olcott argued that Russia, its neighbors, and the United States have many common goals related to curtailing drugs and terrorism. Russia's neighbors are beginning to recognize that their relationship with Russia need not necessarily be viewed as the domination of weak states by a great power, but rather as states of varying strength working together to achieve shared goals. New initiatives for joint military action in the region are forming, such as Southern Shield 2000.
Olcott concluded that the summit will likely make clear to Clinton that Putin's Russia cares much more about the Caspian region than does the United States. The United States will have to adjust its aims in this region accordingly.
Lieven commented on the general attitude of Russians toward Clinton's visit. Most ordinary Russians today, he said, exhibit a combination of indifference and deference in their attitude to such summits. They think that the Clinton-Putin meeting will only produce empty rhetoric, yet they cannot help but be flattered that the president of the United States, the sole superpower, pretends at least to treat their president as an equal.
Compared to his colleagues, Lieven believed that the Russians may have somewhat higher hopes concerning negotiations on the ABM and Start III at the summit ? though these hopes are probably too optimistic. He agreed with McFaul and Cirincione that the Russians do not expect a grand bargain. They do, however, hope to nudge the language of any joint declaration on arms reduction in their favor. They know that Clinton is in his last year in office and is concerned both with his historical legacy in arms control and with supporting Al Gore in the elections. They believe that this gives them the chance to extract some concessions. Lieven explained that many Russians still do not fully grasp the limits the US Congress places on the president.
With regard to their economy, Lieven agreed with McFaul that the Russians will focus foremost on their Paris Club debts. He added that China's accession to the WTO will provide a context for joint language at the summit about Russia?s integration into the world economy and the need to encourage Western investment.
Concerning Chechnya, the Russians expect some criticism from the Americans about the conduct of the war there, but they know they the United States has few concrete suggestions about how to resolve the conflict. Moreover, they are confident that President Clinton will combine these criticisms with expressions of sympathy for Russia?s problems with terrorism. Nonetheless, Lieven believed, the Chechen War will make it even more difficult for Russia and the United States to reduce their rivalry in the Caucasus and Central Asia and work together on shared security concerns. One potential source of increased US-Russian tension may involve Russian claims that Georgia is sheltering Chechen fighters. Russia will want the United States to recognize this problem; the United States will want Russia to respect Georgia's sovereignty and avoid carrying out military operations on its soil.
Lieven concluded with a response to McFaul's calls for President Clinton to lecture Putin at the summit about Russia's integration into the West. Lieven believes such strictures have limited relevance to the harsh realities of politics in Russia today. Lieven remarked that a more legitimate subject of American pressure should be Putin?s abolition of the State Committee for Environmental Protection. Not only does this help undermine civil society in Russia, but more importantly, environmental disasters in Russia threaten other countries including the USA.
Summary by Jordan Gans-Morse, Junior Fellow with the Russian and Eurasian Program