September 11, 2001 was one of the most tragic days in American history. In devising responses to the attacks of September 11th, American policymakers face difficult choices with uncertain outcomes. The war against extremist elements of Islamic fundamentalism that use terror as their main weapon will be new, protracted, and multi-faceted. The battlefield will appear in the strangest of places - in the mountains of Afghanistan, the mosques of Egypt, and the airwaves of Saudi Arabia. There will never be unconditional surrenders or clear military victories. Above all else, a new level of uncertainty about the tactics of war, the nature of the enemy, and the conditions of peace will haunt American decisionmakers and the American people for an undefined period of time. In almost all realms of international politics, the United States faces a new, more complex set of political, economic, and security, challenges after September 11th. U.S.-Russian relations offer one bright counter to this otherwise gloomier international picture. Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to speak directly to President Bush. In that phone call, he expressed his condolences to the president and the American people and his unequivocal support for whatever reactions the American president might decide to take. He then followed this rhetorical support with concrete policies. Though American and Russian armed forces had worked together successfully in Bosnia and Serbia in the 1990s, Putin's pledges of support seemed to signal a qualitatively new level of military cooperation between former Eold War enemies. Some have the new relationship a strategic partnership; others have even described the new relationship as an alliance.
The potential to build a new foundation for Russian-American relations is great, similar to the window of opportunity that opened a decade ago in the wake of the Soviet collapse. Ironically, at a time when the United Statesis struggling to maintain strong relations with traditional allies in Europe, Russia has the potential to become a strategic partner of theUnited States. Not since World War II have Russian and American foreign policy interests been in closer alignment. To date, however, the expectations about a new future have vastly outpaced the actual concrete steps taken (or even outlined) to build a closer relationship between our two countries. The United States cannot afford to repeat some of the mistakes made when the last window of opportunity opened. We thought the Cold War ended in 1991, yet it is amazing how many legacies of that earlier era still linger today. (And many of the lingering legacies have impeded our readiness for addressing post-Cold War challenges such as the threat we currently face.) Leaders in both countries must lead. They must act boldly, abandon business as usual, take chances, and take advantage of this moment to map the path to a new future.
Russia's Contribution to the War on Terrorism
On September 11th, Putin did not hesitate to call his new friend, George W. Bush, to communicate his full support for the United States and the American people. Putin did not let a decade of unfulfilled expectations in U.S.-Russian relations color his rhetorical response. While some leaders and people around the world believe that the United States 'got what it deserved' on September 11th, Putin expressed sympathy as a leader of a country that also has suffered from acts of terrorism against civilians in the capital. Polls conducted immediately after the September 11th attacks demonstrated that the majority of Russian citizens also sympathized with the American people and considered the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to be attacks on the entire civilized world.
Putin, however, did not immediately follow his rhetorical pledge of support with concrete policies of support. On the contrary, in the immediate days after September 11th, several senior Russian officials - including Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov - spoke openly against military cooperation with the United States to fight terrorism. It appeared that Putin was beginning to embark upon a pattern of decisionmaking that has now become routine in the Putin era. During previous moments of critical policymaking (be it economic policy, military reform, or foreign policy), Putin has allowed open disagreement between his advisors without coming down on one side or the other. At many of these critical junctures, Putin has avoided making the hard choice until a consensus opinion coalesced. If such a consensus did not form, for instance on military reform, then the initial push for policy change quietly stopped.
To help devise a plan of action for Russian foreign policy in the aftermath of September 11th, Putin consulted with many. According to once account, a group of 21 prominent politicians and government officials gathered at one meeting to discuss Russia's options. At this meeting, only two participants supported an overt pro-American position. Putin also retreated to his dacha in Sochi on the Black Sea and invited his top foreign and security policy advisors to come down and consult with him. While Putin was in Sochi, Bush called him from his retreat at Camp David. Some time after their conversation, Putin seems to have made a truly strategic decision to offer concrete support for the new American war effort.
The following Monday, September 24th, Putin announced a five-point plan to support the American war against terrorism. He pledged that his Russian government would (1) share intelligence with their American counterparts, (2) open Russian airspace for flights providing humanitarian assistance (3) cooperate with Russia's Central Asian allies to provide similar kinds of airspace access to American flights, (4) participate in international search and rescue efforts, and (5) increase direct assistance -humanitarian as well as military assistance -- to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
Some have interpreted these policies of support as nothing new or extraordinary. Of the five policies, the most dramatic change concerns Putin's acquiescence to American troops in Central Asia. Yet, even this policy might be interpreted as Putin merely reacting to hard facts on the ground. Through the U.S. initiated Partnership-for-Peace program, especially as developed under Secretary of Defense William Perry, the American and Uzbek militaries have cooperated actively and often well before September 11th. While Russian armed forces protect the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Russia has considerably less influence on Uzbek defense policy for several years.
Nonetheless, Putin's pro-American plan was not simply tactical. It was a strategic decision to use September 11th as a stimulus for aligning Russian and American interests. Before September 11th, Putin had moving slowly in this strategic direction, though his focus beforehand had been on European integration and not the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship. September 11th pushed him further in the pro-American direction.
Russian policy subsequently reflected this strategic shift. Russian military advisors and Russian trained soldiers actively participated in the Northern Alliance campaign to liberate Afghanistan. To be sure, American air power and U.S. Special Forces provided the pivotal military assets necessary for the defeat of the Taliban. Russia's role, however, was significant if also unnoticed. Russia could have stood on the sidelines, offering rhetoric support and nothing more. Instead, while avoiding the direct use of Russian troops in the war (for obvious historical reasons), Russia's engagement went well beyond words.
Moreover, Putin's agreement to an American military presence in Central Asia represented a historic change in Russian foreign policy. Before September 11th, President Putin has vacillated between pro-Western and anti-Western foreign policy stances. In many ways, Putin own personal dual impulses of seeking at times to integrate into the West while at other times seeking to balance against the West reflects Russia's longstanding love-hate relationship with the West. In the wake of September 11th, however, Putin has seemed to lean much further towards the West and the United States in particular. (Before September 11th, Putin had placed relations with Europe as a higher priority than relations with the United States). His acquiescence to NATO troops in Central Asia signaled a reversal of two hundred years of Russian foreign policy. Under Yeltsin, the communists, and the tsars, Russia had always considered Central Asia as its 'sphere of influence.' Putin broke with that tradition.
The American Response to Russia's Assistance
Bush immediately rewarded Putin's supportive turn by changing the way he spoke about Russia's 'war against terrorism.' On September 26th, White House press spokesperson Ari Fleischer communicated President Bush's appreciation for Putin's statement. The White House press spokesperson also stated that the "Chechnya leadership, like all responsible political leaders in the world, must immediately and conditionally cut all contacts with international terrorist groups, such as Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization." The Clinton Administration had previously connected some Chechen fighters to bin Laden's network. The Bush Administration had not. Subsequent meetings between the Bush administration and the Chechen government in exile have been downgraded.
President Bush's statement did not give Putin a green light to do what he wanted in Chechnya. For the past two years, the Russian armed forces already have done whatever they wanted in Chechnya with little or no reference to American opinions. Before September 11th, the Bush Administration had not made Chechnya a top priority in its policy towards Russia. The statement of support, however, did underscore the notion that the United States and Russia faced a common enemy. Putin had been pushing this theme for two years with his American counterparts. Putin was pleased to hear that President Bush finally recognized publicly their common cause.
More generally, Bush also has praised Putin for his support in the war. During Putin's visit to the United States in November, Bush was especially complimentary of his Russian counterpart. As a symbol of his commitment to foster closer ties to Putin and Russia, Bush hosted the Russian president at his ranch in Texas, a rare invitation coveted by but not offered to many other world leaders.
However, beyond President Bush's statement on Chechnya in September and the words of praise and genuine hospitality for Putin, the Bush administration has offered little to Putin or Russia in response to Russia's support for the American war on terrorism in Afghanistan and more generally. To be sure, Putin did not provide a request list of goodies that he wanted from United States in return for Russia's support of the American war effort. It is not his style. Bush officials also have argued that the new U.S.-Russian relationship has grown beyond this "old" approach of zero sum exchange. Nonetheless, within Russia there are real expectations that Russia should receive some tangible benefits from its pro-American policy. To date, these expectations have gone unmet. Rather, in the view of many foreign policy elite in Russia, the Bush administration has ignored Russia's contribution and instead embarrassed Putin by continuing to pursue old policies considered to be against Russia's national interest. Bush's decision in December 2001 to withdraw from the ABM treaty is cited as the most glaring example of business as usual - that is anti-Russian business as usual.
Domestic Resistance to Putin's Pro-American Lean
In deciding to make concrete policy changes to reflect his rhetorical support for the American war against terrorism, Putin has acted against the preferences of many important constituencies within Russia. In making this decision, Putin was leading elite and public opinion, not following it. To date, open criticism of Putin has been limited. After all, Putin still enjoys tremendous popularity, making it unwise politically to speak out against him. Below the surface, however, there are subtle signs of discontent with Putin's new support for American military action in Russia's own backyard.
Russia's armed forces, first and foremost, are not happy about NATO troops in Central Asia. The recent American deployment of troops in Kyrgyzstan after the war in Afghanistan was over is especially puzzling and alarming for this Russian constituency since they do not understand the American mission there and the Bush administration ahs not explained the mission. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has hinted that he would like to see the American armed forces stay in Uzbekistan for an indefinite period of time to help protect Uzbekistan from terrorists, and though never stated publicly, the Russians. American troops have demonstrated a pattern of staying in places well after the fighting has ended. Moreover, the recent increases in U.S. aid to the Uzbek dictatorship are cited in Russia as additional evidence of the United States' long-term military intentions in the region. Some Russian military officers as well and defense policy elites have hinted at the possible benefits of the American deployments. The American presence offers Russia help in containing terrorist threats from the region for which the Russian military does not have the capacity to do alone. However, for the vast majority of Russian military officers still fighting the last war - the Cold War - the thought of American troops based permanently in a former Soviet republic must be horrifying, especially in a place as strategic and anti-Russian as Uzbekistan.
Second, the intelligence services, including Putin's own alma mater, the KGB (now called the FSB) do not welcome the new alliance. Putin's Minister of Defense and former KGB general, Sergei Ivanov, has reversed his earlier remarks and pledged support for Putin's position. Nonetheless, many Russian observers believe that Ivanov could become the focal point of opposition to Putin within the government should the pro-American policy adopted by Putin not yield results. Within Putin' presidential administration, several former KGB officers are known to harbor real suspicions of American grand designs.
Third, the military industrial complex does not welcome the new Western orientation. These companies enjoy contracts with American enemies such as Iran and Syria and hope to develop even further relations with other American enemies in the Middle East such as Iraq. For them, therefore, a Russian realignment in the Middle East means fewer hard cash contracts.These military enterprises enjoy strong support within the Duma.
Fourth, Russia's oil industry is a lukewarm supporter at best of Putin's pro-American policy. In the long run, the most forward looking owners of Russia's oil companies see an opportunity for Russia to replace Saudi Arabia as a more reliable supplier of oil to the United States and its allies. In the short term, however, the next phase of the war against terrorism could threaten the investments of companies such a Lukhoil and Yukos in Iraq.
Fifth, few within the Russian parliament support Putin's pro-American policy. The Communist Part of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has spoken openly against Russia's new foreign policy orientation, arguing that Putin's new strategy represents a sell out of Russian national security interests. More surprisingly, Dmitry Rogozin, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee a member of a pro-Putin faction in the Duma, stated recently that Russia has only two reliable allies - the Russian army and the Russian navy. Many others in the Duma have called for renewed increases in Russian military spending as the only way to guarantee respect for Russia in international affairs. While reluctant still top speak out publicly, many other Duma deputies support these public statements of Rogozin and the communists. Within the Duma, only two factions the Union of Right Forces and Yabloko have consistently backed Putin's pro-Western orientation.
Sixth, even these pro-Western liberals are divided. Publicly, the Union of Right Forces and its chairman, Boris Nemtsov, as well as Yabloko and its chairman, Grigory Yavlinsky, have endorsed Putin's strategic Western turn. These political groups see this moment as a real opportunity for Russia to finally and fully integrate into the West. At the same time, and less publicly, voices within both of these organizations, as well as human rights activists, worry that Putin will use the camouflage of the war against terrorism to roll back democratic practices within Russia even further. For instance, Putin's pledge to support the United States in no way altered the campaign to close TV-6, Russia's last non-governmental television network with a national reach.
int Seventh, and finally, Russian society is divided, While the majority in polls has expressed solidarity with the American cause, this same society is divided about the benefits of engagement with the West. Anti-Americanism in Russia is only skin-deep but pervasive. Many commentators have compared Putin's pro-American leanings to the hapless foreign policy of Mikhail Gorbachev, who also cooperated fully with the United States but received little in return for his country. The perceived injustices against Russian athletes at the Winter Olympics have prompted a new wave of anti-Americanism within Russia. Immediately after September 11th, it was taboo to criticize the United States publicly in Russia. After the Olympics, that taboo has been lifted.
The comparison between Gorbachev and Putin is flawed in one critical respect. Putin is very popular while his opponents are poorly organized, two assets that Gorbachev did not enjoy in his last years in power. How stable and lasting Putin's support will be, however, is not clear. If, for instance, Russia begins to experience economic difficulties in part due to the war against terrorism (oil prices have already fallen dramatically), quiet criticism of Putin's policy may become more public. And then what? Past experience would suggest that Putin would pull away from his forward leaning policy, unless he can show tangible gains from the new orientation.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Putin's new pro-American orientation is Putin himself. Putin made a strategic choice to support the United State after the September 11th that was motivated by intuition and feeling, as much as calculation of tangible interests. As one Russian policymaker close to Putin told this author, Putin has decided that it his historical mission to integrate Russia in to the West. The magnitude of this mission, however, does not mean it is irreversible. If Putin decides that the United States is not serious in helping him realize his mission, he could abandon his new pro-American policy as quickly as he embraced it. He can always return to his focus on Europe as a way to continue his pursuit of Russian integration o the West
Locking in Russia's Pro-Western Orientation: Recommendations for New U.S. Policy Initiatives towards Russia
It is both natural and appropriate that the Bush administration is focused primarily on the next stage of the war on terrorism and homeland defense. Russian policy must be subordinated to these new priorities. At the same time, Russia cannot be neglected. U.S. policymakers must take advantage of the window of opportunity opened by September 11th. American decision makers cannot assume that relations between the United Stats and Russia will improve organically simply because we in the United States have determined that the "post-Cold War era" ended on September 11th. American foreign policy leaders in both the executive and legislative branches must establish a realistic sequence of milestones that, if met, could finally integrate Russian fully and permanently into the Western community of democratic states and market economies.
This mission can be understood as four broad tasks: (1) ending Cold War legacies, (2) integration of the Russian state into Western international
institutions, (3) integration of Russian society into the West, and (4) cooperation in fighting the war against terrorism. To achieve progress in all of these agenda categories, democratic consolidation within Russia must be understood as a necessary precondition.
I. Ending Cold War Legacies.
The United States must stop treating Russia as the Soviet Union. The Russian state decided to accept many international obligations once assigned to the USSR. If Russian government leaders willingly accepted these responsibilities, be they treaty obligations or Soviet debts, then they must be held accountable for their decisions. However, the United States and the U.S. Congress in particular are not commensurately obligated to keep in place legislation written specifically to punish or influence the Soviet communist regime. Congress should review all laws written during the Cold War designed (quite rightly) to punish the USSR. Restrictions on high technology exports, severe dumping laws regarding Russian goods (especially steel), and the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the 1974 Trade Act are examples of effective tools from the Cold War era that need review today. Congress would be giving President Bush a much needed deliverable if American lawmakers repealed Jackson-Vanik before the May summit.
Some executive policies from the Cold War, such as the requirement that Russian diplomats report their travel plans beyond a 25-mile radius from Washington, also should be abolished. And without question, the most harmful lingering legacy from the Cold War era is the American visa regime still in place that limits and aggravates legitimate Russian travel in the United States.
Russia also still has many laws on the books that are leftovers from the Cold War era. For instance, Russia still refuses the use of Russian airspace for commercial GPS. Russia also still has in place an outdated visa regime and registration system for American travelers to and residents in Russia.
The Bush and Putin administrations should invite Russian and American lawmakers to join them in establishing a special taskforce of executive and legislative officials whose mandate would be to eliminate the laws and executive orders put in place during the Cold War.
II. Integration of the Russian State into Western International Institutions.
The best strategy for insuring long-term cooperation between Russia and the United States is to imbed Russia into Western international institutions. The United States pursued this strategy with former enemies Germany and Japan (as well as Italy and Austria) after World War II. In comparative terms, the integration of Russia has gone much slower after the end of the Cold War. The fortuitous combination of a new Russian president and September 11th offer a unique opportunity for accelerating the integration process.
Push for Russian membership into the WTO. President Putin has stated his desire to see Russia join the WTO. By pressing forward with a new bilateral trading agreement with Russia, the United States should become the leading advocate for Russian accession. Because Russian domestic manufacturers are still weak and disorganized, it will be easier for Russia to join the WTO today than it will be when these domestic interest groups become more consolidated. 2003 - not the 2005 preferred by some European diplomats - should be the target year for membership.
Codify NATO at 20. Putin has hinted several times that he would like to see Russia become a NATO member. These statements are both encouraging and
dangerous. It is encouraging that the Russian president is not continuing the ineffective anti-NATO rhetorical assault pursued by many Russian foreign policy leaders throughout the 1990s. At the same time, Putin's statements also could be fueling unrealistic expectations within Russia. In particular, Putin has stated that Russia could join NATO if NATO becomes a political organization. But NATO will never (or should never) become a purely political organization. It is a military alliance. Like all other Western international institutions, Russia can join only if it accepts the rules of membership and does not try to change the rules of membership as a precondition for joining. Russian membership into NATO is a worthy, but distant goal. (I like the year 2017 - 100 years after the Bolshevik revolution - as a target date.) To occur, however, Russia and NATO must establish interim arrangements that prove the benefits of cooperation to both sides.
The Permanent Joint Council (PJC) is already in place, but ineffective.Russia's full participation in NATO's political arm, the North Atlantic Council, must be must formalized. Above all else, NATO must clearly articulate what issues can be discussed with Russia at the table and what issues cannot. One of the problems with the PJC formulation was that the list of possible issues was exhaustive, while the basic dynamic was bilateral, that is the nineteen countries of NATO first agreed on a course of action and then presented a unified position to Russia. NATO at 20 should treat all countries similarly, letting Russia in on initial deliberations. At the same time, the agenda of NATO at 20 should be as limited but as meaningful as possible. Perhaps focusing only on one issue -- counterterrorism - might give NATO at 20 it best chance of success.
In addition to framing clearly and limitedly the new agenda of Russia-NATO relations, NATO allies can take several steps to make the alliance less threatening to Russia. As NATO expands eastward, the alliance should pledge not to deploy nuclear weapons on Russia's borders. A bolder step would declare all of East Central Europe - including Kaliningrad - a nuclear free zone. NATO and Russia should also codify agreements to guarantee communication and transport lines between Russia and Kaliningrad on the one hand and NATO and the Baltic states on the other. More generally, Russia and NATO should pledge to reduce the number of conventional weapons in Central Europe and European Russia.
End the Boycott of Russian arms purchases by NATO members. The announcement of a new policy allowing NATO allies to buy Russian arms would not produce massive new contracts for the Russian arms makers. Symbolically, however, such a policy change would undermine the claim of the Russian military industrial complex that NATO expansion is principally an export promotion policy for Western arms makers. Push for a Closer Relationship between the European Union and Russia. In many respects, it will be easier for Russia to join NATO than the European Union. In Russia, however, even the most astute foreign policy observers do not understand the difficulties of Russian membership into the EU. They must be educated. However, the EU also must be pushed to establish more creative ways for engaging countries on its periphery. At the EU expands, it eventually will operate on a tiered system, with the core interacting a different level of intensity and degree of integration than some new members. Trading regimes similar to NAFTA may be a way to offer greater integration of Russia into European trade and investment markets without undertaking the steps necessary for full membership.
Sign a New Arms Control Agreement with Russia. The Bush administration made a mistake in not seeking to negotiate a new treaty to replace the ABM treaty. The Russians were ready to allow the United States to do almost anything regarding the research, development, and deployment of missile defenses, just as long as these plans were governed by a bilateral agreement. The United States should proceed with research and development of missile defense systems. In doing so, however, the United States has an interest in maximizing understanding within Russia of our intentions and capabilities. Instead, the unilateral abrogation of the ABM treaty has heightened suspicion and misunderstanding in Russia.
As a partial remedy, the Bush administration has rightly announced its intention to sign a new strategic arms reduction agreement with Russia. This document should be a treaty, even if only a 3-page document. A treaty offers the best assurances for clarity of intentions and transparency ofcapabilities on both sides. Even the best of friends forget what they agreed to handshakes. Until Russia has fully integrated into the West, the motto must always remain Ronald Reagan's famous quip, 'trust but verify.'It is silly to continue to think of Russia as a strategic competitor. It is imprudent and misleading to pretend that Russia is an ally with whom treaties are no longer necessary. After all, even with its closest partners in Europe, the United States still maintains a credible commitment of mutual defense through a treaty - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A treaty would also allow the United States to restrict the MIRVing of Russian rockets. The absence of a treaty will make it difficult for American officials to insist that Russia not return to a policy of putting multiple nuclear warheads on its rockets. Finally, a treaty provides the best opportunity for public scrutiny and debate in both countries. It is more democratic than an executive order.