Site Information:  Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union

Title:         

Russia

Public Affairs Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication Description: Washington, DC Date: Aug 13, 19928/13/92 Category: Fact Sheets Region: Eurasia Country: Russia, USSR (former) Subject: History, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Cultural Exchange Map: Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Republics [TEXT]

US-Russian Relations

In a statement issued on February 1, 1992, following their historic meeting at Camp David, Maryland, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin outlined the principles which would characterize the new relationship between the United States and Russia. The two leaders emphasized that in the future their countries would look upon each other as friends and partners with a common commitment to democracy and economic freedom. They agreed to reduce their strategic arsenals, expand free trade and investment between their two countries, and promote democratic values, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. They pledged to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to support the peaceful settlement of disputes. President Bush looked ahead to "an era of peace and friendship that offers hope not only to our peoples but to the peoples of the world." During his first state visit to Washington, DC, June 15-17, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin met with President Bush, Secretary of State Baker, Secretary of Defense Cheney, and other senior-level government officials. The two countries concluded a wide range of specific agreements on political, security, and trade issues (See Dispatch, Vol. 3, No. 25, June 22, 1992). These included an agreement to extend reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff treatment to the products of each country; a bilateral investment treaty guaranteeing non-discriminatory treatment for US investors in Russia; a treaty for the avoidance of double taxation; and an agreement allowing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to make its investment insurance, finance, and promotion programs available to US businesses considering investing in Russia. In the area of arms control, Presidents Bush and Yeltsin agreed on specific limits for further reductions in strategic offensive arms, far beyond those called for in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). They agreed that these lower limits should be codified in a new treaty promptly. President Bush and President Yeltsin signed additional accords in the following areas: * Cooperation in space exploration and the use of space technology; * Efforts to achieve the global elimination of chemical weapons; * Expansion of contacts between the scientific and technological communities; * Abolition of diplomatic travel restrictions; * Establishment of a US-Russian Defense Conversion Committee to facilitate defense conversion through expanded trade and investment; * Joint exploration of the benefits of a global protection system against potential ballistic missile attacks; * Establishment of a Peace Corps program with a focus on small enterprise development; and * Financial assistance to expedite the transport, safeguarding, and destruction of Russia's nuclear and chemical weapons stockpile. The United States has pledged to support Russia in its transition to democratic institutions and to a free market economy. Through Operation Provide Hope, launched on February 10, 1992, the United States has provided emergency humanitarian assistance throughout Russia to meet critical shortages. The United States, with other members of the Group of Seven industrialized countries, is contributing to a multilateral aid program, which will make available to the former Soviet republics $24 billion in International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and bilateral assistance. The program includes a $6-billion fund to help stabilize the ruble. President Bush has proposed new legislation, the Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets (FREEDOM) Support Act, which would authorize additional US aid for Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, including commodity credits for the purchase of US agricultural products, new loan guarantees, and the elimination of existing restrictions limiting US business activities in the new states. US initiatives announced on May 23, 1992, at the Lisbon Conference on Assistance to the New Independent States will expand the range of international aid. These initiatives include proposals to reduce the risk of accidents at Soviet-designed nuclear reactors, to use funds generated by the sale of donated commodities for social programs, and to accelerate the conversion of enterprises from defense to civilian production. The US and Russia have begun to define a new security partnership emphasizing the need for nuclear safety and the dismantlement of nuclear weapons. At the Lisbon conference, the United States signed a protocol to the START Treaty with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine (those states on whose territory nuclear weapons are located). The protocol makes the four states party to the treaty and commits all signatories to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons within the 7-year period provided for in the treaty. Russia and the other new independent states also have agreed to the provisional application, beginning July 17, 1992, of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which reduces stockpiles of tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles. On April 10, 1992, the Deputy Secretary of State certified that the Russian Federation had met the criteria required under the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act for financial assistance to dismantle and destroy nuclear and chemical weapons and to develop a retraining program for scientists. The United States and Russia are engaged in discussions on safety, security, and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. The United States is helping establish an international science and technology center to assist Russian scientists and engineers in re-directing their talents to non- military activities.

Consolidating Democracy

In free elections in June 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Federation. Political influence in Russia's parliament is split between the pro-reform and conservative blocs, with a small uncommitted group serving as a swing vote. Dozens of small political parties representing a wide range of points of view exist in Russia. Several of the pro-reform parties are loosely allied as the Democratic Russia movement. The Russian Communist Party has been banned by presidential decree. A leader among the new independent states in moving toward market reforms and democratic principles, Russia has introduced freedom of speech and religion and has pledged to safeguard internationally recognized human rights, including the protection of minorities. The KGB, once the official secret police organization of the Soviet Union, has been split into two organizations: the Ministry of Security, which took over the KGB's domestic functions, and the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. On December 27, 1991, Russia assumed the seat formerly held by the Soviet Union in the UN Security Council. Russia also is a member of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.

Economic Conditions

The Russian Federation comprises roughly three-quarters of the territory of the former USSR and more than one-half of its population. Its agricultural production includes grain and potatoes, with its output accounting for more than one-half of the former USSR's production. It is rich in energy sources, including coal, oil, and natural gas. Two-thirds of its oil production and two-thirds of its natural gas production come from Siberia. In 1988, Russia accounted for more than 50% of net output in all major sectors of the former USSR. Russia has begun the transition from a centrally planned to a free market economy. The government currently seeks to restrict its spending, credit, and monetary supply, while keeping industrial production from dropping too sharply. Structural reforms, including privatization of state enterprises, have lagged behind monetary reform. On June 1, 1992, Russia became a member of the IMF. Arrangements for Russia to draw a first credit of $1 billion to support economic reform are underway; however, an IMF-supported "stand-by" program giving the Russians any further access to funding is not likely until autumn 1992.

Russia at a Glance

Many ethnically diverse peoples migrated into the East European plain, but the East Slavs remained and gradually became dominant. Predecessors of the modern Russians, the East Slavs first appeared in the steppe region north of the Black Sea. Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state, emerged in the late 9th century AD, coinciding with the arrival of Scandinavian traders and warriors, the Varangians. According to tradition, a Varangian named Rurik first established himself peaceably at Novgorod by 860 and founded a dynasty. Kievan Rus' was not able to maintain its position as a powerful and prosperous state. Nevertheless, it left a strong legacy, and its traditions were adapted to form the Russian state. When the Mongols invaded Kievan Rus' in the 13th century, Moscow was an insignificant trading outpost in the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal'. The greatest expansion of the principality of Muscovy took place under the rule of Ivan III (1461-1505), who took the title of Czar and "Ruler of all Rus'." By the beginning of the 16th century, Muscovy had united virtually all ethnically Russian lands. Under the guidance of two Western-looking monarchs, Peter the Great (1682-1725) and Catherine the Great (1762-96), Muscovy was transformed from an isolated, traditional state into the dynamic, powerful Russian Empire which played an increasingly active role in the affairs of Europe. In 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the czarist regime, ending 3 centuries of Romanov rule. On December 30, 1922, Bolshevik leaders established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on territory generally corresponding to that of the old Russian Empire. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia became a sovereign, independent country. As of January 1, 1990, Russia's population was 148 million, of whom 81.5% are ethnic Russians. The territory of Russia is about 17 million square kilometers, or roughly three-fourths of the entire former Soviet Union.

Principal Government Officials

President: Boris Yeltsin Foreign Minister: Andrei Kozyrev Capital: Moscow