U.S. Department of State Background Notes: Russia, June 1997
Released by the Office of Russian Affairs.
Official Name: Russian Federation
Area: 17 million sq. km. (6.5 million sq. mi.); about 1.8 times the size
of the U.S. Cities: Capital--Moscow (pop. 9 million). Other cities--St.
Petersburg (5 million), Novosibirsk (1.4 million), Nizhniy Novgorod (1.3
million). Terrain: Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast
coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains (Caucasus
range) along southern borders. Climate: Northern continental, from
subarctic to subtropical.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Russian(s). Population (1997 est.):
147.5 million. Annual growth rate: negative. Ethnic groups: Russian
81%, Tatar 4%, Ukrainian 3%, Other 12%.
Religion: Russian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism,
Protestant, Buddhist, other. Language: Russian (official); more than
140 other languages and dialects. Education: Literacy--98% (total
population). Health: Life expectancy--(1996) 58 yrs. men, 72 yrs. women.
Workforce: 85 million (1993). Production and economic services--84%.
Type: Federation. Independence: August 24, 1991. Constitution:
December 12, 1993. Branches: Executive: president, prime minister
(chairman of the government). Legislative: Federal Assembly (Federation
Council, State Duma).
Judicial: Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of
Arbitration, Office of Procurator General. Political Parties: shifting.
The 1995-96 elections were contested by: Our Home is Russia, Russia's
Democratic Choice, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Agrarian Party,
Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Unity and Accord, Yabloko
Bloc, Women of Russia, Democratic Party of Russia, Russia Forward, Truth
and Order, National Patriotic Bloc, Russia's Regions, Congress of
Russian Communities. Subdivisions: 21 autonomous republics and 68
autonomous territories and regions. Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Economy (1996 est.)
GDP: $555 billion. Growth rate: -6%. (1996) Per capita GDP: $3,740
(exchange rate method). Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas,
timber, furs, precious and non-ferrous metals. Agriculture: Grain, sugar
beets, sunflower seeds, meat, dairy products. Industry: Complete range
of manufactures (automobiles, trucks, trains, agricultural equipment,
advanced aircraft, aerospace, machine and equipment products); mining
and extractive industry; medical and scientific instruments;
construction equipment. Trade: Total Russian exports (fob) in 1996: $87
billion--petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, woods and wood
products, metals, chemicals. Major markets--EU, NIS, China, Japan. Total
imports (cif) in 1996: $64 billion--machinery and equipment, chemicals,
consumer goods, medicines, meat, sugar, semifinished metal products.
Major partners--EU, United States, NIS, Japan, China. (These figures do
not include shuttle--or informal, unrecorded trade).
Principal U.S. exports: meat, machinery, tobacco ($3.34 billion--1996).
Principal U.S. imports: aluminum, precious stones and metals, iron and
steel ($3.6 billion--1996).
Russia's area is about 17 million sq. km. (6.5 million sq. mi.). It
remains the largest country in the world by more than 2.5 million sq.
mi. Its population density is about 23 persons per square mile (9 per
sq. km.), making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the
world. Its population is predominantly urban.
Most of the roughly 150 million Russians derive from the Eastern Slavic
family of peoples whose original homeland was probably present-day
Poland. Russian is the official language of Russia, and an official
language in the United Nations. As the language of writers such as
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekov, Pushkin, and Solzhenitsyn, it has great
importance in world literature.
Russia's educational system has produced nearly 100% literacy. About 3
million students attend Russia's 519 institutions of higher education
and 48 universities. As a result of great emphasis on science and
technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and
space and aviation research is generally of a high order. The number of
doctors in relation to the population is high by American standards,
although medical care in Russia, even in major cities, is far below
The Russian labor force is undergoing tremendous changes. Although well-
educated and skilled, it is mismatched to the rapidly changing needs of
the Russian economy. Millions of Russian workers are underemployed.
Unemployment is highest among women and young people. As many as six
million workers were temporarily furloughed in 1996. Many Russian
workers compensate by working other part-time jobs. Following the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic dislocation it engendered,
the standard of living fell dramatically, but it has begun to recover.
Moscow is the largest city (population 9 million) and is the capital of
the Federation. Moscow continues to be the center of Russian Government
and is increasingly important as an economic and business center. Its
cultural tradition is rich, and visitors will find many museums devoted
to art, literature, music, dance, history, and science. It has hundreds
of churches and dozens of notable cathedrals; it has become Russia's
principal magnet for foreign investment and business presence.
St. Petersburg, established in 1703 by Peter the Great as the capital of
the Russian Empire, was called Petrograd during World War I, and
Leningrad after 1924. In 1991, as the result of a city referendum, it
was renamed St. Petersburg. Under the tsars, the city was Russia's
cultural, intellectual, commercial, financial, and industrial center.
After the capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918, the city's political
significance declined but it remained a cultural, scientific, and
military-industrial center. The Hermitage is one of the world's great
fine arts museums. Finally, Vladivostok, located in the Russian Far
East, is becoming an important center for trade with the Pacific Rim
Human experience in Russia's territory dates back to Paleolithic times.
Greek traders conducted extensive commerce with Scythian tribes around
the shores of the Black Sea and the Crimean region. In the third century
B.C., Scythians were displaced by Sarmatians, who in turn were overrun
by waves of Germanic Goths in the third century A.D. Asiatic Huns
replaced the Goths and were in turn conquered by Turkic Avars in the
sixth century. By the ninth century, Eastern Slavs began to settle in
what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and the Novgorod and Smolensk regions.
In 862, the political entity known as Kievan Rus was established in what
is now Ukraine and lasted until the 12th century. In the 10th century,
Christianity became the state religion under Vladimir, who adopted Greek
Orthodox rites. Consequently, Byzantine culture predominated, as is
evident in much of Russia's architectural, musical, and artistic
Over the next centuries, various invaders assaulted the Kievan state,
and finally, Mongols under Batu Khan destroyed the main population
centers except for Novgorod and Pskov and prevailed over the region
until 1480. Muscovite tsars threw off the Mongol influence and gradually
expanded their domain through diplomacy and war, until Ivan III (1462-
1505) was able to refer to his empire as the Third Rome and heir to the
The next 200 years saw the ebb and flow of regional conflict, until the
Romanov dynasty was established under Tsar Mikhail in 1613. This dynasty
ended with the killing of the Romanov family by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
During Peter the Great's reign (1689-1725), Russia burst into European
and world consciousness, and European influences spread in Russia. Peter
created Western-style military forces, subordinated the Russian Orthodox
Church hierarchy to the tsar, reformed the entire governmental
structure, and established the beginnings of a Western-style education
system. His introduction of European customs generated nationalistic
resentments in society, and a philosophical duality of Westernizers and
nationalistic Slavophiles emerged over the next centuries. This dualism
manifested itself in various ways over time and since the dissolution of
the Soviet Union in 1991 has re-emerged as a key dynamic of current
Russian social and political thought.
Peter's expansionist policies were continued by Catherine the Great, who
established Russia as a continental power. During her reign (1762-96),
power was centralized in the monarchy and administrative reforms
concentrated great wealth and privilege in the hands of the Russian
Napoleon failed in his attempt in 1812 to conquer Russia after occupying
Moscow; his defeat and the continental order that emerged following the
Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) set the stage for Russia and Austria-
Hungary to dominate the affairs of eastern Europe for the next century.
In the century preceding 1917, Russian culture flourished as Russian
artists made significant contributions to world literature, visual arts,
dance, and music.
During the 19th century, which saw great social, economic, and political
change in the rest of Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and Asia, the
Russian Government sought to suppress repeated attempts at reform from
within as well as in such neighboring states as Austria. Its economy
failed to compete with those of Western countries. Russian cities were
growing without an industrial base to generate employment, although
emancipation of the serfs in 1861 foreshadowed urbanization and rapid
industrialization late in the century. At the same time, Russia expanded
across Siberia until the port of Vladivostok was opened on the Pacific
coast in 1860. The Trans-Siberian Railroad opened vast frontiers to
development late in the century.
Imperial expansion ended with Russia's defeat in the unpopular Russo-
Japanese war in 1905. Subsequent disaffection fueled an uprising in 1905
which spurred Tsar Nicholas II to grant a constitution. The government
suppressed opposition and manipulated popular anger into anti-Semitic
pogroms and other actions against national groups. Attempts at economic
reform, such as land reform, were incomplete.
1917 Revolution and the U.S.S.R.
The ruinous effects of World War I, combined with internal pressures,
sparked the March 1917 revolution. A provisional government came to
power, headed by Aleksandr Kerenskiy. On November 7, 1917, the Marxist-
Leninist Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized control and
established the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Civil war
broke out in 1918 between Lenin's Red army and various White forces and
lasted until 1920, when, despite foreign interventions, the Bolsheviks
triumphed. After the Red army conquered Ukraine, Belorussia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, and Armenia, a new nation was formed in 1922, the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics.
The U.S.S.R. lasted 69 years. In the 1930s, tens of millions of its
citizens were collectivized under state agricultural and industrial
enterprises. Millions died in political purges, the vast penal and labor
system, or in state-created famines. During World War II, as many as 20
million Soviet citizens died. The totalitarian control of the communist
state which survived on the absence of basic freedoms and the repression
of those who sought change robbed the people of the Soviet Union of
opportunities to interact with the rest of the world and to develop
their potentials. After 1949, the U.S.S.R. ranked as a nuclear
First among its political figures was Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik
party and head of the first Soviet Government, who died in 1924. In the
late 1920's, Josif Stalin emerged as General Secretary of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) amidst intraparty rivalries; he
maintained complete control over Soviet domestic and international
policy until his death in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, served
as Communist Party leader until he was ousted in 1964. Aleksey Kosygin
became Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Leonid Brezhnev was made
First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee in 1964, but in 1971,
Brezhnev rose to become first among equals in a collective leadership.
Brezhnev died in 1982 and was succeeded by Yuriy Andropov (1982-84),
Konstantin Chernenko (1984-85), and Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned as
Soviet President on December 25, 1991. On December 26, 1991, the
U.S.S.R. was formally dissolved.
The Russian Federation After the December 1991 dissolution of the
Soviet Union, the Russian Federation became its largest successor state,
inheriting its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, as
well as the bulk of its foreign assets and debt.
Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia by popular vote in June
1991. By the fall of 1993, politics in Russia reached a stalemate
between President Yeltsin and the parliament. The parliament had
succeeded in blocking, overturning, or ignoring the President's
initiatives on drafting a new constitution, conducting new elections,
and making further progress on democratic and economic reforms.
In a dramatic speech in September 1993, President Yeltsin dissolved the
Russian parliament and called for new national elections and a new
constitution. The standoff between the executive branch and opponents in
the legislature turned violent after supporters of the parliament tried
to instigate an armed insurrection. Yeltsin ordered the army to respond
with force to capture the parliament building (known as the White
In December 1993, voters elected a new parliament and approved a new
constitution that had been drafted by the Yeltsin government. Yeltsin
has remained the dominant political figure, although a broad array of
parties, including ultra-nationalists, liberals, agrarians, and
communists, have substantial representation in the parliament and
compete actively in elections at all levels of government.
In late 1994, the Russian security forces launched a brutal operation in
the Republic of Chechnya against rebels who were intent on separation
from Russia. Along with their opponents, Russian forces committed
numerous violations of human rights; the Russian army used heavy weapons
against civilians. Tens of thousands of them were killed and over
500,000 displaced during the course of the war. The protracted conflict,
which received close scrutiny in the Russian media, raised serious
concerns abroad as well as within Russia.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to institute a cease-fire, in
August 1996 the Russian and Chechen authorities negotiated a settlement
that resulted in a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and the holding
of elections in January 1997. The Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) played a major role in facilitating the
negotiation. A peace treaty was concluded in May 1997 and the two sides
agreed to conclude a final settlement by 2001.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In the political system established by the 1993 constitution, the
president wields considerable executive power. There is no vice
president, and the legislative is subordinate to the executive. The
president nominates the highest state officials--including the prime
minister, who must be approved by the Duma; he may dissolve the Duma if
it repeatedly turns down his choice of prime minister. The president can
pass decrees without consent from the Duma. He also is head of the armed
forces and of the national security council.
Duma elections were in December 1995 and presidential elections June
1996. The Communist Party won a plurality of seats in the Duma; the pro-
government party (Our Home is Russia), the liberal Yabloko bloc and the
nationalists also won substantial numbers of seats in the legislature.
In the presidential election, Boris Yeltsin was reelected in the second
round following a spirited campaign. Both the presidential and
parliamentary elections were judged generally free and fair by
Russia is a federation, but the precise distribution of powers between
the central government and the regional and local authorities is still
evolving. The Russian Federation consists of 89 components, including
two federal cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The constitution
explicitly defines the federal government's exclusive powers, but it
also describes most key regional issues as the joint responsibility of
the federal government and the Federation components.
Russia's judiciary and justice system are weak. Numerous matters which
are dealt with by administrative authority in European countries remain
subject to political influence in Russia. The Constitutional Court was
reconvened in March 1995 following its suspension by President Yeltsin
in October 1993. The 1993 constitution empowers the court to arbitrate
disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between
Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court is also
authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine
appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment
proceedings against the president. The July 1994 Law on the
Constitutional Court prohibits the court from examining cases on its own
initiative and limits the scope of issues the court can hear.
In the past three years, the Russian Government has begun to reform the
criminal justice system and judicial institutions, including the
reintroduction of jury trials in certain criminal cases. Despite these
efforts, judges are only beginning to assert their constitutionally
mandated independence from other branches of government.
Russia's human rights record remains uneven. Despite significant
improvements in conditions following the end of the Soviet Union, some
problem areas remain. Although the government has made progress in
recognizing the legitimacy of international human rights standards, the
institutionalization of procedures to safeguard these rights has lagged.
Implementation of the constitutional provisions for due process and
timely trials, for example, has made little progress. In addition, the
judiciary is often subject to manipulation by political authorities and
is plagued by large case backlogs and trial delays. Lengthy pretrial
detention remains a serious problem. There are credible reports of
beating and torturing of inmates and detainees by law enforcement and
correctional officials. Prison conditions fall well below international
standards and, according to human rights groups, in 1996 between 10,000
and 20,000 prisoners and detainees died, most because of overcrowding,
disease, and lack of medical care.
Efforts to institutionalize official human rights bodies have been
mixed. In 1996, human rights activist Sergey Kovalev resigned as
chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission to protest the
government's record, particularly the war in Chechnya. Parliament in
1997 passed a law establishing a human rights ombudsman, a position that
is provided for in Russia's constitution and is required of members of
the Council of Europe, to which Russia was admitted in February 1996.
The Duma, however, has been unable to agree on a candidate to fill this
position. International human rights groups operate freely in Russia,
although the government did hinder the movements and access to
information of some individuals investigating the war in Chechnya.
The government respects freedom of religion and the separation of church
and state. In some regions, however, local officials adopt policies that
tend to favor the Russian Orthodox Church over the interests of minority
faiths. In some cases, local authorities have hindered the activities of
foreign missionaries. Although Jews and Muslims continue to encounter
prejudice and societal discrimination, they have not been inhibited by
the government in the free practice of their religion. High-ranking
federal officials have condemned anti-semitic hate crimes, but law
enforcement bodies have not effectively prosecuted those responsible.
The constitution guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of
residence and to travel abroad. Some big-city governments, however, have
restricted this right through residential registration rules that
closely resemble the Soviet-era propiska regulations. Although the rules
were touted as a notification device rather than a control system, their
implementation has produced many of the same results as the propiska
system. The freedom to travel abroad and emigrate is respected although
restrictions may apply to those who have had access to state secrets.
Recognizing this progress, since 1994, President Clinton has found
Russia to be in full compliance with the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Viktor Chernomyrdin
First Deputy Prime Ministers:
Deputy Prime Ministers:
Civil Defense-Sergey Shoygu
CIS Cooperation-Amangeldy Tuleyev
Economic Affairs-Yakov Urinson
Environment and Natural Resources-Viktor Orlov
Finance & Deputy Prime Minister-Anatoliy Chubays
Foreign Affairs--Yevgeniy Primakov
Foreign Economic Relations - Mikhail Fradkov
Internal Affairs-Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kulikov
Atomic Energy--Viktor Mikhailov
Science and Technology--Vladimir Fortov
Ambassador to Washington--Yuliy Vorontsov
Ambassador to the United Nations--Sergey Lavrov
The Russian Federation maintains an embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW,
Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-298-5700) and a consulate at 1825 Phelps
Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-8907). Russian consulates
are also located in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
As it has moved from a centrally planned economy toward a free market
system, the Russian economy has undergone considerable stress. The
country has established new ties in the world economy while links to its
traditional trade partners have diminished. Russia accounts for more
than one-half of the population of the New Independent States (NIS) of
the former Soviet Union and 60% of their total gross domestic product.
GDP. GDP fell approximately 38.5% between 1992 and 1997, according to
official statistics. While these numbers may not reflect significant
economic activity in the unofficial economy, the trend has certainly
been negative and did not reverse by the end of 1996. Unemployment (by
ILO definition) was 9.3% of the work force in 1996, but this figure
omits many who work reduced hours or are on involuntary or voluntary
Monetary Policy. Inflation rose to a peak of 30% per month by January
1993. Since then, monthly inflation has declined and by the end of 1996
ranged between 0 and 2% per month -- marking the essential stabilization
of the macroeconomy. Russia abolished the ruble zone in mid-1993, which
forced other NIS republics to issue their own currencies. A currency
corridor, and subsequently a crawling band mechanism, have been employed
by the government since July 1995 to increase ruble stability and to
help dampen inflationary expectations. The average exchange rate in 1996
was 5,120 rubles per U.S.$1.
Government Spending/Taxation. The 1996 federal budget provided a strong
underpinning for the government's stabilization program. However, severe
revenue shortfalls resulted in a higher than expected deficit of 6.1% of
GDP. The revenue shortfall situation is widely seen as due to a
combination of factors: the fall in output; weak tax administration
practices; an increase in the size of the gray economy; and a cumbersome
tax system, including high rates which provoke evasion.
The domestic government securities (GKO) market has grown in line with
government needs for non-inflationary financing, with total GKO's
outstanding reaching just under 9% of GDP by December 1996. The draft
1997 federal budget called for a deficit of 3.5% of GDP (Ministry of
Finance Definition, which is slightly lower than the IMF definition).
Law. Lack of legislation in many areas of economic activity is a
pressing issue. Taxation and business regulation are unpredictable, and
legal enforcement of private business agreements is almost nonexistent.
Many government decisions affecting business have been inconsistent.
Crime in Russia has increased costs for local and foreign businesses.
Natural Resources. With the mineral-packed Ural mountains and the vast
oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East,
Russia is rich in natural resources. Most are located in remote and
climatically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and are far
from Russian ports. Oil and gas continue to be the main sources of hard
currency. Russia is a leading producer and exporter of minerals, gold,
and all major fuels. The Russian fishing industry is the world's fourth-
largest--behind Japan, the U.S., and China. Russia accounts for one-
quarter of the world's production of fresh and frozen fish and about
one-third of world output of canned fish.
Industry. Russia is one of the most industrialized of the former Soviet
republics. Besides its resource-based industries, it has developed large
manufacturing capacities, notably in machinery. Russia inherited most of
the defense industrial base of the Soviet Union; converting it to
civilian use is a major goal of the present government.
Agriculture. Russia comprises roughly three-quarters of the territory of
the NIS, but has relatively little area suited for agriculture, because
of the arid climate and inconsistent rainfall. Northern areas
concentrate mainly on livestock farming, and the southern parts and
western Siberia produce grain. Agricultural production, chiefly grain
and potatoes, accounts for more than one-half of that for the entire
NIS. The transition from centrally planned to market economies requires
a radical reform of agriculture, which has yet to take place.
Investment. Cumulative foreign direct investment in Russia was estimated
at $11 billion in 1995, according to Russian government statistics--a
figure far below its potential. The U.S. was the largest foreign
investor, providing $2 billion of the total. 1996 figures are not yet
available but there are no signs of significant new investment. Domestic
investment also lags and is presently the greatest obstacle to renewed
economic growth. Major areas of interest for U.S. investors have been in
energy, food processing, telecommunications, and automobiles. Joint
ventures between Russian and foreign firms account for an increasing
share of Russian output and trade and are concentrated in the services
Trade. Russia has liberalized domestic trade and dismantled most non-
tariff restrictions on foreign trade. State-subsidized imports were
phased out in 1994, as was the system of quotas and licensing for
exports. To bolster future foreign trade, Russia applied in June 1993 to
the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)--predecessor to the
World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia's average weighted tariff is 13-
Russia has been running a trade surplus since 1993. Russia's trade is
dominated by Europe; Germany and the countries of Central and Eastern
Europe hold the lead. The U.S. is Russia's second largest trading
partner, while China and Japan are Russia's largest Asian trading
partners. Trade with the other NIS states is overwhelmingly in
industrial products; Ukraine and Kazakstan are by far the most important
trade partners. Russia continues to supply large amounts of energy to
the NIS states at a discount, although it has tied government credits to
Highlights From Russian Infrastructure Projects International Space
Station. Russia and the U.S. are engaged in a joint flight program to
lead to the development of the international space station. Key elements
include: U.S. astronauts on board the Mir space station for
approximately two years; up to 10 U.S. shuttle docking missions; and
$400 million in contracts for the provision of hardware, joint
technology, and on-board research support by U.S. firms.
Sakhalin Island Development. The Marathon, McDermott, Mitsui,
Mitsubishi, and Shell Sakhalin II consortium plan to develop large oil
and gas fields offshore at Sakhalin Island in a $10 billion project.
Timan Pechora Exploration. Texaco is involved in a $2.5 billion
greenfield oil exploration project in the Timan Pechora region of the
Civil Aviation. Russian manufacturers are using Western engines and
avionics to bring the Russian civil fleet up to world standards.
Civil Shipbuilding and Harbor Modernization. Russia seeks to modernize
the St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and other ports. Russian shipyards have
built oil tankers, fishing trawlers, cargo ships, and pleasure craft.
Russia has taken important steps to become a full partner in the world's
principal political groupings. 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 Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). It
signed the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative on June 22, 1994. On
May 27, 1997 NATO and Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act which
provides the basis for an enduring and robust partnership between the
Alliance and Russia, one that can make an important contribution to
European security architecture in the 21st century. On June 24, 1994,
Russia and the European Union (EU) signed a partnership and cooperation
Russia has played an important role in helping mediate international
conflicts through its co-sponsorship of the Middle East peace process
and its support of UN and multilateral initiatives in the Persian Gulf,
Cambodia, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti. Russia is a member
of the Contact Group; it has contributed troops to the NATO-led
stabilization force in Bosnia. Russia has affirmed its respect for
international law and OSCE principles. It has accepted UN and/or OSCE
involvement in instances of regional conflict on its periphery,
including the dispatch of observers to Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, and
Since the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the Russians have discussed
rebuilding a viable, cohesive fighting force out of the remaining parts
of the former Soviet armed forces. A new Russian military doctrine,
promulgated in November 1993, implicitly acknowledges the contraction of
the old Soviet military into a regional military power without global
imperial ambitions. In keeping with its emphasis on the threat of
regional conflicts, the doctrine calls for a Russian military that is
smaller, lighter, and more mobile, with a higher degree of
professionalism and with greater rapid deployment capability. Such a
transformation has proven difficult.
The challenge of this task has been magnified by difficult economic
conditions in Russia, which have resulted in reduced defense spending.
This has led to training cutbacks, wage arrears, and severe shortages of
housing and other social amenities for military personnel, with a
consequent lowering of morale, cohesion, and fighting effectiveness. The
evidently poor combat performance of the Russian armed forces in the
Chechen conflict in part reflects these breakdowns.
The actual strength of the Russian armed forces probably falls between
1.4 and 1.6 million, with authorized strength several hundred thousand
higher. Weapons production in Russia has fallen dramatically over the
past few years; between 1988 and 1993, it fell by at least 50% for
virtually every major weapons system. Weapons spending in 1992 was
approximately 75% less than in 1988. Much of Russia's weaponry
production is for sales to foreign governments.
About 70% of the former Soviet Union's defense industries is located in
the Russian Federation. A large number of state-owned defense
enterprises are on the brink of collapse as a result of cuts in weapons
orders and insufficient funding to shift to production of civilian
goods, while at the same time trying to meet payrolls. Many defense
firms have been privatized; some have developed significant partnerships
with U.S. firms.
The Russian military, for the foreseeable future, will play a role in
determining Russia's internal stability and in formulating national
policies. This role will be crucial to Russia in proceeding with
political and economic reform and establishing a durable pattern of
cooperation with the West.
The United States remains committed to maintaining a constructive
relationship with Russia in which we seek to expand areas of cooperation
and frankly air our differences without confrontation. The United States
continues to support Russia's political and economic transformation as
well as its integration into major international organizations. These
steps, in conjunction with the massive reductions in nuclear weapons we
have already achieved, have enhanced greatly the security of the United
The intensity and frequency of contacts between President Yeltsin and
President Clinton in 1997--in Helsinki, in Paris and in Denver--are
indicative of the strong commitment to, and the necessity of, the U.S.
and Russia working together on a broad range of issues--from European
security to cooperation in reducing the treats that nuclear and chemical
weapons pose to our nations to strengthening Russian/American economic
interaction and especially the levels of American investment in Russia.
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. Under the leadership of Vice President
Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, the U.S. and Russia are working to
advance bilateral cooperation through eight working committees and
several working groups known collectively as the U.S.-Russian Joint
Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation or the Gore-
Chernomyrdin Commission. The committees address issues in the fields of
science and technology, business development, space, energy policy,
environmental protection, health, defense conversion, and agriculture.
In addition, the Commission provides a forum for high-level discussions
of priority security and economic issues. The Commission last met in
Washington in February 1997 and will meet again later in the year.
Trade and Investment. At the March 1997 summit in Helsinki, Finland,
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reemphasized the need to expand trade and
investment. They signed a joint Economic Initiative aimed at stimulating
Russian economic growth, deepening bilateral economic ties and
accelerating Russian integration into the global economy and its primary
multilateral organizations. President Clinton also announced substantial
direct support for trade and investment through the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank.
In 1996, Russia ran a bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. of $221
million (based on U.S. exports of about $3.3 billion and imports of $3.5
billion). The 1992 U.S.-Russia trade agreement provides mutual most-
favored-nation status and offers some intellectual property rights
protection. In 1992, the two countries also signed treaties on the
avoidance of double taxation and on bilateral investment. As of mid-
1997, the Russian parliament, however, has not ratified the bilateral
investment treaty, although it has been approved by the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. actively supports Russia's efforts to join the World Trade
Organization and Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed at Helsinki to
set 1998 as a target date for Russian accession to that institution.
NATO/Russia Founding Act. Russia signed the NATO Partnership for Peace
initiative in June 1994. U.S. and Russian troops are serving together in
the Implementation Force in Bosnia and its successor, the Stabilization
Force. Building on these steps, NATO and Russia signed the NATO-Russia
Founding Act on May 27, 1997, in Paris. The Act defines the terms of a
fundamentally new and sustained relationship in which NATO and Russia
will consult and coordinate regularly, and where appropriate, act
jointly. Cooperation between NATO and Russia exists in scientific and
Agreements/Cooperation/Nuclear Arms. The U.S. and Russia signed a
memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in September 1993
that institutionalized and expanded relations between defense
ministries, including establishing a broad range of military-to-military
contacts. The U.S. and Russia carried out a joint peacekeeping training
exercise in Totskoye, Russia, in September 1994. Based on the January
14, 1994, agreement between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, the two
nations stopped targeting their strategic nuclear missiles at each other
as of May 30, 1994. U.S. and Russian security cooperation emphasizes
strategic stability, nuclear safety, dismantling nuclear weapons,
preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their
delivery systems, and enhancing military-to-military contacts. At the
Lisbon summit in 1992, the United States signed a protocol to the START
I Treaty with Russia, Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine--where the
strategic nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union were located--
making the four countries party to the treaty and committing all
signatories to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons within the seven-
year period provided by the treaty. The treaty entered into force
December 5, 1994.
START II. On January 3, 1993, the U.S. and Russia signed the Treaty
between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on
Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II).
This treaty reduces overall deployments of strategic nuclear weapons on
each side by more than two-thirds from current levels and will eliminate
the most destabilizing strategic weapons--heavy intercontinental
ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and all other deployed multiple-warhead
ICBMs. At the September 1994 summit, the two nations agreed to begin
removing nuclear warheads due to be scrapped under START II immediately,
once START I takes effect and the START II Treaty is ratified by both
countries, instead of taking the nine years allowed. At their May 1995
summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed on a set of principles
that would guide further discussion in the field of demarcation between
anti-ballistic missile systems and theater missile defenses. They also
agreed on steps to increase the transparency and irreversibility of
nuclear arms reduction and committed not to use newly produced fissile
materials or to reuse the fissile materials removed from nuclear weapons
being eliminated and excess to national security requirements in nuclear
weapons. The Russian Duma has not yet ratified START II.
CFE. Following ratification by Russia and the other NIS, the
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty entered into force on
November 9, 1992. This treaty establishes comprehensive limits on key
categories of military equipment--tanks, artillery, armored combat
vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat helicopters--and provides for the
destruction of weaponry in excess of these limits.
Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR). Often called Nunn-Lugar assistance,
this type of assistance is provided to Russia (as well as Belarus,
Kazakstan, and Ukraine) to aid in the dismantling of weapons of mass
destruction and to prevent the proliferation of such weapons. Over $600
million has been allocated for assistance to Russia during fiscal years
1996 and 1997 under this program and thirteen implementing agreements
have been signed. Key projects have included assistance in the
elimination of strategic offensive arms ($162 million), design and
construction of a fissile material storage facility ($90 million),
provision of fissile material containers ($50 million), material control
and accounting and physical protection of nuclear materials ($45
million), and development of a chemical weapons destruction plan and
provision of equipment for a pilot laboratory for the safe and secure
destruction of chemical weapons ($55 million). Under the CTR program,
the U.S. is also assisting Russia in the development of export controls;
providing emergency response equipment and training to enhance Russia's
ability to respond to accidents involving nuclear weapons; providing
increased military-to-military contacts; and encouraging the conversion
of Russian defense firms through the formation of joint ventures to
produce products, including housing, for the civilian market. As part of
the CTR program, the U.S. has awarded $20 million to a joint venture
project involving an American housing firm and three Russian aerospace
firms to construct housing for demobilized military officers. Portions
of the Russian defense firms will be converted to the production of
prefabricated housing systems and related products. In a multilateral
effort (the European Union, Japan, and Canada are also involved), the
U.S. has also provided $50 million to establish the International
Science and Technology Center (ISTC), which provides alternative
peaceful civilian employment opportunities to scientists and engineers
of the former Soviet Union involved with weapons of mass destruction and
their delivery systems.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador - vacant
Charge d'Affaires - John F. Tefft
Counselor for Political Affairs - John M. Ordway
Counselor for Economic Affairs - Clifford Bond
Counselor for Commercial Affairs - John Peters
Counselor for Consular Affairs - Michael W. Marine (Susan Wood arrives
Counselor for Administrative Affairs - John O'Keefe
Counselor for Public Affairs - Robert R. Gosende
Counselor for Science and Technology - John C. Zimmerman
Director, U.S. Agency for International Development - Janet Valentine
Senior Representative, Federal Aviation Administration - Dennis B.
Immigration and Naturalization Service - Anne Corsano
Department of Energy - Robin J. Copeland
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - Douglas Englund
The U.S. embassy in Russia is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 19/23, Moscow
(tel.  (095) 252-2451 through 59; fax:  (095) 956-4261).
Consulate General, St. Petersburg (Furshtatskaya Ulitsa 15, tel. 
(812) 275-1701)--John Evans
Consulate General, Vladivostok (Mordovtseva Ulitsa 12, tel.  (4232)
268-458/554)--Jane Miller Floyd Consulate General, Yekaterinburg (tel.
 (3432) 60-11-43)--Howard Steers
In Moscow, the U.S. Commercial Office is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 15
(tel.  (095) 255-4848/4660 or 956-4255, fax:  (095) 230-2101). In
St. Petersburg, the U.S. Commercial Office is located at Bolshaya
Morskaya Ulitsa 57 (tel.  (812) 110-6042, fax:  (812) 110-6479).
U.S. Assistance to Russia
U.S. assistance to Russia funded a variety of programs in the following
key areas: private-sector development, privatization and enterprise
restructuring, trade and investment, democracy initiatives, energy,
health care, housing, and environment. Humanitarian assistance
represented a major portion of U.S. aid during the initial transition
phase in Russia, when there was a pressing need for food, medicine, and
other essential commodities. U.S. efforts now concentrate on limited
technical assistance, citizen exchanges and partnerships and direct
support for trade and investment.
To date, the U.S. government has provided a total of $4.7 billion in
grant assistance to Russia ($2 billion in economic and technical
assistance, $1.7 billion in humanitarian and food assistance, and $1
billion in security and weapons dismantlement assistance) and is
supporting over $6 billion worth of financing and insurance. The annual
level of economic and technical assistance for Russia has declined from
a peak of $1.6 billion in 1994 to $95 million in 1997.
U.S. Support for Russian Democracy and Development
The U.S. Government has been in the forefront of delivering
privatization assistance to Russia since October 1992. U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID). USAID has the principal
responsibility for implementing technical assistance to Russia and the
other New Independent States. In FY 1994, USAID devoted over $1.6
billion in assistance to help Russia develop democratic institutions and
transform its state-controlled economy to one based on market
principles. Programs are active in the areas of privatization and
private sector development, agriculture, energy, housing reform, health,
environmental protection, economic restructuring, independent media,
elections, and the rule of law. The U.S. recently pledged $30 million to
help Russia in its fight against crime and to support a new legal
infrastructure. U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank). Eximbank approved
about $2 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and insurance for
transactions in Russia from 1991 to March 1995. Of this total, more than
$1 billion was approved under its Oil and Gas Framework Agreement.
U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
OPIC provides loans, loan guarantees, and commercial and political
investment insurance to American companies investing in Russia. As of FY
1996, OPIC approved more than $3 billion in investment financing and
insurance for 125 ventures. Trade and Development Agency (TDA) and
Department of Commerce. TDA has approved approximately $46 million in
funding for feasibility studies on over 120 investment projects.
American Business Centers have been opened in St. Petersburg,
Nizhnevartovsk, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg,
Khaborovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and Chelyabinsk to help U.S.
and Russian companies do business in Russia. The Commerce Department has
also established a Special American Business Internship Program (SABIT)
in Russia, and an NIS business information system.
For 1997, the U.S. has authorized $120 million in export credit
guarantees in connection with sales of U.S. agricultural commodities
under a private banking sector program in Russia as part of the
Commodity Credit Corporation's Export Credit Guarantee Program (GSM-
U.S. Information Agency (USIA).
USIA public diplomacy is active in the areas of promoting the growth of
democracy and civil society, encouraging economic reform and growth of a
market economy, explaining and building support for U.S. foreign policy
objectives, and building understanding of U.S. society and culture.
Professional and educational exchanges cover such diverse fields as
journalism, public administration, local government, business
management, education, political science and civics education. Over
20,000 Russians have participated in USIA-funded exchanges over the past
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A variety of technical assistance activities are coordinated by USDA
under the Emerging Democracies Program. In March 1994, a U.S.-Russia
Joint Commission for Agribusiness and Rural Development was established
to channel funds generated by the sale of donated U.S. commodities to
support private and social initiatives in rural communities throughout
Russia. Eurasia Foundation. The Foundation--a private, non-profit,
grant-making organization supported by U.S. funds--has disbursed more
than $24 million in small grants to U.S. and indigenous organizations
promoting reform in Russia and the other NIS.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is
required). The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see Principal
Government Officials listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas, are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a
country (see Principal U.S. Embassy Officials listing in this
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet,
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch,
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's
World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to
the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.
Return to Europe Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage