U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Russia, October 1998
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
Education (total pop.): Literacy--98%.
Health: Life expectancy (1996) -- 58 yrs. men, 72 yrs. women.
Work force (85 million): Production and economic services--84%.
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.
Subdivisions: 21 autonomous republics and 68 autonomous territories and
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, and the Congress of Russian Communities.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Economy (1997 est.)
GDP: $452 billion.
Growth rate: 0.4%.
Per capita GDP (exchange rate method): $3,054.
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, timber, furs, precious and
Agriculture: Grain, sugarbeets, 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: Exports (f.o.b.) $87 billion--petroleum and petroleum products,
natural gas, woods and wood products, metals, chemicals. Major markets-
-EU, NIS, China, Japan.
Imports (c.i.f.) $68 billion--machinery and equipment, chemicals,
consumer goods, medicines, meat, sugar, semi-finished metal products.
Major partners--EU, U.S., NIS, Japan, China.
Principal U.S. exports ($3.3 billion)--meat, machinery, tobacco.
Principal U.S. imports ($4.3 billion, a 21% increase from 1996)--
aluminum, precious stones and metals, iron, and steel.
Russia's area is about 6.5 million sq. mi. (17 million sq. km.). It is
the largest country in the world by more than 2.5 million sq. mi. Its
population density is about 23 people 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 6 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
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. It
has become Russia's principal magnet for foreign investment and
business presence. 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
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
Pacific Rim countries.
Human experience on the territory of present-day Russia 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 AD, 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 heritage. 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.
In the post-Mongol period, Muscovy gradually became the dominant
principality and was able, through diplomacy and conquest, to establish
suzerainty over European Russia. Ivan III (1462-1505) was able to refer
to his empire as "the Third Rome" and heir to the Byzantine tradition,
and a century later the Romanov dynasty was established under Tsar
Mikhail in 1613.
During Peter the Great's reign (1689-1725), Russia began modernizing,
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
spawned the philosophical rivalry between "Westernizers" and
nationalistic "Slavophiles" that remains 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 (1814-15) set the stage for Russia and
Austria-Hungary to dominate the affairs of eastern Europe for the next
During the 19th century, the Russian Government sought to suppress
repeated attempts at reform from within. 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. In the 19th century, Russian culture flourished as
Russian artists made significant contributions to world literature,
visual arts, dance, and music.
Imperial decline was evident in Russia's defeat in the unpopular Russo-
Japanese war in 1905. Subsequent civic disturbances forced Tsar
Nicholas II to grant a constitution and introduce limited democratic
reforms. The government suppressed opposition and manipulated popular
anger into anti-Semitic pogroms. 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 uprising, which led Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate
the throne. A provisional government came to power, headed by Aleksandr
Kerenskiy. On November 7, 1917, the 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. In 1949, the U.S.S.R. developed its
own nuclear arsenal.
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 1920s, 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 in October 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 House).
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 civilians were
killed and more than 500,000 displaced during the course of the war.
The protracted conflict, which received close scrutiny in the Russian
media, raised serious human rights and humanitarian 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 branch is far weaker than the executive.
The president nominates the highest state officials, including the
prime minister, who must be approved by the Duma. 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 international observers.
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 also is
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 3 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 law enforcement and correctional officials beating and
torturing inmates and detainees. 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
movement and access to information of some individuals investigating
the war in Chechnya.
The case against environmentalist and former Soviet Navy Captain
Aleksandr Nikitin raises questions about Russia's commitment to
international standards of human rights. Nikitin was arrested in early
1996 for his role in publishing a report on the nuclear hazards posed
by the decaying Russian Northern Fleet. The prosecution's case is
based on secret decrees, which were issued after Nikitin's arrest and
released to Nikitin and his attorney only after the trial began.
The Russian Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the
equality of all religions before the law as well as the separation of
church and state. 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 influx of missionaries over the past several years has led to
pressure by groups in Russia, specifically nationalists and the Russian
Orthodox Church, to limit the activities of these "nontraditional"
religious groups. In response, the Duma passed a new, restrictive, and
potentially discriminatory law in October 1997. The law is very
complex, with many ambiguous and contradictory provisions. The law's
most controversial provisions separate religious "groups" and
"organizations" and introduce a 15-year rule, which allows groups that
have been in existence for 15 years or longer to obtain accredited
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 amendment.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Yevgeniy Primakov
First Deputy Prime Ministers
State Building, National, Regional and Youth Policies, Problems of the
Russian North--Vadim Gustov
Deputy Prime Ministers
Industry and Communications--Vladimir Bulgak
Social Problems--Valentina Matviyenko
Atomic Energy--Yevgeniy Adamov
Civil Defense--Sergey Shoygu
Economic Affairs--Andrey Shapovalyants
Foreign Affairs--Igor Ivanov
Fuel and Energy--Sergey Generalov
Industry and Trade--Georgiy Gabuniya
Internal Affairs--Sergey Stepashin
Labor and Social Policy-- Sergey Kalashinkov
Land Policy, Construction, and Utilities--(vacant)
Natural Resources--Viktor Orlov
National Policies--Ramazan Abdulatipov
Regional Policies--Valeriy Kirpichnikov
Science and Technology--Mikhail Kirpichnikov
State Property--Farid Gazizullin
Ambassador to the U.S.--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 consular section at 2641
Tunlaw Road, Washington DC (tel. 202-939-8907/8913/8918). Russian
consulates also are located in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
The Russian economy has undergone tremendous stress as it has moved
from a centrally planned economy toward a free market system.
Difficulties in implementing fiscal reforms aimed at raising government
revenues and a dependence on short-term borrowing to finance budget
deficits led to a serious financial crisis in 1998. Lower prices for
Russia's major export earners (oil and minerals) and a loss of investor
confidence due to the Asian financial crisis exacerbated financial
problems. The result was a rapid decline in the value of the ruble,
flight of foreign investment, delayed payments on sovereign and private
debts, a breakdown of commercial transactions through the banking
system, and the threat of run-away inflation.
Gross Domestic Product
Russia's GDP, estimated at $452 billion in 1997, is believed to have
declined by as much as 9.9% from September 1997 to September 1998. By
October 1998, unemployment had crept up from 9% to 11.5% (using
International Labor Organization methodologies). Combined unemployment
and underemployment may reach 20%. The government has been slow to
respond to the unfolding crisis and has yet to announce clear policies
for getting on a path to growth.
Despite a $22 billion assistance package from the International
Monetary Fund negotiated in July 1998, by August 17, 1998 the
government was effectively unable to support the value of the ruble,
which subsequently declined in value by 50%. As of October 1998, the
exchange rate had fallen to a rate of approximately 17 rubles/dollar
compared to 6.5 rubles/dollar in August. The resulting increase in
import prices pushed inflation to 45% in the first 3 weeks of September
1998. The government has promised to pay at least part of the massive
wage and pension arrears it has accumulated over the past few years.
Faced with declining revenues and a growing budget deficit, the
government may be tempted to fulfill its promises by increasing the
money supply in an inflationary manner.
A revenue shortage continues to plague the government. This shortage
is attributable to weak tax administration, a cumbersome tax system
with high rates that provoke evasion, falling industrial output,
increasing use of barter in the economy, and blunt refusal to pay by
large, politically powerful firms. Since 1991, the government has
tried to minimize its budget deficits by sequestering payments for
wages and pensions. The potential budget deficit for fourth quarter
1998 is estimated at 9% of GDP.
Lack of legislation in many areas of economic activity is a pressing
issue. Taxation and business regulations are unpredictable, and legal
enforcement of private business agreements is weak. Government
decisions affecting business often have been arbitrary and
inconsistent. Crime has increased costs for both local and foreign
businesses. On the positive side, Russian businesses are increasingly
turning to the courts to resolve disputes. The passage of an improved
bankruptcy code in January 1998 and major portions of a new tax code in
July 1998 were positive steps.
The mineral-packed Ural mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal and
timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East make Russia rich in
natural resources. However, most such resources are located in remote
and climactically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and
far from Russian ports. Oil and gas exports continue to be the main
source of hard currency, but declining energy prices have hit Russia
hard. 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.
Russia is one of the most industrialized of the former Soviet
Republics. However, much of its industry is antiquated and highly
inefficient. 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. Efforts have
been made with varying success over the past few years to convert
defense industries to civilian use.
Russia comprises roughly three-quarters of the territory of the former
Soviet Union, but has relatively little area suited for agriculture
because of its arid climate and inconsistent rainfall. Northern areas
concentrate mainly on livestock and the southern parts and western
Siberia produce grain. Restructuring of former state farms has been an
extremely slow process, partially due to the lack of a land code
allowing for the free sale, purchase, and mortgage of agricultural
land. Private farms and garden plots of individuals account for more
than one-half of all agricultural production.
The economic turmoil of 1998 has most new foreign investment on hold.
The Russian Government estimated that cumulative foreign investment in
Russia increased 60% in 1997 to US $10.7 billion. Foreign investment
in Russia was heavily weighted to portfolio investment, with direct
investment equaling about $3.9 billion. The United States was Russia's
top source of foreign investment. Foreign investors pulled a
significant portion of their portfolio investment out of the Russian
market in 1998. The Russian stock market lost more than 90% of its
value from January to October 1998.
Even before the current difficulties, foreign investment in Russia
paled in comparison to investment in other transition economies, such
as Poland and Hungary. Russian domestic investment dropped 7% in the
first quarter of 1998. Low levels of domestic investment continue to
be one of the greatest obstacles to renewed economic growth.
Germany is Russia's largest trading partner, followed by Ukraine and
the United States. Trade with other NIS states is overwhelmingly in
energy and industrial products, and in many instances is conducted by
barter. Fairly healthy trade surpluses ($36.8 billion in 1997) eroded
over the course of 1998. Imports to Russia grew by 10-15% per year in
1995-97, as consumers benefited from an appreciating ruble and a rising
average wage (in rubles). At the same time, export revenues were
falling, due in particular to sharply lower prices for oil and gas
(accounting for 43% of merchandise exports in 1997). Moreover,
Russia's manufactured exports compete poorly on the world market,
especially since Asian goods have become less expensive following steep
The recent devaluation of the ruble and difficulties in completing
transactions through the Russian banking system have reduced imports
substantially. The combination of import duties, a 20% value-added
tax, excise taxes on imported goods (especially automobiles, alcoholic
beverages, and aircraft), and an import licensing regime for alcohol
further restrain demand for imports. Frequent changes in customs
regulations also have created problems for foreign and domestic traders
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 agreement.
Russia has played an important role in helping to mediate international
conflicts through its cosponsorship 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 in neighboring countries,
including the dispatch of observers to Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan,
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 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 and is scheduled to fall to 1.2 million by the end
of 1999. 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. Almost all of Russia's arms
production is for sales to foreign governments, and procurement of
major end-items by the Russian military has all but stopped.
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.
U.S.- RUSSIA RELATIONS
The United States remains committed to maintaining a constructive
relationship with Russia in which it seeks to expand areas of
cooperation and effectively work through differences. The United States
continues to support Russia's political and economic transformation and
its integration into major international organizations. These steps, in
conjunction with achievements in considerably reducing nuclear weapons,
have greatly enhanced the security of the United States.
The intensity and frequency of contacts between President Yeltsin and
President Clinton--in Helsinki, Finland and Paris, France in 1997 and
in Denver, Colorado and Birmingham, England in 1998--are indicative of
the strong commitment to working together on a broad range of issues.
These include European security, reducing the threat to both countries
posed by weapons of mass destruction, and economic cooperation,
especially American investment in Russia.
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore and the Russian Prime
Minister, the U.S. and Russia are working to advance bilateral
cooperation through nine working committees and several working groups
known collectively as the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and
Technological Cooperation. Committees address issues in the fields of
science and technology, business development, space, energy policy,
environmental protection, health, defense conversion, capital markets,
and agriculture. In addition, the commission provides a forum for high-
level discussions of priority security and economic issues. The
commission held its 10th session in Washington in March 1998 and an
executive session in Moscow in May 1998.
At the March 1997 summit in Helsinki, Finland, Presidents Clinton and
Yeltsin emphasized 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. Both governments announced a special "Regional
Investment Initiative" to create a climate for private investment in
Russia's regions and attract foreign and domestic capital. As part of
this initiative, several progressive regions with investment potential
will be selected where the U.S. will focus its assistance activities to
foster a better business and investment climate. These regions will, in
turn, serve as models of what can be achieved by an intensive effort to
improve the investment climate. As of spring 1998, Novgorod Oblast,
Samara Oblast and the Russian Far East, with a focus on Khabarovsk Kray
and Sakhalin Oblast, have been chosen as initiative sites.
In 1997, the U.S. trade deficit with Russia was $1 billion, an increase
of $780 million from the U.S. trade deficit of $221 million in 1996.
U.S. merchandise exports to Russia were nearly $3.3 billion in 1997.
Russia was the United States' 35th-largest export market in 1997. U.S.
imports from Russia were nearly $4.3 billion in 1997. The 1992 U.S.-
Russia trade agreement provides mutual most-favored-nation status and
includes commitments on intellectual property rights protection. In
1992, the two countries also signed treaties on the avoidance of double
taxation and on bilateral investment. By spring 1998, however, the
Russian parliament had not ratified the bilateral investment treaty. It
has been ratified by the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. actively supports Russia's efforts to join the World Trade
Organization on commercially viable terms. Consultations to review
Russia's tariff offer on goods have already begun. As of spring 1998,
Russia must still submit market access offers on services. The U.S.
actively supported Russian membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum. Russia will become a member of APEC in
Russia signed the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative in June 1994.
U.S. and Russian troops served together in the Implementation Force in
Bosnia and continue to do so in 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
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 OSCE summit in 1992, the
United States signed a protocol to the START I Treaty with Russia,
Belarus, Kazakhstan, 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 7-year period provided by the
treaty. The treaty entered into force December 5, 1994.
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 would reduce 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 9 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. Since that time, all strategic nuclear weapons have
been removed from Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to Russia.
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 assistance, often called Nunn-Lugar
assistance, is provided to Russia (as well as Belarus, Kazakhstan, and
Ukraine) to aid in the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction and
to prevent the proliferation of such weapons. More than $730 million
has been allocated for assistance to Russia during fiscal years 1997
and 1998 under this program, and 13 implementing agreements have been
signed. Key projects have included assistance in the elimination of
strategic offensive arms ($184 million), design and construction of a
fissile material storage facility ($127 million), provision of fissile
material containers ($45 million), material control and accounting and
physical protection of nuclear materials ($51 million), and development
of a chemical weapons destruction facility and provision of equipment
for a pilot laboratory for the safe and secure destruction of chemical
weapons ($106 million).
Under the CTR program, the U.S. also is 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 for the
In a multilateral effort (the European Union, Japan, and Canada also
are involved), the U.S. also has provided more than $60 million to
establish and support 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.
U.S. Assistance to Russia
Since 1992, the U.S. Government has allocated more than $5 billion in
aid to Russia, funding a variety of programs in the following key
areas: private sector development, privatization and enterprise
restructuring, trade and investment, democratic reform, energy, health
care, housing, and the 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. However, this early focus on urgent
humanitarian needs shifted in the mid-1990s toward technical assistance
supporting macroeconomic reforms. In 1997, the U.S. began moving
toward cooperation under the Partnership for Freedom, emphasizing trade
and investment, people-to-people linkages, and U.S.-Russian
partnerships. Efforts now concentrate on limited technical assistance,
citizen exchanges and partnerships, and direct support for trade and
The U.S. Government transports to Russia food, medical equipment, and
other humanitarian assistance donated by U.S. private voluntary
organizations, as well as Defense Department excess commodities. U.S.
Government-funded security programs eliminate weapons of mass
destruction, demilitarize facilities, prevent proliferation, enable
compliance with arms accords, enhance Russia's ability to control
nuclear materials, and employ former weapons scientists who might
otherwise help pariah states. A substantial but declining portion of
economic assistance is targeted on central government reforms,
particularly tax reforms, and fostering a transparent legal and
regulatory environment. An increasing share is directed away from the
central government to support economic reform outside Moscow.
Democracy programs help Russians develop the building blocks of a
democratic society based on the rule of law, including non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), independent media, and an independent judiciary.
To support this long-term generational transition, the U.S. Government
is increasingly promoting links between U.S. and Russian communities
and institutions, including universities, hospitals, and professional
associations. The U.S. Government also is helping Russia combat crime
and corruption through cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies
and community groups.
The more than $5 billion in grant assistance provided by the U.S.
Government to date can be divided into the following categories: more
than $500 million in democracy reform programs, more than $1.5 billion
in economic and technical assistance, more than $1.4 billion in
humanitarian and food assistance, and more than $1.7 billion in
security and weapons dismantlement assistance. The U.S. Government
also has supported more than $7.3 billion in commercial financing and
insurance for Russia. The annual level of economic and technical
assistance for Russia has declined from a peak of $1.6 billion in FY
1994 to $130 million in FY 1998.
The Regional Investment Initiative (RII) focuses on reducing barriers
to trade and investment, establishing ongoing U.S.-Russian
partnerships, and spurring the private sector as the engine of economic
growth. Three RII sites are up and running: Novgorod, Samara, and
Khabarovsk/Sakhalin, in the Russian Far East. At each site, the
private sector, NGOs, and local governments cooperate on programs that
include investment promotion, small business training and finance, and
health, educational and professional partnerships.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has implemented the
lion's share of U.S. Government-funded technical assistance to Russia--
more than $1.6 billion since 1992. USAID has devoted its assistance
efforts to helping Russia develop democratic institutions and transform
its state-controlled economy to one based on market principles. USAID
has been 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.
Some 26,000 Russians have traveled to the United States on U.S.
Information Agency (USIA) -funded exchanges since 1992. USIA public
diplomacy in Russia is helping to promote 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.
USIA's professional and academic exchanges cover such diverse fields as
journalism, public administration, local government, business
management, education, political science, and civic education.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's American Business Centers (ABCs) are
operating in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod,
Yekaterinburg, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and
Chelyabinsk to help U.S. companies do business in Russia. The Commerce
Department also has established a Special American Business Internship
Program (SABIT) in Russia, which places Russian managers in short-term
internships at U.S. companies. The Commerce Department also operates
the Business Information Service for the New Independent States
(BISNIS), which provides market information, trade leads, and
partnering services to U.S. companies interested in the Russian market.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) has approved about $3.4 billion
in loans, loan guarantees, and insurance for transactions in Russia
since 1991. Of this total, more than $1 billion was approved under its
Oil and Gas Framework Agreement.
The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provides loans,
loan guarantees, and political investment insurance to American
companies investing in Russia.
The Trade and Development Agency (TDA) has approved approximately $51
million in funding for feasibility studies on more than 130 investment
U.S. Department of Agriculture coordinates a variety of technical
assistance and exchange activities under its Emerging Markets Program,
including the Cochran Fellowship Program which brings Russian
agriculturists to the United States for short-term training. These
projects are aimed at increasing U.S. agricultural exports to Russia,
while helping the Russian agricultural sector learn about Western-style
agribusiness management, marketing, and other issues.
The Eurasia Foundation, a private, non-profit, grant-making
organization supported by the U.S. Government and private foundations,
has awarded more than 1,600 grants totaling more than $35 million to
Russian non-governmental organizations and U.S.-Russian NGO
partnerships since 1993. The Foundation's grants have been targeted at
three main programmatic areas: economic reform, governmental reform and
the non-profit sector, and media and communications.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--James F. Collins
Deputy Chief of Mission--John F. Tefft
Counselor for Political Affairs--John M. Ordway
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Michael Matera
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--John Peters
Counselor for Consular Affairs--Susan Wood
Counselor for Administrative Affairs--John O'Keefe
Counselor for Public Affairs--Robert R. Gosende
Director, U.S. Agency for International Development--Janet Valentine
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).
Consulates General are in the following cities:
St. Petersburg (Furshtatskaya Ulitsa 15, tel.  (812) 275-1701);
Vladivostok (Mordovtseva Ulitsa 12, tel.  (4232) 268-458/554); and
Yekaterinburg (tel.  (3432) 60-11-43)
In Moscow, the U.S. Commercial Office is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 15
(tel.  (095) 255-4848/4660 or 9564255, 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) 1106479).
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 Sheetsexist 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 traveland 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
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,
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,
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-
Travelers can check the latest health information with
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,
Georgia. A hotline at 877 FYI-TRIP (877 394-8747) gives the most recent
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and
advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries.
This information is also available on the Web at
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 emergency.
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; Country
Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published
annually 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. 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
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