Robert H. Donaldson
Trustees Professor of Political Science, University of Tulsa
Presented to the 41st Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Los Angeles, California, March 18, 2000
A discussion of the policy legacy that an individual political leader leaves to his country should begin by considering the extent to which a leader and his personal characteristics can have an impact on political events. The study of leadership, personality, and politics has been a preoccupation of social scientists for many decades, and there is a rich literature drawn from observations of a variety of political environments, from democratic to totalitarian.1 The analysis that best frames the present study is that of Fred Greenstein in his classic, Personality and Politics. Of particular relevance is Greenstein's summary discussion of the circumstances in which individual actions affect events: "The likelihood of personal impact varies with 1) the degree to which the actions take place in an evironment which admits of restructuring; 2) the location of the actor in the environment; 3) the actor's peculiar strengths or weaknesses." The latter two conditions are self-explanatory, but the first requires some further elaboration. Political environments that "admit of restructuring," Greenstein explains, are "unstable" or in a state of "precarious equilibrium," whereas a situation that does not admit of restructuring would be one in which the outcome "can be expected to occur even if some of the contributing factors are eliminated."2
In the context of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation (or of the USSR before it), it is not difficult to determine which leaders are strategically placed so that their peculiar strengths or weaknesses can be brought to bear on the content of policy. In the Soviet period, since the time of Stalin the General Secretary of the Communist Party occupied the strategic leadership position, whereas in the post-Soviet period--and especially after the passage of the 1993 Constitution--the President of the Russian Federation is positioned to dominate the policy process. Under what circumstances, then--i.e., at which times or in which issue areas--might we expect the occupants of these positions to have impact on policy? Guided by Greenstein's first proposition, we might hypothesize that a leader's impact would be greater in times of political transition or internal instability. It would also be greater in times when an unrestrained individual dictatorship (a "cult of personality," in Soviet parlance) overrode the norms of collective leadership in the top councils of the party or state. Conversely, it would be unlikely that a leader would have much impact at relatively settled times, when the distribution of influence among interest groups and institutions is fairly static and shared governance (or "collective leadership") prevails. Similarly, opportunities for an individual leader to restructure the political environment are limited at times (or in particular issue areas) when doctrine or ideology is rigidly adhered to and leaves little room for maneuver.
Looking at Moscow's foreign policy since World War II, we can easily discern occasions when Stalin's power was unrestrained and his personality traits had significant impact on policy. Though hardly unbiased, Khrushchev gave powerful testimony to the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU on the impact of Stalin's paranoia on Soviet foreign policy:
Stalin was a very distrustful man, sickly suspicious....Everywhere and in everything he saw 'enemies,' 'two-facers,' and 'spies,'...He had completely lost consciousness of reality; he demonstrated his suspiciousness and haughtiness not only in relation to individuals in the USSR, but in relation to whole parties and nations.3
The opposite case--relatively little impact of the leader's personality on foreign policy--is well illustrated in the study of the Brezhnev era. Termed by his successor Gorbachev "the era of stagnation," the Brezhnev period in Soviet history was characterized by the collective rule of relatively colorless politicians who represented strong interests and institutions; it was also a time of doctrinal rigidity and established routine. Policy outcomes during this period could usually be expected without regard to the particular personalities at the Party's helm. This pattern was not broken during the two brief gerontocratic administrations that followed Brezhnev's. Not until Gorbachev began to consolidate his power as General Secretary in the late 1980s did the Soviet political environment again admit of "restructuring"--indeed, perestroika, its Russian translation, was Gorbachev's preferred slogan. The foreign policy record of his administration fairly clearly demonstrated the impact of his personal leadership, as he guided the choice of key personnel, reduced the role of the party bureaucracy, discarded outdated Marxist-Leninist tenets, and conducted an innovative personal diplomacy.4
Gorbachev's experiment in perestroika was an immense failure, resulting in the collapse of the political institutions of the USSR and the breakup of the country itself. Stepping into this precarious environment, which decidedly "admitted of restructuring," Boris Yeltsin clearly occupied the strategic location from which he could exert far-reaching impact on the foreign policy of his newly established realm. In Greenstein's framework, it was the third variable that would prove decisive. On Yeltsin's political skills--the strengths and weaknesses of his personality--would ultimately depend the determination of his personal impact as a leader. He was destined by his situation for greatness; but in Sidney Hook's terms, his personal skills would determine whether he would go down in history as a Great Man or a Great Failure.5
Although Gorbachev had set a new direction and forged new relationships, the foreign policy challenges facing Yeltsin demanded considerable leadership skill. To him fell the unique opportunity of defining a new national identity for Russia and establishing the basic concept for its national security. Moreover, with the collapse of the long-dominant Communist Party, he would need to build the new institutions that would shape foreign policy. Like Gorbachev's, his foreign policy could help set the direction for economic and social changes in the country and could gain the foreign assistance that might spark its recovery from a long downward slide. A totally new challenge lay in establishing relationships of trust and mutual assistance with the fourteen other "newly independent states" that emerged from the Soviet collapse. Russia's new constructive relationships with the West were not yet solidified, and immediate attention to the "non-West" would be required to reduce threats to the security of the borders of Russia and her new neighbors. Finally, Yeltsin would have to pursue policies that ensured that Russia found a prominent "place at the table," to ensure safeguarding not only of its traditional interests, but of its concerns relating to the new dangers of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ethno-religious conflict, and terrorism. To determine the shape of Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy legacy and to assess the impact of his personality on Russian foreign policy of the past decade, we now proceed to summarize Yeltsin's record in responding to each of these challenges.6
Basic Concepts of Foreign Policy under Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin's primary aim in foreign policy, like Mikhail Gorbachev's before him, was to create a non-threatening external environment that would be most conducive to his country's internal economic and political development. As in the early decades of Soviet rule, this concentration on domestic development, together with relative shortcomings in military strength, produced a foreign policy of accommodation, retrenchment, and risk-avoidance--at least, in Russia's relations with states beyond the borders of the former USSR.
The fall of the CPSU and its Marxist-Leninist ideology, together with the disintegration of the USSR itself, left a conceptual void in the foreign policy of the newly-independent Russian Federation that raised to the forefront the question of Russia's national identity. Russia had never existed as a nation-state; rather, during both the Tsarist and Soviet periods it had been a multinational empire with messianic ambitions. Unlike other European imperial states, the modern Russian nation was not formed prior to the period of colonial expansion. Moreover, the tsars, unlike the rulers of Britain or France, colonized lands that bordered their home territories, thus producing an unusual intermixing of Russian and non-Russian peoples.7 Further complicating the definition of Russia's national identity is the fact that twenty-five million ethnic Russians live outside the Russian Federation, in the other newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.
Not only are the people of the Russian Federation experiencing new geopolitical confines, but they are also acutely aware of the relative weakness of their state, in comparison to the superpower status enjoyed by the USSR at the height of its power. The dizzying economic decline of the early 1990s produced a profound sense of national humiliation, as Russia's leaders--first Gorbachev, then Yeltsin--were perceived as meeting with Western leaders in the role of supplicants for foreign aid. The combination of a loss of national mission, a wounded national pride, and a confused national identity rendered more acute the need for Yeltsin to articulate a sense of national purpose in the foreign policy of the new Russia. As presidential advisor Sergei Stankevich wrote in March 1992, "foreign policy with us does not proceed from the directions and priorities of a developed statehood. On the contrary, the practice of our foreign policy. . . will help Russia become Russia."8
Yeltsin assigned the task of spelling out the basic principles of Russian foreign policy in the early months of 1992 to Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, a young professional diplomat who had spent sixteen years in the Department of International Organizations of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs.9 On the foundations of the liberal internationalism of Gorbachev's "new thinking," Kozyrev--not surprisingly--constructed a heavy reliance on Russian participation in international institutions. Determined to liberate Russia from the burdens of empire, the messianism, and the over-reliance on military instruments that had characterized both the Tsarist and the Soviet periods, Kozyrev developed foreign policy ideas centered on the promotion of human rights and the universal values of global economic, environmental, and nuclear security, realized through a community of democratic states. Since democracies do not attack other democracies, a democratic Russia would have nothing to fear from the West.
If the purpose of Russian foreign policy was the creation of the conditions in which the new nation could prosper, Kozyrev reasoned, it would be necessary for Russia to gain membership in the club of developed democratic states and their economic institutions, thus assuming the "fitting place that has been predetermined for us by history and geography."10 During these early months of 1992, not only Kozyrev but also President Yeltsin and Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, who was responsible for economic reform, consistently voiced these "liberal westernizing" views of Russia's national interests.11
The tradition of expressing the basic principles of policy in a programmatic and officially-endorsed statement still runs strong in post-Soviet Russia. Accordingly, Kozyrev was urged to develop a "foreign policy concept" that would be discussed in the government and adopted by the Supreme Soviet and the President, to serve as the expression of national consensus as well as guidance for diplomats, parliamentarians, and others.
For Kozyrev, Gaidar and other liberals, the Western democracies were the ideal model and partner for Russia. Russia must shed its tradition of distinctiveness and its illusions of serving a "special role" as a "bridge" between Europe and Asia. And it must avoid the temptations of assuming a leading role in the Commonwealth of Independent States, not only because reintegration of Russia's economy with those of the other former Soviet republics would slow market-oriented reforms and integration with Atlantic and European economic institutions, but also because Russia's assumption of a peacekeeping role in the troubled bordering states would restore the privileged status of the military and thereby threaten the tender shoots of democracy in Russia.
Juxtaposed to this "westernizing" or "Atlanticist" orientation of the Foreign Ministry was a "pragmatic nationalist" or "Eurasianist" viewpoint that was expressed by officials in a variety of government and academic institutions. From this perspective, articulated forcefully by presidential advisor Sergei Stankevich, Russia was indeed separate and distinct from the West--even more so with its new boundaries--and did have a special mission to serve as a bridge between Western and Eastern civilizations. Foreign policy must be more than pragmatic opportunism; without displaying messianism, Russia needed a mission--in Stankevich's words, "to initiate and maintain a multilateral dialogue of cultures, civilizations and states. Russia the conciliator, Russia the unifier, Russia the harmonizer. . . . A country that takes in West and East, North and South, and thus is uniquely capable. . . of harmoniously unifying many different elements, of achieving a historic symphony." For Stankevich, Eurasianism was not a rejection of the West, but a balanced policy, although the immediate requirements of balance were to heighten emphasis on the East. With the West, Russia at best could aspire to a role as junior partner, "not worth accepting." The very first priority for Soviet diplomacy, however, was "to talk in tougher tones"--to defend the Russian population and Russian heritage in the other states of the former Soviet Union from any form of discrimination or attack.12 Although the "pragmatic nationalists" did not go so far as to advocate forcible revision of the boundaries of the Russian Federation, they clearly disagreed with Kozyrev and Gaidar in arguing that Russia should be prepared to make economic, political, and diplomatic sacrifices in order to promote tighter integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
By the end of 1992, this internal criticism was combining with external events--including the disappointing Western response to Russia's requests for economic assistance--to bring to an end the "romantic" phase of Russian foreign policy, and the movement of Russian liberals closer toward the centrist foreign policy views of the "pragmatic nationalists." Another factor contributing to this coalescence was the growing political strength of the "Red-Brown coalition" of communists and extreme nationalists, whose members voiced an even more sharply critical "fundamentalist nationalist" point of view. Most of the attention given to this orientation was generated by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the misleadingly-named Liberal Democratic Party, a neo-fascist party which showed surprising strength in the parliamentary elections of December 1993. Other proponents included Gennadii Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Simply stated, the foreign policy idea expressed by this group sought to recreate the Russian empire--up to and even surpassing the borders of the former USSR--by the use of force, if necessary. Unlike the "pragmatic nationalists," the "fundamentalists" were openly anti-Western, professing to see Western aid as a conspiracy to weaken the Russian economy, and opposing any further moves to integrate Russia into the world economy. They defined the Russian nation in ethnic rather than civic terms, with some chauvinists openly voicing anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic sentiments. Appealing to many disaffected elements in the military and security establishments, politicians of this orientation advocated the restoration of a strong, authoritarian imperial state in Russia. More so than their "pragmatic" counterparts, these extreme nationalists were the late twentieth-century heirs of the Slavophiles, contemptuously denouncing "Westernizers" for thinking that Western culture or political institutions were worthy of imitation, and depicting Russian civilization as distinctive and superior.
The official foreign policy concept approved by President Yeltsin in April 1993 reflected the complete abandonment of the "liberal Westernizing" idea and the convergence of "establishment" thinking around the "pragmatic nationalist" viewpoint. The final document--the authoritative statement of Yeltsin's foreign policy priorities--emphasized Russia's rights and responsibilities in the states of the former USSR (generally referred to as blizhnee zarubezh'e, or "near abroad"). 13
Of the nine "vitally important interests" listed in the document, only the third pertained to the world outside the borders of the former USSR. In referring to this domain, the authorized summary of the document mentioned the countries of Eastern Europe ("which are in our historical sphere of interests") and of Western Europe (whose "integration without Russia could do serious damage to the Russian Federation's vital interests") before it referred to Russia's relations with the United States. Evidently seeking to correct the perceived earlier imbalance in this relationship, the summary spoke of common interests that create the preconditions for developing partnership, but it stressed that U.S.-Russian interests did not always coincide, while complaining about "discriminatory restrictions in the commercial, economic, scientific and technological spheres."
In the Asian-Pacific region, priority was given to "urgent consolidation of the breakthrough" in relations with China ("from our standpoint, the region's most important state") over "normalizing" relations with Japan, where "the expediency of continuing to search for a solution to the territorial problem" was qualified by the caveat, "but not to the detriment of Russia's interests." The document expressed concern over the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula and on the Indian subcontinent, and it deplored the tensions in South and West Asia from the context of their harmful influence on the former Soviet states of Central Asia and the Transcaucasus. In the Middle East, it called for settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, while also envisioning a greater Russian role "in resolving the problems in and around Iraq" and a "stronger Russian presence in the regional arms and raw materials market." Clearly reflecting a reduced global involvement on Moscow's part, the concept document mentioned Central and South America, Africa, and Australia only in the context of "the world community's common efforts to settle regional conflicts."
"Top priority" and "fundamental importance" in Russian foreign policy was reserved to the area of the former Soviet Union. Even while asserting that Russia remained a great power, the concept document stressed its special mission in this sphere:
". . . the Russian Federation, despite the crisis it is experiencing, remains a great power in terms of its potential, its influence on the course of world events and the responsibility it bears as a result of this. It is responsible not only for the new world order that has arisen since the collapse of the socialist camp, but especially for the creation of a new system of positive relations among the states that used to make up the Soviet Union, and it is the guarantor of the stability of these relations."
Yeltsin's concept document emphasized that, in its relations with the former Soviet republics, Russia followed a policy seeking "the greatest possible degree of integration" based on the principle of "strictly voluntary participation and reciprocity." If certain states chose not to cooperate in some spheres, then it was essential to move ahead in developing arrangements "with the interested countries alone." Specific tasks in this realm included the creation of an effective collective security system, ensuring Russia's status as the only nuclear state in the CIS, securing the external borders of the Commonwealth, and developing and improving the peacekeeping mechanism "on the basis of a mandate from the UN or the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe." Special urgency was assigned to the "problems of ensuring military security that have arisen as a result of the Soviet Union's disintegration."
Judging from the published summary, the tone of Yeltsin's concept statement fell short of the open hostility toward the external world that was typical of Marxist-Leninist pronouncements and that is still evident in the expressions of "fundamentalist nationalist" politicians. Clearly, the official statement of guiding policy ideas was less oriented toward participation in multilateral institutions and more forcefully assertive in its enunciation of Russia's objectives than Moscow's foreign policy had been during the previous year.
Andrei Kozyrev remained the target of hostile criticism from parliament and the press--and even, on occasion, from President Yeltsin himself--until after the December 1995 elections, when he resigned as foreign minister to take a seat in the new Duma. His former ally, Egor Gaidar, has noted of Kozyrev that his main weakness was "that he wanted so badly to be foreign minister." As soon as Yeltsin notices such a trait in a member of his team, Gaidar wrote, that individual loses Yeltsin's respect and the chance to speak his own mind. He ends up as a "yes man."14 Yeltsin's choice as Kozyrev's replacement was a study in contrast--Evgenii Primakov, an academician whose political career had benefited from the patronage of Aleksandr Yakovlev. Trained as an Arabist, he spent five years as a Pravda correspondent in the Middle East. With Yakovlev's sponsorship, he became a close aide to Gorbachev, serving on his Presidential Council and Security Council. After the August coup, he had been appointed as chief of the reorganized Foreign Intelligence Service, and he retained this post in Yeltsin's government--virtually the only holdover from the Gorbachev team.
Expressing his foreign policy ideas in his first press conference as foreign minister in January 1996, Primakov unmistakably allied himself with the "pragmatic nationalist" and "Eurasianist" viewpoints. He declared that "Russia has been and remains a great power, and its policy toward the outside world should correspond to that status," while echoing his predecessor in saying that Russia's policy should create "an environment that would, to the greatest extent possible, be favorable to the development of the economy and the continuation of democratic processes in Russian society."
The relations with Russia's former Cold-War adversaries, he emphasized, must be "an equitable and mutually advantageous partnership that takes each other's interests into account." Expressing the need to "diversify" Russia's foreign ties, he made special mention of the Middle East and the key states of Asia (not coincidentally, the subjects of his academic specialization). Primakov enumerated four foreign policy tasks which would be given top priority:
1. The creation of the best external conditions conducive to strengthening the territorial integrity of our state.
2. The strengthening of centripetal tendencies in the territory of the former USSR. Naturally, this does not and cannot mean the rebirth of the Soviet Union in the form in which it used to exist. The sovereignty obtained by the republics is irreversible, but this does not negate the need for reintegration processes, first of all in the economic field.
3. The stabilization of the international situation at the regional level. We have achieved great successes in the stabilization of the international situation at the global level, having jointly won--I want to put special emphasis on the point that there were no victors or vanquished here--jointly won the cold war. Now things depend on the settlement of regional, nationality-based, interethnic and interstate conflicts. Russian foreign policy will do everything possible to settle such conflicts, first of all in the CIS and in the Yugoslav crisis.
4. The development of fruitful international relations that will prevent the creation of new hotbeds of tension, and especially the proliferation of means or weapons of mass destruction.15
In a later interview, Primakov, repeating the formula that "Russia doesn't have permanent enemies, but it does have permanent interests," described these four tenets as Russia's "permanent interests." Looking ahead to the future state of international relations, he foresaw a world fifty years hence in which the concept of "balance of power" would be different. "Then there won't be any question of who will balance whom or who will outweigh whom." Describing a process of internationalization, he concluded: "There won't be any 'world government,' and states will maintain their sovereignty, but everyone will be so closely connected by production and the economy that it will be hard to speak of a division or balance of power or the other things we've grown accustomed to hearing."16
A generation older than Kozyrev, Primakov proved to be a more experienced manager of the foreign ministry and a more adept politician. The liberal press characterized him as a "moderate reformer," with a steady style and immense organizational talent, who "appears to personify a relative foreign policy consensus." One article quoted Yakovlev's declaration that Primakov, though "not a conservative," would pursue a policy that "will constantly remind the Americans of Russia's existence."17 Primakov's relative immunity from the sharp criticism that had plagued Kozyrev was due in no small part to the fact that the foreign policy ideas he expressed found support among broad segments of the Russian political elite, while his assertiveness in promoting Russia's national interests seemed to restore a measure of pride in Russian foreign policy.
Foreign Policy-Making under Yeltsin: The Institutional Legacy
When Yeltsin issued a decree in the week following the attempted coup banning the communist party, there was no longer an effective mechanism at the center for directing and coordinating foreign policy. As a substitute, Yeltsin sought to augment the powers of his own office to assume this central role in foreign policy making. Initially, this entailed a struggle for power with parliament. The earlier, Soviet-era constitution of the Russian republic (written in 1978 and--though much amended in its last year--continuing in force until 1993) gave the Russian parliament the formal right to determine the main lines of foreign policy and approve ministerial appointments. But efforts by the legislative body in 1992 and 1993 to turn this formal power into reality were stubbornly resisted by Yeltsin.
Presidential dominance of foreign policy became even more pronounced in Yeltsin's Russian Federation than it had been in Gorbachev's USSR, especially since the adoption of the new constitution in 1993. Articles 80 and 86 of this document give the president the power to exercise "leadership of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation," within the framework of the constitution and laws of the country.18 The formal or official powers of the Russian president under the new constitution are greater than those of any previous Russian leader since the tsar. Of course, unlike the tsar's powers, those of the president have been granted by a vote of the Russian people.
Unlike its predecessor, the 1993 constitution clearly gives the president control of the government. In accordance with the constitution and federal laws, the president determines the basic guidelines of domestic and foreign policy, serves as commander-in-chief and appoints and dismisses top commanders of the armed forces, approves military doctrine, may declare martial law and states of emergency (with the approval of the parliament's upper house, the Federation Council), and may issue binding decrees and directives (providing they do not contradict the constitution or federal law). Given these considerable powers, it is not surprising that the president has a large staff, directed by the Head of Administration, and several advisory bodies comprised of experts from inside and outside the government.
Yeltsin's direct role in foreign policy-making was further enhanced by the fact that the foreign minister and the "power ministers" of Russia--the ministers of defense and interior, and the heads of the intelligence and security services--report directly to the president, rather than through the prime minister. With so many responsible officials having direct access to the president--and given that Yeltsin's style, like the former provincial party secretary that he is, was to keep his hands directly in so many matters--it is not surprising that there has been an endemic messiness in Russian foreign policy.
Yeltsin's creation of the Security Council in April 1992 was an attempt to bring the top foreign policy and national security officials together to deliberate and prepare decisions for the president to implement by decree. However, there was considerable variability in the Council's effectiveness and priorities, depending in large part on the political ambitiousness of its Secretary--of whom there were nine in the seven remaining years of Yeltsin's presidency. In late 1994, when the war in Chechnya was launched, the Council, under the conservative Oleg Lobov, was feared by liberals as the shadowy and powerful refuge of the "party of war" that was exercising its sway over an enfeebled Yeltsin. During his brief tenure as Secretary in mid-1996, Aleksandr Lebed sought to transform the Security Council into his personal vehicle for dominating not only security and defense policy, but internal economic questions as well. On the whole, however, Yeltsin resisted efforts to inflate the Council's authority and endow it with operational responsibility, evidently sensing that such a body--reminiscent of the post-Stalinist Politburo--would dilute his own power.
During the early years of his presidency, Yeltsin attempted to lessen the confusion arising from multiple centers of foreign policy-making by issuing repeated decrees endowing the Foreign Ministry with a coordinating role. Only with Kozyrev's dismissal and the improvement Primakov brought to the ministry in top-level organizational and political skill, was the foreign ministry able to fulfill this coordinating role. Evidence of Primakov's dominant role appeared in 1997, when Yeltsin decreed the elimination of ten consultative bodies in his office, including the potentially-troublesome Foreign Policy Council.
Yeltsin's preference for formal conceptual statements of guiding principle, which resulted in the issuance of the foreign policy concept in April 1993, also brought about the production of a new defense doctrine in November 1993. On the whole, in its emphasis on mobile units and peacekeeping responsibilities, especially in the CIS, the new Russian military doctrine clearly envisaged the armed forces as an instrument of the country's foreign policy. And by giving the professional military leaders a major role in developing the political element of the doctrine--as he did in a well-publicized meeting of the Security Council in February 1993--Yeltsin was underscoring the military's significant influence on the formulation of national security policy.19 But performance of the Defense Ministry under General Pavel Grachev was generally miserable. Yeltsin fired him in June 1996, naming as his successor Lebed's former associate General Igor Rodionov. But the internal crisis in the military continued, exacerbated by the memory of its inept and demoralizing performance in Chechnia, until an angry Yeltsin publicly fired both Rodionov and the Chief of General Staff Viktor Samsonov in May 1977. The new minister, General Igor Sergeev, was evidently more to the president's liking; he played a highly visible role in the intensifying national debate on the critical questions of further refining the military doctrine, funding the armed forces budget, and taking steps toward military reform.
Only two months after Sergeev's appointment, Yeltsin issued the first decrees describing the proposed military reform. The total size of the armed forces was to be cut by half a million, to 1.2 million; conscription was eventually to be abolished, but not by Yeltsin's original target date of 2000. Future annual military spending was to be limited to 3.5 percent of GNP, down from a 1991 level of 7.2 percent. In the first stage of reductions, 300,000 civilian jobs were to be cut, and various activities not directly related to defense (such as road construction) were to be transferred to civilian agencies. Expenses of the administrative apparatus of the defense ministry were to be limited to one percent of the total defense budget. There was no announced plan, however, to reduce the ratio of officers to enlisted men from its current level of 1:1. The severely reduced defense budget is one element of the Yeltsin legacy that his presumed successor, Vladimir Putin, has already vowed to change.
Together with the military, the intelligence service is another "power-wielding" institutional actor that regularly found a place at the table when foreign policy decisions were made in the Soviet Union. It continued to do so, without having undergone significant reform, in Yeltsin's Russia. The best available evidence on the role of the intelligence and security services in post-Soviet Russia demonstrates that Yeltsin did not truly curb the powers of these agencies, but rather chose to coopt their support, not only to perform foreign intelligence functions, but also to assist him in his struggle against his political opponents.20 The price he paid for these services is that the successors to the KGB continue to play a significant policy-making role. The dispersal of KGB functions into five agencies and the dizzying succession of different names did not really diminish the power of the security apparatus or disguise the fact that most of its personnel were inherited from the KGB. That Yeltsin's last three prime ministers (as well as his last three Security Council secretaries) were drawn from the ranks of the security services is itself striking evidence of their continuing influence on the making of foreign policy. Of course, Putin, one of the three on each list, personifies this continuing prominence of the state security forces.
On the whole, parliamentary influence on Russian foreign policy under Yeltsin has been quite limited. If anything, its impact is more indirect than direct, for by serving as a forum for the articulation of dissenting opinions that are widely shared among politicians and elements of the public, parliament helps shape the political climate in which executive decisions must be made and may thereby influence the tone and tactics, as opposed to the basic directions, of foreign policy.21 Viewed in this respect, it is possible to conclude that a major change in the conduct of foreign policy that began in the latter period of Gorbachev's rule and continued in the Yeltsin years is the opening of the policy process to wider participation and greater public visibility. Prior to the initiation of glasnost' by Gorbachev, extreme secrecy was the norm in the decision-making processes of the USSR, and sensitive foreign policy issues were discussed and decided by a relatively few high-ranking officials within the top leadership. Public discussion, even in parliamentary forums, took the form of after-the-fact justification and ratification of decisions, the basis for which was rarely if ever discussed with completeness and candor. To a limited extent during Gorbachev's last year or two in office, and to a much greater degree in Yeltsin's democratizing Russia, the foreign policy debate became more public and more open to the participation of a variety of groups representing more diverse viewpoints.
The greater openness of the political process in Russia, and the requirement that political elites engage in genuine electoral competition, has made policy-makers pay more attention than ever before to public opinion on international issues. But Russia is still far from being a mature, functioning democracy, and the channels through which public attitudes are transmitted into the political process are in their infancy. Political parties in particular remain insufficiently developed as organizations to have any major impact on foreign policy. While the opposition parties that dominated the Dumas elected in 1993 and 1995--Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation--attempted to capitalize on the public's confusion about Russia's national identity and its sense of national humiliation, surveys showed the public to be less nationalistic and less favorable to the use of force than are the party elites. Moreover, election polls showed that there is a wide variety of foreign policy viewpoints among each party's voters, making it extremely difficult to predict a voter's party choice on the basis of his attitudes about Russia's external relations.22
Similarly, interest groups in Russia are poorly organized and fragmented. While it is possible to identify certain economic interests with particular policy preferences--for example, defense industrialists with protectionism and higher defense spending--studies of the lobbying activities of interest groups have concluded that there has been limited effectiveness.23 However, the growing importance of campaign funding by large banks and corporations, as demonstrated by the 1996 presidential elections, and the subsequent increased acquisition of print and broadcast media outlets by major banking and energy interests, were evidence of a heightening influence of business interests on the policy-making process. Yeltsin's close association with Boris Berezovsky, the most infamous of the Russian oligarchs--and the one most open in his "king-making" aspirations--symbolized the continuing hold that Russian financial-industrial "clans" had on the highest levels of political influence during the Yeltsin years.
Russia's history of strong executive leadership--perpetuated in the 1993 constitution, with the extensive powers it gives to the president--together with the rudimentary development of parties and interest groups, make the personal attitudes and political skill of the top leader and his closest associates of particular importance. This factor should have produced a strong and coherent vision for Russian foreign policy, smoothly and effectively implemented. That it has not done so is, at least in part, the result of several important internal features of Russian politics. In a sense, foreign policy has become hostage to the two types of bitter political struggles that Russia has endured in its first years of independence.
The most visible realm of political struggle--that between Yeltsin and his parliamentary and political opponents--was able to affect foreign policy primarily because of the openings created by the second realm: the messy struggles within the government itself. And clearly, the greatest impact of these influences from outside the executive branch was on those issues of foreign policy relating to the "near abroad," the former republics of the USSR that so suddenly became objects of foreign rather than domestic policy. But even in this realm, one major study has concluded that "the fitful incursions of other political forces into foreign policy have accentuated its meanderings more than they have altered its overall direction."24
Ironically, it was in the realm of internecine political conflict--the unceasing struggles for power and allegiance within Yeltsin's own top entourage--that the greatest impact on foreign policy was felt. Clearly, the president's personality and political style encouraged this political infighting. The constant cabinet realignments and bureaucratic reorganizations, the creation of one after another coordinating councils, the endless procession of ministers and advisers contributed greatly to the lack of clarity and coherence in Russian foreign policy. While Yeltsin's fragile health and his personal habits accentuated these tendencies, at root was his failure to articulate his own clear and consistent vision of Russia's national interests and to enforce sufficient discipline on his own government team to translate this vision into effective policy.
Russia and the "Near Abroad": The Yeltsin Legacy
The one realm of foreign policy in which Yeltsin did not himself inherit a legacy from Gorbachev was in Russia's relations with the former Soviet republics. What had for centuries been a matter of domestic policy for Moscow overnight became a foreign policy challenge of the greatest immediacy. Together with the presidents of Ukraine and Belarus, Yeltsin had created the Commonwealth of Independent States, to which the new states of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Moldova eventually acceded. Yet this strange organization--neither a conferederation nor an economic union nor a security pact--was clearly intended, at least by some of the leaders, as a mere figleaf behind which the Soviet divorce would take place. While understanding the need to reassure Soviet military leaders that security needs would not be overlooked, Ukraine in particular wanted no central institutions (much less a centralized military) for the CIS, lest they become levers for Moscow's use in reclaiming its imperial hegemony.
Initially, Yeltsin treated the CIS as an instrument of Russian foreign policy in two ways. It served as a means of coordination of policies among its members, while he also saw it as a mechanism for asserting Russian hegemony over the other eleven states. Yeltsin pursued both goals simultaneously, initially giving prominence to the former. But with the passage of time the latter became an important feature of Yeltsin's policy. According to the text of the original agreement, the members agreed to coordinate foreign policy activities. They specifically committed themselves to creating a "common military-strategic space" under a joint commander, including a unified control over nuclear weapons. That commitment along with an agreement to create a "common economic space" was abandoned within two years.25
In the absence of a joint nuclear command, Yeltsin set about to take control over nuclear weapons. This decision, which took several years to implement, was made possible in part with the strong support--financial and political--of the United States. When the CIS was created, nuclear weapons were deployed in four states: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The latter three states committed themselves in principle to ridding their territory of all nuclear weapons, but when Ukraine soon found itself enmeshed in a series of contentious issues with Russia, President Leonid Kravchuk balked at the idea of turning strategic nuclear weapons over to Russia. Despite the personal intervention of President Clinton, not until Kravchuk was replaced by Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine's 1994 elections was the agreement for Ukraine's denuclearization sealed.
For his part, Yeltsin faced pressure from nationalist forces in the Duma and elsewhere demanding territorial concessions from Ukraine in the Crimea and an assertive stand on the division of the Black Sea Fleet and its base at Sevastopol'. Following his reelection in 1996 and the improvement of his health in 1997, Yeltsin was able to reassert his executive authority. Though on many foreign policy issues the hard-line nationalists of the State Duma mirrored their predecessors in the Supreme Soviet, Yeltsin's increased political clout in 1997, together with the strong powers over foreign policy under his tailor-made constitution, permitted the Russian president to override domestic opposition and come to terms with Ukraine. A compelling motive for him to do so was the movement within NATO to expand into Eastern Europe. Russia's leverage against the powerful forces of NATO was meager, but one instrument to bolster its defense was to strengthen this weak bonds between the two Slavic states.
This Yeltsin did in the spring of 1997. In late May an accord was finally reached on the Black Sea Fleet. For appropriate compensation Russia was permitted to station its portion of the Black Sea Fleet at the port of Sevastopol' for twenty years. This accord set the stage for President Yeltsin to make his first visit to Kiev, where he and Leonid Kuchma signed a treaty of friendship. Moscow agreed to write off most of Ukraine's huge oil debt to Russia. At the ceremony Yeltsin publicly observed, "We respect and honor the territorial integrity of Ukraine."26 Formally, good relations were affirmed, but in both countries suspicions remained regarding the ultimate intentions of the other.
While Yeltsin's moderate leadership was important in producing compromise agreements with Ukraine that displeased Russia's hardliners, it was also important in restraining a joint movement of empire-rebuilders in both Russia and Belarus, who pressed for reunification of the two states as a first step in reconstituting a wider union.Yeltsin's objectives were much more limited; he wanted legal authorization to station Russian troops on Belarusian territory. This he received in an agreement on monetary union on April 12, 1994, and a treaty on cooperation and friendship which the Belarusian parliament ratified in April of the following year. But Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko wanted much closer economic relations, to bolster his own weak economy, and on this issue Moscow was hesitant. The Belarusian economy was in such bad shape that integration could only end up as a burden on Russia; moreover, Belarus remained a command economy resistant to economic reform. Consequently Yeltsin resisted the lifting of trade barriers and rejected plans for a monetary or customs union between the two countries. 27 Lukashenko's suppression of the media at home and the increasingly authoritarian nature of his administration, not to mention a mercurial pattern of behavior, put off many in Russia who were trying to nurture a fledgling democracy. But under pressure from Ziuganov in his re-election campaign, Yeltsin agreed in April 1996 to sign a vague treaty creating a "Community of Sovereign Republics" with Belarus. But he continued to resist meaningful steps toward reunion throughout his second term, despite the tempting prospect that a merged entity could give Yeltsin an opportunity to gain an additional presidential term. Continuing pressure from Lukashenko and Russian nationalists produced a second treaty, on the "Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus," signed by the two presidents and ratified by Russia's parliament just days before Yeltsin's resignation. Again, however, it was widely conceded to be so vague as to be without concrete meaning.28
A strong core of Russian opinion, both elite and mass, supports the idea of greater integration among the former Soviet republics. That opinion is matched by similar views among a portion of the populations of some of the CIS states, particularly in Central Asia, But among all of the newly independent states (with the exception of Belarus) there is a strong determination to preserve the independence and sovereignty won in 1991. Although Boris Yeltsin shared this goal of greater integration and the extension of Russia's hegemony over the former empire, he showed a preference for diplomacy over coercion in the quest for satisfying Russia's needs in the "near abroad." What tactics his successor will choose remains an open question.
Russia's Relations with the West: The Yeltsin Legacy
One can only speculate how far rapprochement between Moscow and the West would have gone had Gorbachev remained in office. By negotiating far-reaching strategic and conventional arms control agreements, terminating costly Soviet involvement in Third World conflicts, and allowing the peaceful liquidation of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and of the Warsaw Pact, Gorbachev had revolutionized East-West relations. Plainly, however, Gorbachev's successor, Boris Yeltsin, aimed to go beyond rapprochement with the United States. He began his administration with a genuine attempt to build a partnership with the United States. During the first months of 1992, Yeltsin, and especially Kozyrev, actively trumpeted the "Atlanticist" position. The Russian president stated his views at a special summit meeting of the United Nations Security Council on January 31, 1992:
Russia sees the U.S., the West, and the countries of the East not merely as partners but as allies. This is a highly important prerequisite for, and, I would say, a revolution in, peaceful cooperation among the states of the civilized world.
We rule out any subordination of foreign policy to ideological doctrines or a self-sufficient policy. Our principles are simple and understandable: the supremacy of democracy, human rights and liberties, legality, and morality.29
Before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in June 1992, Yeltsin reaffirmed his wish to join "the world community."30
But clearly more than ideology or perceptions was involved. Russia was impelled by its domestic condition to seek outside assistance, and no country was better positioned to aid the new administration than the United States. Yeltsin made transformation of Russia's economy his number one domestic priority. In an extraordinary speech in October 1991, Yeltsin discussed at length and in detail the need for Western assistance and cooperation, and he even promised to give the West whatever information it would want to facilitate aid.31
Western support for Yeltsin had an importance beyond economics. It was also important for him politically. Yeltsin understood that he could count on the support of Washington when he confronted domestic reaction. The value of this support became clearly evident during the failed coup of August 1991.32 And later during the parliamentary crisis in October 1993, Yeltsin sought and received support from the United States.9 In sum, the shift in Russian foreign policy toward a pro-Western orientation reflected conviction, necessity, and self-interest.
In the initial period after the collapse of the USSR, President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Kozyrev pursued the effort to "join the West" as the highest priority of Russian foreign policy, making no particular differentiation among the democratic market societies and associated international institutions whose partnership they sought. Like Gorbachev before them, they knocked on many doors, concluding treaties of friendship and cooperation with individual Western states, obtaining membership for Russia in that most exclusive of Western "clubs," the G7, and pursuing opportunities to cooperate with (and ultimately join) selective organizations such as the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Paris Club, and the London Club, as well as broader financial associations such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (soon to be succeeded by the World Trade Organization), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Monetary Fund.
Yeltsin also altered Russia's strategic posture. For the first time since the beginning of the nuclear arms race, Russia abandoned its goal of parity with the United States. "We are departing from the ominous parity," Yeltsin explained, "where each country was exerting every effort to stay in line, which has led to Russia . . . having half of its population living below the poverty line." He acknowledged that Russian concessions were made to give tangible "expression of the fundamental change in the political and economic relations between the United States of America and Russia."34 START II was agreed upon at the June 1992 summit and signed on January 3, 1993.
In the first phase of Yeltsin's rule, Russia's Western orientation extended to cooperation on issues where its interests had historically diverged, such as in the growing conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Though sympathetic to the Serbian cause, the Russian government condemned Serbian atrocities as well as Yugoslav support for Bosnian Serb aggression. Russia, notwithstanding its dislike of coercion against the Serbs, supported resolutions in the United Nations authorizing the use of force, if necessary. The Russian delegate to the Security Council made no effort to use the power of the veto to prevent the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the United Nations.35 The Yeltsin administration was careful to avoid drifting too far from the mainstream of international opinion on Yugoslavia and Bosnia.
For about two years the Yeltsin administration maintained a pro-Western orientation in the conduct of foreign policy. Russian-American summits in 1992 and 1993 demonstrated an unprecedented rapport between the leaderships of the two countries. At the Washington summit of June 1992, Yeltsin and Bush signed a Charter of Russian-American Partnership and Friendship affirming "the indivisibility of the security of North America and Europe" and a common commitment to "democracy, the supremacy of law . . . and support for human rights."36 In Vancouver, Canada, Yeltsin and President Clinton agreed to create a Russian-American Commission on Questions of Technology (popularly known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission for its co-chairmen). In Canada Yeltsin received a pledge of an immediate assistance package of $1.6 billion, and the Paris Club granted Russia a ten-year deferral of its debt obligations due in 1993.
However, both in the parliament and in non-government circles, Yeltsin was attacked by nationalists for his support of U.S. policy in Yugoslavia, and for such actions as the 1993 U.S. air strike against Iraq. Pravda chided Yeltsin, saying "The role of Washington yes-man is unbecoming of any country, especially Russia, and it inevitably conflicts with national interests."37 Andrei Kozyrev served as a lightning rod for much of the criticism of the administration. The Supreme Soviet called in vain for his removal.
For Boris Yeltsin these pressures imposed a careful balancing strategy. His record as a whole justifies the conclusion that his commitment to partnership with the West reflected a genuine conviction. And indeed, though there were significant swings in Russian foreign policy over the course of Yeltsin's two terms, the underlying rationale never changed. But to understand the swings it is necessary to consider both Yeltsin's political calculations and the evolving political and economic conditions within Russia.
Certainly a factor in the evolution of Russia's policy was popular disillusionment with the fruits of economic reform. "Shock therapy," begun in January 1992, led to severe economic hardship for millions of ordinary people. By virtually every economic index, production declined during the early post-Soviet years. Economic assistance from the United States proved to be disappointingly smaller than most Russians expected. Those critical of Yeltsin to begin with belittled American aid. "For a year and a half," noted Pravda after the Vancouver summit, "we have been fed cock-and-bull stories about the inevitable 'rain of gold' from the West to back up Yeltsin's reforms."38 Nor was disillusionment with American aid limited to hardened anti-Yeltsinites. In late l993 polls showed that by a two-to-one margin Russians were convinced that the West's economic advice represented a deliberate effort to weaken Russia. This margin increased in 1995 and 1996.39
Yeltsin's own views changed with those of the electorate. To say this is not to suggest that Yeltsin shifted with the fluctuating winds of public opinion as measured by polls. But as president, he felt an obligation to be "comprehensible, controllable, and dependent upon public opinion."40 Although he frequently demonstrated a pronounced tendency toward authoritarianism, on other notable occasions he found reason to compromise with his critics and opponents. As the broad contours of public opinion shifted, so did Yeltsin. This could be viewed either as political expediency or as the democratic response of a leader to his people.
Russia's shift toward a more nationalistic foreign policy produced in Moscow a stronger defense of the Serbs in their war against the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia. In the face of Western pressure to assist the Muslim-controlled government of Bosnia, Russia successfully blocked efforts in the United Nations to have the arms embargo in Bosnia lifted. It also strenuously opposed military intervention by the West.
Yeltsin's inclination to support the Serbs, however, was curbed by his determination to avoid drifting too far from the mainstream of international opinion. He thus supported Western political initiatives to negotiate a settlement of the war, such as the 1993 Vance-Owen Plan.
Yeltsin found it increasingly difficult to hold off Western action in the face of the 1994-95 escalation of Bosnian Serb atrocities and attacks on various UN "safe havens." Under continuous pressure from Duma nationalists, Yeltsin pressured Serbia's president Milosevic to restrain his Bosnian Serb allies, while proposing a series of diplomatic initiatives. In August-September 1995, a combination of a successful Croatian offensive against Serb-held Krajina and devastating NATO air strikes produced a ceasefire and an agreement by all parties to meet for peace talks in the U.S. In direct talks with President Clinton, Yeltsin achieved a face-saving Russian role in the enforcement of the resulting Dayton Accords.
In Russia's relations with the West, the biggest issue of contention in the post-Dayton period became the proposal to expand NATO to include former members of the Warsaw Pact. Of the many issues related to NATO expansion, the most general and fundamental concerned what type of system of European security would replace the alliance structure of the Cold War period. From Yeltsin's perspective, the basic question was how Russia would fit into a system of European security. Would it be accepted as a great power, or simply as another European state? Would it be viewed as a partner or as a potential adversary? And what institutional mechanism would govern decision-making for security issues in Europe?
For nearly all Russians, NATO was stigmatized by the history of the Cold War and was viewed as an adversarial organization. Russian political elites much preferred as a mechanism for European security the more politically neutral OSCE. But there was more involved in the expansion of NATO than just vital national interests. National prestige was also an important consideration. Russia has yet to come to terms with its loss of status as a superpower. Indeed, many Russians question whether their country can even be ranked as a "great power." An expansion of the military alliance which played a vital role in the defeat of the Soviet Union was viewed by many as rubbing the Soviet defeat in the Russian nose--a national humiliation.
Although Boris Yeltsin had spoken favorably of Poland's interest in NATO during a visit to Warsaw in the summer of 1993, he quickly reversed himself under pressure from members of his administration, particularly the military. Just before the parliamentary elections in December 1993, Evgenii Primakov, then director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, issued a blistering critique of NATO expansion. He noted that historically NATO and the former Soviet Union had viewed each other as enemies and that "this psychological mind-set cannot be broken painlessly." An expansion of NATO to Russia would create a "new geopolitical situation that is extremely disadvantageous to Russia . . . " This would lead Russia to rethink its defense concepts and restructure its armed forces.41
Nevertheless, intensive negotiations in the spring of 1997 were conducted to obtain Russian acceptance of the inevitable. Moscow dropped its demand that a NATO-Russian Charter take the form of a legally binding treaty, accepting in its place an executive agreement. On May 27, 1977, Boris Yeltsin and Javier Solana signed the "Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation." This act created a NATO-Russian Council which would meet periodically to consider security problems as they arose in Europe. The Council would operate by consensus, but NATO remained free to act without Council approval. As a concession to the Russians, NATO stated that it had "no intention, no plan, and no reason" to deploy nuclear weapons on the territories of its new members or to significantly increase troop levels on their territories. Now foreign minister, Primakov put the best face possible on the pact, calling it a "big victory for Russia," but in a television interview on the night of the signing Yeltsin acknowledged that Russia "was playing a weak hand."42 In July NATO invited the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary to apply to become members.
These invitations did not end the issue as a bone of contention between Russia and the West. It marked only a new stage in the Russian struggle to contain NATO. At Madrid Western spokesmen made clear their intention to go beyond the first three invitations. Madeleine Albright specifically promised Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia that they would be future candidates for membership. In reply, a spokesman at Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied, "we are put on guard by the Madrid declaration's mention of the states in the Baltic region, a reference that, although indirect, nevertheless was in the context of prospects for further NATO expansion. I want to emphasize once again that such a decision has been and remains unacceptable to Russia."43
No event since the end of the Cold War symbolized the new world order more than the expansion of NATO. For Russia it was a major blow to its national prestige.
Quarrels were erupting with the United States over policy in Bosnia, continuing American trade restrictions, and Russia's planned weapons exports to anti-American regimes, which led to complaints about America's "hegemonic" behavior. Particularly after the outbreak of war in Chechnia, Russia's relations with the EU soured and its progress toward membership in the Council of Europe slowed, accentuating Moscow's growing isolation and stimulating tendencies to play Western states off against one another. By the end of l997, Yeltsin was talking openly in European capitals about the need to reduce American influence in "our Europe."
Yeltsin's last foreign trip of 1997 was a highly publicized visit to Sweden, notable less for its diplomatic achievements than for several embarrassing mistakes made by the Russian president that underscored his declining ability to serve as a credibile spokesman for Russia's interests. At one point, Yeltsin evidently believed he was in Finland; on another occasion, he referred to an oil deal that had actually been concluded with Norway. Blurting out a confusing offer for a unilateral reduction in nuclear arms--later disavowed by his staff--he mistakenly identified Germany and Japan as nuclear powers. In this context, observers were uncertain of the status of a declaration he made in a speech to the Swedish parliament--later confirmed by his defense minister and evidently intended to reassure the Baltic states that their membership in NATO would be unnecessary--promising a forty percent cut in Russian forces along the country's northwestern border by 1999. In any event, Yeltsin's strange behavior was later blamed by his staff on fatigue and a developing cold, and he was hospitalized upon his return to Russia.
More diplomatically significant, and symbolic of the growing differentiation that had occurred in Russian policy toward the West, was a trip Yeltsin made a little earlier in the fall of 1997, to a summit meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Russian president seemed at pains to underscore the extent to which Russia regarded itself as part of a Europe that was increasingly resistant to U.S. domination. "We do not need an uncle from somewhere," he declared in an interview before the summit. "We in Europe are capable of uniting ourselves to live normally." In addition to its fears that the United States was seeking to redivide Europe to its disadvantage through expansion of NATO, Moscow resented continuing U.S. refusal to grant most favored nation trade status, Congress' threats to cut off aid (regarded as niggardly in any event) in retaliation for a parliamentary act regulating religious practice in Russia, and Washington's announced intention to retaliate against Russia and France for their cooperative project to develop gas fields in Iran.44 (Within a few weeks, Russia would again display this determined independence, joining with France in resisting the tough American stance on UN sanctions on Iraq.) In a move clearly aimed at emphasizing that his main Western partners were in Europe, Yeltsin announced at Strasbourg that he would hold annual summits with the French and German leaders to review the state of the European continent.
What energies a declining Yeltsin had left in his final two years in office were primarily engaged with internal political and economic troubles. Many of these were of his own making; he kept the political scene destabilized by firing four prime ministers in the space of eighteen months! In the midst of this turmoil, in August 1998, Russia's economy collapsed. A currency devaluation and moratorium on payment of external debts virtually destroyed opportunities for further credits or investments from the West.
Through spring 1999, Russian foreign policy was personally guided by Primakov, first as foreign minister and then as prime minister. Even after his ouster, his influence was felt through his former deputy, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The steadily pronounced theme of Russian policy during this period was resistance to perceived American unilateralism and insistence on restoration of a multipolar world. Thus, for example, Russia cooperated with France and China in resisting American and British military operations in Iraq, it issued a joint statement with China opposing U.S.-requested modifications in the ABM treaty to permit Washington to develop a missile defense system, and it continued to resist American pressures to halt its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Although Yeltsin and Primakov had agreed to obtain parliamentary ratification of the START II treaty, votes were thrice postponed in the face of such demonstrations of American "hegemonic" actions in defiance of Russia's interests.
The greatest crisis in East-West relations in the Yeltsin era took place in 1999 and resulted from a mixture of two volatile issues: the continuing crisis in the Balkans and the posture assumed by a newly-enlarged NATO. Fresh on the heels of Western assurances that the role of the expanded alliance was strictly defensive, the Russians were enraged when NATO undertook a 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia to force its regime to grant autonomy to the Albanian majority in its Kosovo province. The Kosovo war occasioned lusty anti-American protests across the political spectrum in Russia; extremist nationalists stoked the flames by organizing volunteer brigades and other forms of assistance for "fraternal" Serbs.
When the bombing campaign not only failed to change Milosevic's policies but resulted in a massive refugee crisis that threatened to destabilize the entire region, NATO leaders sought to enlist Russian diplomacy (in the personna of former premier Viktor Chernomyrdin) in bringing about a settlement. The deal he offered to Milosevic was a compromise rather than a restatement of NATO's original terms. Still insisting that the Western military alliance had no legal or moral foundation for an act of military aggression against a sovereign state, Russia had agreed to play the role of mediator only if the agreement called for an international civil and security presence in Kosovo under the auspices of the United Nations. By the terms of the agreement, the security forces would have "substantial NATO participation," but the civil administration in Kosovo would be under the direction of the UN Security Council. But once NATO had obtained Russia's and China's UN votes, it proceeded to act as though "substantial" participation in the peacekeeping force meant an exclusive NATO operation.
Even as NATO's armies entered Kosovo, their triumph was clouded by the unexpected prior arrival of a contingent of Russian peacekeeping forces at the airport in Pristina. Initial claims that the move was a mistake were negated when President Yeltsin promoted the commanding general. The actual timing of the troop movements appeared to be an initiative taken by the military leadership. They had been deeply angered by the NATO bombing campaign and even more profoundly humiliated by Moscow's key role in brokering Milosevic's agreement. In a startling display of independence, Moscow's generals created "facts on the ground" in order to force NATO's adherence to its own peace agreement.
As Moscow (and other observers) saw it, Milosevic's consent had been obtained not simply by the force of NATO's bombs but also by Russia's promise that Serb residents and shrines would be safeguarded by Moscow's own participation in peacekeeping. As NATO moved to freeze them out, the Russian generals sought to preserve this objective with their military preemption. But in the end the more moderate Yeltsin prevailed on his generals to back down. The ultimate terms for Russian participation, negotiated with the US in Helsinki, kept its forces under Moscow's command but denied Russia a peacekeeping zone of its own.
Needing economic concessions from the West and seeking to retain surface harmony, the Russian president had again swallowed his pride and backed away from outright confrontation. But the Yeltsin era was nearing an end, with critical parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in Moscow in the coming year. Polls showed that only 2 percent of Russian voters had confidence in Yeltsin, and that anti-Americanism has exploded in the population since NATO's bombing campaign.
It was not so much their traditional solidarity with Serbs, but outrage over empty American assurances about expanded-NATO's purely defensive role that united all of Russia's political factions against NATO's war. The Clinton Administration's perceived unilateralism and its repeated refrain that America is "the indispensable nation" threatened to revive Cold War attitudes in much of the Russian population. Later in the year, when the U.S. and other Western nations urged a halt to Moscow's renewed offensive against "banditry" in Chechnia, the Russians were outraged at the perceived double standard: their own protests over a brutal bombing campaign against their traditional allies in Serbia could be ignored by NATO nations, while Moscow's efforts to defend itself against terrorism emanating from its southernmost province were condemned. In Beijing on December 9, 1999, on his last foreign trip as president, an angry Yeltsin added to his legacy this apparently spontaneous warning:
Yesterday Clinton permitted himself to put pressure on Russia. He
evidently forgot for a second, a minute, or half a minute just what
Russia is, and that Russia possesses a full arsenal of nuclear weapons.
He forgot that....It never has been and never will be the case that he
alone dictates to the world how to live, how to work, what sort of
recreation to have, and so on. No. I repeat, no! A multipolar world--
that's the basis of everything. That's what we agreed on with Jiang
Russia and the "Non-West": The Yeltsin Legacy
At least since the adoption of Russia's official foreign policy concept by President Yeltsin in April 1993, top priority was given to the "near abroad." Accordingly, the main objective of Russia's policy in the "non-West" has been to ensure the security of the territories of the former Soviet lands, insulating them from the harmful effects of such regional conflicts as the struggle for control of Afghanistan, or from threatening movements such as Islamic extremism. Given the strategic nature of energy resources in the Caucasian and Central Asian republics, Russia has tended to define its security interests in these areas to include preventing outside powers from gaining leverage over these resources. Setting its overall priorities in this way has pointed Russia toward East and South Asia and the Middle East as the zones of greatest concern. These are also the regions where there is the greatest danger of a broader but no less potent threat to Russia's security interests--nuclear proliferation.
With the recent emphasis on the role of foreign policy as a contributor to economic development, it is not surprising that another major objective of Russia's policy toward the countries of the "non-West" is economic. These regions constitute an enormous and growing market, where Russian goods--be they raw or semi-processed materials, lower-quality consumer goods, or the more sophisticated products of Russian science and engineering--have a somewhat better chance of obtaining a competitive advantage than they do in Western marketplaces. And imported products from Asia, Africa and Latin America have potential benefit for Russian manufacturers and consumers, especially if they are obtained in partial payment of the enormous debts that some countries in these regions have accumulated as a result of their transactions with the former Soviet Union.
The combined total of debt owed to Russia by developing countries was estimated in September 1997 at a staggering $112.7 billion (all but $1 billion of which dated from the Soviet period). Of fifty-one debtor nations, only India was currently repaying its debt in full. The largest debts were owed to Russia by Cuba, Mongolia, India, and Vietnam. Moscow's admission to the Paris Club of creditor nations put international pressure on the debtors to repay. And while the Russians agreed to discount the debt, in amounts ranging from thirty-five to eighty percent, the repayments were to be made in hard currency. The effect, according to then-First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, would be to triple the volume of annual debt payments to the Russian government from developing countries.
Whereas prior to the end of the Cold War, aid and trade transactions between the Soviets and the Third World had been heavily subsidized by Moscow for political reasons, cash-strapped Russia, forced to abandon "soft" credit terms, found its goods far less attractive than they had been. As a consequence, trade with most of the "non-West" in the immediate post-Soviet period fell sharply. Reflecting these realities, Russia cut back its costly overseas trade-promotion efforts, which were often a front for espionage activities during the Soviet period. Whereas Moscow operated 130 organizationally-distinct trade missions abroad in 1991, the number had been cut to forty-seven by 1996, with trade counselors in Russian embassies taking over the responsibilities in the countries with less-promising markets. As was the case during the Soviet period, Russia's main export to the "non-West" in the Yeltsin years was weaponry, and a major beneficiary of renewed activity in these regions was the underemployed military-industrial complex of Russia.
As the country with which the Soviet Union shared its longest border, China, not surprisingly, occupied a higher foreign-policy priority for Russia than any other non-Western country--all the more so, given the state of high tension on that border in recent decades. In this area, as in relations with the West, the foundations for Yeltsin's policies were laid by his predecessor. Gorbachev took steps in the late 1980s to address the most serious issues in the Sino-Soviet conflict, and his efforts culminated in his May 1989 trip to Beijing, which symbolized the end of the Cold War between the two communist giants. But the Chinese were severely displeased with the domestic political changes that Gorbachev was overseeing in the USSR, especially as Soviet democratization became a beacon for Chinese students, whose dissent was crushed on Tiananmen Square just days after Gorbachev's visit. And although they had reached an accord with Gorbachev's government on ninety-eight percent of their border with the USSR in May 1991, the Chinese rulers barely disguised their support for the coup that sought to topple the Soviet president in August.
In December 1992 Boris Yeltsin made a state visit to Beijing, and the Russian delegation signed over twenty documents, among them, a mutual promise not to enter into any military-political alliance directed against the other state. The Chinese characterized the atmosphere of talks during Yeltsin's visit as "friendly, open and constructive. . . and in a spirit of mutual respect, understanding and trust." The gradual escalation of such rhetorical descriptions of presidential visits over the next several years serves as a barometer of the changed atmospherics in the Sino-Russian relationship--or, at any rate, of the way in which Moscow and Beijing wanted the world to view it. Thus, Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit to Moscow in September 1994 was said to signify a "qualitatively new level of relations" of "constructive partnership," although not an alliance and not aimed against any other country. Yeltsin, during his visit to China in April 1996, described a "partnership directed toward the twenty-first century" between nations of which there was "no other such pair in the world." And during Jiang's April 1997 visit to Russia, the Russian president reached new rhetorical heights, describing the visit as one of "enormous, and perhaps even historic, significance, inasmuch as we are determining the fate of the twenty-first century." Of the joint declaration signed by the two presidents, Yeltsin declared: "never before has Russia signed such a document with any other country."
Guests at the formal luncheon held during Yeltsin's November 1997 visit to Beijing witnessed not only a warm embrace but singing by the two presidents. Observers could not recall such a cordial atmosphere at prior Sino-Russian summits.46
Consistent with the Marxist-Leninist tradition, of which both presidents were well aware, such phrase-mongering is not a casual exercise, but is calibrated to carry a distinct message. In this case, the message is not solely or even primarily to be understood as a description of the actual state of relations between the two states, but rather as an indicator of the extent of their mutual concern over the status and behavior of another--the United States--and of their desire to send a warning to its government. Both sides have been explicit in their opposition to "hegemonism"--the effort to build a unipolar international system. As Yeltsin put it in June 1997, "Someone is always dragging us toward a unipolar world and wanting to dictate unilaterally, but we want multipolarity." Such statements on the part of Russia were especially frequent after United States announced its plans for expansion of NATO, and the implied countermeasure--a "pairing" of "great Russia" and "great China," as Yeltsin termed it in 1996--was intended to persuade NATO not to undertake expansion or, at the very least, to place limits on it. Although China also denounces NATO expansion as "a policy of blocs," Beijing is less directly affected by it, and is more concerned about its differences with the United States on Taiwan, trade, and human rights.
During the Yeltsin years, bilateral relations between the two neighbors were normalized on several fronts. Further progress was made in 1994 in demarcating the border, leaving stretches totaling less than ten square miles (two islands near Khabarovsk and another in Chita province) still under dispute. Both presidents confidently predicted during Jiang's June 1997 visit to Moscow that these issues would be resolved in 1997, but Yeltsin faced very strong opposition to further concessions from local authorities. Thus, when it was announced during Yeltsin's November 1997 visit to China--his fifth summit with Jiang Zemin--that the 4200-kilometer border had been demarcated for the first time in the two nations' histories, the fine print on the agreement revealed continued difficulties.
The Sino-Russian trade relationship is a prime example of one in which armaments constitute the single most important Russian export, accounting for at least $5 billion in the last five years, and reportedly comprising at least one-third of the $7 billion forward-order sales claimed by Rosvooruzhenie, the Russian arms export agency, at the beginning of 1997.47 Combat aircraft have been the chief component of Russian deliveries; China has purchased at least six dozen transcontinental SU-27 fighters, which are capable of making the Beijing-to-Moscow trip in two and one-half hours with one mid-air refueling. Other categories of purchases which have been concluded or which are being discussed include naval vessels (Sovremennyi-class destroyers equipped with supersonic missiles, two Kilo-636 diesel-powered submarines, and less advanced Varsha-vianka submarines), S-300 surface-to-air missile complexes, T-72 tanks, Smerch multiple rocket launchers, and the technology for advanced gas centrifuges used in uranium enrichment and for MIRV'd missiles. Left unresolved by Yeltsin was the significant question of whether Russia was endangering its own long-term security by selling to its giant neighbor its most advanced weapons and the know-how to produce them. Russian military sources have expressed envy that Beijing is receiving more modern equipment than their own units possess. However, most Russian analyusts appeared to believe that China's near-term foreign policy ambitions are directed toward Taiwan and the South China Sea, and that her interests in stability in Central Asia paralleled those of Russia. Yeltsin and Primakov seemed to have calculated that they could keep the relationship with China in check, utilizing it as a way of balancing U.S. influence in Asia. If China's military and economic power continue to grow and her territorial ambitions eventually turn back toward the north and west, Yeltsin's successors may find greater safety in again tilting the triangular balance by strengthening Russia's ties with the United States.
Despite the major effort Yeltsin made to normalize and strengthen Russia's ties with China, he by no means put all his Far Eastern eggs in the Chinese basket. Following again on Gorbachev's initiatives, Yeltsin also sought to improve Russia's relations with two strong allies of the United States--Japan and South Korea. He hoped that they would be eager investors in the development of Russia's vast Far Eastern mineral reserves. Russia also sought to play a role in regional security arrangements that would foster stability and promote expanded trade. But neither Tokyo nor Seoul responded to Yeltsin's overtures with the degree of enthusiasm for which he had hoped.
One reason that Japan's investment in the Russian Far East has been less than anticipated (beyond its own recent economic difficulties) is undoubtedly Russia's continuing political instability, of which Japanese investors are notoriously shy. But Japan would rather concentrate Moscow's attention on another factor explaining its reticence: the continuing absence, more than a half century after World War II, of a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. The obstacle to the conclusion of a treaty is the persisting dispute over the ownership of the southern Kurile Islands. Yeltsin initially gave indications that he would be amenable to negotiations for a settlement, but despite alleged Japanese financial promises, his cash-starved government backed off after the prospect of territorial concessions became the object of angry debate among nationalists in the Russian parliament.
No further progress was made until Yeltsin hosted Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto for an informal "weekend without neckties" in November 1997 in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. The two leaders pledged their "maximum efforts" to conclude a peace treaty by 2000, based on the 1993 Tokyo Declaration in which Yeltsin had acknowledged the existence of a territorial dispute over the southern Kuriles. However, members of his government downplayed the possibility that the islands might eventually be surrendered, noting that the Russian constitution upholds the territorial integrity of the country, and the President is the guarantor of the constitution.48 Despite the lingering ambiguities, the "sauna summit" was said by Yeltsin to have helped break the ice and overcome mutual distrust, but with his early resignation, he left to his successor the difficult task of actually resolving the issue in the year 2000.
The southward expansion of the Russian Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought it into frequent conflict with the Ottoman Empire and with Persia, as well as with the competing empires of Britain and France. During the Soviet period, Lenin, Stalin, and their successors engaged in active (and occasionally expansionist) diplomacy in the region, as Moscow competed for territory and influence with the countries of the Middle East and with Western "imperialism."
And although, after the collapse of the USSR, the Russian Federation now finds itslef geographically separated from the Middle East by the buffer states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Moscow's vital interests in these former Soviet republics and the vast energy reserves they contain--second only to those of the Middle East itself--made the region a high priority for Yeltsin's foreign policy.
Accordingly, of highest concern in the region are Turkey and Iran--the two states that share a border with the states of the former Soviet Union and that are thus seen as Russia's potential competitors there. Yeltsin's policies toward them varied, in part as a result of the shifting political winds in Moscow, with Westernizers and Eurasianists competing over the direction of foreign policy. But there was also variability in Moscow's perception of threat that Ankara or Teheran is seeking to extend pan-Turkic or Islamic-fundamentalist influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia at Russia's expense. In both cases, Yeltsin's policy swung back and forth from nervous rivalry to a relationship so cooperative that it included the sale of arms. In the case of Iran, this cooperative attitude on Moscow's part occasioned frequent protests from Washington, but as long as Iran behaved responsibly in Russia's backyard, Moscow saw no reason to accede to U.S. pressure to cut off arms sales or nuclear cooperation. In 1997 Yeltsin sought to calm Washington with a pledge that, while limited arms sales would continue, there would be no deliveries to Iran of missiles or missile technology.
No less a threat to stability in the Persian Gulf region, and no less undesirable in Washington's eyes as a possible partner for Moscow, was Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In the U.N. Security Council, both Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's representatives repeatedly voted to support international sanctions on Iraq, although Moscow ranked second only to Baghdad itself in the amount of economic harm it has suffered as a result.
Given Russia's own economic crisis, Yeltsin's persistence in supporting costly U.N. sanctions was prominently used by his domestic opponents as a prime example of Russia's sacrificing its own interests to satisfy the West. Stung by the criticism, Yeltsin periodically lobbied in the West for an easing of sanctions as recognition of Iraq's "good behavior." Saddam Hussein forced the sanctions issue to the forefront in the fall of 1997, when he ordered the expulsion of American members of the U.N. weapons inspections team, resulting in the withdrawal of the entire U.N. team. Capitalizing on his personal ties, Primakov wrested an agreement from the Iraqis to readmit the team, in return for a promise that Russia would "energetically" work for early lifting of sanctions. The Iraqis, however, refused to allow inspections of certain "presidential sites."
Moscow clearly wanted to push such details to the background, preferring to capitalize on what Primakov termed "a great success for Russian diplomacy . . . achieved without the use of force and without a show of force." In the words of a Russian reporter, the Americans were essentially isolated, and Russia strengthened its reputation "as an influential power not only throughout the Middle East . . . but in the world as a whole." Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvaliuk also saw in the role Russia was playing in the crisis a special significance for broader Russian foreign policy: "The world is increasingly coming to realize that Russia is emerging or has emerged from its period of confusion and major problems, and that it is now oriented toward conducting an energetic and constructive foreign policy. Many countries have confidence in the balanced line we are pursuing." He stressed that Russian diplomats were not acting as "undiscriminating defense attorneys" for Iraq, since they were calling for strict fulfillment of all the UN resolutions. "But at the same time we are saying that Iraq must be shown that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Not fire but light. . . "49
When the Iraqi conflict flared up again in January 1998, Yeltsin again sought to gain both international and domestic prestige by sending Posuvaliuk to Baghdad in search of a solution. Embarrassed when a "deal" announced in Moscow was immediately denied by the Iraqis, an angry Yeltsin warned that continued U.S. military activities in the Persian Gulf could bring dire consequences. Military action was averted when U.N. Secretary General Annan's mediation defused the crisis. Claiming a share of the credit, the Russians again saw in the Persian Gulf crisis some hopeful signs that the ability of the United States to dictate its will was waning, and that "the unipolar world is receding into the past."50
Despite its relative activism in the Far East and the Middle East, however, Moscow's interests in the "non-West" in the Yeltsin period were distinctly more limited than in the prior period. The termination of the global ideological and geopolitical struggle with the United States, together with the significant limitations on Russia's ability to project economic influence, has caused a reorientation of Moscow's priorities to those areas that border the post-Soviet states. However, the end of the Cold War has not brought peace to the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Thus, the inescapable fact that billions of dollars of advanced weaponry have been Moscow's dominant export to these regions--and a significant one for the U.S. as well--is a legacy shared by Yeltsin and Clinton, and a sobering portent that future conflicts could pose even greater dangers to world peace.
Yeltsin's Foreign Policy Legacy & the Impact of Personality
Now that he has resigned from the presidency of Russia, historians have already begun to debate whether Boris Yeltsin deserves the appellation of Great Man or Great Failure. There is no doubt about Yeltsin's skills as a destroyer, for he clearly played a major role in bringing down the Soviet communist system and in breaking up the USSR, as well as in clearing away the remnants of Soviet-style political institutions in post-Soviet Russia. It is about his qualities as a builder that the debate rages. His defenders cite his record in advancing the cause of democracy in Russia through his respect for the electoral process, the freedom of speech and press, his efforts to achieve compromise at critical junctures, and his tendency to support the efforts of market reformers. His efforts made possible the first law-governed electoral transfer of power in the thousand-year history of his country. His detractors, however, cite his ego-driven and authoritarian style of rule, the absence of a vision or program for his country, his apparent insecurity and lack of personal discipline, his inconsistency, his willingness to resort to violence against internal enemies, and his penchant for destabilizing Russia's politics.
Our survey of Yeltsin's foreign policy can only support a judgment that his record in responding to the challenges facing Russia is decidedly a mixture of successes and failures. Each of the challenges he faced in 1991-92 is being passed on to his successor unresolved. With respect to the task of defining a new national identity for
Russia and a basic concept for its national security, the detractors are undoubtedly right in bemoaning Yeltsin's inability to articulate a vision or a larger sense of purpose behind which his people could unite. The inability to accept Russia's new geopolitical confines and the question of the reconstitution of the Russian Empire in some form is still alive in some political circles in Moscow. Yeltsin's famous quest for a "national idea" came up empty, and popular confusion about Russia's identity has not been quieted. Yeltsin himself confessed in his autobiography to this lack of strategic vision:
Where is this Yeltsin taking us?
I think the answer will intrigue many people. I am not presenting people with a global strategic goal. I am not setting my sights on some shining peak that must be scaled. Nor am I trying to wipe out the entire path traversed until now.
No. The chief goal of this restless president is Russia's tranquillity.51
In seeking to construct a new set of policy-making institutions, Yeltsin managed to impose a constitution that endows the electorate with a measure of responsiblity for the choice of leaders, but that lacks the critical linkages of accountability between legislative and administrative organs. The "superpresidential" system has functioned better than the paralyzed confusion that existed before the new constitution was adopted. But it is widely acknowledged that Russia would not fare so well in the hands of a president with less respect for democratic niceties or civil liberties, and there is broad agreement on the need for amendments to the constitution (though not on their content). In the realm of foreign policy-making, the Yeltsin era was plagued by a proliferation of councils and staffs with overlapping responsibilities, and it was not until a respected senior personage was brought to the helm of the foreign ministry that a modicum of policy coordination was achieved.
With only two years of positive growth recorded in the 1990s, and with the standard of living of the vast majority of the population much more depressed than in the previous decade, it is difficult to argue that Yeltsin's record in the realm of economic and social change is "mixed." Nevertheless, many observers argue that the foundations for a viable market economy have been laid. If Yeltsin's successor is willing to fight for passage of legislation ensuring more stable financial institutions and enforceability of contracts, and if he is willing to stem massive corruption and capital flight, further progress is in sight--bearing in mind Prime Minister Putin's caution that even ten years of 8% annual growth will bring Russians to the per capita income level of today's Portuguese.
Although Yeltsin clearly preferred the use of diplomacy over coercion in dealing with the new states of the "near abroad," and although he managed to overcome extremist opposition to settle major issues Ukraine--the most important of these states--it would be impossible to contend that his legacy includes establishment of mutual trust and a perception of the need for tighter economic and security integration in the former Soviet space. Ethnic and religious conflict continues in the Caucasus and Central Asia, but the once-feared cultural and political assaults from Turkey and Iran have not reached the dimensions once forecast. However, the "great game" for control of the vast energy resources of this region has intensified, and Russia has not been able to cast itself in the role of a benevolent partner in this contest.
In the former Soviet states, as in Eastern Europe, the shadow cast by NATO enlargement calls attention to one of the most disturbing legacies of 1990s relations between Russia and the West. Though he managed to elbow his way to the table of the G-7 and other institutions, Yeltsin's Russia--its reputation blackened by continuing brutal warfare in Chechnia--has not been accepted as a full partner in Europe's economic, political, and security networks. Yeltsin's "partnership" with China appears to be built mainly on common opposition to American unilateralism; its only other meaningful dimension is an arms trade that promises to further destabilize the East Asian region. Japan and Korea are as distant from Russia as they were at the beginning of the decade, and dangers of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in South Asia have magnified despite Russia's professed interest in cooperative efforts to stem them.
True, there is no foreseeable external threat to Russia's borders--though the prospects for internal disarray have been revived by the war in Chechnia--and Yeltsin left Russia facing no proclaimed external adversaries. No longer does the defense sector claim the lion's share of Russia's resources, and this reversal has been achieved without overt rebellion from the armed forces. But Yeltsin's angry outbursts over perceived American unilateralism in Iraq in 1998 and in Kosovo in 1999 escalated at the end of his term, in his tirade over Western protests about his Chechnia policy, to a veiled nuclear threat. Apart from what it says about Yeltsin's undiplomatic style, this pattern of protest reveals the immense frustration that Russia's policymakers and people still feel at having been cast down from the heights of super-power and relegated to a role of seeming insignificance. Although this can be attributed in part to occasional Western arrogance and insensitivity, in part it also testifies to Yeltsin's failures as a policy-maker and diplomat.
Clearly, some of the blame for these failures rests with Yeltsin's personal weaknesses. More than one observer has commented on his unstable personality, and tales of his bouts of excessive drinking and depression, especially at times of seeming triumph and opportunity, have passed well beyond the rumor stage. On numerous occasions, such as during foreign visits to Sweden and Germany, his well-publicized erratic behavior left his staff struggling to bail him out of embarrassing situations. His autocratic style of rule occasionally seemed to border on megalomania; few shared Yeltsin's pleasure in his references to himself as "Tsar Boris the First." Jealous of the power of subordinates, eager to decide all major questions, but reluctant to shoulder responsibility, Yeltsin seemed to delight in setting opposing forces in his administration against each other, apparently blind to the inconsistencies and instability that resulted. His desire to be embraced by world leaders who played up to his ego contributed to the contradictions in policy. As Lilia Shevtsova has written, "when he was in Moscow he would heatedly and sincerely make a scapegoat of the West, but when he was back in the West under the influence of the friendly attention of his host, Yeltsin would make concessions that were unanticipated even by his closest foreign policy associates."52
At the root of Yeltsin's failures in foreign policy, however, was his lack of an overaching vision of where he was taking his country. Despite the production of documents solemnly listing "concepts" and "doctrines," policy objectives were not clearly defined, and Yeltsin kept shuffling personnel at such a rate that implementation became impossible. This absence of a guiding philosophy--in Dimitri Simes' words, "this preoccupation with political tactics at the expense of substantive policy"-- has produced a foreign policy that seems to lurch from point to point.53
Returning to Greenstein's framework, we can conclude by speculating whether the outcomes of Russian foreign policy in the last decade would have been expected to occur even if the critical variable--the personality of Yeltsin--had been absent. Would it have made a difference to Russia's place in the world if the August 1991 coup-plotters had succeeded in removing Yeltsin from the political scene, or if Rutskoi and Khasbulatov had succeeded in ousting Yeltsin in October 1993, or if Zyuganov had won the June 1996 presidential elections, or if Yeltsin had died on the operating table the following autumn? The clear answer: for better or for worse, Russia's course would not have been the same. Or to frame our speculation in another way: where would Russia be today had its first president been a committed democrat with a clear vision of where he wanted the country to go and the self-discipline to pursue that vision? The Yeltsin legacy is indeed a mix of success and failure, but there is little doubt that the foreign policy of Russia has felt enormous impact from the powerful personality of the man who ruled in the Kremlin in the 1990s.
1. For more extensive theoretical discussion of the impact of a leader's personality on political situations, see the following: Harold D. Lasswell, Power and Personality, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1948); Sidney Hook, The Hero in History, (New York: John Day, 1943); James David Barber, The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House, 4th edition, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992); Greenstein, Fred I., Personality and Politics, (Chicago: Markham, 1969); Gordon J. DiRenzo, ed., Personality and Politics,(Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1974); Margaret G. Hermann, with Thomas W. Milburn, eds., A Psychological Examination of Political Leaders, (New York: Free Press, 1977); Barbara Kellerman, Political Leadership: A Source Book, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press), 1986; Alexander L. George, "The 'Operational Code': A Neglected Approach to the Study of Political Leaders and Decision-Making," International Studies Quarterly, vol. 13, 1969, pp. 190-222.
2. Greenstein, Personality and Politics, chapter 2, reprinted in Kellerman, Political Leadership, p. 43.
3. Quoted in Robert H. Donaldson and Joseph L. Nogee, The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Interests, (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998), p. 58. Following the Khrushchev quotation, Nogee and I drew the following conclusion: "No account of Soviet foreign policy in the postwar years, and no explanation of the origins of the Cold War, can be complete without an awareness of the extent to which Stalin's policies and personality required isolationism, an atmosphere of hostility, and an omnipresent enemy." (ibid.)
4. A persuasive account of Gorbachev's personal impact on Soviet foreign policy can be found in Archie Brown, The Gorbachev Factor, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), chapter 7.
5. "Hook's interest, of course, is in lending precision to the notion of the Great Man. Therefore, he is concerned with the individual who, because of especially great talents, is able to alter the course of events. For our purposes, the Great Failure is equally significant: an actor's capabilities may be relevant to an outcome in a negative as well as positive sense." Greenstein, Politics and Personality, in Kellerman, Political Leadership, pp. 45-46.
6. A fuller account of this record can be found in Donaldson and Nogee, The Foreign Policy of Russia, chapters 4-8, from which much of the following is drawn.
7. For an elaboration of this point, see Margot Light, "Foreign Policy Thinking," in Neil Malcolm, Alex Pravda, Roy Allison, and Margot Light, Internal Factors in Russian Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 35-38, and Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott, Russia and the New States of Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 26-29.
8. Sergei Stankevich, "Derzhava v poisakh sebia," Nezavisimaia gazeta, March 28, 1992, quoted in James Richter, "Russian Foreign Policy and the Politics of National Identity," in The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy after the Cold War, ed. Celeste A. Wallender (New York: Westview, 1996), p. 69.
9. See the description of Kozyrev's views in Jeffrey T. Checkel, Ideas and International Political Change: Soviet/Russian Behavior and the End of the Cold War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 107-15.
10. Vladimir Abarinov and Vitaly Tretiakov, "The Union Left Russia with a Poor Foreign-Policy Legacy," Nezavisimaia gazeta, April 1, 1992, in The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press (CDPSP)44, no. 13 (1992), pp. 4-6.
11. The terms "Liberal Westernizers," "Pragmatic Nationalists," and "Fundamentalist Nationalists," are from Malcolm et al.,Internal Factors. See especially the chapter by Margot Light, pp. 33-100.
12. Stankevich, "Derzhava," translated in CDPSP 44, no. 13 (1992), pp. 1-4. Stankevich's essay bore some resemblance to Stalin's famous article, "Don't Forget the East," published almost three-quarters of a century before. Although it notably lacked the Marxist-Leninist terminology, it was similar to the earlier article in seeking to restore balance to Russia's policy. See Robert H. Donaldson, Soviet Policy toward India: Ideology and Strategy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), p. 19.
13. Vladislav Chernov, "Russia's National Interests and Threats to its Security," Nezavisimaia gazeta, April 29, 1993, in CDPSP 45, no. 17 (1993), pp. 13-15. The quotations that follow are from this account. The final version of the "foreign policy concept" was classified and never published, but this summary, written by a member of the Security Council staff, is widely believed to be authoritative. See Malcolm et. al., Internal Factors, pp. 69-70, and Leon Aron, "The Emergent Priorities of Russian Foreign Policy," in The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy, eds. Leon Aron and Kenneth M. Jensen (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1994), pp. 17-34.
14.Egor Gaidar, Days of Defeat and Victory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), pp. 284-285.
15. "Primakov Starts with the CIS," Moskovskiie novosti, 2, January 14-21, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 2 (1996), pp. 11-12.
16. "A Minister the Opposition Doesn't Curse," Obshchaia gazeta, 37, September 19-25, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 39 (1996), pp. 22-23.
17. Leonid Mlechin, "The Dark Glasses Keep One from Seeing the Man's True Face," Izvestiia, May 15, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 20 (1996), pp. 11-12; Aleksei Pushkov, "Evgenii Primakov Goes Solo," Moskovskiie novosti, 36, September 8-15, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 36 (1996), pp. 25-26.
18. The text of the Constitution may be found in Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society, Second Edition (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 395-429.
19 Roy Allison, "Military Factors in Foreign Policy," in Malcolm et al., Internal Factors, p. 255.
20. Amy Knight, Spies without Cloaks: The KGB's Successors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). The following paragraphs draw from Knight's excellent study.
21. On this point see Alex Pravda, "The Public Politics of Foreign Policy," in Malcolm et al., Internal Factors, pp. 169-229.
22. Ibid., pp. 188-203, and Jack Snyder, "Democratization, War, and Nationalism in the Post-Communist States," in Wallender, The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy, p. 36.
23. See Wallender, ed., The Sources of Russian Foreign Policy, especially the chapters by Kimberly Marten Zisk, "The Foreign Policy Preferences of Russian Defense Industrialists: Integration or Isolation?" pp. 95-120, and Matthew Evangelista, "From Each According to its Abilities: Competing Theoretical Approaches to the Post-Soviet Energy Sector," pp. 173-205.
24. Malcolm et al., Internal Factors, p. 288.
25 The text of the CIS agreement is inCDPSP 43, no. 49 (1992), pp. 10-11.
26. RFE/RL Research Report 1, no. 4, January 4, 1992, p. 52, p. 52. On the military issues see Stephen Foye, "The CIS Armed Forces," ibid., 2, no. 1, January 1, 1993, and "End of the CIS Command Heralds New Russian Defense Policy?" ibid. 2, no. 27, July 2, 1993
27. See Ustina Markus, "Business as Usual with Lukashenka," Transition 1, no. 8, May 26, 1995, pp. 57-61, and "Missed Opportunities in Foreign Policy," ibid. 1, no. 15, August 25, 1995, pp. 62-66.
28. See Iury Chubchako, "Treaty on a Treaty," Kommersant, December 9, 1999, in CDPSP 51, no. 50 (1999), p. 1.
29. Rossiiskaia gazeta, February 3, 1992, in CDPSP 45, no. 5 (1993), p. 11.
30. The New York Times, June 18, 1992.
31. "B.N. Yeltsin's Speech," Sovetskaia Rossiia, October 29, 1991.
32. Andrei Kozyrev claimed that during the crisis "the Western embassies in effect began to work for us. Through them, we received and passed on information." John Dunlop, The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 216.
33. In his autobiography Yeltsin states that as the coup unfolded, "George Bush not only called but immediately organized international support for Russia . . . his support was invaluable." Boris Yeltsin, The Struggle for Russia (New York: Times Books, 1994), p. 132.
34. Thomas L. Friedman, "Reducing the Russian Arms Threat," The New York Times, June 17, 1992.
35. CDPSP, 44, no. 38 (1992), pp. 20-21. See also ibid., 44, no. 35 (1992), pp. 16-17.
36. Rossiiskaia gazeta, June 19, 1992, pp. 1-2.
37. Pravda, January 27, 1993, p. 1.
38. Pravda, April 6, 1993, p. 3.
39. Jerry F. Hough, Democratization and Revolution in the USSR, 1985-1991 (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1997), p. 519.
40. Boris Yeltsin, The Struggle for Russia, p. 288.
41. "Russia Issues a Warning on NATO Expansion,"CDPSP, 45, no,. 47 (1993), pp. 11-13.
42. The New York Times, May 15, 1997, p. A8.
43. CDPSP, 49, no. 28 (1997), p. 2.
44. "Kremlin Adopting a New Anti-American Line?" Jamestown Foundation Monitor, October 20, 1997, in Johnson's Russia List, October 21, 1997.
45. "Boris Yeltsin's Chinese Warning," Kommersant, December 10, 1999, in CDPSP, 51, no. 50 (1999), p. 1.
46. Reports of Sino-Russian presidential visits may be found in Vasily Kononenko and Vladimir Skosyrev, "Russian-Chinese Declaration is Essentially Tantamount to a Nonaggression Pact," Izvestiia, December 21, 1992, in CDPSP 44, no. 51 (1992), pp. 13-14; Aleksandr Chudodeiev, "Partners, but not Allies," Segodnia, September 2, 1994, in CDPSP 46, no. 36 (1994), p. 13; Tatiana Malkina, "Boris Yeltsin Sees No One Who Could Stand Against such a Pair as 'Great Russia' and 'Great China,'" Segodnia, April 27, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 17 (1996), pp. 7-8; "A Breakthrough for Russian Policy on the Asian Front," Rossiiskiie vesti, April 24, 1997, in CDPSP 49, no. 17 (1997), pp. 1-2; Aleksandr Chudodeiev, "Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin Find Harmony," Segodnia, November 12, 1997, in CDPSP 49, no. 45 (1997), p. 6.
47. "Russia and China: Can a Bear Love a Dragon?" The Economist, April 26, 1997, pp. 19-21.
48. "Argued for 52 Years, Settled in Two Days," Rossiiskiie vesti, November 4, 1997, in CDPSP 49, no. 44 (1997), pp. 1-2.
49. Moskovskiie novosti, no. 47, November 23-30, 1997, in CDPSP 49, no. 47 (1997), pp. 3-4.
50. Leonid Gankin, "We Have Become Mature Partners," Moskovskiie novosti, no. 23, June 9-16, 1996, in CDPSP 48, no. 23 (1996), pp. 13, 20.
51. Boris Yeltsin, The Struggle for Russia (New York: Random House, 1994), p. 293.
52. Lilia Shevtsova, Yeltsin's Russia (Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1999), p. 141.
53. Dimitri Simes, After the Collapse; Russia Seeks its Place as a Great Power (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp. 128-130.
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