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Brookings Institution Press
Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy toward Russia After the Cold War

Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy toward Russia After the Cold War

by James M. Goldgeier, Michael McFaul


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Russia, once seen as America's greatest adversary, is now viewed by the United States as a potential partner. This book traces the evolution of American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union, and later Russia, during the tumultuous and uncertain period following the end of the cold war. It examines how American policymakers—particularly in the executive branch—coped with the opportunities and challenges presented by the new Russia. Drawing on extensive interviews with senior U.S. and Russian officials, the authors explain George H. W. Bush's response to the dramatic coup of August 1991 and the Soviet breakup several months later, examine Bill Clinton's efforts to assist Russia's transformation and integration, and analyze George W. Bush's policy toward Russia as September 11 and the war in Iraq transformed international politics. Throughout, the book focuses on the benefits and perils of America's efforts to promote democracy and markets in Russia as well as reorient Russia from security threat to security ally. Understanding how three U.S. administrations dealt with these critical policy questions is vital in assessing not only America's Russia policy, but also efforts that might help to transform and integrate other former adversaries in the future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815731740
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
Publication date: 10/29/2003
Pages: 450
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

James M. Goldgeier is director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University, where he is associate professor of political science and international affairs. He is also an adjunct senior fellow in Europe studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Michael McFaul is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, the Peter and Helen Bing senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and an associate professor of political science at Stanford University. A prolific author, he is one of the world's leading specialists on democracy development in the former Soviet states.

Read an Excerpt

Power and Purpose

U.S. Policy Toward Russia After the Cold War
By James M. Goldgeier

Brookings Institution Press

Copyright © 2003 James M. Goldgeier
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0815731744

Chapter One

Power and Purpose

For four decades after World War II, two superpowers leading antagonistic political and socioeconomic blocs dominated global affairs. Conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, capitalism and communism, defined the central drama within the international system. During this period, each superpower possessed armies and arsenals unmatched by others. The two superpowers were organized internally in radically different ways. The United States had a democratic polity and a market economy, while the Soviet Union had a totalitarian polity and a command economy. Because each country believed its system was superior, it actively promoted the replication of these political and socioeconomic systems in other countries while also resisting the expansion of the other's system. This ideological divide drove the competition between them. In other words, the Soviet Union and the United States were rivals not only because they were the two greatest powers in the international system, but because they were two powers with antithetical visions about how political, social, and economic life should be organized.

At the end of 1991, one pole in this bipolar, ideologically divided system collapsed. For the first time in the history of the modern world, the international balance of power changed without a major war. For leaders in Russia and the United States, these were heady times. Giddy talk abounded on both sides about the new task of transforming Russia into a market economy, a democratic polity, and a new partner with the West, erasing the cold war in an instant.

By the end of the 1990s, however, the mood in U.S.-Russian relations had more affinity with the old cold war era than with the more optimistic times in 1991. Journalists, academics, members of Congress, and the emerging George W. Bush campaign for president derided the policies that President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore had pursued toward Boris Yeltsin's Russia. "Who lost Russia?" they asked. They charged the Clinton administration with failure on every conceivable issue: too much meddling into Russia's internal affairs, overpersonalizing the relationship with President Yeltsin, ignoring or even aiding corruption of leading Russian officials, turning a blind eye toward Russian atrocities in the breakaway Republic of Chechnya, and not stopping Russian assistance to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. To listen to the experts and to the Republicans, it would seem that everything that could go wrong did go wrong inside Russia and in U.S.-Russian relations.

What happened in the intervening years between the euphoria of Soviet collapse and the Who Lost Russia witch-hunt less than a decade later? Some argued that it was the first Bush administration's fault for not providing enough assistance to Yeltsin's fledgling regime in 1992, others that the Clinton administration after 1993 had provided all the wrong kinds of assistance or had pursued "anti-Russian" policies such as the enlargement of NATO or the war on Kosovo that increased Russian resentment of the West.

Less than a year after George W. Bush became president, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States, U.S.-Russian relations seemed to take a decisive turn for the better again. Russian president Putin moved quickly to show sympathy for the United States and pledged his support for a united front against worldwide terrorism. Optimism emerged that Russia had decided that it truly belonged in the West. On the domestic front, Russia's economy was no longer the object of pity, the state seemed to be consolidating after a decade of decline, and a majority of Russians gave positive job approval marks for President Putin. U.S.-Russian relations appeared better than they had in years, at least until the American-led war with Iraq.

In explaining the course of these events, we are primarily interested in what U.S. policymakers believed they were trying to accomplish and how they understood what was occurring and what was at stake. In 1991, did they recognize that a transition was occurring in the Soviet Union, and what did they believe they could do about it? Once the USSR had broken up, did they believe the old enemy was really gone and that the United States should provide massive assistance, or did they largely cheer on the revolution from the sidelines? Throughout, how did American decisionmakers calculate U.S. interests, in relation to Russia, in a post-cold war world?

A New World Order

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 were the most transformative events in world affairs since the period immediately following World War II. Before 1989-91, containing the threat posed by the USSR had been the overarching purpose of U.S. foreign policy since the late 1940s. For American officials from the late 1940s to the late 1980s, every issue in the world-the defense of Europe, peace in the Middle East, civil war in Africa, or even the development of resources on the ocean floor-was seen through the prism of the cold war struggle with the Soviet Union. Thus the collapse of the USSR was both exhilarating and disorienting for U.S. foreign policymakers. Now that the main American enemy had been defeated, what would replace containment as the new defining tenet of American foreign policy? Henry Kissinger, America's most famous diplomat, even felt compelled to write a book answering those who questioned whether the United States needed a foreign policy.

The intellectual and organizational challenge of reorienting foreign policy away from forty years of cold war and toward a new relationship between the United States and Russia was enormous. As American leaders pieced together a new foreign policy, they confronted an age-old question: to what extent was the United States a traditional great power playing the global game of balance of power politics, and to what extent was the United States a special "city on the hill" pursuing a mission of helping others develop market and democratic institutions? As American foreign policymakers sought to balance power and purpose in the 1990s, they did so in a world in which American supremacy in global affairs only grew larger and Russia's status as a major power dropped precipitously as the decade wore on. American leaders also had to define U.S. interests within Russia, where officials and the public were in the midst of one of the most profound revolutions in the modern era.

American leaders had not faced such challenges in conceptualizing foreign policy since 1945. That new world order had been full of uncertainties. Soviet intentions were unclear to many in 1945, and a Europe of two blocs only emerged after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the Berlin blockade in 1948. Many of the institutional innovations proposed immediately after World War II-including Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Policemen" and even the U.N. Security Council-looked in retrospect naively inappropriate for addressing the real fundamental issues of the international system that only became clear with time. The transformation of the U.S.-Soviet standoff in Europe into a global struggle of titanic proportions only really began five years after World War II with the onset of the Korean War.

In important ways, however, the global environment of 1945 was less uncertain than that of 1991. Although it would take time for Americans to embrace Germans and Japanese as partners and integrate those two former adversaries into Western security structures, what was certain in 1945 was the total defeat of these authoritarian regimes. Not only had the United States and its allies defeated those two nations militarily, but Germany and Japan had been occupied and their leaders put on trial. An American general, Douglas MacArthur, and his staff wrote the postwar Japanese constitution. Furthermore, the rise of the new threat from Moscow had helped to clarify the importance of a close relationship between the United States and its former enemies. By the early 1950s, the communist threat made it imperative that Japan and West Germany be transformed into democracies integrated into Western security and economic structures.

The world of 1991 and after was more ambiguous about America's former enemy. The USSR had lost the cold war since communist ideology as a force in the world had withered away, and the Soviet Union no longer existed as a country. Yet the defeat of the enemy was not as complete in 1991 as in 1945. Although the Soviet Union ceased to exist, post-Soviet Russia did not suffer defeat in war and still had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could destroy the United States. The United States did not occupy post-Soviet Russia, making the trajectory of political and economic change more of a Russian affair than it had been in Germany and Japan after World War II. The president of the newly independent Russia, Boris Yeltsin, seemed prodemocracy, promarket, and pro-Western, but others in his entourage seemed less inclined to transform Russia internally and integrate with the West. His enemies, some of whom seemed to have real popular support in the country, were categorically against these changes. In 1945, U.S. occupying forces suppressed anti-Western forces in Germany and Japan. In 1991, by contrast, Yeltsin could not call on his allies in the West to suppress his foes. Nor did he have the power to do so alone. In the first years of independence, Yeltsin's hold on power remained extremely tenuous, as communist and nationalist forces within and outside government structures challenged the Russian president and his policies. If Russia's ability to integrate seemed more tenuous after the cold war than the probability for effective integration of occupied West Germany, the imperative of integration in 1991 was diminished compared with the 1940s. Above all else, there was no threat to American security interests to the east of Russia. And consequently, there was also little domestic support in the United States for a large-scale transformation agenda at the end of the cold war.

In searching for a new grand strategy for American foreign policy after the cold war, everyone seemed to agree on two propositions: the Unites States was now the dominant global military power, and a democratic and market-oriented Russia firmly ensconced in the Western camp would serve American national interests. But could U.S. power be channeled to foster the latter? Could or should the all-powerful United States become engaged in promoting regime change and market transformation inside Russia? If so, how proactive should the United States be, how much money should be spent on this endeavor, and who should spend it, and how? Should American foreign policymakers simply state their desire for Russia to join the community of Western democracies while focusing primarily on the reduction of the nuclear threat and the permanence of Russia's new borders? Or should the United States be more ambitious and create something akin to the Marshall Plan that had helped rebuild western Europe after World War II? In other words, what priority should be given to the promotion of Russian transformation and integration versus the preservation of the balance of power in the world that favored the United States?

"Regime Transformers" and "Power Balancers"

Policymakers and those seeking to influence them responded to the post-cold war era by advocating two different (and sometimes opposing) strategies for American foreign policy. In one camp were the regime transformers. These people believed that American leaders had to use the full arsenal of American nonmilitary power to help bring about the internal transformation of Russia. They believed that a democratic Russia would no longer threaten the United States, because history has shown that democracies do not go to war with one another. They argued that a market-oriented Russia would seek foreign investment, trade, and eventually membership in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). If Russia could consolidate democratic and market institutions at home, then it would not matter how many nuclear weapons Russia still possessed.

A second school warned against missionary zeal. Instead, these power balancers argued that the nature of the regime inside Russia did not dictate Russian international behavior. And besides, even if regime type did matter, the United States did not have the capacity to influence Russia's internal affairs anyway. Instead, what mattered most was the balance of power between the United States and Russia. These power balancers argued that American leaders had to take advantage of Russian weakness to lock into place a balance of power in favor of the United States. This meant moving aggressively to help destroy Russia's nuclear arsenal as well as ensuring the independence of the new states on Russia's borders. These power balancers recognized that a Russia too weak to defend its borders or control its nuclear stockpile might eventually create new threats to the United States. However, most power balancers believed that the weaker this former foe, the better. Some even hoped for the breakup of Russia itself.

These two strategic responses to the end of the cold war were not novel ideas. Rather, they reflected two deep traditions in the making of American foreign policy. Regime transformers echoed a tradition as old as the United States itself. Since the creation of the United States, some American leaders have believed that the American democratic system of government made the United States unique. Many American leaders championed the democratic United States, in contrast to the power-hungry European nations, as a new moral force in international politics. The more countries that embraced freedom and the democratic way of life domestically, the more peaceful relations among states would be internationally. In the nineteenth century, American foreign policymakers who embraced this tradition had limited means and limited horizons. The American missionary impulse rarely extended outside of the American hemisphere. Only after the United States entered World War I did President Woodrow Wilson attempt to introduce American moralism onto the global stage. As he explained to a joint session of Congress in January 1918 when he was outlining his fourteen points for a new world order, "What we demand in this war ... is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation." In Wilson's view, the best way to achieve American security was not to defend the United States against the outside world but to change fundamentally the outside world. In policy circles, this tradition became known as Wilsonianism. Although Wilson was a Democrat, this philosophy about international affairs crossed partisan lines.



Excerpted from Power and Purpose by James M. Goldgeier Copyright © 2003 by James M. Goldgeier. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

1Power and Purpose1
2George H. W. Bush and Soviet Regime Change18
3Controlling the Nukes41
4Limited Assistance for Economic Reform59
5Bill Clinton's Assistance Policy87
6Our Man in Moscow120
7Security Partners?157
8NATO Is a Four-Letter Word183
9Things Fall Apart: August 1998211
11Chechnya, Again267
12No Deals287
13George W. Bush and Russia305
AppendixList of Interviews367

What People are Saying About This

Anthony Lake

Power and Purpose provides the best coverage of this crucial issue that I have read. Combining a thorough narrative with incisive analysis, Goldgeier and McFaul present clearly the making of U.S. policies toward Russia in recent years—where we got it right and where we should have done much better. A real contribution and a good read as well. (former National Security Adviser)

Richard Haass

POWER AND PURPOSE is likely to be the definitive work on U.S. policy toward Russia for some time. (President, Council on Foreign Relaitons)

Ambassador Dennis B. Ross

If there is one book to read on what shaped American policy toward the Soviet Union in its last years and Russia throughout the last decade, this is it.

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