Air Date: July 21, 1998 Program 9829


Sergey Rogov, Director, Institute of USA and Canada Studies

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely
distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

MARY GRAY DAVIDSON: This is Common Ground.

SERGEY ROGOV: "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." This principle applied to NATO may work between the Western Allies, but as far as Russian-American and Russian-Western relations are concerned, leads to a kind of a new disengagement.

DAVIDSON: President Clinton travels to Russia this September and none too soon for one Russian commentator. We'll hear from the head of Russia's famous USA-Canada Institute during this next half hour of Common Ground. Common Ground is a program on world affairs on the people who shape events. It's produced by the Stanley Foundation. I'm Mary Gray Davidson.

DAVIDSON: Earlier this month President Clinton accepted an invitation from Russian President Boris Yeltsin to meet in Russia in early September. To get a Russian perspective on what the two leaders ought to be discussing I talked with Sergey Rogov, Director of the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in the Russian Academy of Sciences. Rogov is very happy that the two presidents will finally meet.

ROGOV: If we don't have serious dialogue at the highest political level hardly we can find solutions to problems which are of mutual concern, not only in our bilateral relations but in the international field. For instance, we see now diverging Russian and American positions as far as Bosnia and Kosovo are concerned and this is probably the most important issue for the European Security today. We see differences, and growing differences, between Russian-American positions in the Gulf, both....

DAVIDSON: The Persian Gulf?

ROGOV: Yes. Both relative to Iraq and Iran. And the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, their importance goes beyond South Asia. This is probably the most important historical event since the end of the Cold War. This might be a beginning of a new geopolitical competition which may become typical for the 21st century. When, instead of two superpowers you have a dozen of major centers of power competing between themselves. And it's very difficult to stabilize a multi-polar system. And we know from history that from time to time, from the efforts to stabilize the system, we had wars. European wars, world wars, but that was before the nuclear weapons were invented. Now, if we have these major centers of power armed with nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence may not work. So Russia and the United States in my view share a common interest to prevent this kind of development.

DAVIDSON: This will not be President Clinton's first trip abroad this year. In April he was in Santiago, Chile, for the Summit of the Americas. Then he was off to Africa for a multi-nation tour. And this June President Clinton made a major foreign policy statement by traveling to China, the first US President to do so since the massacre of Chinese civilians in Tiananmen Square nine years ago. Currently, Russia and China are enjoying fairly good relations, and Rogov is happy to see some of the Cold War animosities fading away.

ROGOV: There is no more game between three powers like it used to be during the Cold War when the United States was trying to play the Chinese card against the Soviet Union, after China and the Soviet Union went into a very sharp dispute. So, well, it's not a matter of concern. What is a matter of concern in the United States and in Russia is the future policy of China. China is the only country which possesses the potential to become a new superpower. And it's premature to say that the future Chinese political leaders will not decide to use their growing economic potential to build, like the United States and the Soviet Union did in the 20th Century, a powerful military machine and try to use it to extend its influence. This is a matter of concern for the United States and that's the reason why, in my view, President Clinton is trying to engage the Chinese leadership in a dialogue. And this is of concern, a matter of major concern, for Russia, taking into account that our border with China is longer than US border with Canada.

And the problem as I see it, while we're not trying to play China against each other, we don't have a common approach to China. And that might create a situation that at some point we may return toward the same kind of rivalries which dominated our relations during the most of the 20th century.

DAVIDSON: President Clinton has held off going to Russia until now, saying he wanted the Russian Parliament to ratify the START II Nuclear Arms Control Treaty first. The Parliament, or Duma, as it's known, has not ratified START II and it's unlikely they'll do so anytime soon, says Rogov.

ROGOV: Unfortunately the chances are not very high. The problem is that in the, in executive-legislative battle in Russia, the President always imposes his will and the Duma, the Congress, does not have many opportunities, it's not permitted by the Russian Constitution really to balance the authority of the executive branch. The ratification of international treaty is almost the only exception. After Yeltsin forced the Duma, several months ago, to accept his candidate for the position of Prime Minister, the Duma simply cannot afford to make any concessions to the executive branch. And unfortunately START II Treaty provides an opportunity to demonstrate this point. And one also has to admit that the President himself is not bargaining with the Duma to get its support for the ratification of the treaty. I also have to emphasize that the United States didn't help either. Since the decision to enlarge NATO, which is not understood by Russians and is perceived by many as a hostile act, why since the Cold War is over the United States didn't dismantle it's military alliance, NATO, instead of expanding it and bringing it closer to Russian borders, so will the negative fall-out of the decision to enlarge NATO, is quite considerable.

DAVIDSON: The US government says that NATO has been holding elaborate consultations with Russia to avoid alienating them and that the future Russia-NATO relationship will be managed in a very sophisticated way. The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council has met twice so far and Assistant US Secretary of State James Rubin says the Russia-NATO relationship will be further institutionalized.

JAMES RUBIN: This is going to take time. This isn't something that happens overnight. It happens over time. And what we believe is that although there was a discomfort on the part of many of the elite in Russia, with NATO enlargement, and they wish that NATO itself wouldn't exist, and a discomfort by the fact that NATO was enlarging, that at the end of the day their future lies with the West and with reform and with market developments and democracy, and that that's the direction they're going in. But that never was intended to mean that we would agree with Russia on every single foreign policy. And as you are well aware, in the case of Iraq there were some tactical differences. And there may yet be tactical differences on how we deal with President Milosevic in Serbia. But as far as the consultative process, the assurance that at a military-to-military level there is real consultation, the PJC, the Permanent Joint Council, is in operation.

DAVIDSON: Rubin further explains the rationale behind enlarging NATO to include the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.

RUBIN: Well, I think being brought into NATO was a major watershed event for Europe. For the first time since the end of World War II the East European, Central and East European countries that had been left out are now part of the major European military institution. And what we saw, just to give you an example of this, is when an issue arose, like in the case of Iraq, and there was a possibility that we had to use military force in the Gulf, and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were, there foreign ministers were here, and what we found was that they were very quickly and very willing to participate in some form or another with the United States, its British allies, and many other countries, including Spain and Italy and others, to participate in the possibility of an operation in the Persian Gulf. So that is certainly a great comfort and source of security for us to know, that there are three additional countries that are prepared to work with us to solve problems.

DAVIDSON: Should NATO be inviting Russia to join the alliance? As it did with Germany and Japan at the end of World War II?

ROGOV: Well, maybe this could be a solution, because at the end of the Cold War, we expected that the new security system will be created which at the time Secretary of State Baker called this "new security system from Vancouver to Vladivostok." And it was the United States which forgot this promise and with NATO becoming the backbone of the security system in Europe and Russia not being a member of NATO, we have a situation when Russia is effectively excluded from the European security decision-making. For a country which for centuries was very much involved in European affairs to find out that as a result of the end of the Cold War it's left outside of the new European system, this is a great blow. But nobody in the West is serious about inviting Russia. Because if Russia is invited to join NATO, then it's no more going to be an exclusive alliance of Western countries dominated by the United States. Then it's going to be something else. And I don't think that the United States wants to change the nature of the North Atlantic Alliance. "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." This principle applied to NATO may work between the Western Allies, but as far as Russian-American and Russian-Western relations are concerned, leads to a kind of a new disengagement, with growing suspicions on both sides about the intentions of each other.

DAVIDSON: We'll pause here for a short break. You're listening to Common Ground, a service of the Stanley Foundation. My guest today is Sergey Rogov, Director of the USA-Canada Institute in the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Stanley Foundation is a nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs meant to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs. Printed transcripts and audio cassettes are available of this program, and at the end of the broadcast, I'll give you details on how you can order.

DAVIDSON: In March of this year Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed his government and formed a new cabinet, much to everyone's surprise. The faces in the government are new, says Sergey Rogov, but the problems they face are not.

ROGOV: It's seven years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but Russia has not been able to establish its new identity. The economic system in Russia is a mix of old and new and the old Soviet system has collapsed but it's too premature to claim that Russia is a modern market economy. And many market institutions simply don't exist. And quite often the government, which used to totally control the economic activity, simply completely withdraws from any regulatory activities, which produces something close to chaos. That created a situation of conditions when there is something like permanent bankruptcy of the government. The government cannot pay the bills. The workers don't get salaries. The enterprises cannot pay their debts. That's why it's impossible to collect taxes, so there is a vicious circle.

And in political terms Russia also is far from being a mature democracy. And the new government definitely has good intentions but it lacks experience. Right now it's simply trying to deal with the immediate crisis. Whether it succeeds or not it's too early to say.

DAVIDSON: And is that primarily the economic crisis that's facing the country?

ROGOV: Oh well, the economic situation is not very good. Well, we had 7 years of recession which make the Great Depression in the United States look like a childish game, because well, the GDP declined by more than 55%. And there is very little investment. At the same time Russian economy is now open to the global influences. Thus we were very hard hit—we were hit in a very hard way by the East Asian financial crisis and by the drop in oil prices. And Russian export and the revenues of the Russian government depends very much on oil exports.

But there are also political problems: the inability of Russia to maintain its sovereignty in Chechnya; other problems between the federal government and the local governments, the regional governments. And problems related to Russian activities in the international field.

DAVIDSON: Now, after lengthy negotiations, the Russian government and international leaders have agreed on a loan package to ease Russia's financial crisis. With world oil prices down, investor confident in Russia low, and interest payments gobbling up the federal budget, Russia needs money. But the new injection of loans through the IMF totaling $17.1 billion, is a mixed blessing according to Rogov.

ROGOV: Definitely Russia needs capital. The investment in Russia in the last seven years declined by 90%. So the foreign economic assistance could have been helpful in providing this breathing space. But I don't think this is happening because, well, most of the foreign credits which the Russian government received in the last several years, they were not invested in strategic projects but spent on immediate problems like payment of the salaries to the miners, etc. so in fact these monies were wasted while Russian foreign debt is accumulating every year. And already the Russian government has to spend almost half of its revenues to paying for foreign and domestic debt. Thus the remedy becomes in a way part of the problem, not a solution.

DAVIDSON: Right. Another loan would be another debt to pay.

ROGOV: To some extent it's possible to compare Russian economy with a drug addict. We more and more depend on new credits to repay for the previous ones while there is no growth.

DAVIDSON: In retrospect was the shock therapy program too harsh?

ROGOV: Oh, it was a complete failure. And that's why Russia, a country with tremendous natural resources, relatively developed industry, and well-qualified labor force, very drastically declined in the international hierarchy in the '90s. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I think it would be unfair to blame the IMF and Western creditors for that. I think it was our own fault. But Western assistance didn't help, but contributed to our problems.

DAVIDSON: Hmm. Alexander Solzhenitsyn just published a new book, Russia in the Abyss. And I know he's extremely critical...

ROGOV: I can assure you that the solutions he suggesting for Russia you would hardly accept for the United States. And he was one of the strongest critics of the Soviet regime. And now he's shocked seeing the results of what he contributed to. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia went into a crisis from which it still couldn't recover. So again he's making his suggestions and his proposals and not all of them in my view are good. Like for instance watching the separatist trends in today's Russia. He's afraid that Russia will follow the fate of the Soviet Union, so he devises to prohibit the use of non-Russian languages and deny any cultural autonomy to non-Russian ethnic groups. In my view this kind of policy will destroy the Russian Federation.

DAVIDSON: Hmm. You described the economic situation right now in Russia as being much worse than the Great Depression ever was here in the United States. And how is the average Russian been faring? What is life like?

ROGOV: Well, I guess, well, the end of the authoritarian regime provided something completely new which never existed in Russian history. There is no more political oppression and people are free to say what they really think. The problem is that, well, they are free to say what they really think but it has very little impact. So there is tremendous frustration especially in a situation when the average income in Russia is about $10,000—I'm sorry—$2,000 a year. Which means...

DAVIDSON: But the cost of living is much more than that.

ROGOV: Well, it depends, but right now in many areas domestic prices in Russia are about the same as in this country. Which means that most of the people cannot afford to buy durable goods, to buy cars, to buy houses, etc. So, well, they are surviving. But hardly could expect major improvement in their living conditions. So, there is, well, quite obvious, gain from the reform. But it's rather limited. And as far as the economic conditions of the bulk of the Russian population, there is in fact a decline and not an improvement.

DAVIDSON: So, surviving but not thriving.

ROGOV: Well, that's I think is a very good description of what goes on.

DAVIDSON: What do Russian think of the United States now?

ROGOV: Well, they, even in the Soviet days there was a rather positive image of "America" quote-unquote, despite the Soviet propaganda. And I think this image persists but there is a kind of anti-American backlash. Many people blame the United States for misguided economic reforms in Russia. And some of them claim that it was a kind of a conspiracy, through bad advice, to destroy Russia. And there is also a reaction to invasion of American mass culture into the Russian mass media and especially TV.

DAVIDSON: Is there a lot of American television in Russia?

ROGOV: Oh, I cannot remember which series of "Santa Barbara" is going on, but I think it's more than one thousand...

DAVIDSON: And a rather unrealistic view of even American life.

ROGOV: Yes. Well, the kind of mass culture which is visible today in Russia does not represent what's, what is the best in American culture.

DAVIDSON: You sound pretty pessimistic. Both about what's happening in Russia right now and....

ROGOV: Well, Russia is facing a very difficult task, to become a political democracy, to become a market economy, to establish its new identity and to find its new place in the international system. It's not easy to do and it takes time. And the United States can either help Russia to resolve these tasks or create additional problems. In my view the United States wanted to help. It's not clear whether the results correspond to the original intentions.

DAVIDSON: Sergey Rogov has been my guest on Common Ground. He's the Director of the U.S.A.-Canada Institute in the Russian Academy of Sciences. For Common Ground I'm Mary Gray Davidson.

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