[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
Return to main CEDA-L Archive Page
Russia and the FSR's Topic Paper
I'm not sure if this got properly posted, so I'm submitting it again to
everyone. I apologize if you get it twice.
U.S. Naval Academy
To the debate community (NDT/CEDA):
The following is my proposed topic paper on Russia and the Former Soviet
Republics. Briefly, it highlights 4 key areas that are potential topic
areas: democratic reform, NATO expansion, nuclear/arms control, and
economization of relations.
I intend to land-mail it Friday, but I wanted to post it ASAP to begin any
The proposed resolutions are in no particular order in each section.
I'm sorry about the few footnotes that were still left in the paper, but
they managed to stay despite apparent deleting.
Thanks in advance for everyone's consideration,
U.S. Naval Academy
I. The debate over democratic reform in Russia
The strides made under Gorbachev with respect to foreign policy
allowed substantial improvements to be made in the U.S./U.S.S.R.
relationship. The "new thinking" also created an appropriate climate for
U.S./Russian federation relations with its de-emphasis on military aspects
and the advent of a new "global human values" foreign policy over the old
Marxist class struggle. This "new thinking" led to dramatic changes in
Soviet international behavior. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the INF
Treaty, and the U.S./U.S.S.R. cooperation with the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait are just a few examples. There were numerous causes to the change
in the behavior of the U.S.S.R. in the late 1980's. For example, the
dramatic downturn of the Soviet economy necessitated the inward focus of
the Soviet regime. The changes observed by the West were just as much a
result of the reality of the Soviet situation as the result of the "new
thinking" by Gorbachev.
Yeltsin shifted Gorbachev's "new thinking" to a new level. While
Gorbachev sought to achieve reform within the socialist/Communist Party
framework, Yeltsin abandoned the socialist framework and embraced
capitalism. This shift had substantial implications for U.S. policy.
Yeltsin committed his country to democratization and a free market
economy. These commitments provide for a "new chapter in U.S./Russian
The Russian government has undertaken a substantial agenda of
reforms simultaneously. These reforms include political, economic, and
social changes. In the light of these vast changes, Russia appears to be
on a slow, painful transition. Russia did experience its share of
setbacks with the rise in Russian nationalism, the Yeltsin/Parliament
conflict, and the assumption of new presidential powers by Yeltsin in the
midst of the Chechen debacle. The democratization process is likely to
take decades. In spite of the otherwise slow process, Russia has made
significant advances as well. The 1996 election of Yeltsin marked the
first free re-election of a Russian leader.
The Russian advances have not been met by an appropriate U.S.
When the Cold War ended, U.S. policymakers were in a honeymoon with their
Russian counterparts. At last, they proclaimed, we can get beyond the
confrontation, the competition, and the rivalry which had characterized
the last fifty years. From nuclear weapons to economic assistance, there
was not an issue which could not be handled in the new "era of good
feelings." A "new world order" in the words of then President George Bush
summarized the atmosphere. The Russia that emerged from the former Soviet
Union was reborn. In the eyes of U.S. policymakers, it was seen as a
country eager to join the stable, free market democracies of the West.
Amidst our euphoria, we forgot several facts regarding Russia.
First, Russia has no historical foundation for democracy. From the time
of the founding of the Russian empire onward, Russia was governed by
authoritarian regimes. In our haste to classify Russia as a democracy, we
forgot that such basic tenets as the rule of law are foreign to Russia.
We let ourselves forget that a democratic tradition historically has
taken decades, if not centuries to take root. For example, it took
England centuries, from the Magna Carta onward, to embrace democracy over
monarchy. It took France several revolutions, with Napoleonic regimes
dispersed in between, to emerge as a stable democracy. The United States
had the blessing of being founded by those seeped in democratic tradition
and ideals. Russia has had no such blessing. Despite this knowledge,
U.S. policymakers fretted. Why, they asked, can't Russia simply become a
democracy like us? Why can't it follow the Japan and Germany model?
The reason is simple. Japan and Germany, once defeated, were
occupied by the United States. McArthur, for example, ruled Japan, and
firmly established a democratic government under a new Constitution. The
western half of Germany underwent a similar experience, as Western
occupiers banished Nazism and organized a new Federal Republic. Russia,
while having lost the Cold War, has faced no such Western intrusion. The
former Soviet elite remain powerful policymakers within the new Russia.
Democratic forces do not have the luxury of being firmly entrenched by an
Another shock to Western thinkers was the degree of competition and
rivalry still exhibited by Russia. The rise of nationalist and communist
forces, the Yeltsin/Parliament conflict, and a re-assertive foreign policy
were among the issues that frightened the West. Doomsday scenarios were
predicted to be just around the corner. A nationalist takeover was a
distinct possibility. Zhirinovsky, the radical nationalist, provided the
scenarios. Some of the more threatening to the U.S. were pledges to
reclaim Alaska, and to conquer territory so that Russian troops could
wash their boots in the Indian Ocean.
U.S./Russian interests are not expected to always coincide. The
expansion of NATO and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia as examples.
More challenges include the sales of arms and technology by Russia to 3rd
world regimes, and the internal problems that face Russia. The Russian
arms industry, driven to desperation by substantial cuts, now relies
heavily on the selling of arms to other countries. The U.S. views such
sales with concern, mainly because the buying countries are those with
hostile anti-U.S. regimes, such as Iran. Internal problems within Russia
also have an impact on U.S. relations. The rampant growth of crime and
the Russian "Mafia" are deterring U.S. investment. There are also those
within Russia that view an increased U.S./Russian relationship with
concern. Some yearn for the days of the old U.S.S.R., while others lament
the increase of U.S. culture and influence.
Russia remains, and will continue to remain, a vital U.S. interest
for several reasons. It is without any great exaggeration to argue that
the stability of Europe depends on the stability of Russia. Russia
occupies a dominant portion of the European landmass, and has the highest
population of any European country. An unstable Russia could spawn waves
of instability across Eastern and Central Europe. Ethnic and regional
wars could easily flare up. Russia's role in nuclear proliferation and
the Asian balance of power are other U.S. interests. Others include the
impact that Russia has on our defense spending, and the effects of a
Russian economic collapse.
Res. that U.S. policy towards Russia is Euro-centric.
Res. that the U.S. should promote democratic reform in the Russian
Res. that the U.S. should de-emphasize financial assistance in its
relations with Russia.
Res. that the U.S. must adopt long-range policies to support democratic
reform in Russia.
Res. that the U.S. should curtail its (security, economic, technical)
assistance towards Russia.
Res. that the U.S. should increase its (military, security, economic,
technical) assistance towards Russia.
II. The Debate on NATO Enlargement
The debate over NATO enlargement makes the selection of this topic
very timely. In July, at the Madrid summit, NATO will extend invitations
to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to formally join the
organization by 1999. The U.S. Senate is poised to take up the issue.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has written that "the U.S. Senate needs
to be involved in the NATO enlargement process now...Serious defense
commitments will be made. The future of Europe-and America-will be
The Pro-NATO Enlargement position
Whether or not the former Warsaw Pact become stable democracies with
free market economies is directly related to membership in NATO. Without
the stability of NATO, many of the Central and Eastern European nations
face uncertain futures. This instability could affect U.S. vital
interests by spawning into border conflicts, military coups, or internal
collapse. Internal collapse of a country could easily led to anarchy and
refugee crises. The current situation in Albania provides an empirical
example of what could go wrong. There remains widespread consensus on the
need to enlarge NATO. In the 1996 presidential election, the only
difference between the two candidates on NATO enlargement was one year.
Clinton has argued for enlargement by 1999, Dole wanted it by 1998.
The Anti-NATO Enlargement position
Due to NATO's original mission, and due to Russian opposition, NATO
enlargement has become the most difficult issue facing U.S./Russian
relations. The issue has become the focal point of the relations between
the two countries. The difficulty has arisen due to steadfast Russian
opposition. One Russian analyst has written that "the three main forces
which determine Russia's domestic and foreign policies-political and
military establishments and the bureaucracy- viewed the prospect of NATO's
enlargement with deep concern; that expansion, if it took place, would be
directed against Russia." Pushkov has noted that from Russia's
perspective, this issue of NATO expansion will define the relationship
that Russia has with the West for the next century.
To understand Russia's perspective, it is important to consider the
Cold War relationship that the USSR had with NATO. NATO was viewed as an
imperialist, aggressive military alliance. NATO's purpose was to weaken
the USSR militarily, politically, and economically. Frequently within the
state controlled press, NATO was vilified as an evil organization.
After the end of the Cold War, with the dissolution of the Warsaw
Pact and the USSR, many Russian elites felt that NATO should dissolve as
well. After all, its reason for existence was acknowledged in the West as
containing Soviet expansion. However, in the euphoria which followed the
end of the Cold War, those elites which viewed NATO as the enemy were set
aside by the new Russian government. Yeltsin's government concentrated
more on dismantling the old Communist regime. The new Russian foreign
policy stressed the need for integration with the West. The priority was
membership into international economic organizations, such as the INF, the
World Bank, and GATT.
Within the Russian elite circle of policymakers, there remains
steadfast opposition to NATO enlargement. The Russians fear that an
expanded NATO would constitute a direct security threat to Russia, by
entrenching on Russia's traditional sphere of influence in the "near
abroad." Moreover, NATO expansion would lead to new divisions in Europe
to replace the old Cold War ones. U.S. policymakers have countered that
NATO enlargement poses no threat to Russia, and that the public Russian
opposition stems from trying to gain a favorable bargaining position with
the U.S. and NATO. Indeed, some prominent Russian officials have conceded
this argument. General Lebed, once a key advisor to Yeltsin, has said
that the NATO threat is overblown and that NATO enlargement will be no
threat to Russia.
The Current Situation
The recent Helsinki summit between Russian President Yeltsin and U.S.
President Clinton has brought the issue to the forefront. A robust
Yeltsin, having recovered from his heart surgery, wanted a legal
Russian-NATO charter as the basis of any future NATO-Russian relationship.
Clinton sought to assure Russia of the peaceful, yet inevitable
enlargement of the NATO alliance. At the end of the meetings, Yeltsin
conceded that NATO enlargement was inevitable. Clinton offered Russia a
seat on the NATO council and more involvement with the G7 organization.
For U.S. pundits, the verdict was mixed. Some editorials, such as the
Washington Post, wrote that the summit was a success for Clinton and
demonstrated the weakness of Russia in the post Cold War era. Others,
most notably former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, blasted the
meetings as a "fiasco". Kissinger lamented the concessions given to
Russia at the summit. He argued that Clinton undermined the mission and
the continued survivability of NATO by giving Russia a seat on the NATO
There is also a growing debate about the U.S. addressing not only
Russia's concerns with NATO enlargement, but also the "have-nots"- the
countries which will not be among the first wave of enlargement. Some
argue that the U.S., as the de facto head of NATO, needs to develop a long
term strategy to emphasize that the first former Warsaw Pact countries to
join will not be the last. The security of the "have-nots" is also in the
U.S. national interest. They argue that it is important not to abandon,
for the second time this century, countries such as Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania, on the basis of the need to appease their powerful neighbor.
Potential NATO resolutions:
Res. that NATO should disband as a military organization.
Res. that the U.S. has a moral obligation to offer NATO membership to
Central and Eastern European states that were former members of the Warsaw
Res. that the U.S. has a moral obligation to offer NATO membership to the
Res. that the U.S. should substantially increase its security commitments
to non-NATO Warsaw Pact states.
Res. that the U.S. should withdraw from its Article 5 obligations under
the North Atlantic Treaty.
Res. that the U.S. should exclude former Warsaw Pact states from
membership in NATO.
Res. that NATO should offer membership to one or more of the former Soviet
Res. that NATO should offer membership to Russia.
III. Nuclear issues/arms control
Since the 1940's, the U.S. and the Soviet Union went through several
stages of nuclear proliferation cooperation and confrontation. These
include the initial "Secrecy and Denial" followed by "Atoms for Peace",
"Global Control", "Technology Denial", and finally, "Primary of Politics".
Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went through identical periods of the
expansion of the nuclear club to the imposition of stringent export
controls. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as well as the nuclear
explosions by both China and India led the countries to come together and
sign the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). From the time of
the signature of the NPT in 1968 until the mid 1980's, both countries
worked together to strengthen international controls. The two countries
conducted numerous bilateral meetings and consultations in an attempt to
prevent further nuclear proliferation.
From the mid 1980's until the present time, Soviet and then Russian
policy towards non proliferation has steadily changed from the iron fast
commitment to non proliferation to a more flexible, payment for services
approach. The Soviet Union became more interested in selling its
knowledge and the necessary materials than in stopping other countries
from obtaining them. This policy has continued in Russia, where the
defense establishment is financially strapped, and the income from foreign
selling even more critical.
The proliferation threats of the current situation in Russia are
high. Among these problems are nuclear inheritance, un-safeguarded
nuclear facilities, and an increase in the risk of nuclear terrorism.
Russia's thousands of nuclear weapons are independently a key U.S.
interest. Russia continues to possess the ability to turn the U.S. into a
wasteland. Command and control are serious issues to deal with. The
inability of Russia to pay its military can only worsen the threat of
rogue Strategic Rocket Forces units blackmailing the government or the
U.S. with the nuclear weapons under its control.
Res. that the U.S. should unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty.
Res. that the U.S. should unilaterally reduce its nuclear arsenal to zero.
Res. that the U.S. should amend the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
Res. that the U.S. should substantially increase its security commitments
to decrease nuclear proliferation in Russia.
Res. that the U.S. should offer nuclear guarantees to the former Soviet
IV. The new economization of U.S./Russian relations.
The problem, from a socioeconomic standpoint, facing Russia was the
transition from a state-owned and operated economy to free market
capitalism. The shift from military concerns to domestic and economic has
been matched by the U.S. Among the issues still facing both countries is
defense conversion. Defense conversion in Russia is clearly in the
interest of the U.S. It is also important for Russia, because without
such conversion, it will be hard to reorganize the economy along
It is important establish firm foundations for future economic
partnership. Among these foundations are recognizing the potential
commercialization of Russian technology, and the attractive Russian market
for U.S. goods and services. The best promising opportunities for
partnership are with joint investment projects. The U.S. can encourage
investment in Russia in a number of ways. Encouraging investment is only
the tip of the iceberg in my opinion however. Russia's vast natural
resources in combination with a large population offers tremendous growth
potential for U.S. firms and markets. To sum up, substantial involvement
in the promotion of Russia's economy can only further strengthen its
democratic and free market ties.
Res. that the U.S. should increase incentives for Russia to develop
markets and trade.
Res. that the U.S. should increase its economic assistance to Russia.
Res. that the U.S. should shift its assistance to the private sector in
Res. that the U.S. should build a Marshall Plan for the Commonwealth of
Res. that the U.S. should grant Russia G-7 status.
V. The "Near Abroad"
The "Near Abroad" or the countries besides Russia that were once
members of the Soviet Union have continued to be in the spotlight. The
Moldova ethnic crisis, the wars in the Caucasus regions, and the rise of a
new totalitarian regime in Belarus are just a few examples. U.S. policy
towards these countries is bound to grow. It is estimated that there is
close to twice the amount of oil reserves in the Caspian Sea area than in
the whole region of the Persian Gulf.
I have purposely left out these countries in the proposed
resolutions, for the sole reason that I feel that it would explode the
topic ground and lead to an overwhelming affirmative advantage. However,
if the topic committee would like to consider to include these countries,
it would be quite simple as far as the wording of the resolution. Simply
add to the end the different countries, or the groups of countries.
the former nuclear powers: Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan
the former Soviet Republics
the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States
the Baltic Republics: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
the Caucasus nations: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine
VI. Concluding thoughts-why should we debate U.S. policy towards Russia?
Many authors, including the ones cited, agree that there is a new
era in U.S./Russian relations, however, it remains to be seen whether the
opportunity is taken advantage of by both countries, or whether both
countries continue to view the relationship in an outdated paradigm of
Cold War relations.
Today's policymakers concede the need for a clear direction with
"The discourse in the United States about the end of the Soviet Union
and the emergence of Russia from the ashes of totalitarianism is awash in
metaphors. We commonly hear it said that the democratic experiment in
Russia is the greatest strategic opportunity in the history of the
twentieth century to build a stable and prosperous international order.
While these may be compelling symbols for the momentous nature of
revolutionary change in Russia, these ideas do not offer much guidance to
the United States as we shape our policies toward Russia. What, then, is
the problem with the relatively simple notion that the United States has
an interest in assisting Russia with its democratic transformation?
To put matters simply, the problem is that the United States is
struggling to find an approach for influencing democratic and economic
reform in Russia. For the American people, the result is a debate that
swings between extremes and thus confuses those individuals who, in
principle, support the idea of assisting Russia in its time of trouble."
From the debate community perspective, the topic can very easily be
debated on both sides with practically every issue. In particular, there
is overwhelming evidence regarding democratic reform, NATO enlargement,
economic ties, and nuclear issues. Foreign actor counterplans are
numerous- for most topics Japan, China, Germany, European Union, OSCE,
U.N., INF, World Bank, G-7 are just a few legitimate actors with Russian
Can we firmly, yet patiently, embrace the Russian transition to
democracy while not conceding too much? If the U.S. is to remain relevant
in Europe in the coming decades, it needs to shed its Cold War paradigms
and adopt a new long term strategy towards Europe and Russia. Containment
has served its purpose. Let's debate what a new strategy should be that
will be equally successful for the U.S. in the twenty-first century.
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Return to main CEDA-L Archive Page