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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal

U.S. Department of State

Background Notes: Russia, June 1997

Released by the Office of Russian Affairs.


Official Name: Russian Federation



Area: 17 million sq. km. (6.5 million sq. mi.); about 1.8 times the size of the U.S.
Cities: Capital--Moscow (pop. 9 million). Other cities--St. Petersburg (5 million), Novosibirsk (1.4 million), Nizhniy Novgorod (1.3 million).
Terrain: Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains (Caucasus range) along southern borders.
Climate: Northern continental, from subarctic to subtropical.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Russian(s).
Population (1997 est.): 147.5 million.
Annual growth rate: negative.
Ethnic groups: Russian 81%, Tatar 4%, Ukrainian 3%, Other 12%.
Religion: Russian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Protestant, Buddhist, other.
Language: Russian (official); more than 140 other languages and dialects.
Education: Literacy--98% (total population).
Health: Life expectancy--(1996) 58 yrs. men, 72 yrs. women.
Workforce: 85 million (1993). Production and economic services--84%. Government--16%.


Type: Federation.
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: December 12, 1993.
Branches: Executive: president, prime minister (chairman of the government).
Legislative: Federal Assembly (Federation Council, State Duma).
Judicial: Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of Arbitration, Office of Procurator General.
Political Parties: shifting. The 1995-96 elections were contested by: Our Home is Russia, Russia's Democratic Choice, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Agrarian Party, Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Unity and Accord, Yabloko Bloc, Women of Russia, Democratic Party of Russia, Russia Forward, Truth and Order, National Patriotic Bloc, Russia's Regions, Congress of Russian Communities.
Subdivisions: 21 autonomous republics and 68 autonomous territories and regions.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.

Economy (1996 est.)

GDP: $555 billion.
Growth rate: -6%. (1996)
Per capita GDP: $3,740 (exchange rate method).
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, timber, furs, precious and non-ferrous metals.
Agriculture: Grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, meat, dairy products.
Industry: Complete range of manufactures (automobiles, trucks, trains, agricultural equipment, advanced aircraft, aerospace, machine and equipment products); mining and extractive industry; medical and scientific instruments; construction equipment.
Trade: Total Russian exports (fob) in 1996: $87 billion--petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, woods and wood products, metals, chemicals. Major markets--EU, NIS, China, Japan. Total imports (cif) in 1996: $64 billion--machinery and equipment, chemicals, consumer goods, medicines, meat, sugar, semifinished metal products. Major partners--EU, United States, NIS, Japan, China. (These figures do not include "shuttle"--or informal, unrecorded trade).
Principal U.S. exports: meat, machinery, tobacco ($3.34 billion--1996).
Principal U.S. imports: aluminum, precious stones and metals, iron and steel ($3.6 billion--1996).


Russia's area is about 17 million sq. km. (6.5 million sq. mi.). It remains the largest country in the world by more than 2.5 million sq. mi. Its population density is about 23 persons per square mile (9 per sq. km.), making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its population is predominantly urban.

Most of the roughly 150 million Russians derive from the Eastern Slavic family of peoples whose original homeland was probably present-day Poland. Russian is the official language of Russia, and an official language in the United Nations. As the language of writers such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekov, Pushkin, and Solzhenitsyn, it has great importance in world literature.

Russia's educational system has produced nearly 100% literacy. About 3 million students attend Russia's 519 institutions of higher education and 48 universities. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order. The number of doctors in relation to the population is high by American standards, although medical care in Russia, even in major cities, is far below Western standards.

The Russian labor force is undergoing tremendous changes. Although well-educated and skilled, it is mismatched to the rapidly changing needs of the Russian economy. Millions of Russian workers are underemployed. Unemployment is highest among women and young people. As many as six million workers were temporarily furloughed in 1996. Many Russian workers compensate by working other part-time jobs. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic dislocation it engendered, the standard of living fell dramatically, but it has begun to recover.

Moscow is the largest city (population 9 million) and is the capital of the Federation. Moscow continues to be the center of Russian Government and is increasingly important as an economic and business center. Its cultural tradition is rich, and visitors will find many museums devoted to art, literature, music, dance, history, and science. It has hundreds of churches and dozens of notable cathedrals; it has become Russia's principal magnet for foreign investment and business presence.

St. Petersburg, established in 1703 by Peter the Great as the capital of the Russian Empire, was called Petrograd during World War I, and Leningrad after 1924. In 1991, as the result of a city referendum, it was renamed St. Petersburg. Under the tsars, the city was Russia's cultural, intellectual, commercial, financial, and industrial center. After the capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918, the city's political significance declined but it remained a cultural, scientific, and military-industrial center. The Hermitage is one of the world's great fine arts museums. Finally, Vladivostok, located in the Russian Far East, is becoming an important center for trade with the Pacific Rim countries.


Human experience in Russia's territory dates back to Paleolithic times. Greek traders conducted extensive commerce with Scythian tribes around the shores of the Black Sea and the Crimean region. In the third century B.C., Scythians were displaced by Sarmatians, who in turn were overrun by waves of Germanic Goths in the third century A.D. Asiatic Huns replaced the Goths and were in turn conquered by Turkic Avars in the sixth century. By the ninth century, Eastern Slavs began to settle in what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and the Novgorod and Smolensk regions.

In 862, the political entity known as Kievan Rus was established in what is now Ukraine and lasted until the 12th century. In the 10th century, Christianity became the state religion under Vladimir, who adopted Greek Orthodox rites. Consequently, Byzantine culture predominated, as is evident in much of Russia's architectural, musical, and artistic heritage.

Over the next centuries, various invaders assaulted the Kievan state, and finally, Mongols under Batu Khan destroyed the main population centers except for Novgorod and Pskov and prevailed over the region until 1480. Muscovite tsars threw off the Mongol influence and gradually expanded their domain through diplomacy and war, until Ivan III (1462-1505) was able to refer to his empire as "the Third Rome" and heir to the Byzantine tradition.

The next 200 years saw the ebb and flow of regional conflict, until the Romanov dynasty was established under Tsar Mikhail in 1613. This dynasty ended with the killing of the Romanov family by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

During Peter the Great's reign (1689-1725), Russia burst into European and world consciousness, and European influences spread in Russia. Peter created Western-style military forces, subordinated the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy to the tsar, reformed the entire governmental structure, and established the beginnings of a Western-style education system. His introduction of European customs generated nationalistic resentments in society, and a philosophical duality of "Westernizers" and nationalistic "Slavophiles" emerged over the next centuries. This dualism manifested itself in various ways over time and since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 has re-emerged as a key dynamic of current Russian social and political thought.

Peter's expansionist policies were continued by Catherine the Great, who established Russia as a continental power. During her reign (1762-96), power was centralized in the monarchy and administrative reforms concentrated great wealth and privilege in the hands of the Russian nobility.

Napoleon failed in his attempt in 1812 to conquer Russia after occupying Moscow; his defeat and the continental order that emerged following the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) set the stage for Russia and Austria-Hungary to dominate the affairs of eastern Europe for the next century. In the century preceding 1917, Russian culture flourished as Russian artists made significant contributions to world literature, visual arts, dance, and music.

During the 19th century, which saw great social, economic, and political change in the rest of Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and Asia, the Russian Government sought to suppress repeated attempts at reform from within as well as in such neighboring states as Austria. Its economy failed to compete with those of Western countries. Russian cities were growing without an industrial base to generate employment, although emancipation of the serfs in 1861 foreshadowed urbanization and rapid industrialization late in the century. At the same time, Russia expanded across Siberia until the port of Vladivostok was opened on the Pacific coast in 1860. The Trans-Siberian Railroad opened vast frontiers to development late in the century.

Imperial expansion ended with Russia's defeat in the unpopular Russo-Japanese war in 1905. Subsequent disaffection fueled an uprising in 1905 which spurred Tsar Nicholas II to grant a constitution. The government suppressed opposition and manipulated popular anger into anti-Semitic pogroms and other actions against national groups. Attempts at economic reform, such as land reform, were incomplete.

1917 Revolution and the U.S.S.R.
The ruinous effects of World War I, combined with internal pressures, sparked the March 1917 revolution. A provisional government came to power, headed by Aleksandr Kerenskiy. On November 7, 1917, the Marxist-Leninist Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized control and established the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Civil war broke out in 1918 between Lenin's "Red" army and various "White" forces and lasted until 1920, when, despite foreign interventions, the Bolsheviks triumphed. After the Red army conquered Ukraine, Belorussia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, a new nation was formed in 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The U.S.S.R. lasted 69 years. In the 1930s, tens of millions of its citizens were collectivized under state agricultural and industrial enterprises. Millions died in political purges, the vast penal and labor system, or in state-created famines. During World War II, as many as 20 million Soviet citizens died. The totalitarian control of the communist state which survived on the absence of basic freedoms and the repression of those who sought change robbed the people of the Soviet Union of opportunities to interact with the rest of the world and to develop their potentials. After 1949, the U.S.S.R. ranked as a nuclear superpower.

First among its political figures was Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party and head of the first Soviet Government, who died in 1924. In the late 1920's, Josif Stalin emerged as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) amidst intraparty rivalries; he maintained complete control over Soviet domestic and international policy until his death in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, served as Communist Party leader until he was ousted in 1964. Aleksey Kosygin became Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Leonid Brezhnev was made First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee in 1964, but in 1971, Brezhnev rose to become "first among equals" in a collective leadership. Brezhnev died in 1982 and was succeeded by Yuriy Andropov (1982-84), Konstantin Chernenko (1984-85), and Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned as Soviet President on December 25, 1991. On December 26, 1991, the U.S.S.R. was formally dissolved.

The Russian Federation
After the December 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation became its largest successor state, inheriting its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, as well as the bulk of its foreign assets and debt.

Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia by popular vote in June 1991. By the fall of 1993, politics in Russia reached a stalemate between President Yeltsin and the parliament. The parliament had succeeded in blocking, overturning, or ignoring the President's initiatives on drafting a new constitution, conducting new elections, and making further progress on democratic and economic reforms.

In a dramatic speech in September 1993, President Yeltsin dissolved the Russian parliament and called for new national elections and a new constitution. The standoff between the executive branch and opponents in the legislature turned violent after supporters of the parliament tried to instigate an armed insurrection. Yeltsin ordered the army to respond with force to capture the parliament building (known as the White House).

In December 1993, voters elected a new parliament and approved a new constitution that had been drafted by the Yeltsin government. Yeltsin has remained the dominant political figure, although a broad array of parties, including ultra-nationalists, liberals, agrarians, and communists, have substantial representation in the parliament and compete actively in elections at all levels of government.

In late 1994, the Russian security forces launched a brutal operation in the Republic of Chechnya against rebels who were intent on separation from Russia. Along with their opponents, Russian forces committed numerous violations of human rights; the Russian army used heavy weapons against civilians. Tens of thousands of them were killed and over 500,000 displaced during the course of the war. The protracted conflict, which received close scrutiny in the Russian media, raised serious concerns abroad as well as within Russia.

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to institute a cease-fire, in August 1996 the Russian and Chechen authorities negotiated a settlement that resulted in a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and the holding of elections in January 1997. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) played a major role in facilitating the negotiation. A peace treaty was concluded in May 1997 and the two sides agreed to conclude a final settlement by 2001.


In the political system established by the 1993 constitution, the president wields considerable executive power. There is no vice president, and the legislative is subordinate to the executive. The president nominates the highest state officials--including the prime minister, who must be approved by the Duma; he may dissolve the Duma if it repeatedly turns down his choice of prime minister. The president can pass decrees without consent from the Duma. He also is head of the armed forces and of the national security council.

Duma elections were in December 1995 and presidential elections June 1996. The Communist Party won a plurality of seats in the Duma; the pro-government party ("Our Home is Russia"), the liberal "Yabloko" bloc and the nationalists also won substantial numbers of seats in the legislature. In the presidential election, Boris Yeltsin was reelected in the second round following a spirited campaign. Both the presidential and parliamentary elections were judged generally free and fair by international observers.

Russia is a federation, but the precise distribution of powers between the central government and the regional and local authorities is still evolving. The Russian Federation consists of 89 components, including two federal cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The constitution explicitly defines the federal government's exclusive powers, but it also describes most key regional issues as the joint responsibility of the federal government and the Federation components.

Judicial System
Russia's judiciary and justice system are weak. Numerous matters which are dealt with by administrative authority in European countries remain subject to political influence in Russia. The Constitutional Court was reconvened in March 1995 following its suspension by President Yeltsin in October 1993. The 1993 constitution empowers the court to arbitrate disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court is also authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment proceedings against the president. The July 1994 Law on the Constitutional Court prohibits the court from examining cases on its own initiative and limits the scope of issues the court can hear.

In the past three years, the Russian Government has begun to reform the criminal justice system and judicial institutions, including the reintroduction of jury trials in certain criminal cases. Despite these efforts, judges are only beginning to assert their constitutionally mandated independence from other branches of government.

Human Rights
Russia's human rights record remains uneven. Despite significant improvements in conditions following the end of the Soviet Union, some problem areas remain. Although the government has made progress in recognizing the legitimacy of international human rights standards, the institutionalization of procedures to safeguard these rights has lagged. Implementation of the constitutional provisions for due process and timely trials, for example, has made little progress. In addition, the judiciary is often subject to manipulation by political authorities and is plagued by large case backlogs and trial delays. Lengthy pretrial detention remains a serious problem. There are credible reports of beating and torturing of inmates and detainees by law enforcement and correctional officials. Prison conditions fall well below international standards and, according to human rights groups, in 1996 between 10,000 and 20,000 prisoners and detainees died, most because of overcrowding, disease, and lack of medical care.

Efforts to institutionalize official human rights bodies have been mixed. In 1996, human rights activist Sergey Kovalev resigned as chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission to protest the government's record, particularly the war in Chechnya. Parliament in 1997 passed a law establishing a "human rights ombudsman," a position that is provided for in Russia's constitution and is required of members of the Council of Europe, to which Russia was admitted in February 1996. The Duma, however, has been unable to agree on a candidate to fill this position. International human rights groups operate freely in Russia, although the government did hinder the movements and access to information of some individuals investigating the war in Chechnya.

The government respects freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. In some regions, however, local officials adopt policies that tend to favor the Russian Orthodox Church over the interests of minority faiths. In some cases, local authorities have hindered the activities of foreign missionaries. Although Jews and Muslims continue to encounter prejudice and societal discrimination, they have not been inhibited by the government in the free practice of their religion. High-ranking federal officials have condemned anti-semitic hate crimes, but law enforcement bodies have not effectively prosecuted those responsible.

The constitution guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of residence and to travel abroad. Some big-city governments, however, have restricted this right through residential registration rules that closely resemble the Soviet-era "propiska" regulations. Although the rules were touted as a notification device rather than a control system, their implementation has produced many of the same results as the propiska system. The freedom to travel abroad and emigrate is respected although restrictions may apply to those who have had access to state secrets. Recognizing this progress, since 1994, President Clinton has found Russia to be in full compliance with the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

Principal Government Officials
President--Boris Yeltsin
Prime Minister--Viktor Chernomyrdin

First Deputy Prime Ministers:
Anatoliy Chubays
Boris Nemtsov

Deputy Prime Ministers:
Alfred Kokh
Yakov Urinson
Vladimir Bulgak
Anatoliy Kulikov
Valeriy Serov
Oleg Sysurev

Key Ministers:
Agriculture-Viktor Khlystun
Civil Defense-Sergey Shoygu
CIS Cooperation-Amangeldy Tuleyev
Culture--Yevgeniy Sidorov
Defense-Igor Sergeyev
Economic Affairs-Yakov Urinson
Education-Vladimir Kinelev
Environment and Natural Resources-Viktor Orlov
Finance & Deputy Prime Minister-Anatoliy Chubays
Foreign Affairs--Yevgeniy Primakov
Foreign Economic Relations - Mikhail Fradkov
Fuel/Energy-Boris Nemtsov
Health-Tat'yana Dmitriyeva
Internal Affairs-Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kulikov
Justice--Valentin Kovalev
Labor-Oleg Sysuyev
Nationalities--Vyacheslav Mikhailov
Atomic Energy--Viktor Mikhailov
Science and Technology--Vladimir Fortov
Transport-Nikolay Tsakh

Ambassador to Washington--Yuliy Vorontsov
Ambassador to the United Nations--Sergey Lavrov

The Russian Federation maintains an embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-298-5700) and a consulate at 1825 Phelps Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-8907). Russian consulates are also located in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.


As it has moved from a centrally planned economy toward a free market system, the Russian economy has undergone considerable stress. The country has established new ties in the world economy while links to its traditional trade partners have diminished. Russia accounts for more than one-half of the population of the New Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union and 60% of their total gross domestic product.

GDP. GDP fell approximately 38.5% between 1992 and 1997, according to official statistics. While these numbers may not reflect significant economic activity in the unofficial economy, the trend has certainly been negative and did not reverse by the end of 1996. Unemployment (by ILO definition) was 9.3% of the work force in 1996, but this figure omits many who work reduced hours or are on involuntary or voluntary leave.

Monetary Policy. Inflation rose to a peak of 30% per month by January 1993. Since then, monthly inflation has declined and by the end of 1996 ranged between 0 and 2% per month -- marking the essential stabilization of the macroeconomy. Russia abolished the ruble zone in mid-1993, which forced other NIS republics to issue their own currencies. A currency corridor, and subsequently a crawling band mechanism, have been employed by the government since July 1995 to increase ruble stability and to help dampen inflationary expectations. The average exchange rate in 1996 was 5,120 rubles per U.S.$1.

Government Spending/Taxation. The 1996 federal budget provided a strong underpinning for the government's stabilization program. However, severe revenue shortfalls resulted in a higher than expected deficit of 6.1% of GDP. The revenue shortfall situation is widely seen as due to a combination of factors: the fall in output; weak tax administration practices; an increase in the size of the gray economy; and a cumbersome tax system, including high rates which provoke evasion.

The domestic government securities (GKO) market has grown in line with government needs for non-inflationary financing, with total GKO's outstanding reaching just under 9% of GDP by December 1996. The draft 1997 federal budget called for a deficit of 3.5% of GDP (Ministry of Finance Definition, which is slightly lower than the IMF definition).

Law. Lack of legislation in many areas of economic activity is a pressing issue. Taxation and business regulation are unpredictable, and legal enforcement of private business agreements is almost nonexistent. Many government decisions affecting business have been inconsistent. Crime in Russia has increased costs for local and foreign businesses.

Natural Resources. With the mineral-packed Ural mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East, Russia is rich in natural resources. Most are located in remote and climatically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and are far from Russian ports. Oil and gas continue to be the main sources of hard currency. Russia is a leading producer and exporter of minerals, gold, and all major fuels. The Russian fishing industry is the world's fourth-largest--behind Japan, the U.S., and China. Russia accounts for one-quarter of the world's production of fresh and frozen fish and about one-third of world output of canned fish.

Industry. Russia is one of the most industrialized of the former Soviet republics. Besides its resource-based industries, it has developed large manufacturing capacities, notably in machinery. Russia inherited most of the defense industrial base of the Soviet Union; converting it to civilian use is a major goal of the present government.

Agriculture. Russia comprises roughly three-quarters of the territory of the NIS, but has relatively little area suited for agriculture, because of the arid climate and inconsistent rainfall. Northern areas concentrate mainly on livestock farming, and the southern parts and western Siberia produce grain. Agricultural production, chiefly grain and potatoes, accounts for more than one-half of that for the entire NIS. The transition from centrally planned to market economies requires a radical reform of agriculture, which has yet to take place.

Investment. Cumulative foreign direct investment in Russia was estimated at $11 billion in 1995, according to Russian government statistics--a figure far below its potential. The U.S. was the largest foreign investor, providing $2 billion of the total. 1996 figures are not yet available but there are no signs of significant new investment. Domestic investment also lags and is presently the greatest obstacle to renewed economic growth. Major areas of interest for U.S. investors have been in energy, food processing, telecommunications, and automobiles. Joint ventures between Russian and foreign firms account for an increasing share of Russian output and trade and are concentrated in the services sector.

Trade. Russia has liberalized domestic trade and dismantled most non-tariff restrictions on foreign trade. State-subsidized imports were phased out in 1994, as was the system of quotas and licensing for exports. To bolster future foreign trade, Russia applied in June 1993 to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)--predecessor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia's average weighted tariff is 13-14%.

Russia has been running a trade surplus since 1993. Russia's trade is dominated by Europe; Germany and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe hold the lead. The U.S. is Russia's second largest trading partner, while China and Japan are Russia's largest Asian trading partners. Trade with the other NIS states is overwhelmingly in industrial products; Ukraine and Kazakstan are by far the most important trade partners. Russia continues to supply large amounts of energy to the NIS states at a discount, although it has tied government credits to debt repayment.

Highlights From Russian Infrastructure Projects
International Space Station
. Russia and the U.S. are engaged in a joint flight program to lead to the development of the international space station. Key elements include: U.S. astronauts on board the Mir space station for approximately two years; up to 10 U.S. shuttle docking missions; and $400 million in contracts for the provision of hardware, joint technology, and on-board research support by U.S. firms.

Sakhalin Island Development. The Marathon, McDermott, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Shell Sakhalin II consortium plan to develop large oil and gas fields offshore at Sakhalin Island in a $10 billion project.

Timan Pechora Exploration. Texaco is involved in a $2.5 billion greenfield oil exploration project in the Timan Pechora region of the Komi republic.

Civil Aviation. Russian manufacturers are using Western engines and avionics to bring the Russian civil fleet up to world standards.

Civil Shipbuilding and Harbor Modernization. Russia seeks to modernize the St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and other ports. Russian shipyards have built oil tankers, fishing trawlers, cargo ships, and pleasure craft.


Russia has taken important steps to become a full partner in the world's principal political groupings. On December 27, 1991, Russia assumed the seat formerly held by the Soviet Union in the UN Security Council. Russia also is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). It signed the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative on June 22, 1994. On May 27, 1997 NATO and Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act which provides the basis for an enduring and robust partnership between the Alliance and Russia, one that can make an important contribution to European security architecture in the 21st century. On June 24, 1994, Russia and the European Union (EU) signed a partnership and cooperation agreement.

Russia has played an important role in helping mediate international conflicts through its co-sponsorship of the Middle East peace process and its support of UN and multilateral initiatives in the Persian Gulf, Cambodia, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti. Russia is a member of the Contact Group; it has contributed troops to the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia. Russia has affirmed its respect for international law and OSCE principles. It has accepted UN and/or OSCE involvement in instances of regional conflict on its periphery, including the dispatch of observers to Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Nagorno-Karabakh.


Since the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the Russians have discussed rebuilding a viable, cohesive fighting force out of the remaining parts of the former Soviet armed forces. A new Russian military doctrine, promulgated in November 1993, implicitly acknowledges the contraction of the old Soviet military into a regional military power without global imperial ambitions. In keeping with its emphasis on the threat of regional conflicts, the doctrine calls for a Russian military that is smaller, lighter, and more mobile, with a higher degree of professionalism and with greater rapid deployment capability. Such a transformation has proven difficult.

The challenge of this task has been magnified by difficult economic conditions in Russia, which have resulted in reduced defense spending. This has led to training cutbacks, wage arrears, and severe shortages of housing and other social amenities for military personnel, with a consequent lowering of morale, cohesion, and fighting effectiveness. The evidently poor combat performance of the Russian armed forces in the Chechen conflict in part reflects these breakdowns.

The actual strength of the Russian armed forces probably falls between 1.4 and 1.6 million, with authorized strength several hundred thousand higher. Weapons production in Russia has fallen dramatically over the past few years; between 1988 and 1993, it fell by at least 50% for virtually every major weapons system. Weapons spending in 1992 was approximately 75% less than in 1988. Much of Russia's weaponry production is for sales to foreign governments.

About 70% of the former Soviet Union's defense industries is located in the Russian Federation. A large number of state-owned defense enterprises are on the brink of collapse as a result of cuts in weapons orders and insufficient funding to shift to production of civilian goods, while at the same time trying to meet payrolls. Many defense firms have been privatized; some have developed significant partnerships with U.S. firms.

The Russian military, for the foreseeable future, will play a role in determining Russia's internal stability and in formulating national policies. This role will be crucial to Russia in proceeding with political and economic reform and establishing a durable pattern of cooperation with the West.


The United States remains committed to maintaining a constructive relationship with Russia in which we seek to expand areas of cooperation and frankly air our differences without confrontation. The United States continues to support Russia's political and economic transformation as well as its integration into major international organizations. These steps, in conjunction with the massive reductions in nuclear weapons we have already achieved, have enhanced greatly the security of the United States.

The intensity and frequency of contacts between President Yeltsin and President Clinton in 1997--in Helsinki, in Paris and in Denver--are indicative of the strong commitment to, and the necessity of, the U.S. and Russia working together on a broad range of issues--from European security to cooperation in reducing the treats that nuclear and chemical weapons pose to our nations to strengthening Russian/American economic interaction and especially the levels of American investment in Russia.

Economic Relations
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.
Under the leadership of Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, the U.S. and Russia are working to advance bilateral cooperation through eight working committees and several working groups known collectively as the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation or the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. The committees address issues in the fields of science and technology, business development, space, energy policy, environmental protection, health, defense conversion, and agriculture. In addition, the Commission provides a forum for high-level discussions of priority security and economic issues. The Commission last met in Washington in February 1997 and will meet again later in the year.

Trade and Investment. At the March 1997 summit in Helsinki, Finland, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reemphasized the need to expand trade and investment. They signed a joint "Economic Initiative" aimed at stimulating Russian economic growth, deepening bilateral economic ties and accelerating Russian integration into the global economy and its primary multilateral organizations. President Clinton also announced substantial direct support for trade and investment through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank.

In 1996, Russia ran a bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. of $221 million (based on U.S. exports of about $3.3 billion and imports of $3.5 billion). The 1992 U.S.-Russia trade agreement provides mutual most-favored-nation status and offers some intellectual property rights protection. In 1992, the two countries also signed treaties on the avoidance of double taxation and on bilateral investment. As of mid-1997, the Russian parliament, however, has not ratified the bilateral investment treaty, although it has been approved by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. actively supports Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organization and Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed at Helsinki to set 1998 as a target date for Russian accession to that institution.

Military Issues
NATO/Russia Founding Act. Russia signed the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative in June 1994. U.S. and Russian troops are serving together in the Implementation Force in Bosnia and its successor, the Stabilization Force. Building on these steps, NATO and Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act on May 27, 1997, in Paris. The Act defines the terms of a fundamentally new and sustained relationship in which NATO and Russia will consult and coordinate regularly, and where appropriate, act jointly. Cooperation between NATO and Russia exists in scientific and technical fields.

Agreements/Cooperation/Nuclear Arms. The U.S. and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in September 1993 that institutionalized and expanded relations between defense ministries, including establishing a broad range of military-to-military contacts. The U.S. and Russia carried out a joint peacekeeping training exercise in Totskoye, Russia, in September 1994. Based on the January 14, 1994, agreement between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, the two nations stopped targeting their strategic nuclear missiles at each other as of May 30, 1994. U.S. and Russian security cooperation emphasizes strategic stability, nuclear safety, dismantling nuclear weapons, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, and enhancing military-to-military contacts. At the Lisbon summit in 1992, the United States signed a protocol to the START I Treaty with Russia, Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine--where the strategic nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union were located--making the four countries party to the treaty and committing all signatories to reductions in strategic nuclear weapons within the seven-year period provided by the treaty. The treaty entered into force December 5, 1994.

START II. On January 3, 1993, the U.S. and Russia signed the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II). This treaty reduces overall deployments of strategic nuclear weapons on each side by more than two-thirds from current levels and will eliminate the most destabilizing strategic weapons--heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and all other deployed multiple-warhead ICBMs. At the September 1994 summit, the two nations agreed to begin removing nuclear warheads due to be scrapped under START II immediately, once START I takes effect and the START II Treaty is ratified by both countries, instead of taking the nine years allowed. At their May 1995 summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed on a set of principles that would guide further discussion in the field of demarcation between anti-ballistic missile systems and theater missile defenses. They also agreed on steps to increase the transparency and irreversibility of nuclear arms reduction and committed not to use newly produced fissile materials or to reuse the fissile materials removed from nuclear weapons being eliminated and excess to national security requirements in nuclear weapons. The Russian Duma has not yet ratified START II.

CFE. Following ratification by Russia and the other NIS, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty entered into force on November 9, 1992. This treaty establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of military equipment--tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and combat helicopters--and provides for the destruction of weaponry in excess of these limits.

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR). Often called Nunn-Lugar assistance, this type of assistance is provided to Russia (as well as Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine) to aid in the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction and to prevent the proliferation of such weapons. Over $600 million has been allocated for assistance to Russia during fiscal years 1996 and 1997 under this program and thirteen implementing agreements have been signed. Key projects have included assistance in the elimination of strategic offensive arms ($162 million), design and construction of a fissile material storage facility ($90 million), provision of fissile material containers ($50 million), material control and accounting and physical protection of nuclear materials ($45 million), and development of a chemical weapons destruction plan and provision of equipment for a pilot laboratory for the safe and secure destruction of chemical weapons ($55 million). Under the CTR program, the U.S. is also assisting Russia in the development of export controls; providing emergency response equipment and training to enhance Russia's ability to respond to accidents involving nuclear weapons; providing increased military-to-military contacts; and encouraging the conversion of Russian defense firms through the formation of joint ventures to produce products, including housing, for the civilian market. As part of the CTR program, the U.S. has awarded $20 million to a joint venture project involving an American housing firm and three Russian aerospace firms to construct housing for demobilized military officers. Portions of the Russian defense firms will be converted to the production of prefabricated housing systems and related products. In a multilateral effort (the European Union, Japan, and Canada are also involved), the U.S. has also provided $50 million to establish the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), which provides alternative peaceful civilian employment opportunities to scientists and engineers of the former Soviet Union involved with weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador - vacant
Charge d'Affaires - John F. Tefft
Counselor for Political Affairs - John M. Ordway
Counselor for Economic Affairs - Clifford Bond
Counselor for Commercial Affairs - John Peters
Counselor for Consular Affairs - Michael W. Marine (Susan Wood arrives summer 1997)
Counselor for Administrative Affairs - John O'Keefe
Counselor for Public Affairs - Robert R. Gosende
Counselor for Science and Technology - John C. Zimmerman
Director, U.S. Agency for International Development - Janet Valentine
Senior Representative, Federal Aviation Administration - Dennis B. Cooper
Immigration and Naturalization Service - Anne Corsano
Department of Energy - Robin J. Copeland
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - Douglas Englund

The U.S. embassy in Russia is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 19/23, Moscow (tel. [7] (095) 252-2451 through 59; fax: [7] (095) 956-4261).

Consuls General
Consulate General, St. Petersburg (Furshtatskaya Ulitsa 15, tel. [7] (812) 275-1701)--John Evans
Consulate General, Vladivostok (Mordovtseva Ulitsa 12, tel. [7] (4232) 268-458/554)--Jane Miller Floyd
Consulate General, Yekaterinburg (tel. [7] (3432) 60-11-43)--Howard Steers

In Moscow, the U.S. Commercial Office is located at Novinskiy Bulvar 15 (tel. [7] (095) 255-4848/4660 or 956-4255, fax: [7] (095) 230-2101). In St. Petersburg, the U.S. Commercial Office is located at Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa 57 (tel. [7] (812) 110-6042, fax: [7] (812) 110-6479).

U.S. Assistance to Russia
U.S. assistance to Russia funded a variety of programs in the following key areas: private-sector development, privatization and enterprise restructuring, trade and investment, democracy initiatives, energy, health care, housing, and environment. Humanitarian assistance represented a major portion of U.S. aid during the initial transition phase in Russia, when there was a pressing need for food, medicine, and other essential commodities. U.S. efforts now concentrate on limited technical assistance, citizen exchanges and partnerships and direct support for trade and investment.

To date, the U.S. government has provided a total of $4.7 billion in grant assistance to Russia ($2 billion in economic and technical assistance, $1.7 billion in humanitarian and food assistance, and $1 billion in security and weapons dismantlement assistance) and is supporting over $6 billion worth of financing and insurance. The annual level of economic and technical assistance for Russia has declined from a peak of $1.6 billion in 1994 to $95 million in 1997.

U.S. Support for Russian Democracy and Development
The U.S. Government has been in the forefront of delivering privatization assistance to Russia since October 1992.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID has the principal responsibility for implementing technical assistance to Russia and the other New Independent States. In FY 1994, USAID devoted over $1.6 billion in assistance to help Russia develop democratic institutions and transform its state-controlled economy to one based on market principles. Programs are active in the areas of privatization and private sector development, agriculture, energy, housing reform, health, environmental protection, economic restructuring, independent media, elections, and the rule of law. The U.S. recently pledged $30 million to help Russia in its fight against crime and to support a new legal infrastructure.
U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank). Eximbank approved about $2 billion in loans, loan guarantees, and insurance for transactions in Russia from 1991 to March 1995. Of this total, more than $1 billion was approved under its Oil and Gas Framework Agreement.
U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). OPIC provides loans, loan guarantees, and commercial and political investment insurance to American companies investing in Russia. As of FY 1996, OPIC approved more than $3 billion in investment financing and insurance for 125 ventures.
Trade and Development Agency (TDA) and Department of Commerce. TDA has approved approximately $46 million in funding for feasibility studies on over 120 investment projects.
Commerce Department. American Business Centers have been opened in St. Petersburg, Nizhnevartovsk, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Khaborovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and Chelyabinsk to help U.S. and Russian companies do business in Russia. The Commerce Department has also established a Special American Business Internship Program (SABIT) in Russia, and an NIS business information system.
Agricultural Credit. For 1997, the U.S. has authorized $120 million in export credit guarantees in connection with sales of U.S. agricultural commodities under a private banking sector program in Russia as part of the Commodity Credit Corporation's Export Credit Guarantee Program (GSM-102).
U.S. Information Agency (USIA). USIA public diplomacy is active in the areas of promoting the growth of democracy and civil society, encouraging economic reform and growth of a market economy, explaining and building support for U.S. foreign policy objectives, and building understanding of U.S. society and culture. Professional and educational exchanges cover such diverse fields as journalism, public administration, local government, business management, education, political science and civics education. Over 20,000 Russians have participated in USIA-funded exchanges over the past five years.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. A variety of technical assistance activities are coordinated by USDA under the Emerging Democracies Program. In March 1994, a U.S.-Russia Joint Commission for Agribusiness and Rural Development was established to channel funds generated by the sale of donated U.S. commodities to support private and social initiatives in rural communities throughout Russia.
Eurasia Foundation. The Foundation--a private, non-profit, grant-making organization supported by U.S. funds--has disbursed more than $24 million in small grants to U.S. and indigenous organizations promoting reform in Russia and the other NIS.


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas, are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information:

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at U.S. State Department Home Page; this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection, which also is accessible at gopher://gopher.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

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