PONARS – Making Scholarship Accessible
Jacqueline M. Miller
Assistant Director - PONARS
Russia and Eurasia Program
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, D.C., USA
The Program on New Approaches to Russian Security was founded in 1997 with the goal of augmenting the study of Russia and its external relations and making this scholarship easily accessible to those responsible for U.S. policy toward the region. Given our members' expertise and the continuing importance of this region for U.S. policymakers, PONARS' reach has been broadened to include Russian and Eurasian security issues, and our membership is also reflecting this expansion as PONARS currently has one Ukrainian member and is looking to recruit social scientists from other former Soviet republics.
PONARS developed from the ideas of a group of young but already distinguished social scientists who saw the increased neglect of scholarship on Russia as both an academic and policy liability and who could not, within traditional academic structures, undertake work that had real policy significance when it was so clearly needed. Understanding the development of Russia's social, economic, and political system and its relation to Russian national security interests and policies is vital to future scholarship on peace and security, and to U.S. foreign policy. PONARS has differentiated itself by focusing scholarly resources and debate on overlooked but often essential factors that influence foreign policy and national security decisionmaking. Traditional approaches to security--such as focus on strategic analysis, great power politics, and arms control--have their place, but provide a restricted understanding of international peace and security. To better understand Russia's role in international security, the program sought to promote sophisticated and in-depth scholarship from all disciplines in the social sciences, and from the study of comparative systems as well as international relations.
Understanding Russia and the former Soviet Union--including its security concerns, foreign policy, economic situation and societal conditions--remains crucial to the West, and the United States in particular. In reality, however, there has been a marked decline in the research and analysis of events in Russia and Eurasia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This lack of interest extends from academia to the media to, distressingly, policymakers. As a result, those factors that most inform Russian and Eurasian foreign and security policies are not receiving ample attention or examination and we are thus left with, at best, an incomplete understanding of security interests in the region and how the region impacts vital U.S. national security interests. In practical terms, this oversight by those responsible for U.S. policy makes the work of PONARS all the more relevant and essential.
This unfortunate lack of interest and resources is mirrored in the academic world: the United States' post-Soviet scholars must contend with decreased scholarly resources and interest in the United States, while Russian and Eurasian scholars continuously labor with severely inadequate resources and a fragmented social and political structure--a situation that affects all of the region's higher educational institutions.
There was thus a clear need that PONARS was designed to fill, and PONARS has been extraordinarily successful to date in what we set out to accomplish. The program has reached academia and policymakers alike and, through our conferences and publications, refocused attention on Russian and Eurasian security issues; PONARS' members have consistently highlighted the "new" approaches to understanding these issues, approaches that incorporate more than just traditional geopolitical and power concerns; and through our email network, scholarly publications, and academic conference, the scholarship of PONARS' members has been enhanced.
PONARS has created a policy-relevant and scholarship-supporting network of U.S. and Russian social scientists. We are currently seeking to expand this network to appropriate scholars from Eurasia. The PONARS network is well established, respected, and influential. The network has succeeded in overcoming, for our members, the competitive and fragmenting reality of contemporary American and Russian scholarly life that discourages collaboration, mutual helpfulness, and thoughtful discussion of the widest possible array of research, teaching, and policy topics. The abysmal state of research and travel support-particularly in Russia but also in the United States-hinders in-depth empirical knowledge and the easy friendliness and interest that comes from face-to-face contact. So although our listserv is our main avenue of communication, our twice yearly meetings provide the all-important personal contact that is necessary to build a network where members can communicate freely and openly. PONARS is crucial to its members in being able to provide a collaborative and non-competitive forum for research to be supplemented and improved upon.
An additional need that PONARS has been able to fulfill for its members is to promote policy-oriented work. For junior scholars especially, policy-oriented work is not supported and is even discouraged by universities. In current conditions, this severely hampers the policy relevance of social science, because it is precisely the younger, post-Soviet trained scholars who have the empirical and analytical training most needed in policy circles. PONARS has become a resource for this cohort of scholars to learn how its research can inform policy, and how to make its work accessible to U.S. policy circles. PONARS has contributed to U.S. policy by bringing new ideas, neglected facts, and critical analysis to discussions through our conferences and memo series.
Another important need that PONARS has begun to meet is to help policy and scholarly analysis of Russia and Eurasia break out of the U.S.-centered, political science-based, strategic studies of the Cold War era. PONARS has become a truly transnational, multidisciplinary (with a core of political scientists, but sociologists, historians, economists and even a geographer), and primarily non-defense analyst organization.
The PONARS listserv is truly key to our collaborative efforts, with members citing again and again how useful the listserv is in their daily research and teaching. Questions posed to the listserv are quickly answered and often spark interesting debates. Members have noted how not just factual knowledge, but analytical understanding, and conceptual and theoretical sophistication have been improved by their interaction with other PONARSians on the listserv. The introduction of different points of view, especially on "hot issues" in Russian domestic and foreign policy, are one of the hallmarks of this listserv.
PONARS produces two publications: our policy memos series and our working paper series. The policy memos are geared towards a policymaking audience, although our subscription list encompasses a much wider audience. The memos are short, concise memos that analyze Russian and/or Eurasian security topics or issues of concern to the United States. PONARS policy memos are unique and valuable for simplifying complex, academic (but quite important) arguments to language easily understood by non-specialists in a concise form. They summarize in a highly readable fashion the most policy-relevant research of some of the most dynamic young experts on Russian politics and offer policy recommendations based on their findings.
The working paper series focuses on academic research and analysis. The papers are less widely distributed than the policy memos, and members write these papers as part of their ongoing research. The papers are very much works in progress and often the commentary and criticism provided by readers helps the authors revise the papers for publication in mainstream academic journals. To date we have produced 19 working papers and 245 policy memos.
PONARS members themselves are also a significant audience for the policy memo series. Members often comment on how useful the memos are not just for their own research but also for their teaching. There are numerous examples of professors, both PONARS member and non-PONARS members, assigning memos their classes. In addition, working papers and draft manuscripts have also been assigned reading, although memos are by far the most commonly assigned. For the same reasons that PONARS memos are useful to a policy audience, they are useful to undergraduate and graduate students. PONARS policy memos are timely and cover topics too current to be addressed by journal articles, they cover a broad range of issues, and are succinct and easily accessible, both physically and intellectually.
Many PONARS publications have been republished as editorials and journal articles. PONARS members often provide feedback that is invaluable as ideas first circulated in a brief memo are expanded upon in journal articles. These papers, along with draft work that members submit for discussion at our academic conferences, have been published after revisions in a variety of journals, including: American Political Science Review, The Journal of Peace Research, Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, International Journal of Sociology, Social Science Research, Research in Political Sociology, Problems of Post-Communism International Security, Pro et contra (Moscow), Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, Orbis, International Review, Security Dialogue, Polis (Moscow), Post Soviet Affairs, Politics and Society, and Armed Forces and Society. Members have republished memos in literary papers, newspapers, and on websites, as well as on the opinion pages of leading newspapers in the United States, Russia, and Europe (e.g. The New York Times, Moscow News, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, etc.). Additionally, members consistently note that the feedback and critiques they receive from other PONARS members on the many book manuscripts and book chapters that our members have authored has led to stronger arguments and better final products.
PONARS holds two conferences a year and, as with our publications series, the conferences are targeted at different audiences. The annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., is organized around a day-long policy meeting for government and NGO staff and analysts who work on Russia and Eurasia-related issues. During the DC meetings PONARS members make brief presentations on policy-relevant issues in U.S.-Russia relations. The presentations are based on policy memos that members have written specifically for the policy discussion. The memos are compiled in a briefing book that is sent out to all participants several weeks before the conference. We request that participants read the memos ahead of time in order to enable brief presentations by PONARS members. This allows the majority of time in the panels to be devoted to discussion and debate with all participants. The second annual conference is an academic conference, which features intensive interaction between conference participants (PONARS members) and discussion of members' scholarly work-in-progress. This conference alternates between venues in the United States and Russia.
PONARS held its sixth annual policy conference at The Center for Strategic and International Studies in January 2002. Over 150 participants from the Washington DC policy community gathered to discuss the political, economic, and social situation in Russia and its implications for US foreign policy. PONARS moved to CSIS in July 2001, and this policy conference was the first held under CSIS auspices. The opening overview panel was introduced by CSIS President John Hamre, and addressed the Eurasian dimension of the U.S. counterrorism campaign after September 11. Focused break-out panels followed the opening panel and addressed specific foreign policy issues and developments within the countries of the former Soviet Union that affect U.S. interests and policy. A panel on military security issues centered on NATO's future and its relationship with Russia, as well as the future terrain of the strategic nuclear relationship. Russia's relationship with the West was the focus of another panel in which a wide array of topics were covered.
Panels addressing Russia's domestic developments covered societal, economic, and political issues. In the first of these panels, PONARS members presented current research findings on attitudes and development of civil society, social organizations, attitudes on human rights, and the condition of critical groups such as Russian scientists (who pose both a proliferation problem and cooperation opportunity for U.S. security engagement programs). Economic issues discussed ranged from the next steps in internal reform (pensions), to regional economic integration and trends (in the former Soviet space and in Northern Europe), to Russia's ultimate global integration (via the World Trade Organization). Finally, discussion of the domestic political arena provided updates and analysis of the bases and limits of domestic support for Putin's policy, reality vs. appearance in Russia's regional and federal reforms, and the crucial issue for regional security and stability for Russia's citizenship policy and relations with its post-Soviet neighbors.
In a first for PONARS, the scope and reach of members' expertise enabled us to devote a panel to the status of Ukraine's democratic development, particularly in light of its upcoming March parliamentary elections. The panel balanced a concerned assessment of the prospect for democratic progress via elections themselves to a relative dose of optimism justified by evidence of the development of parties as potentially effective representatives of different societal interests, and evidence of perceptible, if uneven, progress in Ukrainian support for robust human rights standards.
In order to facilitate productive discussion, all specific comments are off the record at our policy conferences. What follows is a summary of the general points covered in the course of panel presentations and the subsequent discussions.
The Eurasian Dimension in U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategy
The opening session of the conference focused on how the current state of affairs in Eurasia will likely impact the United States' on-going counter-terrorism campaign. Discussion in this session focused on two sensitive, volatile areas of primary interest for both the United States and Russia: the Caspian, for its resources and as an energy corridor, and Central Asia, for its resources and its pivotal role in war in Afghanistan.
U.S. presence in Eurasia post-September 11 has reached a quantitatively and qualitatively new level, most prominently represented by U.S. military bases in Central Asia. Russia has given surprisingly little resistance to U.S. military presence in the region-for now. There is significant concern in many quarters of Russia's elite as to the duration of U.S. involvement in the region and its ability to enhance or jeopardize its own security. Few argued with the notion that a more active engagement by the United States in the region, whether the Caspian or Central Asia, and the evolving environment that ensues, will bring with it unavoidable implications for Russia.
Counterterrorism concerns now preoccupy U.S. priorities in the region, and this gives Russia greater latitude to pursue its security concerns in Chechnya and Georgia and greater leverage in Turkmenistan, especially as Russia's concerns are cloaked in the language of counterterrorism. U.S. involvement in the region has led to the perception that Russian influence in the region has been consolidated post 9-11. The United States, however, is seeing a greater accommodation of its interests, especially in the energy sphere in the Caspian. Energy development and diversification of energy supply has taken on a new urgency since September 11, and the Bush administration has been pushing the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Pragmatism, which is the hallmark of Putin's foreign policy, extends to Russian policy to the BTC. Attempts to derail the pipeline project have now been put aside as Russia apparently not only accepts its inevitability but has approved LUKoil's and Yukos' interest in participating in the consortium. Russia's policy of engagement and cooperation (while given to fits and starts), is not altogether new, but what is new is the accent and acceleration of cooperation and positive-sum focus. Despite apparent cooperation and converging interests in the region, U.S.-Russian relations are ultimately still characterized by uncertainty and both states will continue to harbor suspicions over intentions. U.S. policy in the region, therefore, should be one that encourages moderate behavior by Russia. Russia's political preeminence in the region is not an inherent threat to U.S. interests.
Discussion then shifted to the no less volatile region of Central Asia, where serious concerns were voiced over the prospect of deepening U.S. support for dictatorial regimes. The United States, by supporting (financially and politically) the Central Asian regimes, particularly Uzbekistan, in order to win the war in Afghanistan in the short term, will complicate and possibly even compromise its long term objective of eradicating terrorism and ensuring stability and security in the region. U.S. policy in the region post 9-11 has shifted from one of promoting regional cooperation to one of promoting Uzbekistan's goal of regional hegemony. Ironically, propping up Uzbekistan as regional hegemon may undermine the very regional cooperation needed to fight interrelated regional problems. Problems will emerge for the United States and its interests in the region, especially in the context of counterterrorism, as Central Asian governments take advantage of the new security realities to crack down on domestic opposition under the guise of battling "Islamic fundamentalism" and "international terrorism". Karimov's history, in particular, of repressing domestic political opposition fostered the radicalization of Islamic movements in the region. Uzbekistan has also taken it upon itself to lead its own incursions into the two weakest Central Asian states, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, under the guise of trying to round up suspected militants. With its long term security goals at stake, by reaffirming its commitment to human rights, by prioritizing economic over military aid, by evenly distributing aid across the region, with a primary focus on the most disadvantaged states, and by encouraging the participation and growth of multilateral institutions, U.S. policy can generate a more stable security environment in this volatile region, and overcome the pressing dangers implicit in the war on terror.
Cooperation with Russia cannot only influence positive outcomes in the Caspian and Central Asia, but, because of the region's Soviet legacy, can ensure the protection and destruction of vast quantities of WMD. Here, Russia is an inescapable partner in the battle against "super terrorism". The three-pronged threat of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons has the potential to generate terrorist attacks of profound proportions. This sheer potentiality argues for closer bilateral coordination and cooperation between the United States and Russia in a variety of spheres.
Central to the success of U.S. policy has been the pragmatism of Putin, evinced in the Caspian, Central Asia, and now necessary to meet the looming threat of super terrorist attacks. Putin is not operating in a vacuum, though. He needs support at home to continue on this apparent course. To garner support, tangible results that he can hold up to the Russian people and elites as benefits of past and future cooperation are needed. It seems likely that, were this pragmatism to persist, it would turn Russia more fully toward the West.
The main lines of discussion covered in this session included the implications of Baltic admission into NATO and the apparent disintegration of means of past cooperation (nuclear strategic stability reinforced by treaties).
A controversial argument on Baltic admission into NATO sparked a wide-ranging debate as to the essence and future of the alliance. The argument was put forward that entrance of the Baltic states satisfied neither NATO security nor European security and should not proceed. This rested on two premises. First, even in the post-September 11 environment, it is possible that the West can push Russia too far. Following ABM abrogation, absence of a new strategic arms control agreement, and NMD, enlargement of NATO could be seen as one more, and perhaps the last affront to Russian interests. It could also decrease Putin's domestic maneuvering room as he is seen to give across the board concessions to the West in return for empty words and gestures. The second argument against Baltic admission to NATO is based on an even simpler, more general precept: planners plan. Military planners are not paid to contrive best-case scenarios. The fear is that by expanding NATO to the Baltics and forcing a plan to defend the Baltics in the increasingly unlikely event of a Russian invasion, a security dilemma could be triggered, forcing both NATO and Russia to view each other in terms of their past adversarial relationship as planners consider defensibility of the region, and how best to achieve air and ground superiority. Far from enhancing security, it was argued that security concerns will be heightened on all sides.
The argument against Baltic inclusion in NATO provoked significant debate from several different angles. Pentagon military planners, for example, do not have military contingency plans for every possible scenario of U.S. military mobilization. In fact, there are only two military plans: one concerning North Korea and the other Iraq. Baltic admission into NATO would not then compel military planners to plan the defense of the Baltics from Russian invasion. To think that a security dilemma would be triggered and would lead to greater tension in relations does not mesh with this reality. But yet, it was argued, it is the duty of Russian planners to assume the worst, and Baltic admission into NATO would not assure Russian planners of benign intentions from the alliance. There was also little consensus on the issue of Baltic defensibility, with some arguing it was not an issue as the defensibility of West Berlin had not been an issue for NATO planners. Others took the tack that, even if troops and materiel are not stationed on the territory specifically, NATO admission will result in improved capacity for this eventuality and the deepening of joint exercises, resulting once more in the triggering of the security dilemma. A security dilemma might be successfully avoided if concomitant to Baltic admission, a new role for Russia was found within the alliance.
This brought discussion to the clear issue behind the debate: the changing nature of the alliance as it expands in the post-cold war world, and whether its post-cold war mission is one of a traditional military alliance or if NATO should be redefined as a political organization. The erosion of Article 5 coupled with the admission of Russia could diminish its military functions. But this is not inevitable and to some extent highlights a lack of creativity by both the Russian and Atlantic communities, an inability to think outside past forms or parameters. It was argued that the alliance could become mission defined by focusing on peacekeeping or counterterrorism, rather than be defined by a common enemy.
Debate then shifted to arms control and its apparent decline, if not complete disappearance, from the international stage as a cornerstone of U.S.-Russian cooperation. In contrast to the cooperation between the United States and Russia in combating counterterrorism, the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons is stalled. The U.S. abrogation of the ABM treaty, the Bush administration's apparent disinterest in START II and favoring arms control reductions without formal agreements and verification measures may even indicate regression in the sphere of arms control. Whereas Washington believes it can simply dispense with treaties due to the mutual trust evolving between Russia and the United States, Moscow seeks treaties that will initiate a process that is transparent, verifiable and irreversible. Though this difference remains, there are positive spins: failure to come to terms with a treaty could be a result of warming, not worsening relations; nor does the treaty impasse derail relations in other spheres of U.S.-Russia interests. The inherent inequality in U.S.-Russian relations and power may go a long way to explain why Bush-Putin summits have produced no treaties. Arms control in the 1970s was premised on parity, and, though in warhead numbers the sides may be roughly equal, in almost all other respects (economic, political, cultural influence), the United States has outstripped Russia. Even with significant disparity between the United States and Russia, there are still numerous opportunities for deepening of bilateral coordination and cooperation, for example in the areas of disposal of fissile material, work on transparent dismantlement of warheads, possible cooperation on R&D and deployment of a joint theatre missile defense system, coordination of joint early warning systems, and an institutional arrangement inside NATO that provides Russia with a greater voice.
Getting Inside Russia
Discussion in this break-out panel focused on Russian military action in Chechnya, and the apparent lack of concern of Russian citizens to the human rights violations occurring there, indicating Russia still lacks a vibrant civil society. With civil society a necessary condition for democracy, the implications for Russia's democratic reforms were clear.
With the help of detailed survey evidence, stark gaps were evident between the perception and reality of human rights with regard to Chechnya. Though many Russians are against violations such as torture and arbitrary arrest, when these abstracts were transplanted to the reality of Russian actions in Chechnya, support for those rights dropped sharply. The picture was broadened as the focus moved from Chechnya to the Russian Federation as a whole, and there is an apparent lack of concern on the part of most Russians regarding the actions taken by the Russian government that, according to many standards, limit civil rights and liberties in Russia. The session highlighted the startling disconnect, or compartmentalization, of the Russian people in their attitudes toward human rights and particularly what actions constitute human rights violations.
Survey data indicated that the growing unpopularity of the war did not have its roots in human rights violations by the Russian army against the Chechens, but in casualties of the Russian army, bungled military operations, and economic costs. As the state increasingly consolidates its hold over mass media in Russia and its ability to control dissemination of information about these factors, it will be more and more difficult for the Russian population to stay informed about the course of the war and voice whatever concerns they may (or may not) have.
There are activist groups in Russia that give hope to an otherwise gloomy picture for Russian civil society. One of the notable NGOs that has developed is a direct result of Russia's actions in the first Chechen war: The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers. This group tracks deaths and injuries in the Russian army and hazing within the armed forces, lobbies for alternative service, and counsels draftees and their families. They argue that the Russian state is engaged in an illegal war and that the government is committing human rights abuses. Members have even been labeled as agents of the CIA. This is a widespread practice by Russian government officials, to label any dissent as unpatriotic and traitorous, especially within the context of the Chechen war. Especially in light of the growing weakness of independent media, the government is able to monopolize the rhetoric of the war. Civil society, in its current weak state and to the extent that it cares, is defenseless against many of these state tools.
For Russian democracy to progress, civil society must strengthen. One unexpected source of civil society development, at least in rural areas of Russia, could be the Communist party of the Russian Federation (KRPF). At least some of the rural cells of the KPRF are surprisingly free of ideological content. In urban areas, the KPRF's identity and ideology must be constantly reaffirmed as it is confronted with liberal proponents and ideas, but rural districts are largely free of these conditions, and are more geared toward local concerns. Distasteful and counterintuitive as it may seem to many Western organizations that are trying to assist civil society development, the KPRF should not be discounted because it is, in some instances, the only organization encouraging participation in the public sphere and creating dialogue between local government and citizens. The role it plays in structuring the public sphere and facilitating its diversification should be encouraged and seized upon, especially when there is nothing else in many rural areas. Ironically, seventy years of communist rule destroyed all alternatives to such community building.
Civil society is still unable to provide the necessary counterweight to the Russian state. Remedies discussed included international watchdogs with a greater focus on pressing problems inside Russia. It is necessary but not sufficient for reports on human rights violations to reach Western audiences; they should first be made available in Russia, and a better process must be found to filter reports of violations to the Russian people. This will enable greater knowledge and facilitate a more open public debate. The West should also make it clear that it supports for human rights and will not tolerate their violation. Throughout all of this, one of the greatest obstacles to dissemination was not merely lack of organization within Russia of civic groups, but the lack of independent professional media.
Russia and the West
The discussion in this session revolved around the issues of motives, sustainability and consequences of Russia's post-September 11th alliance with the West. A strain of pessimism was evident in the discussion of the state of Russia's relations with the West.
While the shared security threat of international terrorism motivates U.S.-Russian cooperation post September 11, other factors may be at play, including a genuine desire on the part of the Russian government to move closer to the West. More pessimistically, cooperation could be a short term tactic or ploy to enhance Russia's standing in the world, its economy, and increase the power of the state. Russia's move to the West could actually weaken western culture and values if Russia is drawing closer to the West to escape its criticism. Due to its role in the counterterrorism campaign, Russia has not only seen less criticism from the West regarding Chechnya, but the Kremlin also can successfully escape domestic criticism from liberal quarters, because liberals find it more difficult to criticize Putin since he has aligned himself with the West. Thus the Kremlin need not curtail its behavior with regard to human rights violations or centralization of power, but merely recasts it in the mold of the post-September 11th war on terror.
The anti-terrorism campaign is unlikely to set the agenda for U.S.-Russian relations across the spectrum. Significant challenges remain to the United States and Russia developing a cooperative framework for future relations. Geopolitically their interests vary, whether in the Middle East, the Caspian, or Central Asia. Economically, Russia seeks to preserve its position in the former Soviet space, whereas U.S. economic interests are centered on Japan and the Pacific Rim. Anti-terrorism cooperation is not a good basis for long-term cooperative relations if U.S. and Russian interests fundamentally vary. Russia's predominant concern is integrating itself into the global economy and strengthening its economic position, whereas the United States will continue to devote its energies to ideological and moral issues.
U.S.-Russian relations had the potential to become soured as the collapse of Taliban power in Afghanistan happened much more quickly than expected in the United States as the Northern Alliance, perhaps with Russian support and facilitation, advanced on Kabul before the United States was "ready" for them to do so. Post-Taliban Afghanistan may further highlight that Russia and the United States have different interests, both in general and in this specific but important case, that may dampen the spirit of post 9-11 cooperation. Russia and the West agree on the need to have multi-ethnic, cross-clan representation in the interim government, and that these disparate factions could be cemented together by politically motivated and conditioned financial aid aimed to encourage local support for the Kabul government. However, disproportionality in the alliance is present when regarding the resources available to address the problem of Afghan reconstruction and regional threats.
An even greater problem for U.S.-Russian relations is the stationing of U.S. military personnel in Central Asia. As in the conference's opening panel, attention was drawn to U.S. support for Uzbekistan, which can now claim more justification for, and has been given de facto, greater leeway in suppressing domestic dissent and strengthen its position vis-?-vis its neighbors. In addition to Uzbek policies that have made Islamic fundamentalism more likely, U.S. presence in the region has now given Islamic radicals more targets.
Russia's Economic Agenda
Discussion revolved around Russia's place in the global economy, and the progress, or lack thereof, of Russia's economic reform agenda. There appears to be a new urgency in Russia's economic integration hopes, especially WTO membership, post-September 11 and renewed prospects for domestic economic reform since Putin's ascension to the presidency.
The lack of progress on Russian accession to the WTO has been mainly the result of a lack of progress in Russian domestic economic reforms, including tariff barriers to trade and covert government subsidies to key industries. Russian prospects have brightened substantially as the United States has sought, post September 11, to accelerate Russian admission. This, it was argued, is typical of how the United States has dealt with Russia in the past and seems likely to continue so in the future: international organizations are the 'cookie jar' the United States uses when it needs some incentive to promote good behavior, or as a reward. This approach further politicizes these institutions and makes economic policy considerations secondary as Russia gets special treatment, or special punishment, for short term policy goals, which override the long term policy goals these institutions were designed to promote. There should be awareness in U.S. policy circles in all cases what the tradeoffs will be when international organizations are used for short term goals that may compromise their long term interests.
There was ambivalence on the panel as to whether it would ultimately be in the United States' best interest to push for Russian accession to the WTO. And although the United States has been more vocal in its support of Russian entry post September 11, the United States simply cannot deliver accelerated Russian entry. There are too many states that can veto accession and thus limit the U.S.'s ability to deliver. By advocating swift membership for Russia, the United States would forfeit any leverage to address its major concerns, including intellectual property protection and subsidies to the energy sector. Once Russia is in the WTO, the United States' would lose the leverage that it had over Russia, but might be able to gain some institutional leverage through, for example, the WTO's dispute resolution process. The prospect of accelerated admission to the WTO should provide incentives for real structural economic reform to continue in Russia.
The domestic agenda of economic reform is wide-ranging, and, recently, at least on the surface, filled with legislative success. Economic and political circumstances have changed considerably since the Yeltsin era. There is less barter, more tax revenue, less debt, money has value, and less arbitrariness in economic relations. Industries can now focus on raising capital and attracting investment and lobbying for laws. A favorable parliament with pro-presidential parties makes it is easier to get legislation through. The case of pension reform highlights the processes currently at work in Russia's economic reforms. The debate over pension reform was wide in scope, including actors from the business community. The mere fact that they were engaged in a vibrant public debate over the rules of the game was a noteworthy change in and of itself. And even though this debate was limited by Western standards, debate progressed over the "rules of the game." It reached a stalemate over the "politics of implementation". The question of who would supervise the pension funds was not resolved. Pension reform needs an agency to be responsible and implement rules, but because they could not resolve this debate after years, there is reason for skepticism. The degree of mutual suspicion that this non-resolution conveys seems to indicate whoever gets that position will have enormous amounts of arbitrary power.
Questions fed into a larger debate over the long-term sustainability of Russian economic growth, and how lasting the bounce since 1998 will prove to be, or if it is already dissipating. Two points of view emerged. The skeptical view is that Russia suffers from an over-reliance on oil, and thus is more readily given to economic mismanagement, lurching violently between hyperinflation and draconian stabilization measures. The more hopeful see some real change in Russia and Russian attitudes, based on consumption growth and sustainable domestic production. While acknowledging serious structural problems and international debt repayments to come, nevertheless growth in 2001 continued at over 5%. Sufficient positive factors in the Russian economy indicate it may not be the irretrievable basket case many assume.
Democracy in Ukraine?
Two essentials of democracy are rule of law (tied to human rights) and representation (tied to free and fair elections). The panel examined both these issues, with a particular attention given to the levers western democracies can utilize and influence the process of democratic transition in Ukraine, at one time seeming so promising but now appearing increasingly stalled, and possibly expunge the above question mark.
Two dichotomies were evaluated with regard to how best policymakers in the west can assist in the promotion of human rights: near versus long-term policy objectives and soft versus hard policy tools. Near term objectives, such as correct wording of laws, and soft instruments, such as lectures and expertise sharing, while laudable, do not have the desired affect on long-term goals, such as changes in attitudes and institutions, and hard policy instruments, such as public pressure and conditionality, have been able to achieve. Clear and robust human rights norms promoted by the West are by far best in promoting human rights in Ukraine, and elsewhere. Human rights norms must be clearly codified in international legal statutes, and robust, meaning the relevant countries accept them. The West cannot expect Ukraine to abide by laws and norms that the most significant Western powers do not themselves subscribe to. The clear and robust nature of the rights is then pivotal if one is to extract the optimum result from hard policy instruments and long-term goals.
The session then turned to focus on the March 2002 elections to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament. General consensus was evident that the parliamentary election is less important in and of itself but should be seen as more of a prelude to the 2004 presidential elections and former Prime Minster Yuri Yushchenko's bloc, Our Ukraine, has a good chance to capture the most votes. Ukraine's otherwise unwieldy and unstable political coalitions may well disintegrate once in parliament. Internal party/coalition unity is key to these groups' survival, but unlikely to be forthcoming.
Media freedom is central to Ukraine's democratization, and that its absence has been particularly felt during elections. Yushchenko will likely receive minimal coverage. There are other election issues to contend with, including the proliferation of "dirty technologies" (defined as the creation of pseudo-parties to confuse the electorate and siphon votes away from particular candidates), the growing personality basis of politics, the lack of programmatic competition, and the much more subtle, unobtrusive use of administrative resources (defined as the distribution of gifts and appointments), pointing to a mastery of technique by those in power.
The West, if it hopes to promote democracy in Ukraine, should give support for a free media, and the hope for a transparent campaign, but both of these in the near term appear unlikely. Through exit polling, manipulation of the vote counting process could be kept to a minimum. At issue, though, is how serious the West truly is concerning its engagement in democratic reform in Ukraine, particularly in the light of blatant human rights abuses. Long term strategies are necessary for the sustainability of Ukraine's transition, but that this is unlikely to make the March 2002 elections and their aftermath any more palatable.
Domestic Policy in Russia
The foci of Putin's federal reforms have been mass media, where independent stations have been shut down or taken over by the Kremlin or Kremlin-backers, the federal-regional power balance, where the federal government has clearly shifted that balance in its favor, an improved tax collection system, and police reform. The end result: all political players, save for the security services and Putin, are weaker. These potential opposition groups have also not yet learned how to respond effectively to the challenges that now face them. Political parties have almost disappeared. Yabloko has moved more to the center to cope with the changing landscape but the KPRF will not be able to change and respond to the new political landscape as long as Zyuganov remains leader. The independent media has not been able to survive after NTV. The governors have been unable to organize themselves in light of Putin's reforms. Public opinion in Russia tends to focus on personalities not institutions, and public opinion has been pleased when the Kremlin attacks governors. But not about the person who is governor, but the institution of governorship.
Putin has increased his own room for maneuver considerably. He has maintained high approval ratings, which gives him a legitimacy that Yeltsin lacked, especially towards the end of his tenure. State intervention in electoral system in 1999 and the law on political parties has ensured a pro-Putin majority in the Duma and continued long term state control of electoral processes. The suggestion was put forward that Gaullist France might be a good comparison for the current situation in Russia, as a more authoritarian regime was adopted to pull the country from chaos. Given the absence of civil society in Russia, however, it was suggested the Italy under Mussolini might be a more apt analogy. It was also noted that Putin is not explicitly fighting against democracy or federalism. Rather, he is trying to strengthen state, and thus democracy gets weakened. It was suggested that the future of the Russian state would be a strong unitarian state without any federalism. Without a good balance between the center and the regions, however, it will be difficult for civil society to survive in Russia.
The most interesting political decisions now do not take place in public, but behind closed doors, and ideology has been made increasingly irrelevant. However, as the government makes concrete social policy choices and becomes increasingly reliant on coercive measures, it may become harder to buy groups off and real opposition groups might begin to emerge. A "blossoming" of civil society (as it finally has something to rally around or against) may take place, but only after the coercive forces have firmly entrenched themselves. Putin has applied and relied upon these coercive forces since his ascension to power, and they might be applied to opposition groups, whether through habit or design, in the shaping of social policy. U.S. policy, to be effective, must recognize this shift and move its attention away from the Duma and try to foster links between emerging civil groups and political parties.
Russian domestic reforms and domestic policies have far-reaching consequences outside of Russia as well as inside of Russia. One domestic policy choice that could have serious ramifications throughout the former Soviet Union in particular is Russia's citizenship policy as it has significant impact on the identity and political loyalty of Russians living outside Russia, who at last count (the 1989 census) numbered some 25 million. Russia's citizenship law has two main issues that create concern: its broad definition, and its push for dual citizenship throughout the former Soviet Union. Maintaining exceedingly liberal citizenship laws, including no language requirement and, for former Soviet citizens, no residency requirement, and by continually arguing for dual citizenship for ethnic Russians outside of Russia while not allowing for dual citizenship within Russia, is an attempt to keep Russian minorities outside of Russia to continue to see themselves as subjects of Moscow as well as or instead of subjects of where they live. It is a tool in the manufacturing of the myth of Russia as homeland for Russians outside Russia.
The Russian minorities are key to Russia's homeland myth, and both Russia's actions and the actions of the "host" states of the FSU influence the identity trajectory of this important political group. Russia's claim to all soviet citizens is likely disconcerting for many in the FSU, but the policies of the FSU states are important. Estonia and Latvia were cited as having inadvertently strengthened the appeal of Russia as a homeland because of their restrictive citizenship laws. Citizenship policies are just one tool that post-Soviet elites can use to promote the homeland myth as a way to regain the unintentionally lost idea of empire. The identity of Russians outside of Russia is key to this and Russia's citizenship policy is feeding this myth that it has created. Other attempts that Russia has used to try to achieve dominance over the FSU, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States, have been failures. To the extent that Russian citizenship policy manages to influence identity and the political and emotional loyalty of Russians outside Russia, citizenship policy has been more successful and more discreet.
PONARS' objective, from the start, was to create a network of younger scholars who are experts on all facets of Russian security in order to support their collaborative work, to facilitate intensive discussion, and to make their research available and useful to government officials and analysts. With generous funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, PONARS created and is now focusing on strengthening the network of younger scholars who collaborate in a non-competitive, cross-disciplinary environment. This network both strengthens the research and scholarship of its members, and contributes to better understanding of Russian and Eurasian security issues, and how U.S. interests intersect with these issues.
Our influence extends to academia, media, and policymakers. We are fostering improved scholarship both in Russia and the United States, promoting better understandings of key policy issues by expanding traditional understandings of security to include a focus on the societal, economic, and political forces that are currently shaping Russia's national security interests and thereby shaping U.S. national security interests. We have done this by producing policy memos that are targeted to the Washington, D.C. policymaking audience. Working papers and our annual academic conference help support the research and scholarship of our members, thereby allowing them to write more informed and more effective policy memos.
PONARS has continued to produce important, timely scholarship on Russia and Eurasia and to precisely tailor some of that scholarship for policymakers and analysts (in the U.S., of course, but increasingly in Russia, too). The network is constantly being strengthened, and its members' teaching and research bettered through collaboration.
In terms of long-term effects, PONARS is having positive effect on policy and bilateral relations and enhancing scholarship in both the United States and Russia and Eurasia. The program is in many ways becoming a successful transnational NGO and is referred to and cited as such in Washington policy circles. The most significant and (we expect) enduring effect, however, will be the establishment of a cohort of senior social scientists in the United States and Russia that will influence academia and policy for 20-30 years.