In response, Western officials and big investors have focused their attention on channeling more money to Russia through the International Monetary Fund. The new assistance will be on top of a $9.2 billion aid package that is already in the works.
But while Washington concentrates on lending billions of dollars more to the Russian government, it continues to maintain pervasive trade barriers that prevent significant increases in Russian exports to the United States. President Clinton publicly proclaims the U.S. desire to help Russia, but those trade barriers are stifling the chances of her 150 million citizens to build better lives.
Ironically, the Russian economy might today be stronger if the Clinton administration had followed its own advice. In a 1995 speech, for example, Vice‐President Al Gore said that “President Clinton and the supporters of Russian reform in Congress have long maintained that it would be trade, not aid, that would be the ultimate guarantor of economic growth in the former Soviet Union.” He further declared that “The door is [now] open for Russia to build a vibrant, mutually advantageous trade and investment relationship with the United States and the other market democracies.”
In reality, that door was never fully open. Washington has always imposed curbs such as high tariffs and quotas on a range of Russian goods. Those barriers cost Russia $700 million in desperately needed sales each year, according to Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Roald Piskoppel.