From Competition to Collaboration: Strengthening the U.S.-Russia Relationship

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Chairman Berman, Ranking member Ros-Lehtinen, Members of theCommittee,

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my views on thecurrent status of the U.S.-Russia relationship and on possibleconsequences of its strengthening in near future.

Disclaimer

First of all, I would like to provide you with a necessarydisclaimer:

  • I am a Russian citizen.
  • For number of years I worked at different posts at the Russiangovernment and the Administration of the Russian President.
  • Since my resignation from the positions of the RussianPresident's Personal Representative to the G-8 (Sherpa) and Adviserto the Russian President in 2005 I was not employed by anyGovernment and did not receive any payment from neither RussianGovernment, nor the US Government, nor any other Government.
  • For last two and half years I do work for the Cato Institutehere in Washington that is a non-partisan think tank not associatedwith any of political parties existed in the US or in any othercountry in the world. According to its Charter the Cato Institutedoes not accept financial support from any government, governmentagency or government-related program.
  • As a Russian citizen and a Cato Institute employee I am not ina position to advice either the US Government, or esteemed membersof the US Congress. Whatever I will say here today, should beconsidered as background information that you are welcome to use asyou find it suitable.
  • Whatever I will say here, should be considered as solely mypersonal views on what I see as the best interests of the Russianpeople on a way one day to create and develop Russia as ademocratic, open, peaceful and prosperous country, respected andrespectable member of the international community, reliable partnerof other democratic countries, including the United States. Isolely bear responsibility for everything that I say heretoday.

In my testimony I touch upon three issues:

  • challenges from the past of the U.S.-Russia relationship;
  • challenges to the Russian people, neighboring countries, andworld peace from the current political regime in Russia;
  • forecast of what could happen if the approach that is beenannounced and taken by the current administration will befulfilled.

Challenges from the past of the U.S.-Russiarelationship

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation ofindependent Russia two US Administrations, namely that of thePresident Bill Clinton and that of the President George W. Bush,began their terms with clear formulated goal - to improve theUS-Russia cooperation. Each of the administrations started theirterms with great expectations for fruitful bilateral relations.Regardless of their individual approaches, personal attitudes,content of issues at the agenda, both US administrations haveinvested heavily in terms of time, efforts, attention of their keymembers, including both Presidents, into improvement of theU.S.-Russia relations. Both administrations have created specialbodies for development of these relations (the so calledGore-Chernomyrdin commission by the Clinton administration andbilateral Group of High level by the Bush administrations). Manydelegations have crossed the ocean, many hours have been spent inthe conversations, many decisions have been taken.

The outcomes of these efforts are well known. They were outrightfailures. Russia has failed to be integrated fully into thecommunity of the modern democratic peaceful nations. Each USadministration has finished its term in the office with theU.S.-Russian relations at much lower level than they were at itsbeginning. The leading feeling at the end of each Administration'sterm is widely shared disappointment - both among members of theadministrations and in the Russian and the US societies.

The beginning of the President Obama Administration's termstrikingly resembles the beginning of the two precedingadministrations' terms. We can see similar desire to improvebilateral relations, similar positive statements, similar promisinggestures and visits. Since nothing serious has changed in thenature of political regimes in both countries it is rather hard notto expect the repetition of already known pattern - highexpectations - deep disappointments - heavy failures - for thethird time.

That is why before any new policy is being implemented and evenbeing formulated it is worth to spend some time to analyze thereasons of two previous failures. To my mind, they arise mainlyfrom the nature of the current Russian political regime, lack ofunderstanding on the part of the US the internal logic andintentions of the current Russian leadership, inability of thedemocratic nations to deal with the challenges of the powerfulauthoritarian regimes, and a double standards approach in the USpolicies towards similar issues on the international arena.

Nature of the Current Political Regime inRussia

Today's Russia is not a democratic country. The internationalhuman rights organization Freedom House assigns "Not Free" statusto Russia since 2004 for each of the last 5 years. According to theclassification of the political regimes, the current one in Russiashould be considered as hard authoritarianism. The central place inthe Russian political system is occupied by the Corporation of thesecret police.

The Corporation of Secret Police

The personnel of Federal Security Service - both in activeservice as well as retired one - form a special type of unity(non-necessarily institutionalized) that can be called brotherhood,order, or corporation. The Corporation of the secret policeoperatives (CSP) includes first of all acting and former officersof the FSB (former KGB), and to a lesser extent FSO and ProsecutorGeneral Office. Officers of GRU and SVR do also play some role. Themembers of the Corporation do share strong allegiance to theirrespective organizations, strict codes of conduct and of honor,basic principles of behavior, including among others the principleof mutual support to each other in any circumstances and theprinciple of omerta. Since the Corporation preserves traditions,hierarchies, codes and habits of secret police and intelligenceservices, its members show high degree of obedience to the currentleadership, strong loyalty to each other, rather strict discipline.There are both formal and informal means of enforcing these norms.Violators of the code of conduct are subject to the harshest formsof punishment, including the highest form.

CSP and the Russian society

Members of the CSP are specially trained, strongly motivated andmentally oriented to use force against other people and in thisregard differ substantially from civilians. The importantdistinction of enforcement in today's Russia from enforcement inrule-based nations is that in the former case it doesn'tnecessarily imply enforcement of Law. It means solely enforcementof Power and Force regardless of Law, quite often against Law.Members of the Corporation are trained and inspired with thesuperiority complex over the rest of the population. Members of theCorporation exude a sense of being the bosses that superior toother people who are not members of the CSP. They are equipped withmembership perks, including two most tangible instrumentsconferring real power over the rest of population in today's Russia- the FSB IDs and the right to carry and use weapons.

Capture of State Power by the CSP

Since ascension of Vladimir Putin to power the members of theCSP have infiltrated all branches of power in Russia. According tothe Olga Kryshtanovskaya's study up to 77% of the 1016 topgovernment positions have been taken by people with securitybackground (26% with openly stated affiliation to differentenforcement agencies and other 51% with hidden affiliation). Mainbodies of the Russian state (Presidential Administration,Government apparatus, Tax agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Ministry of Defense, Parliament, Court system) as well as mainbusiness groups and most important mass-media outlets have beencaptured by the CSP. Since the members of the CSP have taken keypositions in the most important institutions of the state, businessgroups, media channels, almost all valuable resources available inthe society (political, executive, legal, judicial, enforcement,military, economic, financial, media) have been concentrated and inmany cases monopolized in the hands of the CSP.

Mass Media

Independent mass media in Russia virtually does not exist. TheTV channels, radio, printed media are heavily censored withgovernment propaganda disseminating cult of power and violence,directed against democrats, liberals, westerners and the Westitself, including and first of all the US. The level of the anti-USpropaganda is incomparable even with one of the Soviet times in atleast 1970-s and 1980s.

Electoral System

Since 1999 there is no free, open, competitive parliamentary orpresidential election in Russia. The last two elections - theparliamentary one in December 2007 and presidential one in March2008 - have been conducted as special operations and been heavilyrigged with at least 20 mln ballots in each case stuffed in favorof the regime candidates. None of the opposition political partiesor opposition politicians has been allowed either to participate inthe elections, or even to be registered at the Ministry of Justice.For comparison, the Belarusian regime that is considered to be "thelast dictatorship in Europe" has allowed opposition politicians toparticipate in the parliamentary election last September.

Political Opposition

Members of political opposition in Russia are regularly beingharassed, intimidated, beaten by the regime's security forces. Eachrally of the opposition since 2006 is been harshly attacked by theriot police, hundreds of people have been beaten, arrested andthrown into jails. In April 2007 the former world chess championGarry Kasparov has been arrested and put into jail for 5 days as hewas walking along the Tverskaya street in the downtown of Moscow.The same day there was an attempt to arrest the former PrimeMinister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Political Prisoners

According to the human rights organizations there are about 80political prisoners in the country who are serving their terms fortheir views and political activities from 2 to 9 years in the jailsand camps. One of the best known political prisoners is MikhailKhodorkovsky who has been sentenced to 9 years in the Siberian campKrasnokamensk on the basis of purely fabricated case against himand his oil company YUKOS. The company has been confiscated andtaken by one of the leading figures of the current Chekist regimewho is occupying now the position of the deputy prime minister ofthe Russian government. Mr. Khodorkovsky has recently beentransported to Moscow to be put on another fabricated trial with aclear purpose to keep him behind the bars forever. Just forcomparison, the Mr. Lukashenka's political regime in theneighboring Belarus that is very far from any notion of genuinedemocracy, has nevertheless released the last four politicalprisoners in summer 2008. It is worth to note that until recentlythe EU had the so called smart sanctions against Mr. Lukashenka andmembers of his government. As far as I know, the US still hassimilar sanctions against the Belarusian leadership, but notagainst the Russian one.

Terror

The fate of some other people dealing with the regime is evenworse.

Over the last ten years tens of thousands of people have beenkilled in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia,Kabardino-Balkaria.

In Autumn 1999 several hundred people died in the series ofapartment bombings across the country - from Moscow to Buynaks inDagestan. In the contrast to the claims from the FSB that thosebombings have been organized by Chechens, the local militia wasable to detain several people who tried to bomb the apartment blockin the city of Ryazan. They turn out to be the agents of the FSB.Then the FSB has announced that there were "anti-terroristexercises" with the goal to put explosives into the basement of theapartment building. After the story became widely known, thedetained FSB agents have been freed by the order from Moscow andfinally disappeared, while apartments' bombings stoppedunexpectedly as they started.

Since November 1998 several presidential hopefuls, politicians,journalists, lawyers who were either in opposition to orindependent of the current political regime, have been directlyassassinated or died in the very suspicious circumstances. Amongthem are the leader of the Democratic Russia party and the memberof the parliament Galina Starovoitova, journalist and editor ArtemBorovik, journalist and member of the Yabloko party Larisa Yudina,the governor of the Krasnoyarsk region general Alexander Lebed whocame third in the 1999 presidential election, the leader of theArmy Movement, member of the parliament general Lev Rokhlin, theleader of the Liberal party of Russia Sergei Yushenkov, one of theorganizers of the Liberal party of Russia Vladimir Golovlev,journalist and one of the leaders of the Yabloko party, the memberof the parliament Yuri Shekochikhin, ethnographer Nikolay Girenko,journalist and writer Anna Politkovskaya, journalist and militaryexpert Ivan Safronov, the deputy head of the Central Bank of RussiaAndrei Kozlov, the member of National Bolshevist party YuriChervochkin, journalist, editor and one of the leaders of theIngush national movement Magomed Yevloyev, lawyer StanislavMarkelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Since March 1999 the wave of political assassinations movedbeyond the Russian border. In March 1999 Vyacheslav Chornovol,leader of the People's Ruch and a candidate for the Ukrainianpresidential election that autumn, died in the car accident nearKiev that has been identified by the Ukrainian security service asthe assassination organized by FSB. In February 2004 ZelimkhanYandarbiev, the former Chechen President, and his 15-year old sonhave been bombed in Doha by two officers with diplomatic passportsfrom the Russian embassy in Qatar, Mr. Yandarbiev has died. InSeptember 2004 Victor Yushenko, the presidential candidate in theUkrainian presidential election in November 2004, has been poisonedand barely survived. In November 2006 the former FSB officerAlexander Litvinenko has been poisoned by polonium in the downtownof London and died.

Wars against other Nations

Since 2004 the Russian political regime embarked on a series ofwars of different kinds against foreign nations. The list of warswaged in the last 5 years is not a short one:

Russian-Byelorussian Gas War 2004,

First Russian-Ukrainian Gas War, January 2006,

Russian-Georgian Energy Supply War, January 2006,

Russian-Georgian Wine and Mineral Water War, March-April2006,

Russian-Georgian Spy War, September-October 2006,

Russian-Estonian Monuments and Cyber War, April-May 2007,

Russian-Georgian Conventional War, April-October 2008,

Russian-Azerbaijan Cyber War, August 2008,

Second Russian-Ukrainian Gas War, January 2009,

Anti-US full fledged Propaganda War, 2006-2009.

The Russian-Georgian War that started last year was underpreparations by the Russian authorities at least since February2003. This is one of the most serious international crises for atleast last 30 years that constitutes one of the most worrisomedevelopments of our days. This war has brought:

a) The first massive use of the military forces by Russia beyondits borders since the Soviet Union's intervention againstAfghanistan in 1978;

b) The first intervention against an independent country inEurope since the Soviet Union's intervention against Czechoslovakiain 1968;

c) The first intervention against an independent country inEurope that led to unilateral changes of the internationallyrecognized borders in Europe since the late 1930s and early 1940s.Particular similarities of these events with the events of the1930s are especially troubling.

Uniqueness of the current political regime inRussia

One of the most important characteristics of the currentpolitical regime in Russia is that the real political power in thecountry belongs neither to one person, nor family, nor militaryjunta, nor party, nor ethnic group. The power belongs to thecorporation of secret police operatives. The political system inwhich secret police plays an important role in the political systemis not very special. VChK-OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB in the Communist USSR,Gestapo in Nazi Germany, SAVAK in the Shah's Iran had enormouspowers in those tyrannical regimes. Yet, none of those secretpolice organizations did possess supreme power in the respectivecountries. In all previous historic cases secret police and itsleaders have been subordinate to their political masters - whetherthey were Stalin, Hitler, or Pehlevi, regardless how monstrous theyhave been. The political regime in today's Russia is thereforequite unique, since so far there was probably no country in theworld history (at least in the relatively developed part of theworld in the XXth and the XXIst centuries) where a secret policeorganization did capture all political, administrative, military,economic, financial, and media powers.

It does not mean that all population of the country or even allstaff of the government agencies do belong to the secret police.Many of them are professional and honest people who genuinely aliento the Chekist/Mafiosi structures. Nevertheless, it is not they whodo have control over the state, and not they who are in charge ofthe key decisions in the country.

Forecast

Even a brief look on the US-Russia relations over the last 10years reveals quite a striking fact of the permanent retreat of theAmerican side on almost all issues in the bilateral relations.

Ten years ago then the Clinton administration has expressedpublicly and energetically its concern on violation of basic humanrights in Chechnya. The Russian side has suggested to the partnernot to intervene in the internal Russian issues. The USadministration has finally followed the advice.

After that over the years the US administrations have expressedconcerns, dissatisfaction, protests on number of issues: ondestruction of freedom of mass media in Russia, on imprisonment ofMr. Khodorkovsky and takeover of Yukos, on destruction of the ruleof law, electoral system, political opposition, NGOs, propertyrights, including not only of the Russian but also US companies(for example Exxon), on political assassinations, on aggressivebehavior versus Russia's neighbors, finally on outright aggressionof the Russian army against sovereign state and the UN memberGeorgia, that led to effective annexation of two Georgianterritories Abkhazia and South Ossetia, creation of the Russianmilitary bases and deployment of regular Russian forces overthere.

In all those cases the Russian side has suggested the US to shutup, and in all those cases the American side followed this advicesooner or later. There were no sanctions whatsoever for anybehavior of the Russian authorities.

Recently the US has even resumed the NATO-Russia cooperation inless than 6 months after the Russian aggression against Georgia,after the rudest violation of the international law and order, theUN Charter and the UN Resolution #3314 of December 14, 1974.

The recent suggestion "to reset the button" in the US-Russiarelations and "to start the relations with the blank list" is metwith poorly hided joy and satisfaction on a part of the RussianChekists. For them it means achievement of many goals that theydreamt of. This "the so called Munich statement" is interpreted bythem as a de-facto acceptance by the current US administration ofthe idea that has been put forward by the Russian leadership lastsummer - the idea of the de-facto restoration of the RussianChekists' (secret police) influence and power over the post-Sovietspace under the title of having the areas with the so calledprivileged interests. This idea is already being under hastyimplementation with the creation of the $10 bn fund and substantialRussian credits given to Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, recentagreement of creation of joint fast reaction troops of 7 nations ofthe Collective Security Treaty Organization, establishingsubstantial financial and personal control over mass media in theFSU countries, permanent attempts to change the political regimeand western orientation of Ukraine and finishing the conquest ofGeorgia.

Policy of the proclaimed "cooperation", "movement fromcompetition to collaboration", "improvement of relations" with thecurrent political regime in Russia has very clear consequences.Such type of behavior on the part of the US administration can notbe called even a retreat. It is not even an appeasement policy thatis so well known to all of us by another Munch decision in 1938. Itis a surrender. It is a full, absolute and unconditional surrenderto the regime of the secret police officers, chekists and Mafiosibandits in today's Russia. It is a surrender of the hopes andefforts of the Russian democrats as well as peoples of thepost-Soviet states who dreamed to get out of the system thatcontrolled and tortured them for almost a century - back to theChekists' power. But it is even more. It is a clear manifestationto all democratic and liberal forces in Russia and in otherpost-Soviet states that on all internal and external issues oftheir struggle against forces of the past the United States nowabandons them and takes the position of their deadly adversariesand enemies. And therefore it is an open invitation for newadventures of the Russian Chekists' regime in the post-Soviet spaceand at some points beyond it.

The very term for such type of policy has not been chosen by me,it is borrowed from the title of this hearing, namely,collaboration. Therefore the term chosen for the agents of the USadministration's policy in the coming era is "collaborationists".Collaboration between two governments today could be only on theRussian regime's terms and for fulfillment of the Russiangovernment's goals. From the European history of the XX century weknow what means if a revisionist power has a clear-cut goal torestore influence and control over its neighbors while other powerschose not to defend victims of the attacks, but instead try tocollaborate with an aggressor.

We know the consequences of the collaborationist policy - thosewho retreat and surrender will get not peace, but war, war withunpredictable and nasty results. It might be also not a onewar.

When the world will get there, we need to remember that we had awarning.

Thank you.