Report of Russia Initiative Calls for Extensive Re-Engagement Between Russia and the United States


An assessment of Russia ten years after the fall of Communism focuses on the complexities, challenges and capacity of Russia to create a powerful democratic society and argues strongly that the United States has a vested interest in strengthening ties with its former superpower competitor. It calls for an "extensive re-engagement" by America with Russia that avoids "the pitfalls of either micromanaging or abandoning the cause of reform, while building on realistic expectations of Russia's internal development." 

Russia: Facing the Future, a book and one-hour video, summarizes the work of experts inside and outside Russia who spent 18 months examining the country's political, social, military and financial situation as it enters a new century. This integrated, multidisciplinary analysis was begun and funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York before Vladimir Putin was elected president. The final report--the book and documentary set--was completed as George W. Bush entered the White House. The Russia Initiative was created to offer realistic appraisals of the state of Russian society, its democratic practices and the health and vitality of its economic, military and social institutions. It was aimed at helping the leaders of both countries focus on the future of their relationship.

"We believed that the naive optimism that colored the U.S. relationship with Russia in the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, had been exchanged for deep pessimism as that country struggled in its transition to democracy with economic and social hardships," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation. "It seemed to us that gathering some of the best minds in many fields around the same table to study the issues facing Russia would give policymakers in both countries a more integrated and knowledgeable picture of Russia today." 

Ten respected American scholars led the Russia Initiative task forces, which were comprised of four study groups. More than 100 journalists, educators, health professionals, businessmen, military leaders, political scientists and historians, both Russian and American, contributed to the findings, producing a detailed assessment of four discrete areas of Russian national life today: problems of engagement, state building, social cohesion and policy reform. The final summation, authored by Adam N. Stulberg, assistant professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology, argues, "After years of peacefully contending with the travails of decline and beginnings of recovery, a quasi-democratic/quasi-market system has emerged in Russia that is curiously stable in the short term, but distorts the processes of further reforms and is ill-prepared to cope with the deep-seated, multidimensional socioeconomic crisis that looms on the country's horizon." 

The report calls for a strategy for "helping Russia help itself" along the path of democratic and market-oriented reform. It recommends six strategic guidelines for America's "re-engagement":

  1. Avoiding unilateralism
  2. Reassuring Russia's strategic and economic security
  3. Promoting political transparency in Russia
  4. Thinking strategically, acting locally
  5. Reducing the costs of operating in the Russian market
  6. Improving the welfare of Russia's future generations

The report offers a holistic appraisal of the transformation underway in Russia, its banking and free market situation, the social cohesion tremors caused by soaring illness and poverty, the deterioration of its military infrastructure and the relationship between the government in Moscow and the outlying regions. The report also assesses the U.S.-Russia relationship. For example: "Confronting the opposite challenges of responsibility, managing and sustaining its unprecedented dominance, the United States, too, finds its own welfare and security inextricably tied to Russia's success at navigating a constructive course of reform. Unlike the days of the Cold War where U.S. security turned to Soviet military strength, American interests today are directly threatened by Russia's internal weakness and incoherence."

The one-hour documentary, filmed in Russia, Europe and the United States, explores the psychological, military and social tensions facing Russia as it deals with the realities of being a post-socialist state. The documentary was produced by Robert E. Frye of Bolthead Communications, written and co-produced by Jamey Gambrell and edited by Daniel Goldberg. Judy Woodruff, senior anchor for CNN and a Carnegie Corporation of New York trustee, narrates the program.

Russia: Facing the Future, the final report and companion one-hour documentary produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York, is available to universities, study groups and scholars. It is available in Russian and English (documentary in English only). For further information call 212-207-6275.