The Russia Balance Sheet

by Anders Åslund and Andrew Kuchins
April 2009
Book Description

Russia has been on a wild roller-coaster ride for the past three decades with no end in sight. Just in the past year as the global financial crisis deepened, the conventional perception of Russia has changed from a "safe haven" from the economic tsunami to one of the hardest hit larger markets in the world. The Russia Balance Sheet provides comprehensive, balanced, and accurate information on all key aspects of Russia's developments and their implications for the United States and other nations. The book argues that, after the strained Bush-Putin years, the Obama administration must seize the initiative to define both its policy toward Russia and the agenda for the many multilateral meetings already planned.

The book offers policy prescriptions for both the United States and Russia. It is imperative that the Obama administration establish an explicit Russia policy rather than subordinating it to other issues in order to enable the administration to make necessary tradeoffs and follow up on promises. An interagency group for Russia has been created under the leadership of the National Security Council's senior director for Russia; this group should determine the Russia policy and issue an NSC directive. As a new Russia policy is crafted and an NSC directive on Russia adopted, President Obama should make a public statement on his Russia policy.

Ideally, President Obama would declare his determination to finally persuade the US Congress to graduate Russia from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974. As for Russia, it should accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to secure its successful international integration and an improvement of its legal standards. The Kremlin needs to introduce transparent procurement procedures for major investments to relieve infrastructure bottlenecks. Property rights must be reinforced and renationalization stopped to ease the problems in banking and energy production. Finally, with the first full-scale summit between Presidents Obama and Medvedev to take place in Italy in July 2009, the authors argue that the two presidents should recommit to fulfilling the April 2008 Sochi Declaration and to reestablishing a broader organized cooperation mechanism between the two countries, like that of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, to promote action and accountability.

Chapters are provided for preview only.



1. Russia's Historical Roots [pdf]

2. Political Development: From Disorder to Recentralization of Power

3. Russia's Economic Revival: Past Recovery, Future Challenges

4. Policy on Oil and Gas

5. International Economic Integration, Trade Policy, and Investment

6. Challenges of Demography and Health

7. Russian Attitudes toward the West [pdf]

8. Russia as a Post-Imperial Power

9. Pressing the "Reset Button" on US-Russia Relations [pdf]




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Book Data

April 2009
ISBN Paper 978-0-88132-424-2
207 pp.

Listen to interview with Åslund

Commentaries on This Book

"The Russia Balance Sheet is a one-stop shopping source for understanding the factors driving contemporary Russia. . . . thoughtful, incisive, and provocative. This book is a must-read for anybody trying to unravel the riddle of Russia."

Former senator Sam Nunn, chairman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and co-chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative

"In this balanced and well-documented book, the authors show that the United States cannot allow itself not to have a consequent and comprehensive Russia policy."

Yegor Gaidar, former Russian Prime Minister

"The Russia Balance Sheet offers by far the clearest and most accurate analysis of Russia's politics, economics, and foreign policy as well as shrewd recommendations for the way America should respond to them."

Michael Mandelbaum, Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and author of Democracy's Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Government

"A timely set of recommendations for addressing the highly complex issues that have complicated American-Russian relations."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US national security adviser

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