Created: 9/11/1991

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Russian Strategyew Association of Republics (U)

Thisartpecial series designed to provide continuing analysis and refinement of previous judgments on the dramatically shifting Soviet scene.



Russian leadershipew association of Soviet republics that will enhance Russian security, facilitate economic development, and help stabilize ethnic minority relationships in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other republics as well as in the Russian Republic. It does notentral authority that enjoys autonomous power; nor does itystem thai would put Russian economic resources al the disposalajority vote of other members of the union, particularly the Central Asians.

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this weak confederal ism, however, may not catch hold: there is deep suspicion in the non-Russian republics of Russian imperial ambitions, and the Ukraine may in any event opt for unencumbered independence. If it docs, the Russian leadership will have lo reassess its position.



This memorandum was prepared wilh contributions by Comments and queries are we

e of Soviet Analysis, ice of Soviel Analysis, 'directed to the Chief,

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of (he Russian Leadership

make it his own.

YeJ'lsin's Jong term objective remains promoting the material well-being and moral regeneration of the people Irving within the boundaries of the Russian Republic, is brand of liberal Russian nationalism does not seek to impose Russian domination on neighboring countries or on ihe other republics, and it consciously rejects the burden of empire. Yel'tsin believes that the pre-coup union represented by the power structure in Moscow and the central economic and security bureaucracies was based on coercion and was incompatible with the welfare of Russia and other nations of the former Soviel Union. His aim has been to destroy this power structure, not to

Perceptionumber of specific dangers is now influencing the strategy and tactics of Russian leaders. There is apprehension that reactionary forces have not been finished off for good and could strike back. There is fear of short-term economic collapse. Thereerious concern about disintegration of the armed forces and loss of command and control whjeh-at the extreme-would bring about uncertainty over the control of nuclear weapons.' There is continuing anxiety about the breakaway "autonomous republics" and ethnic fragmentation in the RSI-'SR itself. And there isoncern about the destabilizing effect of possible infringement by non-Russian republics of the rights of Russian minorities. |

In addition, the attempted coup has strongly imprinted in the minds of Russian leaders the belief that it was Russia that preserved freedom in the USSR, and that the positions taken by the other republics (with the exception of the Baltic states and Moldova) during the coup were less than honorable. The mindset of the Russian leadership now displays an unabashed determination to assure Russian conliol over Russia's destiny, prevent (he emergence of any new center thai could jeopardize this control, and eliminate economic exploitation of Russia by other republics. In Silaycv's words: "Nothing will get in our way now- -either from ihe center, oi irom the lefi or right. We willompletely independentRussia will not succumb io ihe anti-Russian hullabaloo... We do not intend to waive the principles of Russian statehood and economic

1 The Russian leadership's concern with stabilizing the militarylearly revealed by the welfare benefits provided by0 August instruction oaProtection of the Military Serving on tbe Territory of the Russian Federation.* According lo TASS. The instruction was issued for the purpose ol*ensuring measures to secure the safety ol citizens of ibe USSR and protect the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, create conditions and guarantees for the proper performance of tbe military duty and service rules by the military on actual service on the territory of the Russian Federation, as well as by citizens of the Russian Federation serving on territories of other Soviet

Still less do vve accept the accusations of intent to

1 uother republics. If economic ccoperajjgn^-ith us is oppressive

to the republics, wc shall not impose ourselves."

Russian Imperialism?

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of Russian chauvinism exist in the thinking of most Russians, including democrats. However, the policies generated by the outlook of the Russian leadership described above are not designed to recreate new bonds ofless justify annexation of neighboring territory. They are based on recognition thai reasscrtion of the imperial role would impose huge new economic burdens and undennine Russia's fledgling democracy. Yel'tsin's team has strongly supported Baltic independence. It has accepted the recent "independence" declarations of various other republics, as it had earlier accepted their "sovereignty" declarations. It has accepted the principle of collcgtal republic representation in the new transitional political structures recently adopted at the Congress of People's Deputies. And, while it assumed emergency control over elements of the central bureaucracy during and immediately after the coup, the purpose of this maneuver was not to take the opportunity to extend RSFSR control over other republics, but to deal with the immediate economic crisis, break the power of the central ministries, anojeuarantee that the center would no longer determine Russia's destiny. I

Yel'tsin's sudden raising of the "border problem" onugust gave the appearance of displaying Russian imperial intent, and hisobviously considered his saying what he did in public to have been an unfortunate tactical error-hastened to counter this impression.2 But the issue here, in fact, had little to do with the delineation ofather, as subsequent statements and actions by various Russian leaders

2 Ycl'isin's statement, issued through his press secretary, said: The Russian Federation does not cast any doubt on the constitutional right of every state and people io self-determination. However, there exists the problem of borders, which may be left unresolved and is only tolerable as such if thereelationship of alliance which Is registeredelevant treaty. In the event thatelationship ceases, the RSFSR reserves the right to raise the issueevision of borders. The aforesaid applies to all contiguous republics. Bclorussia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, andith the exception of the three Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia,tate independence of which has already been recognized bvRussia, thus confirming (hat the terrftorial problem in bilateral relations is soluble.*

"Ilic Russian government may have some bonesMh its neighbors about borders, but it is hard to say what they are. Last fall the Russian government signed treaties with Ukraine and Kazakhstan that recognized existing borders. This year it officially resolved concerns with Lithuania about Kaliningrad Oblast. And as recently asugust, Yel'tsin exchanged articles of ratification of the RSFSR-Kazakhstan agreement



whal wus al slake for the russians was, first, the unilateral ukrainian move lo declare jurisdiction over soviet armed forces on ukrainian territory, which was seen as threatening to sethain reaction disintegration of ihe soviet armed forces or mutinous discontent; second, the immediate economic chaos threatenedurther rapid ukrainian retreat to autarky; and, third, the potentially destabilizing impact of escalating ukrainian radicalism on the russian speaking population of eastern ukraine and-no less-on opinion in the rsfsr thai might be swayed by interventionist or annexationist rhetoric* to command the attention of the ukrainians and others, and calm russian minority unease, yel'tsin chose to unlimber in public the heavy artillery of what would be understoodeference not to borders but to the extremely sensitive problem in various non-russian republics (especially ukraine and kazakhstan) of large regions with russian-speaking populations some, of which had been administratively ceded to these republics under communist rule. the downside of this action was that it fed non-russian fears of russian expansionism, may have given unwanted encouragement to russian secessionist sentiment in ukraine and kazakhstan, and did not promote confidence among leaders of non-russian republics in their treaties wilh russia.


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this hardball maneuver achieved its immediate aim. the joint communique issued by the russians and ukrainians onugust, while pledging russian recognition of ukrainian independence and ihe existing ukrainian-russian border, bound ukraine to participate incollective system ofnoi to take unilateral decisions in miliiaty and strategicnd to participate in transitional structures "to ensure the essential needs of the population and the working of ihc economy." the same day ihe ukrainian supreme soviel issued an appeal to "citizens of ihe republic of all nationalities" staling that "ihc declaration of the ukraine's independence will in no way lead to an infringcmenl of the rights of people of any nationality.'

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wants nn association or republics

if absolutely necessary, russia's leadership would be prepared for russia to go it aktne, and members of the russian team-including ycl'tsin-havc recently said so. however, the "border" episode underscores the seriousness uf ihe russian leadership's interest in fashioning an association that will meet russian economic, security, and ethno-politica] needs. the logic of these interests and russian insistence on voluntary membership by republics in the association have suggested that the kind of entity russia should support ought to consistystem of several discrete associations of varying com pay tion-anda cane model, which was supported by other republics too, was indeed what yel'tsin urged at the congress of people's deputieseptember. |

I'uliiuuily, the russian leadershiptructure that is established horizontally by the voluntarily participating republics themselves, and that lacks the central power required to reassert dominance over russia. the russians accept the idearesident, but do notabinet and an "enormous mass ofn silayev's words, that could "dictate and suppress." (if there were toabinet, yel'tsin has made it clear that russia would demand as its due the premiership and securityasically, russia has supported the formation of collcgial-style executive and deliberative organs based on "equal representation" by icpublic delegations. the main function of these bodies should be to harmonize and coordinate republic activities, not to issue commands-and to do so primarily in the economic sphere. |

Economically, what the russian leadership wants is to create as large asommon market that is distinct from the political union, in which the participating republics or independent states have control over their own resources, and in which market forces and world prices- -noi political directives-determine resource flows. where non-market redistribution docs occur-and this may be necessary initially, although iis volume must be rapidly and severelyprocess should be conducted through bilateral agreements among participating republics on the basis of some sort of reciprocity, not through the center. the economic community wouldouncil that would coordinate policy among the members. member states could have their own separate currencies, but the ruble would serve as the reserve currency and means of exchange within the community.

Miliiarity, the kind of unified association the russian leadership is promoting is substantially different from what it is talking about in the political and economic spheres. yel'tsin rejects the pre-coup soviet military world view which portrayed the rest of the worldotential

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threat and stressed the need toilitary capable of dealing with that kind of threat. His overriding concern is to neutralize the danger of internal intervention by the military whileole for it as ballastotentially unstable new association of republics. At the same time, however, he recognizes the needodern-but scaled down-military to protect Russia's external security rnterests. And it is now clear thai he looks to the existing Soviet armed forces to serve this function. |

Russia has inspired Ihe Defense Ministry's acknowledgement thai the republics willignificant voice in overall defense policy formulation, including defense budget decisionmaking. It has also pressedepublic voice in Ihe control of military forces-both strategic and general purpose. Yel'tsin and his Minister of Defense, General Kobets, have publicly made clear lhal Russia will insist on dual or joint control by the republics over the new union's military forces at the operational as well as the administrative level. Yel'tsin also has insisted for some lime on control over defense industries located in ihc RSFSR.

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has long accepted the argument of the new Minister of Defense, Marshal Shaposhnikov, that nuclear weapons must be centrally controlled. He has also said, however, that while nuclear weapons will be controlled by the center, Russia will be "responsible" for any weapons located on its territory and will participate in any nuclear release decision. He has also asserted that he has reached agreement with Ukraine and Kazakhstan lhat all nuclear weapons located in those republics will be moved to Russia (although recenlly he has talked about destroying ihe weapons in Ukraine as part0 pciceni

For the past year, Ycl'isin-focusing on Ihe dangerilitary-supported move against ihc democrats-seemed to be considering the establishmcnlizeable separate Russian armed ground formation thai would deter union military or police action. Now, with the failure of the coup, Russia has gained control ovc the heavily armed MVD formations on its territory, and no longer has to fear ihc use against it of the all-union border troops, wnich have been stripped from ihe KGB. Yel'tsin's recent revelalion lhal Ihe home guard--which he and olher Russia leaders had earlier lalked-up-would now amounl simplyrigade-size palace guardighlighted his confidence in being able to shape existing Soviet general purpose forces so as lo serve Russian security needs yet keep these forces dcpoliiicizcd. |

In ihe joint declaration on union relations signed by Gorbachev and ihe ten republic leaders (including the Ukrainianhich provided the basis for the structure of the union officially approved by ihc Congress of People's Deputieseptember, the parties proposed lhat "an







should be concluded, based on the principles of collective security, in the sphere of defense in order to preserve united armed forcesingle military-strategicanner that takes account of the republics' sovereignty." public comments by yel'tsin and kobcts suggest that in respect to general purpose forces russia has been working tomaller center-managed standing array-perhaps formedapid reaction force-backed up by republic-controlled reserves. russia and other participating republics would be able to influence the use of this army on their own territories through input at the top via the new statect-to-be-ironed-out process of consultation with the centra) military high command,ual or joint control system that would give the military chain-of-command responsibility for troop management yet allow for predominant republic control over manpower and raobftizatjorussues-all ultimately backed up by the republic power of the purse. |

there are strong incentives for non-russian republics to join inystem. they get an opportunity to influence the center's overall military policy, to save on defense spending, to improve their own local external security environment, and counterbalance at least partly russia's military weight-while gaining leverage they never exercised in the past over military forces in their republics. and yel'tsin has strongly stated lhat each republic in the new union should have its say in defense policy formulation and in controlling the operation of military forces located within its borders. i



these arrangements nonetheless imply in practice an asymmetrical surrender of republic sovereignty. to protect russian interests, the russian government will want to dominate appointments to the military high command,nique role in nuclear-strategic matters, and-by being responsible for the lion's share of general purposeetermining influence over procurement and other key elements of military affairs. indeed, the russian leadership has already staked its claim in each of these areas. overall, this is stillad bargain for most of the republics. but many ukrainians, in particular, will not see it that way, and whether ukrainian participation can be negotiated is the critical question.

Elhno-politicaUy, what the russians seem to be interested in most is the establishmentudicial framework that would accompany almost any type of association among the republics. union" in this sense would be highly dcsirable-but not essemial-to the russian governmenteans of stabilizing ethnic autonomy pressures inside russia by helping to legitimize an rsfsr federal structure that guarantees the territorial-political integrity of the russian republic. recently, in this connection, the russian government has tried to line up the autonomous republics behind the old "9



proposal of signature of the union treaty by then) as partingle

Republic delegation. The existencenion might also help

prevent developmentituation in which independence demands of some autonomous republics might escalate into terrorism supported from the territory of sympathetic non-associated republics. I


More important is the political problem for the Russian government of dealing with unstable relationships between titular national and large Russian minority populations in the other republics- particularly Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but elsewhere as well. As the republics gain greater control over their own destiny, the likelihood of clashes between local nationals and Russians in some republics will rise,emocratically elected Russian government does not enjoy the luxury of ignoring this issue: it is threatened with an economically and politically destabilizing huge new influx of refugees, and already faces more severe political pressures on the Russian minority score in the Russian parliament than was the case in dealings with the Baltic republics.

There are two options for dealing with the problem: threats(highly counterproductive from the standpoint ofr political conciliation of the sonsuccessfully with the Baits. The latter requires attemptingdown nationalist passions both in the non-Russian republicsconvince Russian minorities thai their interests are beingenirench minority rights, and establish reciprocaleans for legitimate political intervention by both sides to

fellow nationals. Achievement of ihcse objectives requires, as the

condition, the cooperation of oilier republics. What Yel'tsin's

siatemenl on "borders" (see above footnoteays between ihc lines is that io hope to make the political conciliation approach work, there also has to be some kind of political association lhal goes beyond mere economic union. The critical republic here from Ihe Russian standpoint is Ukraine, although today Ihe problem is most acute in Moldova, whereolicy is being attackedellout of the Russian

In the conduct of externalhe outcome of the failed coup hasRussian's position that union-level foreign policy organizations

Si picmber, Ihc chairman ihc RSFSR

stated that Yel'tsin considered

Ukraine vital to any union-type structure. Besides ihe economic mutual dependence of ihe two republics, all kinds of human rights and nationality bsues would arisenion super -structure. More than eight million Russians on Ukrainian soil would probably look to Moscow for help if ihey did not enjoy equal rights with Ukrainians. Absents "union referee" Russia might be compelled io "intervene in the Internal affairs of

should serve simplyechanism for helping to elaboratefor matters of common concern to the republics, and asfor coordinating implementation of certain polides--mainh/arms control arena. The republics should do the rest* Whileleadership accepts the right of ail the other republics toin foreign affairs, it is capitalizing on its prestige andat home to shape what is left of union foreign policy tol<IIVrs Russian interests, seizing the policy initiative and exercising whata veto over actions by the union Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For

example, it has reshaped the agenda of the CSCE conference on human rights, and assumed the leadership of the Working Group for the Japan-Soviet Peace Treaty. I

Current Agreement on Forms of Association

In the first week of September Gorbachev and theithout signs of tension among them-pushed throughof People's Deputies an entire package ofarrangements. On balance, these economic, politicalforms of association were very much in line with the objectivesRussian leadership outlined above, reflecting Yel'tsin's weight inprocess. Their acceptance did not, however, once and forItMIVR l0 rest the idea of autonomous "Soviethich was suggestedof central ministries and even statements by Yel'tsin alluding to future

presidential and parliamentary elections. Nor did it eliminate challenge to Russian interests potentiallyront of non-Russian republics, whichhreat inherent in Russian recognition of the need for political union, but one strongly accentuated by acceptance by the Russian leadership of the "equality" principle in forming collcgial policymaking bodies. I



Ukraine' to protect Russians. Thef tintionalisi sentiments in Ukraine could spark pogroms against Russians,ass migration back to Russia. |

*eptember new conference Yel'uin stated: 'Now.will bein imematkmal law and will have the rightonduct its own independentlthough this willomplex business, we believe thai in viewTrs siioation other countries shouldwo-tiered policy. The first tier ofthe union center, wouldbesomekindorireaiyouprinciples. And then there would

be independent agreements with each republic, including Russia for instance. In other words, these would embrace the entire fabric of life, including the economy, the social sphere, politics, culture, science, new technology, and soon."!


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Russian leadershipon-violent, non-anncxationist approach to the single most potentially explosive problem in inter-republic relations, unrest among the Russian minorities outside the Russian Republic. Thisroblem that could Irad to violent ethnic clashes, massive refugee flows, and outright enmity between Russia and neighboring republics. The Russian approach also addresses the potential danger of an unraveling of the Soviet armed forces. It encourages the democratization of still authoritarian republics. And it probably is the one most likely to preserve some form of political association among tbe republics. The Russian approach stands in sharp contrast to the "Serbian" solution that Milosevic has pursued in Yugoslavia, with such appalling consequences. |

Conceptually, it is possible to imagine scenarios that could resulttronger and more autonomous center than that which is now being suggested by the Russian government, but these constructs do not hold up well. There are certainly figuresiberal establishment bent, centered around the Shevardnadze-Yakovlev Movement for Democratic Reform, that would like to push developments in this direction. To do so, they would need to cultivate elements in the non-Russian republics prepared totronger centerounterweight to Russia. But there are two problems with this scenario. First, the Russian Republic has now assumed control over all the raw materials, enterprises and other economic resources on Russian territory. The Russianthe new transitional Inter-Republic Committee-will set the terms on which these resources will be shared, giving it immense leverage in bilateral relations with the other republics (who are also seizing control of all the wealth on theirhus, the center can offer link in the way of critical positive incentives to gain the support of non-Russian republics. Second, although many non-Russian republics would like toounterweight to Russia, they have no interest in buyingtrengthened center to get it, given the dynamics of national self-assertion today. |

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scenario features Russian imperialist politicians like Zhirinovskiy and hardliners that manage to survive in the military and security services exploiting mass popular unrest induced by food shortages and inflation to seize power, liquidate the present Russian government, and reestablish imperial rule. The problem with this scenario is not the postulation of mass unrest and overthrow of the Russian government, which could indeed occur, but near certainty of protracted civil war and likely fragmentation of ihe militaryew authoritarian government sought to rcimpose central control now over Russia and the ethnic borderlands.

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there is the possibilityreeping fusion of Ycll'sin's Russian government with the central authority and enhancement of the center's power in this piggyback mode. Upoint,evelopment is quite conceivable and could happen more or less spontaneously--although it is not what the current Russian leadership is seeking. However, this scenario too would soon run up against ihe obstacle of resistance by the non-Russian republicstrengthened center, whether operating under the auspices of Yel'tsin or of any other Russian leader.

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ood chance, however, thai even the generally weak confederal political association Yel'tsin is promoting may not survive. In the militaiy area, and pet haps in monetary and other economic spheres, it will impose what will be perceived as asymmetrical limitations on the independence of the non-Russian republics. Russia's flexing of ils muscles has deepened fears among non-Russians of Russian hege monism, and this will-if anything- strengthen centrifugal forces. The Ukrainians are central here, and ihey may very well choose Ihe path of unencumbered independence. They may continue building their own army, callar looser military accord than that now supponed by Yel'tsin, and agree to signnion treaty much feebler than lhat contemplated now by other republics. If the Ukrainians realty opt out, Ihe incentives for the Russian government to stayolitical association with the remaining republics would be significantly diminished. Some Russians would be inclined to go it alone. Others might be interesied in an alliance just with Belorussia and/or Kazakhstan. There could be strong pressure from Ihe political opposition in Russia to annex ihc huge territory of northern Kazakhstan. I

If Yel'tsin's model docs manage to gain acceptance, its prospects in promoting stability arc mixed. On the one hand, pursuit of ihe model may be quickly aborted by near-term economic disaster or an explosion of tensions between Russian minorities and local nationals in ihe non-Russian republics. Over the longer term, its provision in central organs for republic collegia lily-if strictlyormula for sialemate; moreover, the likely domination of top security and economic posts by Russians will create chronic frustration and resentment, even if these individuals do not behaveeavy-handed fashion. But, on the other hand, the model has the unique advantage of any structure in which patterns of affiliation arc voluntary and based on genuine interests of ihe parties, rather than affiliation imposed by an unrepresentative and illegitimate central authority, or simply by political maneuvering. In ihe present instance, the model might produce an association of states (hat is not fatally flawed fioin Ihe outset by discquilibrating terms of membership, yet is sufficiently integrated lo hold in check centrifugal forces and encourage cooperative action.


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