Created: 11/13/1991

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Prospects for Destabilization in the Former USSR (U)


The level of instability in the former USSR is already high and rising. The Russian leadership realizes thai its economic reform program will further increase instability in the near term, but judges that this calculated risk is unavoidable and counts on some social "stabilizers" that do exist. Yet inflation, food shortages, and unemployment are almost certain in some areas to create conditions felt by those affected to be intolerable. There will be strikes, serious ethnic minority confrontation in the Russian Republic, and probably incidents of mutiny by armed force units.

The interactive, compound effects of these individual sources of instability are impossible to assess. Contingent developments-removal of Yel'tsin from office, rapid collapse of the military, and failure of the Russian government to uphold price6 enforce budgeiary austerity-would significantly increase the prospects for serious destabilization, severely threatening the interests of democratic forces in the former USSR and those of the West.


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A process of systemic succession is now underway in the former USSR. The old Center has collapsed and power has basically shifted to the republics. Whatever the outcome of this process, Russia will remain engaged with the olher republics in one fashion or another. The possible patterns of engagement include:ome combination of bilateral ties and ties mediated through Center-successor coordinating bodies thateighted Russian vote; (b) bilateral ties that reflect Russia's one-on-one bargaining strength; or (c) bilateral ties supplemented by entirely new joint arrangements organized by Russia on terms acceptable to it. The common denominator in each of these variants is Russian insistence on proportionality of influence. At ihe moment, there is still some chance of the first paitern surviving; but economic and political dynamics are pressing slrongly toward bilateralism based on ihe juridical independence of all republics. |

This process of systemic succession is already marked by substantial instability, and there is every reason to believe that instability willey question is whether instabilily will exceed certain threshhotds and fundamentally jeopardize ihe present character of this process of change. To avoid doing so, this process and its results must basically remain:

Genuinely marketing: there should be no fundamental posiponement or reversal of economic reform.

Peaceful: there should be no broad resort to violence lo settle problems within major republics (Russia, Belorussja, Ukraine,o serious use of force to settle conflicts among them, and no prolonged, extensive anarchy in them.

Democratic and consonant with the rule of law: there should be no serious reversal of the polilical progress already achieved in Russia and Ukraine toward majority rule and prelection of minority rights.

Compatible with national self-determination: there should not be subjugaiion of ethnic minorities within the major republics, nor coercion of one of the other republics by Russia in ways that fundamenially violate the will to independence of the majority of that republic's "native" population.

Security-enhancing: there should be no developments that radically increase Ihe insecurity of ihe population in any of the major republics, that threaten ihe immediate security of individual republics, or lhal jeopardize vital international security interests.


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The Sources of Dcstabili/aiinn


Stringencies. Economic diffkuliics will stimulate popular unrest, generate mass demonsiralions and strikes (probably in such siraiegic scciors as energyndercut ihe welfare of siraiegic groups, and intensify political conflict in ways lhal push instability at the very leasl close lo all the threshholds sketched above, f

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are already seeing evidence of acute food problems in some cities. Reduced agricultural production this year, falling government food reserves, and increasing distribution problems will result without question in severe localized food shortages. The low level of stale grain procurements will constrain both bread production and livestock output. There will be further reductions in meatubstantial decline in bread quality, and incieascd rationing of flour, bread, and other grain products. Wilhin Russia, consumers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, ibe industrial cities of the Urals, and remote areas of the republic are most at risk of reductions in access to food. Outside Russia, shortages will be most severe in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus. Yel'tsin is trying toeserve food fund with which to cope with immediate crises. Over the next year his hope for delivering on his promise to improve the food supply depends heavily on freeing prices for food, eliminating bottlenecks in processing and dislribijtion^nd on rapidly accelerating the privatization of farming this winter.

Fuel supplies for healing are not likely overall lo create major problems in Russia, apart-per ham ihe Marilime region und the North Caucasus. Some households in many cities, however, will suffer from outages of heat as ihe result of breakdowns in highly centralized and worn out urban heating systems. Outside Russia, republics lhal will be hardest hit include Bcluiussia, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia. |

Any cslimalc of inflation over ihe next six months must be highly speculative. Prices paid for consumer goods sold in Russia have more lhan doubled over ihc past year. The price liberalization suggested by Yel'tsin's plan would probably result in an immediate doubling or trebbling of prices on top of ihe existing inflation-and some of his critics have warned of price increases several times larger lhan that. In order to rnodcrale the growth of prices, Yel'tsin will have to follow through on plans to eliminate the budget deficit and tighten credit.





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of the number of those already unemployed or likely soon to be unemployed vary widely. Our very rough projections suggest that up toillion workers, nearlyercent of Russia's labor force, could lose their jobs due to reductions in the miliary, cuts in defense production, and improved enterprise efficiency over the next couple of years. The localized impact of unemployment will be acute, especially in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the Urals. For example, the Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Yuriy Luzhkov, has recently warnedfillion employees of the Moscow defense complex could be out of work in the near future. Yel'tsin is optimistic that rapid growth in the private services and consumer industry sectors will absorb idled workers, but this willonsiderable improvement in labor mobility. In the meantime, stability will depend on supporting the standard of living of the unemployed until new jobs areroblem Yel'tsin has not adequately addressed. |

Market reforms will lead to greater income inequalities. Black marketeering and the "Mafia" arc on the rise, as well as legitimate private enterprise, there is much popular hostility toward entrepreneurs and profit, and impassioned calls for confiscatory taxation and other impediments to business will increase. Whether republic and local governments will manage to generate minimally acceptable social insurance in the form of rationing, salary increases for those on fixed incomes (including iheension adjustments, and distribution in kind to the needy which can sufficient! blunt "populism" without destroying reform, is highly uncertain.

Ethnic Conflict. Russian leaders have seen the struggle for independence by individual ethnic minority groups in the Russian Republicritical potential source of destabilization, and have striven to buttress the political integrity of the RSFSR. While most of (he ethnic minorities are too small, too dependent on Russia, tooercentage of the population in their own "autonomous" administrative units, or too geographically isolated to have lhat much impact on ihe main dimensions of systemic succession, the Chechen-Ingush crisis illustrates the many ways in which the "second order" as well as direct effects of militant ethnic self-assertion can promote destabilization. Here, violence in one autonomous entity threatens to spread to neighboring regions, and elicits support from minority entities still further afield. Other unionas Georgia in this case-become engaged. Intensification of the conflict leads to talk of terrorism against Russia-including talk of attacks on nuclear power plants. The unsuccessful resort by the Russian leadership to force has probably damaged morale in the MVD,edge between ihis leadership and its base of support among democrats, produced splits within Ihe Russian government, possibly weakened Yel'tsin politically, and encouraged ihe traditionalist opposition. These effects would probably be substantially greaterimilar situation were to occur in the more strategically located and economically important

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Republic The dramaiic failure of Russian policy in Chechen-Ingushetiya, and the deepening economic and social crisis throughout Russia, make drives for autonomy and independence by ethnic minorities more likely. |

Russo-Ukrainian relationsey axis of potential dcstabilization in the former USSR. At the moment, following thectober meeting in Kiev between Russian and Ukrainian delegations andovember signature by Yel'tsin and Kravchuk of an economic and security agreement, the prospectseaceful evolution of these relations do not look bad. The agreements reached confirm earlier Russian acceptance of existing borders, protect minority rights, commit both sides to maintain deliveries of essential goods, acknowledge Ukraine's right to form its own army, require cooperation on security issues, and express Ukrainian acceptance of shared control with the Center of nuclear weapons. |

Afterecember referendum the most likely scenario, we believe, is the path of weako Ukrainian membership in any political union; loose economic association between Ukraine and Russia; an independent Ukrainian military encompassing ground, air and naval forces-although substantially smaller thanan force spoken of earlier; and interrepublic control over nuclear weaponskrainian veto over use of such weapons deployed on Ukrainian territory, under the umbrella of some kind of security agreement between Russia and Ukraine. |

Nevertheless, the road ahead is likely to be rocky, and possibly destabilizing. Both sides are highly suspicious of the intentions of the other. When the Ukraine moves to authenticate its independenceecember, pressures will mount on Yel'tsin to seek further assurances about the rights of Russians in Ukraine and reasonable Russian access to Black Sea ports. If therearge vote in the Crimea against independence this could--in the view of many Russian obscrvcrs-excite serious annexationistussia; at present, however, it appears the referendum will pass even in the Crimea.

claim of authority over central miliary forces stationed there is stfll likely to engenderkrainian army will present Russia and central defense leaders with difficult choices about whether to negotiate with Kiev the turnover of military equipment currently belonging to central forces-and what kinds. Both Kiev and Moscow have incentives to reach agreement onransfer, but Russia will not want to abet creation of a


military power on its border. And reservations here will be heightened if recently papered-ovcr differences over the control of nuclear weapons reemerge-which is likely to happen once the republics begin to lariicipate in collective decisions about the disposition of these weapons.

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of Physical Control. Brave attempts are being made by Defense Minister Shaposhnikov and the USSR State Council to protect the unity of the armed forces and at least retard the formation of major independent republic forces. Yel'tsin has supported this effort, and has also apparently tried to provide some assurances to the union Ministry of Defense on funding (although where next year's budget will come from isevertheless, the Soviet military is now adriftea of shortages-housing,

food, clothing, fuel and oilier basic goods and services.


Baltic states have not been paid for several months because of currency shortages and budget problems, and that this situation is replicated in large areas of the country. Military discipline is weakening, with some units refusing to obey orders, black marketeering of equipment is widespread, and ethnic conflict is rising and spreading to the officer corps. Greal uncertainty about their own career futurein tensities the climate of fear and anxiety among Soviet officers. I

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partly perhaps to elicit aid from the US,anger that hundreds of thousands of hungry and homeless officers couldew coup attempt, and that disintegration of the Soviet armed forces could lead to major inter-republic ethnic and territorial wars. Our judgment is that disintegration of the armed forces is in fact already widespread, hasualitatively new phase since the failure of the August putsch attempt, and will accelerate over the nexi year. What remains subject to debate is whether the breakup of the military can be managed by the republics in an orderly manner or whether it will be rapid and possibly lead to violcnce.^H

Containing and extinguishing outbreaks of mass violence generated by economic deprivation and ethnic grievances will depend, first of all, on central and republic MVD forces. The relevant units here consist of0 Operational Troops, which will be retained by the Centerecent agreement with the republics holds (as the coreapid action intcrrcpublic peacekeepingut whose subordination to the Russian government has been demanded by an RSFSR Supreme Soviet Presidium resoluiionaramilitary Special Police that may

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be subordinate to the republics; and someMON units, which are already mostly suboidinate to local police authorities. While many of its units are mobile, the Special Police arc spread across the country and will be subject to service only in their own republic. |

In the recent Chechen-Ingush case, the decision to send operational troops from the crack Moscow-based MVD Dzerzhinskiy Division to the region was taken jointly by Russia leaders and the USSRiih the agreement of the country'sased on press reports it appears thai the decision to remove the troops was taken by the USSR Deputy Commander of Internal Troops, in consultation with Yel'tsin's representative in Chechen-Ingushctrya and other MVD officials on the ground there, with USSR Minister of the Interior Barranikov's approval, and probably with Gorbachev's as well. The affair illustrates how dependent Yel'tsin still is on central forces to cope wilh civil unrest on Russian territory. The employment of operational troops in non-Russian republics to cope with ethnic conflicis would probably require agreement by both the Russian Republic and the republic involved-if not by other republics represented in the USSR Stale Council or the interrepublic Council of Ministers of Internal Affairs.

capabilities of the forces enumerated above to deal wilh morecrisesime are clearly limiicd. In the past, MVD forcesproved unable to handleingle crisis without backstoppingairborne and regular troops. Since the coup attempt,have emphasized repeatedly their aversion to use of the armycHlirrt down civilian disorders. While ihis role is probably still feasible as afear of further splitting Ihe army will probably severely restrain both

military and civilian leaders from introducing it in such situations, and this will place still more responsibilty on an MVD whose capacity is probably less now lhan il was before August. The MVD's predicament in Chechen-Ingushciiya illustrates the problem: loo little, and tooo-win situation,

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Political Paralysis. The outbreak of squabbling, personal animosities, and policy differences that occurred during Yeltsin's fall absence pointed up the danger of division and deadlock in the Russian leadership. However, Yel'tsin's return to Moscow in early October and his vigorous reassertion of political will appeared to restore unity. By gaining approval from the Russian Congress of People's Deputies for new executive powers and the postponement of local elections, by assuming the premiership himselftreamlined Russian government, and by getting political support for his reform programiverse bloc of democratic parties and movements, he improved ihe chances oferious economic reform policy and overcoming traditionalist and other opposition. Yet the fallout from his


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of the Chechen-Ingush crisis days later suggested how fragile his domination of the situation may be. His inability to win Supreme Soviet support for his state of emergency decree demonstrated the largely personal basis of his power and absenceoundation for it in party discipline. The episode indicates how necessary it will be for Yel'tsin to mobilize political support for economic reform measures he pursues despite the edge he has acquired with decree


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reforms Yel'tsin must seek to implement will encounter huge resistance and inertia. The presidential structure of power he has constructed should make it easier to move forward at least in some areas of implementation, especially those primarily dependent on the adoption of decistons-as in the monetary and price fields. In areas that depend on grass roots action, however, implementation will be far more problematic despite the presence of appointed "heads of adminstration" and Presidentialey test will be Yel'tsin's ability to overcome resistance by local rural power elites to agricultural privatization, on which-along with improving distribution and processing-rides the prospectuick improvement in food availability. There is little reason for optimism that this resistance will easily be overcome. |

Those Soviet observers are probably correct who point to the provinces rather than Moscow as the locusossible new attempt at authoritarian restoration, basedonfluence of public disorder, extremist political leadership, and military revolt. We have no way of measuring this danger.

Further Destabilizing Contingencies


yeltsin vacates the russian presidency. Although the specific effects of the removal of Yel'tsin from the scene would depend greatly on the circumstances in which this occurred, such z. contingency would probably increase the chance of Russia "going itncrease the likelihood that popular national feelings would focus on leaders less committed tolcMOYrs democratic reform than Yel'tsin, reduce the capacity of the Russian

government to actnited fashion, significantly reduce the prospects for implementing successful economic reform, increase the likelihood of popular unrest, and diminish the chances for political settlement of ethnic issues both within the RSFSR and between it and other republics. In short, it would seriously heighten instability andrave threat to orderly systemic succession.



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Vacates the USSR Presidency. The departure of Gorbachev, however it occurred, would probably spell the end of any quasi-autonomous central component as an element in systemic succession. At least some members of the State Council would be unwilling to accept Yel'tin or another Russian nominee as Gorbachev's successor, even assuming the Russians themselves wanted this; and the Russian leadership at this point might well decide the time had come to abandon multilateralism altogether. Gorbachev's departure would starkly pose the issue of ultimate command of the Soviet armed forces, including nuclear release. |

Abandonment of Multilateralism by Russia. Despite his strong recent positioning of Russia to assume the mantle of formal successor state to the USSR, Yel'tsin has not taken this fateful step. From his standpoint, there have been good reasons not to do so.ove, he probably calculates, would fracture the armed forces, increase economic supply problemsritical moment (including foodntensify Russian minority difficulties in the non-Russian republics and possiblylood of new refugees back to the RSFSR, stimulate hard-line Russian nationalist counter-pressures in Russia, encourage the other republics to seek undesirable foreign policy alignments, and reduce the flow of Western aid.

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security and economic pressures could force the Russian leadership to take actions that would amount todeclaration off the military seemed on ihc verge of collapse or revolt, direct assumption of control by Russia couldritical command authority and political reassurance. In the event of runaway inflation, the institution of separate currencies in other republics, or unrestrained imposition of interrcpublic trade barriers, ihe Russian leadership might also feel compelled to follow through on its ihieats to act as an independent state.

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ihc Russian leadership did in effect declare Russia to be the successor stale, this would both decrease and increase stability. On the one hand, it would probably have at least some of the effects Yel'tsin must fear, particularly over the short run. It would reinforce autarky, place Russian minorities at greater risk, accelerate the creation of republic armies, sharpen the dilemma of control over nuclear weapons, stimulate alliances between Ukraine and Central Europe and between the Muslim republics and their Islamic neighbors which Russia would see as potentially threatening, and perhaps diminish Western aid. But, on Ihe other hand, adoption of this posture could create an environment more conducive in fact to marketization in Russia; andhort period it would stimulate the search by other republics for serious bilateral economic and security ties with.




Collapxt of ihe Military. Runaway inflation, decimation of the military budget, mass reductions in the officer corps, the decay of military discipline, possible breakdown of conscription in the Russian Republic, an unleashing of political conflict in the officer corps, and the basically ethnic split among officers now evident in Ukraine could all, in some combination, turn gradual disintegration into rapid collapse. Therelear and present danger of this contingency. Wereollapse to occur, it could leadtruggle among armed groups for control of nuclear weapons, seizure by military units of food and housing, and even warlordhm. I

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umber of contingent developments could cause ihe economic situation to get much worse than the baseline projection offered above. When Yel'tsin introduces his reform measures, enormous pressures will be brought to bear on his government to restore price controls and retreat from budgetary austerity. If the Russian government gives in. this failure of political will could precipitate hyper..mat ion--increases of at least SO percent per month over an extendedevastating impact on those on fixed incomes, including military personnel. If Yel'tsin retreats from price decontrol, this will alsourther breakdown in the supply system. The greatest danger here is that farmers will not only not bring their crops to market, but also scale back plantings of new crops next spring. I-

could fall sharply in the next six months if Western governments stop providing credits or exports fall dramatically. The first could happen if the republics do not agreeechanism to pay the union's debtsefault occurs. Exports could also drop suddenly if labor unrest in the oil


roblem, if rail sirikes occur, or if interrcpublic disputes arrest deliveries to ports. In Ihe absence of Western credits, any reduction in hard currency earnings wouldomparable cut in imports. Soviet officials probably would be able to maintain imports of highest priority such as food, but only by further culling purchases of intermediate and manufactured goods, thereby undermining industrial production. P


This paper necessarily has focused on sources of tension, conflict,To balance this perspective, it must be emphasized that therein the situation, there are things that may go right, and therecontingencies that may not occur. Yel'tsin still enjoys aif declining, level of popular support--and in key areas such asPetersburg, and the Urals, where Ihe "objective" sources of instabilityto be especially powerful The Russian population stillendurance. There is no evidence yet of any groundswellsupport for extremist nationalist chauvinism in Russia or the other

republics. Yel'tsin himself may survive, and persevere with reform

is little room for retreat nowhe growth in commodity

exchanges, joint ventures, and other forms of private enterprise may accelerate once political muscle is seen to weigh in on Iheir side. And it is quite possible that if prices are freed, more goods and even more food may come on the markethere is certainly room to negotiate compromises in ethnic conflicts both within the RSFSR and between it and the other major republics. |

Nevertheless, the prospects for major instability occurring soon are high indeed. Inflation will severely strike much of the population, with devastating consequences for some groups. Food shortages and unemployment, however "localized" they may be, are almost certain in some areas to create conditions felt by those affected to be intolerable. TherecMOYrs be sirikes, and prc'oably in those sectors most threatening to social stability such as energy production. Some incidents of mutiny by armed forces units now appear totrong probability. Thereigh likelihood that conflicts over minority ethnic demands in the Russian Republic will escalate,ood chance that the assertion of independence by Ukraine will intensify Russian minority problcmsthere^onditions are likely to be even worse outside the major republics. J

umber of contingent developments could significantly increase the prospects for serious destabilization. The most important of these are removal of Yel'tsin from office (whatever theapid collapse of the miliiary, and failure of the Russian government in the crunch to uphold price decontrol and enforce budgetary austerity. Removal of Gorbachev from the


USSR Presidency could have destabilizing consequences by eliminatingforthwith and putting command and control of the military up for

Abandonment of multilateralism by the Russian government and a

declaration that Russia was the successor state to the USSR would have a

strongly mixed impact

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