TFR 46 – Engaging Russia


We have entitled this report “Engaging Russia.” The intended contrast is not only with the “containment” of the Cold War years, but also with what we see as the inadequate and intermittent commitment of much Trilateral policy towards Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union since 1991.

The importance of engaging Russia rests on a two-part foundation: the possibilities for political and economic reform in Russia, and the deep interests of our countries in Russia's external behavior. Especially for Europe and North America, the direction of Russia's external policies is probably the most important uncertainty in the evolution of international politics in the next decade. There are different views among the authors about the likelihood of fundamental success for Russian reform over the long term, and about continued progress in the 3-5 years immediately ahead. There are differences about some of the policy prescriptions. But we believe that the positive trends in Russia are sufficiently strong to justify the strategy of engagement that we propose, and we share the judgment that the broad aim of Trilateral policies should be to reinforce these positive trends, while hedging against major reverses.

Four broad elements of the long agenda for engaging Russia have received the most attention in this report:

European Architecture. The Transatlantic and European institutions, especially NATO and the European Union, have not yet found effective ways of associating the new Russia with their activities which recognize the importance of that country without giving it a disproportionate influence in their counsels. This report makes proposals for greatly intensified NATO-Russia links and suggests a managing body drawn from OSCE members. There are differences among the authors about the rationale for NATO enlargement and the pace at which it should take place. But we agree that the enlargement of both NATO and the European Union is inevitable, that only a small number of new members are foreseeable for some years, and that NATO and EU enlargement are part of the same broad process. We believe that Trilateral governments will need to pay particular attention to those countries which are unlikely to join NATO in the foreseeable future: Ukraine and the Baltic states are of special importance to the West.

Nuclear Issues. Tens of thousands of nuclear devices remain in Russia and Ukraine, with command, control and safe custodianship in some doubt. Arms control agreements removing these weapons from active status (and to Russia from Ukraine and Kazakhstan) are not enough. As long as the fissile material has not been permanently disposed of, it will remain vulnerable to domestic instability, susceptible to purchase or theft by rogue regimes or terrorists, and capable of reintroduction into Moscow’s nuclear forces if relations with the West deteriorate greatly. The West needs to make a much larger effort to assist the Russian government in removing these weapons and materials from present and prospective temptation. Trilateral technical and financial assistance is also required, on a larger scale and with greater urgency, if the safety problems of Russia’s civil nuclear reactors are to be adequately addressed. Another Chernobyl disaster is possible at any moment.

Northeast Asia. In contrast to Europe, Russian power is not the central problem in East Asia. Indeed, the potential gains from engaging Russia in this region-in relations with China, in managing a crisis on the Korean peninsula, in providing energy and other natural resources for a dynamic regional economy rich in other factors of production, in restraining arms sales—are sometimes overlooked. The Trilateral countries should encourage APEC to invite Russia to the 1995 Osaka meeting as an observer. The Trilateral countries should encourage Russian participation in multilateral security dialogues in the Asia-Pacific, including possibly creating a new forum for security issues in Northeast Asia. Resolution of the issue of Japan’s Northern Territories, an issue which remains on the agenda, is more likely over time in the context of broad-based Japan-Russia relations.

Support for Political and Economic Reform in Russia. Given the stakes involved our countries have done too little since 1991 to support political and economic reform in Russia and other former Soviet republics. The aid packages for Russia announced at successive G-7 summits contained less than was claimed for them, and aroused expectations in Russia which they could not meet. Aside from macroeconomic support through the IMF, properly conditioned on Russian economic policy and performance, we stress the importance of lowering Trilateral barriers to Russian trade, developing political, commercial and personal links at all levels, and giving technical assistance on a much larger scale to the institutions and social forces that carry forward reform in the lives of the Russian people.

Russia may become a more difficult partner in the years ahead. If the Russian government acts in ways which do not accord with the democratic norms to which it is committed, Trilateral countries will be bound to react critically, not least to support the advocates of reform inside Russia itself. But unless Russia returns decisively to a path hostile to the West, the depth of our countries’ interests in this great power will call for an inclusive Trilateral approach on the lines set out in this report.


Robert D. Blackwill, Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; former Special Assistant to U.S. President George Bush for European and Soviet Affairs.
Rodric Braithwaite, Senior Advisor, Morgan Grenfell, London; former Foreign Policy Advisor to British Prime Minister John Major; former British Ambassador in Moscow
Akihiko Tanaka, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Tokyo

Table of Contents

Robert D. Blackwill
I. The Context of Russian Foreign Policy
- Russia’s Foreign Policy Traditions
- Russia’s National Interests
- The Domestic Context
II. Trilateral Stakes in Russia’s Future
III. Trilateral Policies Toward Russia

- Crucial Axioms
- Nuclear Issues
- European Architecture
- Ukraine
- The Caucasus and Central Asia
- Global Issues
- Russia and the International Economy
- Human and Political Rights
- Economic and Technical Assistance for Russian Reform
IV. Conclusion

Rodric Braithwaite
I. Introduction
II. Historical Perspective

- Russia’s Past
- Why the Soviet Union Collapsed
III. Towards the New Russia
- The Background to Reform
- Yeltsin’s Breakthrough
- The New Economy
- The New Politics
IV. Prospects for Stability and Reform
V. The Aspiration to Partnership

- Supporting Reform in Russia
- The Double Enlargement
- The Web of Mutual Obligation

Akihiko Tanaka
- Russia and East Asia
- The Basic Regional Context
- Trilateral Interests in Russia in the Asia-Pacific Region
- Trilateral Policy Toward Russia


  • Topics: Economics, Energy, Trade, Security, Multilateral Cooperation
  • Region:  North America, Europe, Pacific Asia
  • Publisher:  The Trilateral Commission
  • Publication Date:  © 1995
  • ISBN:  930503-72-4
  • Pages:  139
  • Complete Text: Click here to download