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Former U.S.S.R.: Organized Crime Entrenched; Russian Foreign Policy Stable

By Peter Rutland

Boston, 19 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies is meeting in annual convention this week in Boston. Our correspondent reports on two papers presented at the meeting.

Organized Crime Threatens Progress In Former Soviet Union

An American University professor says that organized crime, deeply entrenched in the countries of the former Soviet Union, threatens progress toward democracy in the region.

The professor, Dr. Louise Shelley, is the leading U.S. expert on crime in the former Soviet Union. She addressed the annual convention this week in Boston of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Dr. Shelley contends that organized crime isn't merely a transitional phenomenon, a temporary product of the break-up of the Soviet Union that will disappear once stable legal systems mature. She says that criminal networks adapt impressively to legal changes and that mafia groups ally themselves with government officials to the point that they participate in writing the new rules of the game.

Based on her extensive visits as an advisor to research groups across Russia involved in the fight against organized crime, Shelley says that the countries involved are incapable of managing their crime problems. She says this is partly because legal and political officials are themselves corrupt, and partly because the governments lack resources and experience in dealing with such problems.

Russian Foreign Policy Holds A Stable Course

Mark Kramer, a researcher at Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian Studies, contends that Russian foreign policy, fairly consistent since 1991, is more pro-Western than many commentators suggest.

Kramer, speaking this week to the Slavic Studies convention, challenged what he said is the dominant view: that Russian policy took a sharp anti-Western turn in late 1993 as President Boris Yeltsin moved to head off a political challenge from the nationalists.

He says that behind the political rhetoric, there is actually no radical break in 1993. In 1992-93 Russian policy was less naively pro-Western than many people suggested at the time, he says, and in 1994-96, Russian policy has been more favorable to the West than is commonly supposed.

Overall, the foreign policy of independent Russia "is systematically different from the anti-Western policy" pursued by the former Soviet Union.

The Harvard researcher says that Russian policy in 1996 has continued significant areas of cooperation with the West. He pointed to the joint peace-keeping operation in the former Yugoslavia.