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Russia: Official Echoes U.S. Plea For Closer Relations

  • Michael Lelyveld

A top former U.S. security official has urged closer ties between the United States and Russia through the creation of a new group within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. RFE/RL correspondent Michael Lelyveld reports.

Boston, 14 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser in the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, told a weekend gathering of scholars at Harvard University that new efforts are needed to overcome what he characterized as a loss of direction in U.S.-Russian relations.

In his keynote address to the conference on Friday, Scowcroft said the United States and its allies had started with a conscious policy of engaging Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall rather than emphasizing its weakness. But, Scowcroft said, the United States "gradually began to ignore the Russians, except when we wanted something from them."

He cited examples including the current U.S. initiative that seeks to modify the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow for development of a national missile defense system.

But Scowcroft suggested that the attitude began long before with the decision to expand NATO in spite of strong objections from Russia. He recommended a freeze on further NATO expansion, to be balanced by greater efforts to bring new members into the European Union instead. He also urged "the construction of a broader security architecture" to include Russia.

Scowcroft said the new structure could be "a directorate within OSCE -- a directorate composed of the United States, Russia, a member from the EU and a member representing the neutrals in Europe." Its mission would be "to look at the problems, the issues of security in the great Atlantic community as a whole, not as a part of a defensive alliance."

The three-day conference entitled "Ten Years after the Fall of the Wall" brought together 10 separate schools and programs at Harvard to analyze events in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Topics covered a broad range of issues from German reunification to investment and arms control.

A Saturday panel on economic reform led by Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs produced a spirited discussion of the relative successes in Eastern Europe and more limited progress in Russia and other countries of the region.

Janos Kornai, a Harvard economist, said that privatization in the region had essentially followed two paths. The first was a strategy of "organic development," stressing the sale of state-owned property for "genuine" prices without "giveaways." Kornai said the second approach was "accelerated privatization," which assumed that elimination of state ownership was the most important task. These programs included sales at giveaway prices and voucher privatization.

Kornai argued that the first theory based on more gradual sales of state property at genuine prices had proven more successful. He pointed to Hungary's higher growth in productivity since 1989 compared with the Czech Republic, which relied on voucher privatization. The pattern of faster privatization but slower growth also appeared to hold true in the case of Russia, he said.

Sachs, a former consultant to the governments of Poland and Russia, argued that faster privatization was driven by the need to take irreversible steps for political reasons.

"This was Central Europe trying to escape from the Soviet domination," said Sachs. "It wasn't just economic calculation." The rush to privatize later turned out to be unnecessary, but no one could have known that at the time, he said.

The greatest tragedy for Russia, according to Sachs, was the giveaway of shares in energy giants like Gazprom and Lukoil to insiders. The government could have raised $50 billion or more on Gazprom alone by bringing in international investors, he said.

But Andrei Kozyrev, the former foreign minister of Russia, questioned whether future governments could have been trusted to use the profits from oil companies wisely if they had remained in state hands.

"What is better monopoly or oligopoly? Isn't oligopoly already (a) step forward from the monopoly?" Kozyrev asked. In the past, the Soviet government used Russia's energy resources to fund its arms race with the United States and repress individual freedoms, said Kozyrev. There is at least hope that Russia's oligarchs will invest some of their riches in their own country, he said.

On Sunday, Kozyrev appeared to echo Scowcroft's call for a new grouping to deal with the changed nature of the U.S.-Russian relationship since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"In this decade, there is not a single new institution created to address this tremendous change in the world," said Kozyrev. Old institutions have simply not been up to the task, he said.