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East: Intelligence Report Foresees Problems In Eurasia

  • Kevin Foley

A new, unclassified report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council says the former Communist nations of Europe and Central Asia face an uncertain future. Washington correspondent K.P. Foley reports.

Washington, 19 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A new report by U.S. intelligence officials predicts hard times ahead for Russia and Ukraine.

In its report, entitled "Global Trends 2015," the U.S National Intelligence Council (NIC) concludes that "Russia and Ukraine will struggle with problems stemming from decades of environmental neglect and abuse, including widespread radioactive pollution from badly managed nuclear facilities."

The report also says, "these problems are unlikely to be adequately addressed," because Russia and Ukraine, "will devote insufficient resources," to environmental programs as they focus on economic growth.

The NIC is a panel of 15 intelligence experts. It is based at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) outside Washington and reports to CIA Director George Tenet. The report contains broad strategic assessments on what the world might look like in 15 years and it is intended for use as a planning tool by U.S. policymakers.

The unclassified document was released Monday. White House spokesman James Siewert said the report carries great weight.

"In general, that report is very thoughtful."

The intelligence report says Central and Eastern European nations may face problems similar to Russia and Ukraine. The NIC blames, "the legacy of environmental neglect from the Communist era." However, the assessment adds that several Central and Eastern European nations -- it doesn't specify which -- will upgrade their environmental standards because of their desire to be admitted to the European Union.

The NIC took more than a year to prepare the report. The Council relied as well on contributions from non-governmental experts in a range of disciplines. The document outlines the most important factors, or what the report calls "drivers," that will influence the future. Topics covered include war, terrorism, international economic trends, food supplies, environmental issues and the availability of natural resources such as water, natural gas and oil.

Siewert said the report reflects many of the issues that President Bill Clinton considers important for future leaders.

"The President said last week in England that it's important to assess not just national security in terms of weapons but also in terms of longer term trends and climate change, infectious diseases all play a role in national security these days."

In a section on regional trends, the report says, "uncertainties abound about the future internal configuration, geopolitical dynamics, and degree of turbulence within and among former Soviet states." The Council says Russia and its regional neighbors, "are likely to fall short in resolving critical impediments to economic and political reform."

The NIC report says the economic challenges to the countries of the region will remain daunting. These challenges include, "insufficient structural reform, poor productivity in agriculture and decaying infrastructure." Population growth and life expectancies in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Caucasus will continue to decline, the report said. It cites a prediction from Russian experts that Russia's population may fall from its current total of 146 million to between 130 million and 135 million by 2015.

Ukraine's path to the West, says the report, "will be constrained by widespread corruption, the power of criminal organizations and lingering questions over its commitment to the rule of law."

The South Caucasus, "will remain in flux because of unresolved local conflicts, weak economic fundamentals, and continued Russian meddling," the report said. The NIC said Georgia might achieve a measure of political and economic stability.

However, the report said Armenia, "will remain largely isolated and is likely to remain a Russian -- or possibly Iranian -- client." The report said Azerbaijan is not likely to see widespread economic prosperity, despite its potential energy wealth. It said Azerbaijan, "will be a one-sector economy with pervasive corruption at all levels of society."

In Central Asia, the report said social, environmental, religious, and possibly ethnic strains will grow. The report said the, "region also is likely to be the scene of increased competition among surrounding powers -- Russia, China, India, Iran and possibly Turkey -- for control, influence and access to energy resources."

The NIC document also said Central Asia could become what it called a regional hot spot because the interests of Russia, China and India -- as well as of Iran and Turkey -- will intersect in the region. However, the report added that the greatest danger to the region, "will not be a conflict between states, which is unlikely, but the corrosive impact of communal conflicts and political insurgencies." These insurgencies, the NIC added, might be abetted by "outside actors and financed at least in part," by drug traffickers.

In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, the NIC report said Iran and Iraq -- like all countries in the region -- "will have to cope with demographic, economic and societal pressures from within and globalization from without. The report also predicts that no single ideology or philosophy will unite any one state or group of states.

(The full report is available from the CIA website,