Policy Memos

Russia and Multilateral Institutions

Policy Memo:


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Russia's current leadership recognizes the instrumental value of multilateral institutions and has adapted its foreign and economic policies to exploit them. This represents an important opportunity for the United States, whose major foreign policy objective toward Russia has been to promote its integration into the world economy. An integrated Russia is a more stable and less belligerent, more profitable and less unpredictable Russia. Russia's domestic institutions and international integration are developing in tandem, and it is not too late for Russia to develop along more democratic and market-oriented lines, or to slide deeper into authoritarianism and autarky. The best chance for the former is for multilateral institutions to present Russia with credible constraints and opportunities.

Unfortunately for Russia, however, U.S. foreign policy often finds reasons to use whatever leverage multilateral institutions afford to buy influence in Moscow. This undermines the incentives that these institutions provide for Russia to integrate its economy with the West. Long-term developments in Russia are far from the top of the Bush administration's foreign policy agenda, and other priorities may be more urgent. However, the habits of thought of the immediate post–Cold War era, which depended on a relatively cooperative and very weak Russia, will become increasingly inappropriate as Russia's economic potential emerges from its depression in the 1990s. Russia is becoming stronger and, within a decade, it will return to its former role as a major world power. U.S. interests will be best served over the next ten years if the opportunities that are available now are used to promote Russia's integration into the global economy. [...]

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About the author

Professor, Director of the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies, Director of the Peter D. Watson Center for Conflict and Cooperation, Department of Political Science
University of Rochester