Since the Russian financial collapse in August 1998, critics of US policy toward Russia from both the right and the left have had a heyday asserting that the Clinton Administration got Russia wrong. The refrains are by now familiar: "Clinton became too close to Yeltsin," "The IMF was naive," "the West funded crony capitalism," "US-Russian strategic partnership has produced few tangible results," "Russians are not culturally predisposed to markets," etc. The policy conclusion from these observations is that the United States neither can nor should do anything to aid Russia in the future.
Instead, we need to reconstruct a firewall around this basket case of a country and try once again to contain the Russian threat to markets and democracy around the world. This line of reasoning is flawed and this conclusion is premature for several reasons. The first part of this memo outlines a set of arguments explaining why. At the same time, the United States has made serious mistakes in its policies of engagement with and aid to Russia that must be recognized. Section two of this memo highlights the major mistakes of the past. However, recognizing mistakes of the past is not an argument for curtailing action in the future. Section three of this memo lists a series of suggestions for guiding a renewed policy of engagement and a revised effort for aiding Russia in the future. Section four concludes. […]