Democracy-Building in the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union: Progress and Implications for U.S. Interests

Since the end of the Cold War and the advent of independence for the former Soviet republics, these new independent states (NIS) have made varying progress in implementing democratic reforms. Some NIS such as Russia appear to be making some progress, a few such as Kyrgyzstan appear to be faltering, and several such as Turkmenistan appear to be making scant progress. Successive U.S. Administrations have fostered democracy-building in the NIS as a primary foreign policy objective. Broadly, U.S. policymakers have stressed that the containment policy of the Cold War has been replaced with the policy of engagement and enlargement to increase the world's free market democracies. Democratic NIS are regarded as more likely to conduct peaceful foreign policies and to uphold civil and human rights. Also, U.S. trade and business would likely be attracted to democratic NIS where the rule of law is respected. The Administration generally adheres to the idea that democracy-building and the creation of market economies can proceed simultaneously in the NIS as the best means to ensure stable reforms. Several U.S. agencies carry out democracy-building programs, with the U.S. Agency for International Development playing a prominent role. In practice, U.S. democracy-building aid reflects various interests and aid goals and particular needs in an NIS. Cumulative data for FY1992-FY1997 appear to some degree to show that democracy-building aid has been targeted to NIS that are faltering or making scant progress in order to bolster civil society. Democracy-building aid to Belarus, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan has been aimed at bolstering the growth of NGOs in countries where the political systems are largely undemocratic. The Administration has placed some priority on democracy-building in Russia and Ukraine because of their large populations and territory (and the strategic threat of an unstable, nuclear-armed Russia), their geopolitical and cultural connections to Europe, and the view that democratization in these NIS provides examples to other NIS. Cumulative aid figures for Armenia, Georgia, and Tajikistan reflect a recent shift to some democracy-building aid and efforts to relieve humanitarian suffering related to conflict. Most in Congress have supported aid for democracy-building in the NIS, though there have been varying concerns about the duration, conditionality, and scope of such aid. Some have urged earmarking or otherwise highlighting democracy-building aid for Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and other NIS, while others have criticized the effectiveness or pertinence of existing democracy- building and other NIS aid. Foreign operations appropriations for FY1998 ( P.L.105-118 ) reduced the Administration's request for aid to the NIS to $770 million (from $900 million), but otherwise generally reflected a shift in program priorities to grassroots democracy-building efforts. Congressional debate on the FY1999 NIS aid request appears supportive of the Administration's plans for democracy-building programs in the NIS, but less receptive to other NIS programs and requested funding levels.