For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 17 million sq. km. (6.5 million sq. mi.); about 1.8 times the size of the United States.
Cities: Capital--Moscow (pop. 10.4 million). Other cities--St. Petersburg (4.6 million), Novosibirsk (1.4 million), Nizhniy Novgorod (1.3 million).
Terrain: Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains (Caucasus range) along southern borders.
Climate: Northern continental.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Russian(s).
Population (August 2011): 142.9 million.
Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): -0.07%.
Ethnic groups (2002 census): Russian 79.8%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, Bashkir 1.2%, Chuvash 1.1%, other 12.1%.
Religion: Russian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Protestant, Buddhist, other.
Language: Russian (official); more than 140 other languages and dialects.
Education (total pop.): Literacy--99.4%.
Health: Life expectancy (2011 est.)--63.03 years men, 74.87 years women.
Work force (75.49 million, 2010 est.): Services--58.1%, industry--31.9%, agriculture--10%.
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: December 12, 1993.
Branches: Executive--president, prime minister (chairman of the government). Legislative--Federal Assembly (Federation Council, State Duma). Judicial--Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of Arbitration, Office of Procurator General.
Political parties: After a shakeup in late 2008 dissolved and combined several parties, seven registered parties remained: United Russia, the Communist Party (KPRF), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Just Russia, Yabloko, Patriots of Russia, and the new Right Cause party. Yabloko, which favors liberal reforms, and Patriots of Russia failed to clear the 7% threshold in 2007 to enter the Duma. The next round of Duma elections will be held on December 4, 2011.
Subdivisions: 83 federal subjects (members of the Federation), including 21 republics, 9 krays, 46 oblasts, 2 federal cities, 1 autonomous oblast, and 4 autonomous okrugs.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
GDP (2010): $1.477 trillion.
Growth rate (2011): 4%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, timber, furs, precious and nonferrous metals.
Agriculture: Products--Grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, meat, dairy products.
Industry: Types--Complete range of manufactures: automobiles, trucks, trains, agricultural equipment, advanced aircraft, aerospace, machine and equipment products; mining and extractive industry; medical and scientific instruments; construction equipment.
Trade (2010): Exports--$376.7 billion: petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, woods and wood products, metals, chemicals. Major markets--EU, CIS, China, Japan. Imports--$191.8 billion: machinery and equipment, chemicals, consumer goods, medicines, meat, sugar, semi-finished metal products. Major partners--EU, CIS, Japan, China, U.S. U.S. exports--$6.0 billion. Principal U.S. exports to Russia (2010)--oil/gas equipment, meat, motor vehicles and parts, aircraft, electrical machinery, automatic data processing machines and parts, medical equipment, plastics, cosmetics, and chemicals. U.S. imports--$25.7 billion. Principal U.S. imports from Russia (2010)--oil, chemicals (including fertilizer), radioactive materials, iron/steel, precious stones, nickel, aluminum, fish and crustaceans, alcoholic beverages, and base metals.
Russia’s 142.9 million citizens descend from more than 100 ethnic groups. Russian is the official language of Russia and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian is also the language of such giants of world literature as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Pasternak, and Solzhenitsyn.
Russia's educational system has produced nearly 100% literacy. About 8.1 million students attended Russia's 1,108 institutions of higher education in 2008, but continued reform is critical to producing students with skills to adapt to a market economy. Because great emphasis is placed on science and technology in education, Russian mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is still generally of a high order. The number of doctors in relation to the population is high by American standards, although medical care in Russia, even in major cities, is generally far below Western standards. The unraveling of the Soviet state in its last decades and the physical and psychological traumas of transition during the 1990s resulted in a steady decline in the health of the Russian people. Currently Russia faces a demographic crisis as births lag far behind deaths. While its population is aging, the high number of deaths of working-age males due to cardiovascular disease is a major cause of Russia's demographic woes. A rapid increase in HIV/AIDS infections and tuberculosis, added to rising deaths from cancer, compounds the problem. In 2011, life expectancy at birth was estimated at 63.03 years for men and 74.87 years for women. The large annual excess of deaths over births, if unabated, could cut Russia's population by 30% over the next 50 years, though inward migration could change this picture. At the end of 2010, there were 60 million Internet users in Russia, with the number growing by 15% a year. Industry watchers forecast that Russia will be Europe’s largest Internet market within the next 2 years.
The Russian labor force, amounting to nearly 76 million workers in 2010, is undergoing tremendous changes. Although well educated and skilled, it is largely mismatched to the rapidly changing needs of the Russian economy. Official unemployment dropped to its lowest rate of 5.4% in May 2008, and labor shortages appeared in some high-skilled job markets. The economic crisis that began in late 2008, however, quickly reversed this trend and the ranks of unemployed swelled to an International Labor Organization (ILO)-estimated 8.2% in 2009; 1.8 million Russians lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2009 alone. By the end of 2010, the Russian economy showed signs of recovery, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.4% by the end of the second quarter, according to the Russian Government statistics agency, Rosstat. Following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic dislocation it engendered, the standard of living fell dramatically. Real disposable incomes then doubled between 1999 and 2009, and experts estimate that the middle class constitutes approximately one-fourth of the population. The economic crisis, however, interrupted this trend, as real disposable incomes grew by only 1.9% in 2009 and wages fell by 2.8% during the same period. The stock of wage arrears, which peaked during the crisis at almost 9 billion rubles, had fallen by almost half by February 2010. Government anti-crisis measures to bolster wages, pensions, and other benefits helped reduce the poverty rate in 2009 to an estimated 14%, bringing the number of people living below the subsistence minimum (equivalent to about $169 per month) to below 20 million. The official poverty rate was estimated as 13.1% by the World Bank at the end of 2010. According to Russian statistics, the poverty level increased to 14.9% of the population in the first half of 2011 because of an increase in the official poverty threshold and because average real income fell slightly in 2011.
Moscow is Russia's capital and largest city. Moscow is also increasingly important as an economic and business center; it has become Russia's principal magnet for foreign investment and business presence. Its cultural tradition is rich, and there are many museums devoted to art, literature, music, dance, history, and science, as well as hundreds of churches and dozens of notable cathedrals.
The second-largest city in Russia is St. Petersburg, which was established by Peter the Great in 1703 to be the capital of the Russian Empire as part of his Western-looking reforms. The city was called Petrograd during World War I and Leningrad after 1924. In 1991, as the result of a city referendum, it was renamed St. Petersburg. Under the tsars, the city was Russia's cultural, intellectual, commercial, financial, and industrial center. After Lenin moved the capital back to Moscow in 1918, the city's political significance declined, but it remained a cultural, scientific, and military-industrial center. The Hermitage, formerly the Winter Palace of the tsars, is one of the world's great fine arts museums.
Russia has an area of about 17 million square kilometers (6.5 million sq. mi.); in geographic terms, this makes Russia the largest country in the world by more than 2.5 million square miles. But with a population density of about 22 persons per square mile (9 per sq. km.), it is sparsely populated, and most of its residents live in urban areas.
Although human experience on the territory of present-day Russia dates back to Paleolithic times, the first lineal predecessor of the modern Russian state was founded in 862. The political entity known as Kievan Rus was established in Kiev in 962 and lasted until the 12th century. In the 10th century, Christianity became the state religion under Vladimir, who adopted Greek Orthodox rites. Consequently, Byzantine culture predominated, as is evident in much of Russia's architectural, musical, and artistic heritage. Over the next centuries, various invaders assaulted the Kievan state and, finally, Mongols under Batu Khan destroyed the main population centers except for Novgorod and Pskov in the 13th century and prevailed over the region until 1480. Some historians believe that the Mongol period had a lasting impact on Russian political culture.
In the post-Mongol period, Muscovy gradually became the dominant principality and was able, through diplomacy and conquest, to establish suzerainty over European Russia. Ivan III (1462-1505) referred to his empire as "the Third Rome" and considered it heir to the Byzantine tradition. Ivan IV (the Terrible) (1530-1584) was the first Russian ruler to call himself tsar, a word derived from the Old Russian term for Caesar. He pushed Russia eastward with his conquests but his later reign was marked by the cruelty that earned him his familiar epithet. He was succeeded by Boris Godunov, whose reign commenced the so-called Time of Troubles. Relative stability was achieved when Mikhail Romanov established the dynasty that bore his name in 1613.
During the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725), modernization and European influences spread in Russia. Peter created Western-style military forces, subordinated the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy to the tsar, reformed the entire governmental structure, and established the beginnings of a Western-style education system. He moved the capital westward from Moscow to St. Petersburg, his newly-established city on the Baltic. His introduction of European customs generated nationalistic resentments in society and spawned the philosophical rivalry between "Westernizers" and "Slavophiles" that remains a key dynamic of current Russian social and political thought.
Catherine the Great continued Peter's expansionist policies and established Russia as a European power. During her reign (1762-96), power was centralized in the monarchy, and administrative reforms concentrated great wealth and privilege in the hands of the Russian nobility. Catherine was also known as an enthusiastic patron of art, literature and education and for her correspondence with Voltaire and other Enlightenment figures. Catherine segregated the large Jewish population Russia inherited during the partitions of Poland (1772-95) into an area known as "The Pale of Settlement," where great numbers of Jews were concentrated and later subject to vicious attacks known as pogroms.
Alexander I (1801-1825) began his reign as a reformer, but after defeating Napoleon's 1812 attempt to conquer Russia, he became much more conservative and rolled back many of his early reforms. During this era, Russia gained control of Georgia and much of the Caucasus. Throughout the 19th century, the Russian Government sought to suppress repeated attempts at reform and attempts at liberation by various national movements, particularly under the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855). Its economy failed to compete with those of Western countries. Russian cities were growing without an industrial base to generate employment, although emancipation of the serfs in 1861 foreshadowed urbanization and rapid industrialization late in the century. At the same time, Russia expanded into the rest of the Caucasus, Central Asia and across Siberia. The port of Vladivostok was opened on the Pacific coast in 1860. The Trans-Siberian Railroad opened vast frontiers to development late in the century. In the 19th century, Russian culture flourished as Russian artists made significant contributions to world literature, visual arts, dance, and music. The names of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Repin, and Tchaikovsky became known to the world.
Alexander II (1855-1881), a relatively liberal tsar, emancipated the serfs, reformed the judiciary, and established elected local councils (zemstvos). His 1881 assassination, however, prompted the reactionary rule of Alexander III (1881-1894). At the turn of the century, imperial decline became evident. Russia was defeated in the unpopular Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The Russian Revolution of 1905 forced Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917) to grant a constitution and introduce limited democratic reforms. The government suppressed opposition and abetted anti-Semitic pogroms. Attempts at economic change, such as land reform, were incomplete.
1917 Revolution and the U.S.S.R.
The ruinous effects of World War I, combined with internal pressures, sparked the March 1917 uprising that led Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate the throne. A provisional government came to power, headed by Aleksandr Kerenskiy. On November 7, 1917, the Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized control and established the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Civil war broke out in 1918 between Lenin's "Red" army and various "White" forces and lasted until 1920, when, despite foreign interventions and a war with Poland, the Bolsheviks triumphed. After the Red army conquered Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, a new nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), was formed in 1922.
First among its political figures was Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Party and head of the first Soviet Government, who died in 1924. In the late 1920s, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Josef Stalin emerged as the dominant figure in the aftermath of intra-party rivalries; he maintained complete control over Soviet domestic and international policy until his death in 1953. In the 1930s, Stalin oversaw the forced collectivization of tens of millions of its citizens in state agricultural and industrial enterprises. Millions died in the process from state-created famines. Millions more were executed or died in the vast penal and labor system known as the Gulag. Initially allied to Nazi Germany, which resulted in significant territorial additions on its western border, the U.S.S.R. was attacked by the Axis on June 22, 1941. More than twenty million Soviet citizens died during World War II in the successful effort to defeat the Axis, in addition to over two million Soviet Jews who perished in the Holocaust. After the war, the U.S.S.R. became one of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. In 1949, the U.S.S.R. developed its own nuclear arsenal.
Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, served as Communist Party leader until he was ousted in 1964, and presided over an era of cautious liberalization known as the Thaw. Aleksey Kosygin became Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and Leonid Brezhnev was made First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee in 1964. In 1971, Brezhnev rose to become "first among equals" in a collective leadership. During this period, the Soviet economy entered a period of stagnation from which it never recovered. Brezhnev died in 1982 and was succeeded by Yuriy Andropov (1982-84) and Konstantin Chernenko (1984-85). In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the next (and last) General Secretary of the CPSU. Gorbachev introduced policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). But his efforts to reform the creaky Communist system from within failed. The people of the Soviet Union were not content with half-freedoms granted by Moscow; they demanded more and the system collapsed. Boris Yeltsin was elected the first president of the Russian Federation in 1991. Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus formed the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991. Gorbachev resigned as Soviet President on December 25, 1991.
The Russian Federation
After the December 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation became its successor state, inheriting its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, most of its military assets, as well as the bulk of its foreign assets and debt. By the fall of 1993, politics in Russia reached a stalemate between President Yeltsin and the parliament elected in the waning days of the Soviet Union. The parliament had succeeded in blocking, overturning, or ignoring the President's initiatives on drafting a new constitution, conducting new elections, and making further progress on democratic and economic reforms.
In a dramatic speech in September 1993, President Yeltsin dissolved the Russian parliament in contravention of the existing constitution, and called for new national elections and a new constitution. In response, the parliament sought to depose Yeltsin and instigate an armed insurrection. Yeltsin ordered the army to respond with force to capture the parliament building and crush the insurrection. In December 1993, voters elected a new parliament and approved a new constitution that had been drafted by the Yeltsin government. Yeltsin remained the dominant political figure, although a broad array of parties, including ultra-nationalists, liberals, agrarians, and communists, had substantial representation in the parliament and competed actively in elections at all levels of government.
In late 1994, the Russian security forces launched a brutal operation in the Republic of Chechnya against rebels who were intent on separation from Russia. The protracted conflict, which received close scrutiny in the Russian media, raised serious human rights and humanitarian concerns abroad as well as within Russia, with violations committed on both sides of the fighting. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to institute a cease-fire, in August 1996 the Russian and Chechen authorities negotiated a settlement that resulted in a complete withdrawal of Russian troops and the holding of elections in January 1997. A peace treaty was concluded in May 1997. Following a number of terrorist incidents blamed on Chechen separatists, the Russian Government launched a new military campaign into Chechnya in 1999. By spring 2000, federal forces claimed control over Chechen territory, but fighting continued as rebel fighters regularly ambushed Russian forces in the region. Throughout 2002 and 2003, the ability of Chechen separatists to battle the Russian forces waned but they claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist acts. In 2005 and 2006, key separatist leaders were killed by Russian forces. Large-scale violence was quelled after Ramzan Kadyrov was confirmed as Chechen President in 2007, though many human rights groups accused him of committing serious human rights violations. In April 2009, the Russian Government announced the end of counterterrorism operations in Chechnya; however, the specter of potential conflict in the North Caucasus was raised again by the March 2010 bombing of the Moscow Metro, the January 2011 explosion in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, and the continuing violence in the republic of Dagestan.
On December 31, 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigned, and Vladimir Putin was named Acting President. In March 2000, he won election in his own right as Russia's second president with 53% of the vote. Putin moved quickly to reassert Moscow's control over the regions, whose governors had confidently ignored edicts from Boris Yeltsin. He ended direct elections for regional leaders and sent his own "plenipotentiary representatives" (commonly called 'polpred' in Russian) to ensure that Moscow's policies were followed in recalcitrant regions and republics. He won enactment of liberal economic reforms that rescued a faltering economy and stopped a spiral of hyperinflation. Putin achieved wide popularity by stabilizing the government, especially in marked contrast to what many Russians saw as the chaos of the latter Yeltsin years. The economy grew both because of rising oil prices and, in part, because Putin was able to achieve reforms in banking, labor, and private property. During this time, Russia also moved closer to the U.S., especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2002, the NATO-Russia Council was established, giving Russia a voice in NATO discussions.
U.S.-Russian relations cooled over the ensuing years given concerns over domestic developments in Russia, including political freedoms and human rights, as well as over foreign policy differences. Dmitriy Medvedev was elected President in March 2008 and inaugurated in May. Relations during the first few months of his presidency were affected by the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war and subsequent decision by Russia to recognize the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As a result, U.S.-Russian contact decreased significantly and the NATO-Russia Council was suspended temporarily.
With the change of U.S. administration in January 2009, U.S.-Russian relations have markedly improved as both sides sought to change the tone of the relationship and to cooperate in areas of mutual interest. At a July 2009 summit in Moscow, Presidents Barack Obama and Medvedev created the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission to pursue joint projects and improve cooperation between the two countries. Recent years have also seen increased cooperation with U.S. and NATO, leading to a new strategic concept proposed at the November 2010 Lisbon Summit that strives to develop a “true strategic partnership between NATO and Russia.” In February 2011, the New START Treaty, which significantly reduced each country’s deployable nuclear weapons, came into effect. The new 123 Agreement between the U.S. and Russia establishes a legal framework for advancing joint work on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The U.S., NATO, and Russia have also worked closely together to bring stability to Afghanistan. To address Iran’s failure to abide by its international commitments regarding its nuclear program, the U.S. and Russia coordinated multilateral approaches to demonstrate to Iran the consequences of its intransigence.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In the political system established by the 1993 constitution, the president wields considerable executive power. There is no vice president, and the legislative branch is far weaker than the executive. The bicameral legislature consists of the lower house (State Duma) and the upper house (the Federation Council). The president nominates the highest state officials, including the prime minister, who must be approved by the Duma. The president can pass decrees without consent from the Duma. He also is head of the armed forces and of the Security Council.
Duma elections were held most recently on December 2, 2007, and presidential elections on March 2, 2008. The pro-government party, United Russia, won a constitutional majority (more than two-thirds) of the seats in the Duma. Of the three other parties that won seats in the Duma, two of them--Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party--are considered to have a pro-Kremlin orientation. The final party represented in the Duma--the Communist Party--is the only true opposition party in the legislature. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights did not observe the Duma elections because of restrictions placed on the observer mission by the Government of Russia and delays in issuing visas. Parliamentarians of the OSCE and the Council of Europe who observed the elections concluded that they were "not fair and failed to meet many OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections." They noted that the elections took place in an atmosphere which seriously limited political competition. Frequent abuses of administrative resources, media coverage strongly in favor of United Russia, and the revised election code combined to hinder political pluralism.
Dmitriy Medvedev, running as United Russia's candidate, was elected to a 4-year term as President on March 2, 2008, with 70.28% of the vote. The Russian constitution does not allow presidents to serve more than two consecutive terms. A December 2008 law extended the terms of Duma deputies from 4 to 5 years and presidential terms from 4 to 6 years. The new terms take effect with the next elections, which for the Duma are scheduled to occur on December 4, 2011 and for president in March 2012.
Russia is a federation, but the precise distribution of powers between the central government and the regional and local authorities is still evolving. The Russian Federation consists of 83 administrative units, including two federal cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The constitution explicitly defines the federal government's exclusive powers, but it also describes most key regional issues as the joint responsibility of the federal government and the regional administrative units. In 2000, President Putin grouped the regions into seven federal districts, with presidential appointees established in Moscow and six provincial capitals. In March 2004, the constitution was amended to permit the merger of some regional administrative units. A law enacted in December 2004 eliminated the direct election of the country's regional leaders. Governors are now nominated by the president and subject to confirmation by regional legislatures.
The Russian judicial system consists of the Constitutional Court, courts of general jurisdiction, military courts, and arbitrage courts (which hear commercial disputes). The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation is a court of limited subject matter jurisdiction. The 1993 constitution empowers the Constitutional Court to arbitrate disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court also is authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment proceedings against the president. The July 1994 Law on the Constitutional Court prohibits the court from examining cases on its own initiative and limits the scope of issues the court can hear. The system of general jurisdiction courts includes the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, regional level courts, district level courts and justices of the peace.
The Duma passed a Criminal Procedure Code and other judicial reforms during its 2001 session. These reforms help make the Russian judicial system more compatible with its Western counterparts. The reforms reintroduced jury trials in certain criminal cases and created a more adversarial system of criminal trials that protect the rights of defendants more adequately. Another significant advance in the Code is the transfer, from the Procuracy to the courts, of authority to issue search and arrest warrants. There are concerns, however, that prosecutors have selectively targeted individuals for political reasons, as in the prosecution of Yukos Oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskiy.
In spite of some efforts to increase judicial independence (for example, through a considerable salary increase for judges several years ago), many judges still see their role not as impartial and independent arbiters, but as government officials protecting state interests. See below for more information on the commercial court/business law.
Russia's human rights record remains uneven and poor in some areas. Despite significant improvements in conditions following the end of the Soviet Union, problem areas remain. In particular, the Russian Government's policy in the North Caucasus has been a cause for international concern. Although the government has recognized the legitimacy of international human rights standards, the institutionalization of procedures to safeguard these rights has lagged. There are, however, some indications that the law is becoming an increasingly important tool for those seeking to protect human rights.
The judiciary is not independent, is often subject to manipulation by political authorities, and is plagued by large case backlogs and trial delays. Lengthy pretrial detention remains a serious problem. Russia has one of the highest prison population rates in the world, at 613 per 100,000. There are credible reports of beating and torture of inmates and detainees by law enforcement and correctional officials, and brutality perpetrated by the prisoners themselves, some of whom are informally granted authority to enforce order within the prisons. Prison conditions fall well below international standards and extreme overcrowding is common. In 2001, President Putin ordered a moratorium on the death penalty. There are reports that the Russian Government might still be violating promises it made upon entering the European Council, especially in terms of prison control and conditions. A 2008 law established an independent association of prison monitors, which began work in 2009. The association has had mixed results in its work, with some prison officials cooperating, and others obstructing its work. Highly publicized cases, such as the November 2009 death of lawyer Sergey Magnitsky, who died in pre-trial detention due to lack of access to medical care, have increased pressure on the authorities to ensure effective prison monitoring.
In the North Caucasus, there have been credible allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by both government and non-government forces. Despite an official end to the counterterrorism campaign in Chechnya in April 2009, there was an upsurge in violence in the North Caucasus starting in 2009 and continuing to the present, especially in the republic of Dagestan. Russian authorities have introduced some improvements, such as requiring the presence of civilian investigators during all large-scale military operations and targeted search and seizure operations. Human rights groups and non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders in the region claim that most abuses remain uninvestigated and unpunished and have spread more broadly in the North Caucasus. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in power since 2007, was unanimously approved by the Chechen parliament for a new 5-year term beginning in April 2011. Kadyrov has reportedly begun imposing strict Islamic rules on women in the Russian republic, including mandatory headscarves and other restrictive dress code and workplace policies. In 2010, there were paintball attacks in the Chechen capital of Grozny on women who did not have their heads covered, but were otherwise modestly dressed.
The Russian constitution provides for freedom of religion, the equality of all religions before the law, and the separation of church and state. More than 70% of Russians identify themselves as Russian Orthodox. While Muslims, Jews, and other religious minorities continue to encounter prejudice and societal discrimination, they have not been inhibited by the government in the free practice of their religion. High-ranking federal officials have condemned anti-Semitic hate crimes, but law enforcement bodies have not always effectively prosecuted those responsible. The Federal Registration Service and some local officials continue to prevent some religious minority groups from registering locally or from acquiring property. Jehovah’s Witnesses, readers of Said Nursi, and Scientologists have all reported problems with registration and harassment. All have also had religious literature declared extremist by regional courts.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, in practice government pressure on the media persists, resulting in numerous infringements of these rights. The government uses direct ownership or ownership by large private companies with links to the government to control or influence the major media outlets, especially television, through direct control and through self-censorship by editors and journalists. This results in restricted access to information about issues deemed sensitive, including coverage of opposition political parties and movements. Unsolved murders of journalists, including the murder of respected investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006, have caused significant international concern and increased the reluctance of journalists to cover controversial subjects. In another unsolved case, environmentalist journalist Mikhail Beketov was beaten nearly to death in November 2008 after he published articles attacking local authorities' development plans for the Khimki forest. The November 2010 beating of Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin led President Medvedev to pledge to capture those who committed the crime and prompted over 200 journalists to sign a petition to the President asking for protection.
The 2006 law on NGOs created a burdensome registration process for all NGOs, with stricter requirements for foreign-funded NGOs and more relaxed requirements for religious organizations. Authorities also have used a separate law against extremism as a pretext for closing opposition NGOs and media entities, doing so for the first time in January 2007. In 2010, the State Duma passed a law easing registration requirements for NGOs, but critics alleged that this law was largely symbolic, as it did nothing to reinstate the tax-exempt status of foreign grants.
The constitution guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of residence and to travel abroad. Some big-city governments, however, have restricted this right through residential registration rules that closely resemble Soviet-era restrictions. These restrictions, though, are widely circumvented, as evidenced by the large number of undocumented foreign workers in these cities. The freedom to travel abroad and emigrate is respected although restrictions may apply to those who have had access to state secrets, or who have court orders against them for default on debts. Since 1994, the U.S. President has found Russia to be in full compliance with the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Vladimir Putin
The Russian Federation maintains an embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-298-5700) and a consular section at 2641 Tunlaw Road, Washington, DC (tel. 202-939-8907/8913/8918). Russian consulates also are located in Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
The Russian economy underwent tremendous stress in the 1990s as it moved from a centrally planned economy to a free market system. Difficulties in implementing fiscal reforms aimed at raising government revenues and a dependence on short-term borrowing to finance budget deficits led to a serious financial crisis in 1998. Lower prices for Russia's major export earners (oil and minerals) and a loss of investor confidence due to the Asian financial crisis exacerbated financial problems. The result was a rapid and steep decline (60%) in the value of the ruble, flight of foreign investment, delayed payments on sovereign and private debts, a breakdown of commercial transactions through the banking system, and the threat of runaway inflation.
The Russian economy bounced back quickly from the 1998 crisis and enjoyed over 9 years of sustained growth averaging about 7% due to a devalued ruble, implementation of key economic reforms (tax, banking, labor and land codes), tight fiscal policy, and favorable commodities prices. Household consumption and fixed capital investments both grew by about 10% per year during this period and replaced net exports as the main drivers of demand. Inflation and exchange rates stabilized due to a prudent fiscal policy (Russia ran a budget surplus from 2001-2008). Foreign exchange reserves grew to almost $600 billion by mid-2008, the third-largest in the world, of which more than $200 billion were classified as stabilization funds designed to shelter the budget from commodity price shocks. The balance of payments experienced twin surpluses until mid-2008 in the current and capital accounts, which accounted for the phenomenal growth of reserves. As of July 1, 2006, the ruble became convertible for both current and capital transactions. Russia repaid its entire Soviet-era Paris Club debt of $22 billion in late 2006, but by October 2008 foreign external debt totaled $540 billion, of which $500 billion was owed by banks and corporations, including state-owned enterprises.
The global economic crisis hit Russia hard, starting with heavy capital flight in September 2008, which caused a crisis in its stock market. Several high-profile business disputes earlier in 2008, such as TNK-BP and Mechel, as well as the Georgian war helped drive capital out of Russia. By mid-September, Russia’s stock market had collapsed, as businesses sold shares to raise collateral for margin calls required by international lending institutions. As the global financial crisis gathered steam in the fall of 2008, the accompanying steep fall in global demand, commodity prices, and tightening of credit served to almost bring Russia’s economic growth to a halt in the fourth quarter of 2008, to 1.1% down from 9.5% during the same period in 2007. The Central Bank of Russia responded by pumping liquidity into Russian banks, which helped avert a banking crisis. At the same time, the government attempted a managed devaluation, which successfully avoided a run on the ruble and bank deposits but at the cost of a steep decline in foreign exchange reserves to $387 billion by mid-February 2009. This in turn prompted the S&P and Fitch rating agencies to downgrade Russia’s sovereign debt to the lowest investment grade. By 2010, however, the Russian economy had begun a modest recovery, bolstered by government anti-crisis policies, the global rebound, and a rise in oil prices. Russia’s leaders put renewed emphasis on promoting innovation as key to economic modernization as well as on the need to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.
Gross Domestic Product
Tighter credit, collapsing global demand, global uncertainty, and rising unemployment hurt investment and consumption, and led Russia to have -7.9% GDP growth in 2009--a sharp contrast to the pre-crisis performance of 8.1% in 2007. However, 2010 saw Russia’s economy return to growth with a 3.8% increase in GDP. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry predicts that the nation’s GDP will grow 4.0% in 2011.
For most of the past decade, Russia experienced persistent inflation, gradually declining from 85% in late 1998 to 9% by end-2006. However, a combination of surging international food and energy prices and looser monetary and fiscal policy pushed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to 11.9% by the end of 2007, and up to 15% in early 2008. The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) monetary policy tended to be limited to managing the ruble’s exchange rate against a bi-currency basket of dollars and euros. The CBR intervened to keep the ruble stable during times of volatile international commodity prices and to manage inflation. In years of record high oil prices, the Central Bank typically purchased dollars to prevent real appreciation of the ruble. These interventions initially had limited effect on inflation, as they were mostly sterilized by budget surpluses and demand for rubles grew in a robust era of economic growth. By 2007, fiscal policy and the balance of payments were the actual drivers of monetary policy, particularly as large capital inflows due to increased borrowing by Russian banks and corporations caused the money supply to swell and added to inflationary pressures. Inflationary pressures eased in late 2008 as energy and commodity prices collapsed and international credit flows virtually stopped, causing money supply growth to halt. Inflation decelerated in 2009 to about 8.8% compared with 13.3% the previous year, owing to residual effects of the economic downturn, and remained stable at 8.8% in 2010. Inflation rose again in 2011, hitting 9.5% in June, but since then has started a downward trend and was 8.2% at the end of August 2011. While the CBR continues to intervene in the exchange rate, it allows the ruble more flexibility and volatility than previously.
The Russian federal budget ran growing surpluses from 2001-2007, as the government taxed and saved much of the rapidly increasing oil revenues. The government overhauled its tax system for both corporations and individuals in 2000-2001, introducing a 13% flat tax for individuals and a unified tax for corporations, which improved overall collection. Responding to demands from the oil sector, the government reduced the tax burden on oil production and exports, but only marginally. Tax enforcement of disputes continues to be uneven and unpredictable. In 2007 the federal budget surplus was 5.5% of GDP, and in 2008 the government ended the year with a surplus of 4.1% of GDP. Although the government revised its budget projections during 2009 to reflect lower oil prices and the effects of the economic crisis, it ended the year with a budget deficit amounting to 7.9% of GDP, which it financed from the Reserve Fund, one of the government’s two stabilization funds. The government’s anti-crisis package in 2008 and 2009 amounted to about 6.7% of GDP, according to World Bank estimates. The package provided support to the financial sector and enterprises--through liquidity injections to banks and tax cuts/fiscal support to enterprises--as well as modest support for households and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and increased unemployment benefits. By the end of 2010, due to improving economic conditions, Russia had lowered its budget deficit to 3.9% of GDP. Due to relatively high oil prices through the first half of the year, many officials believe there will not be a budget deficit for 2011.
Russia's population was 142.9 million as of August 2011. Life expectancy remains low compared to developed countries, averaging 63.03 years for men and 74.87 years for women in 2011. The UN predicts that Russia may lose one-third of its population by 2050. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, traffic accidents, and violence continue to be major causes of death among working age men. Many premature deaths are attributed to excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. A truly healthy Russia will require serious improvements in the health sector and some major changes in current cultural norms. To combat the looming demographic crisis, in October 2007 then-President Putin approved the concept of demographic policy for the years 2008-2025. The program aims to increase life expectancy, reduce mortality, increase the birth rate, improve the population's health, and develop a sound migration policy. The government instituted the National Priority Health Project and "mother's capital" in order to slow the population decline. These programs had short-term success; Russia's natural population decline, the absolute difference between births and deaths, diminished from more than 800,000 in 2005 to roughly 200.000 in 2010, as the birthrate grew from 10.2 to 12.5 per 1,000 in the same period. In April 2008, the government signed the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, then approved a tobacco control policy in September 2010 designed to reduce extremely high smoking rates. Results of the 2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey showed tobacco is the third-leading cause of premature death in Russia, amounting to 17% of all deaths. Nearly 40% of Russia's adult population, or nearly 44 million people, are smokers, more than any other country surveyed on a per capita basis.
As of March 2011, there were 592,110 HIV cases officially registered in Russia, though some experts believe the actual number may be over 1 million HIV cases. Statistics show 58,663 new HIV cases documented in Russia in 2010, which is not a significant change from 58,448 new cases recorded in 2009. However, the prevalence of HIV cases was 369 per 100,000 people in 2010, higher than the 2009 indicator of 323 per 100,000. The chief form of transmission continues to be intravenous drug use, which accounted for over 59.2% of new HIV cases in 2010, slightly down from 61.3% in 2009, suggesting an increase in transmission from at-risk groups into the general population via sexual contact. More than 40% of new HIV cases are identified in females, and transmission through heterosexual sex has grown rapidly.
The Government of Russia implements HIV treatment and prevention programs through its National Priority Health Project and Federal Targeted Program. The government currently spends over $250 million per year on HIV/AIDS treatment programs and allocated over $42 million for the period of 2007-2010 to support HIV/AIDS vaccine research. Approximately 74,000 patients are receiving antiretroviral therapy, and the government projects that number will exceed 100,000 patients by 2012. Russia’s government-procured antiretroviral therapy (ART) supplies have been affected by a series of shortages and inconsistent delivery to ART recipients.
Russia has a body of conflicting, overlapping and rapidly changing laws, decrees and regulations, which has resulted in an ad hoc and unpredictable approach to doing business. In this environment, negotiations and contracts from commercial transactions are complex and protracted. Uneven implementation of laws creates further complications. Regional and local courts are often subject to political pressure, and corruption is widespread.
The mineral-rich Ural Mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East make Russia rich in natural resources. However, most resources are located in remote and climatically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and far from Russian ports. Nevertheless, Russia is a leading producer and exporter of minerals, gold, and all major fuels. Natural resources, especially energy, dominate Russian exports. Over two-thirds of Russian exports to the United States are fuels, mineral oil, or metals.
Russia is one of the most industrialized of the former Soviet republics. However, years of very low investment have left much of Russian industry antiquated and highly inefficient. Besides its resource-based industries, it has developed large manufacturing capacities, notably in metals, food products, and transport equipment. Russia is now the world's third-largest exporter of steel and primary aluminum. Russia inherited most of the defense industrial base of the Soviet Union, so armaments remain an important export category for Russia. Efforts have been made with varying success over the past few years to convert defense industries to civilian use, and the Russian Government is engaged in an ongoing process to privatize many of the state-owned enterprises.
Although Russia has 9% of the world’s arable land and abundant fresh water, the relative lack of investment and modernization has made agriculture one of Russia’s lagging economic sectors. But significant change has occurred in recent years. Grain production for export is concentrated in the south of European Russia, with additional grain for domestic consumption grown throughout the rest of non-Arctic Russia west of the Urals as well as western Siberia. Over the past 5 years Russia has improved its competitive position and is now the world’s third-largest exporter of wheat. Livestock production was in decline from 1990 to 2006, when new government support policies were instituted to stimulate domestic meat production. Since the start of the National Priority Program in 2006 the Russian Government has invested to increase poultry, pork, beef, and milk production in Russia, primarily through subsidized loans (worth approximately $3 billion from 2006-2010) to large private enterprises. In January 2010, President Medvedev signed the Food Security Doctrine, which sets targets for domestic production of meat, dairy, oilseeds, grain, fruit, and vegetables and provides a justification for sustained government subsidies to agriculture. One of the main continuing constraints to both agricultural investment and productivity, however, is the absence of clearly defined agricultural property rights and the lack of private land ownership.
Due to the worldwide increase in oil prices at the beginning of 2011, Russia may be able to increase support for agriculture in 2011. However, so far, the budget of the Agriculture Development Program in 2011 is approximately 150 billion rubles ($5 billion) or close to the actual budget financing of agriculture in 2010. In 2011, the priorities continue to be subsidizing livestock and poultry production.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2009 fell to less than $40 billion after reaching an all-time high of $75 billion in 2008. Much of the FDI in recent years was Russian capital “returning home,” from havens like Cyprus and Gibraltar, and these flows reversed during the economic downturn. Moreover, although the annual flow of FDI into Russia was in line with those of China, India, and Brazil, Russia's per capita cumulative FDI lagged far behind such countries as Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In 2010, net FDI inflow rose to $43 billion, still well below the levels seen in 2008. In the first quarter of 2011, it amounted to $12.8 billion, the CBR reported.
Although still small by international standards, the Russian banking sector before the crisis was growing fast and becoming a larger source of investment funds. To meet a growing demand for loans, which they were unable to cover with domestic deposits, Russian banks borrowed heavily abroad in 2007-2008, accounting for 57% of the private-sector capital inflows in 2007. Ruble lending has increased since the October 1998 financial crisis, and in 2007 loans were 66% of total bank assets, with consumer loans posting the fastest growth at 57% that same year. In 2004, Russia enacted a deposit insurance law to protect deposits up to 100,000 rubles (about $3,700) per depositor. Amendments to the law in the fall of 2008 increased the Deposit Insurance Agency's 100%-coverage for deposits up to 700,000 rubles. The vast majority of Russians keep their money in the banking sector. The combination of liberalized capital controls and ruble appreciation against the dollar in 2005-2008 persuaded many Russians to keep their money in ruble- or other currency-denominated bank deposits. In 2010 private deposits grew by 31.2% and corporate deposits and accounts by 16.4%. In 2011 private deposit growth slowed down such that over the first 8 months of the year, private deposits went up 9.2% (versus 16.5% in the first 8 months of 2010) while corporate deposits and accounts were up by 9.1% (versus 5.0%).
Even with the banking sector’s recent growth, financial intermediation in the overall economy remains underdeveloped. Contradictory regulations across the banking and securities markets have hindered efforts to transfer resources from capital-rich sectors, such as energy, to capital-poor sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing. The sector is dominated by large state banks, and concentrated geographically in Moscow and the Moscow region. Thus financial service providers face little competition for resources and charge relatively high interest rates for favored, large corporate borrowers.
This state of affairs makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to raise capital, and banks generally perceive small and medium commercial lending as risky. Most of the country’s financial institutions are inexperienced with assessing credit risk, though the situation is improving. The low level of trust, both between the general public and banks as well as among banks, makes the system highly susceptible to crises. After an uncertain year in 2009, by spring 2010 Russian officials announced an end to anti-crisis bank support, and a World Bank report said that “a systemic banking crisis had been averted, the liquidity crunch eased and depositor confidence reestablished.” The report cautioned, however, that systemic weaknesses exposed during the crisis--especially excessive dependence on foreign borrowing and non-performing loans--still needed to be addressed.
After hitting lows in 2009, trade between the U.S. and Russia grew to $31.7 billion in 2010, an increase of 35% from 2009. U.S. imports from Russia grew 41% year over year to $25.7 billion while exports to Russia increased just 13% to $6.0 billion. The rapid increase in U.S. imports from Russia from 2009 to 2010 can be attributed to the low base year and nascent economic recovery in the United States, but also to the rising price of oil and other commodities. Oil and oil products represent over two-thirds of the value of all U.S. imports from Russia. Russia is currently the 37th-largest export market for U.S. goods. Russian exports to the U.S. were fuel oil, inorganic chemicals, aluminum, and precious stones. U.S. exports to Russia were machinery, vehicles, meat (mostly poultry), aircraft, electrical equipment, and high-tech products.
Russia's overall trade surplus in 2009 was $112 billion--compared with $180 billion in 2008 and $129 billion in 2007. In 2010 the trade surplus increased to $152 billion and continued to grow in 2011 to reach $118 billion by July 2011 (versus $96.4 billion at the same time in 2010), although import growth was beginning to outpace export growth. World prices continue to have a major effect on export performance, since commodities--particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber--comprise nearly 90% of Russian exports. Russian GDP growth and the surplus/deficit in the Russian Federation state budget are closely linked to world oil prices.
Russia is in the process of negotiating terms of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. and Russia concluded a bilateral WTO accession agreement in late 2006, and negotiations continue on meeting WTO requirements for accession. Both Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the General Director of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, stated in early 2011 that they felt Russia would join within the year.
According to the 2010 U.S. Trade Representative's National Trade Estimate, Russia continues to maintain a number of barriers with respect to imports, including tariffs and tariff-rate quotas; discriminatory and prohibitive charges and fees; and discriminatory licensing, registration, and certification regimes. Discussions continue within the context of Russia's WTO accession to eliminate these measures or modify them to be consistent with internationally accepted trade policy practices. Non-tariff barriers are frequently used to restrict foreign access to the market and are also a significant topic in Russia's WTO negotiations. In addition, Russia’s lax enforcement of intellectual property rights had led to large losses for U.S. audiovisual and other companies and is an ongoing irritant in U.S.-Russia trade relations. Russia continues to work to bring its technical regulations, including those related to product and food safety, into conformity with international standards.
The Russian Government has stated its desire to build a professional army, but implementation has been progressing slowly. Russia's efforts to transform its Soviet-legacy military into a smaller, lighter, and more mobile force continue to be hampered by an ossified military leadership, discipline problems and human rights violations, corruption, limited funding, and demographics. The August 2008 conflict with Georgia highlighted the need for Russia to modernize its armed forces, which currently number 850,000, according to General Staff leadership.
In October 2008, Defense Minister Serdyukov announced the start of the “New Look” reorganization of the Russian military, which included a significant cut to the officer corps (more than 60%), a joint operations command structure, and a reduction of support and operational units, while calling for a new non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps, improvements in social issues within the military (namely pay and housing), and advanced training and education. Concurrently, the Kremlin called for a vast modernization and rearmament program under the State Armament Plan, with Putin promising 20.7 trillion rubles ($670 billion) through 2020, which would triple current defense spending. Russia’s ability to fund such a program, particularly if in competition with other national priorities, is highly questionable.
In an effort to make military service more attractive, the tour of duty for conscripts was reduced to 1 year (from 18 months) beginning in 2008, and the military is offering increased pay and benefits to raise the number of professional servicemen, while slashing the size of the officer corps. Current plans envision a transition to a mixed force, in which professional soldiers will make up approximately 70%, including in select units, and conscripts will make up 30% of the force. There is also an effort to develop an NCO corps, but the military faces difficulties recruiting NCOs and has done little to develop the mechanisms and capability to sustain such a force. Military spending continues to grow (the government announced in February 2011 that it would spend more than $650 billion upgrading hardware), but deep structural problems remain.
Russian military salaries are low, although the government has promised to increase them, in some cases by as much as three times, starting January 1, 2012. Theoretically, the army provides all necessities, but housing and food shortages continue to plague the armed forces. Problems with both discipline and brutal hazing are common as well. Such conditions continue to encourage draft evasion and efforts to delay military service. Moreover, military officials complain that new recruit cohorts are plagued by increasing incidences of poor education, communicable diseases, and criminality. HIV infection rates in the Russian army are estimated to be between two and five times higher than in the general population, and tuberculosis is a persistent problem.
In the years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia took important steps to become a full partner in the world's principal political groupings. On December 27, 1991, Russia assumed the permanent UN Security Council seat formerly held by the Soviet Union. Russia also is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). Russia and the European Union (EU) signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 1994. Russia also joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace initiative in 1994. The NATO-Russia Founding Act established the Permanent Joint Council (PJC) in 1997, with the NATO-Russia Council superseding the PJC in 2002. Russia, despite misgivings, did not actively oppose enlargement of NATO by members of the former Warsaw Pact and the Baltic states, which had been forcibly integrated into the Soviet Union. However, Russia has stressed its strong opposition to the membership aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia.
Over the past several years Russia has increased its international profile, played an increasing role in regional issues, and been more assertive in dealing with its neighbors. In recent years, Russia has not shied from using its significant oil and gas exports as sources of political influence. The August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia marked a new low point in relations between the two countries, with Russia unilaterally recognizing the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. Russia continues to support separatist regimes in Georgia and Moldova.
By the end of 2008 and in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war, U.S.-Russia relations were at a low and characterized by mutual frustration and an adversarial drift. The change in the U.S. administration in January 2009 provided a diplomatic opportunity for both sides to change the tone of the relationship and cooperate in areas of mutual interest. Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitriy Medvedev first met in April 2009 on the margins of a multilateral summit to address the global financial crisis, where they resolved to negotiate the New START Treaty. In July of that year, the two leaders met for a bilateral summit where they reached additional agreements on nuclear security, cooperation on Afghanistan, military-to-military cooperation, a joint commission on POW/MIAs, and the formation of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. The New START Treaty entered into force in February 2011. Subject to final approval by the Russian Government, bilateral agreements have also been concluded on cooperation in intercountry adoptions between the U.S. and Russia as well as liberalization in laws and practices governing entry visas.
The Bilateral Presidential Commission, which Presidents Obama and Medvedev established in July 2009, is dedicated to improving coordination between the two countries, identifying areas of cooperation, and pursuing joint projects and actions that strengthen strategic stability, international security, economic well-being, and the development of ties between the Russian and American people. It is intended to serve as a regular and structured mechanism to advance the highest-priority bilateral objectives through 20 working groups and numerous sub-working groups chaired by senior government officials from a variety of agencies and ministries. Working groups have been formed on the following topics: agriculture; arms control and international security; business development and economic relations; civil society; counterterrorism; counternarcotics; defense relations; education, culture, sports, and mass media; emergency situations; energy; environment; health; innovation; intelligence; military cooperation; nuclear energy and nuclear security; policy steering; science and technology; space cooperation; and rule of law. More information can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/eur/ci/rs/usrussiabilat/index.htm.
The United States and Russia share interests in all of these areas but, as the world’s leading nuclear powers, the countries share a particular interest and responsibility in the areas of nuclear energy, security, and nonproliferation. The U.S. and Russia work closely on initiatives to address the threat of nuclear terrorism and keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials. Both Russia and the U.S. continue to try to bring Iran's nuclear programs into compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803, and 1929. On North Korea, Russia is a participant in the Six-Party Talks aimed at the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Despite this cooperation, there remain areas in which the U.S. and Russia disagree, including Moscow’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The recently improved relations with Russia provide an improved atmosphere to address this disagreement and others.
U.S. Assistance to Russia
For more detailed information on U.S. Government assistance to Russia, please see the annual reports to Congress on U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with Eurasia, which are available in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs section on the State Department's website. A fact sheet on U.S. assistance to Russia can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/fs/167370.htm.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John R. Beyrle
Deputy Chief of Mission--Sheila Gwaltney
Counselor for Political Affairs--Michael Klecheski
Counselor for Economic Affairs--Stuart Dwyer
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--John McCaslin
Counselor for Consular Affairs--Doron D. Bard
Counselor for Management Affairs--Michael Hoza
Counselor for Public Affairs--Michael J. Hurley
Counselor for Environment, Science, Technology, and Health--Lynette Poulton
Director, U.S. Agency for International Development--Charles North
Legal Attache--David Rubincan
Law Enforcement Section--Tom Firestone and Luke Dembosky
DHS/Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)--Susan Aikman
Department of Energy--Christine Buzzard
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)--Patrick Buzzard
Senior Defense Official and Defense Attache--Rear Admiral Douglas Venlet
The U.S. Embassy in Russia is located at Bolshoy Deviatinsky Pereulok, Number 8, Moscow 121099 (tel. (495) 728-5000; fax: (495) 728-5090). Embassy website: http://moscow.usembassy.gov/
The Russian travel regime for American citizens is extremely complex, with short-term visas issued for a distinct period of stay, exit visa requirements, and in-country registration required for all foreigners within 7 days of arrival in Russia. Failure to comply with these laws can impede a traveler’s ability to depart Russia as planned. For more information, please review the Country Specific Information sheet for Russia at the Bureau of Consular Affairs travel site below.