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Russia's Road to Corruption

How the Clinton Administration Exported Government Instead of Free Enterprise and Failed the Russian People.

<Fragments from the report>

Speaker's Advisory Group on Russia

Christopher Cox, Chairman United States House of Representatives 106th Congress

Report Date: September 2000


Russia's new constitution, written by Yeltsin's team, was narrowly approved in December 1993. Yet even after Russians elected the 1993 and 1995 State Dumas under the Constitution written by Yeltsin, the Clinton administration continued to ignore the newly elected members of the Russian legislature. The consistent excuse they provided for this was that the 1993 and 1995 Dumas, too, were "Communist-dominated." In fact, the most consistent opposition to the Yeltsin regime came not from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, or even from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, but from the pro-democracy, pro-reform Yabloko party.35


NARROW FOCUS: Grigory Yavlinsky, right, the leader of the pro-reform Yabloko party, speaks with Deputies Igrunov and Sheinis in the State Duma, the Russian parliament's lower house, March 15, 1996. The Clinton administration strongly favored Yeltsin against Yavlinsky and all other contenders in the 1996 Russian elections, despite polls in Russia showing many voters were unhappy with both incumbent President Yeltsin and his Communist opponent, Gennady Zyuganov. In December 1999, merely suggesting Chechnya peace negotiations earned Yavlinsky a "traitor" epithet from Clinton troika-favorite Anatoly Chubais, who had by then become the head of Russia's electricity monopoly. Chubais was Yeltsin's 1996 campaign manager.

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko




The Clinton troika studiously ignored Yabloko and its leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, because recognizing that a democratic party could oppose policies of the Yeltsin government would have called into question the administration's embrace of both Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin as the personifications of Russian democracy. Yabloko's existence contradicted the administration's repeated assertions that it had no choice in its Russia policy except to depend exclusively on Yeltsin.36

At the same time, Yeltsin found rule by decree an increasingly attractive expedient to avoid the hard work of compromise with the parliament, further undermining the fragile democratic structures emerging in post-Soviet Russia. As always, he acted with the unflagging support of the Clinton administration.

Such unquestioning support for the Russian executive stifled the healthy debate necessary in a democracy, and taught Yeltsin exactly the wrong lessons about the importance of representative government in a constitutional system. Worse, the Clinton administration virtually guaranteed that the legal reforms needed to establish a genuine free enterprise system would not be enacted in the Duma, and it utterly destroyed America's credibility in dealing with Russia's legislative branch. Worst of all, however, was the role that the Clinton administration played in undermining the growth of pluralistic, democratic government in Russia-and the impetus it provided for the abuses of executive power by the Yeltsin administration that would shortly ensue.


The Clinton administration justified promoting Yeltsin's candidacy even in a multi-candidate field by claiming that it was in the U.S. interest to defeat Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. But opinion polls show that both General Alexander Lebed and Yabloko's Grigory Yavlinsky were also credible candidates at the time-Zyuganov was hardly the exclusive alternative to Yeltsin, who had single-digit approval ratings at the beginning of the year.

Donald Jensen, Second Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1993-1995, criticized the administration's simplistic approach to Russian politics:

The choice was always black or white. The choice was always reform or going back to the Soviet past. And that, I think, was oversimplified, did not reflect what was going on in Russia. And it was something that we began to write about increasingly and, of course, little attention was paid to it.52...



  • Yabloko originally supported the war but called for negotiations--on tough terms--shortly before the election. Clinton administration troika ally Anatoly Chubais called Yavlinsky a traitor for suggesting the time had come for talks. Yabloko lost a number of seats in the new Duma because of its "soft" stance on the Russian intervention

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