Feeling cheated by Moscow's irregular payments and its willingness to rent out his region's storage facilities at below-market prices, the governor of a prominent Russian region resorts to "plutonium diplomacy" to demonstrate his autonomy. He unilaterally bans international shipments of nuclear waste into the region until local economic demands are met. The same governor also issues veiled threats to commandeer strategic nuclear missiles stationed in the region. Fact or fiction?

A power-hungry governor in the Russian Far East demands control of the Kurile Islands, upsetting delicate negotiations and the establishment of closer relations between Moscow and Tokyo. The same local autocrat denounces Moscow's agreements on border demarcation and strategic partnership with Beijing and instructs the local militia to intimidate Chinese traders. Fact or fiction?

The president of Russia's largest republic establishes independent commercial and diplomatic ties with both Iraq and Iran. His administration also threatens to reexamine the republic's status in the Russian Federation and to send "volunteers" to fight on the side of the Kosovars should Moscow formalize a Slavic union with Belarus and Serbia. Fact or fiction?

In fact, each of these scenarios has already transpired. In today's Russia, power and authority are steadily devolving from the center to rest increasingly with regional leaders who are neither politically beholden to nor strategically oriented toward Moscow. Provincial players and interests now intrude into the making of foreign and security policy, once Moscow's sacrosanct domain. Russia consequently finds itself in a peculiar predicament. As a recovering great power, it has strategic interests to uphold in the international arena. But as a weak federal state, its capacities to balance national and local interests and to make credible foreign commitments are increasingly being undercut from below.

Russia's weakened federal rule and the growing assertiveness of its regional leaders present both opportunities and challenges for America's security. On the one hand, the ascendance of self-interested governors -- who are intent on opening their regions to foreign investment, markets, and political cooperation -- reduces the impact of the nationalism and isolationism taking root in Moscow's resentful foreign policy elite. By directly engaging the newly active local rulers on concrete issues, Americans can forge piecemeal international security and economic agreements -- and circumvent Moscow's internecine politics.

Alternately, the emergence of independent actors complicates diplomatic protocol and compounds the difficulty of effectively controlling Russia's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Unchecked regionalism and the spontaneous privatization of the Russian military jeopardize control and other security arrangements, holding them hostage to the parochial concerns of local authorities that are neither accountable for nor committed to upholding them. The potential for rogue elements in Russia to steal or sell weapons abroad, beyond the scope of Moscow's control and to the detriment of U.S. global security interests, will only be hastened by political fragmentation. Washington should therefore remember that imprudent side deals cut with Russian regional officials could recklessly violate Moscow's sovereignty and signal support for the disintegration of the federation.

The combination of weak federal authority and growing regional assertiveness in Russia creates a security environment fundamentally different from that of the Cold War. Classic notions of realpolitik and nation-state interplay are growing less and less relevant. Given this shifting balance of power from the center to the periphery, policymakers in Washington must rethink America's strategy for engaging Russia, based on a critical understanding of the scope, dimensions, and trajectory of the regionalism currently unfolding.


The centrifugal pressures uncorked by the Soviet collapse have spread a new pragmatic regionalism across Russia. On the one hand, the leaders of Russia's 89 components (21 ethnically defined republics and 68 administrative regions) use their unrivaled popular trust and political legitimacy to carve out new relations with the center and to cultivate horizontal ties between regions, independent of Moscow. This was evident during the August 1998 economic meltdown and ensuing political crises, when regional elites used unilateral and bilateral measures to insulate local economies and cope with the federal disarray. For the more wealthy and well-endowed regions or those on borders with direct exposure to outside markets, this portends both greater confidence in dealing with Moscow and deepening foreign ties.1

Yet this trend toward self-sufficiency shows little evidence of unraveling into full-fledged disintegration. Notwithstanding the conflagrations in Chechnya, outright separatism elsewhere has been constrained by a constellation of centripetal forces: Russia's overwhelming ethnic homogeneity, the institutional legacy of Soviet paternalism, inter- and intraregional differences in politics and economics, personal rivalries between federal and local politicians, and Moscow's lingering authority over the national purse. The crux of regionalism in Russia now turns on issues of power sharing and on the de facto distribution of policymaking autonomy. Furthermore, the more accountable regional and municipal officials are to local constituencies, the more likely pragmatism will guide the devolution of policymaking. As this trend deepens, it should strengthen democratic norms at the subnational level. At the same time, however, it will further complicate the formulation and implementation of coherent Russian policies.


The devolution of authority in Russia can be seen in the diverse foreign and security policies championed by regional leaders. Russia's constituent parts now enjoy a range of de jure and de facto powers to interact with foreign actors. Regional elites pursue local interests either by circumventing Moscow altogether or by influencing national decisions.

With the breakup of the centrally planned Soviet system, Russia's republics and regions obtained rights to become direct parties to their own foreign relations. As stipulated by the Federation Treaty, the constituent parts of Russia are allowed to enter into agreements and treaties with foreign entities as long as they do not contradict the Russian constitution. The provinces also share responsibility with the central government for coordinating Russia's international behavior. Several regional administrations, after concluding separate bilateral agreements with Moscow, have even acquired special rights to establish their own consulates abroad and to directly conclude agreements with other countries that in practice occasionally clash with federal statutes.

According to the Federation Treaty, Russian republics can also participate independently in foreign trade and can export and import a variety of raw materials and manufactured products without obtaining permission from central ministries. The republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan have seized on this privilege to acquire official representation in international economic organizations independent of Moscow. Regions located in Russia's west and Far East typically exploit their proximity to foreign markets to wrangle greater autonomy in trade with neighboring regions or to levy their own tariffs on cross-border trade. Russian regions also make the most of their de jure discretion in the commercial sphere: by 1996 each region had signed an average of 20 trade agreements with foreign countries, with some cooperating with firms from more than 100 nations.

Regional administrations also have passed legislation to promote foreign investment in specific localities. Authorities in Primorski Krai and the Pskov and Sakhalin Oblasts, which already enjoy the federal status of "free economic zones," passed separate resolutions granting tax privileges and fiscal inducements to foreign investors and local producers. The city of Moscow and the republic of Tatarstan augmented these efforts by extending local credit guarantees on foreign investment and creating regional commercial offices in other Russian provinces, Europe, the United States, Latin America, Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Other regions borrow directly on international financial markets, securing rights to issue their own eurobonds. Despite this general activism, success at attracting foreign capital varies across the regions. Of all foreign investment in Russia, 90 percent has been concentrated in only ten provinces, with 70 percent gravitating to the city of Moscow alone.

Regions have also exploited foreign economic initiatives to assume greater independence. Chechnya, for instance, actively promotes the formation of a Caucasus Common Market to stimulate economic integration among the territories of the North (Russian) and South (non-Russian) Caucasus and redirect Caspian energy transit payments away from Russia. Similarly, the governor of Khakassia has announced that the republic will no longer contribute to the Russian federal budget, relying instead on its own tax base and on direct foreign economic ties to keep itself afloat.


Across Russia, regional administrations have formed local offices to conduct diplomatic relations with bordering states. Already, 55 Russian regions have forged direct political relations with Belarus. Tatarstan has representatives in more than 15 foreign countries, and 10 other regions are close behind. For many border regions, this activism takes the form of cross-border exchanges with administrative districts in neighboring states. Former Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov called these local initiatives essential to creating the "belt of good neighborliness" and the regional interdependence critical to securing Russia's perimeter.

Some regions exploit their autonomy to pursue policies that conflict with Moscow's. The legislature of Chita Oblast, for example, undermined federal policies intended to woo foreign investment from the Chinese diaspora by passing a local law that restricts Chinese immigration into the border region. This law is part of a broader regional project aimed at keeping ethnic Russians in the Far East. Similarly, the defiant governor of Primorski Krai has actively subverted Moscow's attempts at reconciliation with China and Japan by hyping traditional Russian xenophobia, unilaterally reversing federal policies that permit the visa-free entry of Chinese traders, and ordering Russian patrol vessels to shoot at Japanese fishing boats that violate Russia's territorial waters.

Local administrators also set the terms for policies that affect states beyond Russia's immediate borders. Tatarstan and Samara Oblast, for instance, have established direct political and cultural ties with Iran. Much to the chagrin of federal officials, some regional leaders have gone so far as to carve out independent diplomatic stands that openly contradict federal policies. For example, as part of his early posturing for a presidential run this year, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov used his office to renew Russian claims to the Crimean peninsula, aggravating Ukraine in the process. Chechen leaders have striven persistently to forge direct ties with other rebel movements in the South Caucasus. Similarly, representatives of Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Sakha, Tatarstan, Tuva, Khakassia, and Chuvashia took part in a 1998 international meeting of the pan-Turkic community that officially recognized the Turkish Republic of Cyprus -- a decision that contradicts Russia's formal position on the island conflict and that complicates Moscow's delicate relations with both Greece and Turkey.


Meanwhile, the devolution of authority to supervise economic affairs has increasingly left regional leaders to their own devices when trying to convert Soviet defense industries to civilian uses. With the precipitous drop in financing of the Russian defense industry since 1991, many of the social responsibilities previously assumed by these enterprises have fallen to municipal and provincial governments. Some administrations in defense-heavy regions have lobbied Moscow for procurement orders and conversion credits. Such measures typically discourage local defense enterprises from fully converting to civilian production and foster dependence on barter arrangements and the promise of illusory subsidies. Other regional administrations, by contrast, have assumed dynamic roles, creating new opportunities for conversion-related entrepreneurship. These efforts not only created a more investment-friendly environment but encouraged local defense enterprises to pursue commercially competitive nonmilitary endeavors.

More ominously, several republics have opted for greater control over local security issues by establishing their own military forces and declaring control over military assets within the region. Tatarstan recalled its citizens from areas of interethnic conflict in early 1993 and subsequently adopted legislation on military service that directly conflicted with federal statutes. Similarly, the Confederation of Caucasian Mountain Peoples decided to form its own army in 1992 and dispatched paramilitary contingents to help Abkhazia in its war against Georgia. Such assertiveness struck an especially sensitive chord in Moscow when Aleksandr Lebed, the governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai, chided the federal government for its lackluster commitment to military reform and threatened to assume command over those units of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces deployed in his jurisdiction.


Apart from pursuing separate policies, regional influence is also exerted indirectly through federal institutions. Republican and regional authorities use their seats in parliament and influence over field offices of federal agencies to infuse local interests into foreign and security policies formulated at the national level.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the Federation Council, which serves as the institutional hub for regional representation in the Russian national government. The council -- Russia's upper house of parliament -- brings together in one body the chief executives and legislative leaders from each of the country's 89 components and gives final approval to the federal budget. It also ratifies treaties signed by the executive branch after they have passed two rounds of voting in the Duma (the lower house). Neither prerogative, however, affords regional leaders much direct leverage over policy, given that the council cannot make line-item amendments to the budget and the executive branch wields extensive discretion to rule by decree. Still, as revealed by the filibusters and legislative amendments attached to the Chemical Weapons Convention during its ratification process, the Federation Council gives regional leaders an important venue to act collectively and defend local interests in the making of Russian foreign policy. Similarly, as parliamentarians, Russia's regional leaders can express their positions on foreign policy by issuing nonbinding resolutions.

The Federation Council also provides regional leaders with a strong base to bargain at the national level. Although a part-time body, the council does play an important role in tilting the balance in conflicts between the executive and the Duma. As a periodic ally of the government, the council can uphold presidential vetoes of Duma legislation. Regional leaders on the council have demonstrated their independence from the Duma by working directly with government officials in drafting the federal budget and by supporting policy initiatives, such as land reform and several production-sharing agreements, that increase foreign investment at the regional level. Conversely, opposition factions in the Duma need the support of council members to override executive vetoes and to block executive decrees. Moreover, the Federation Council provides regional leaders a platform to build interregional coalitions to challenge the policies adopted by either the executive branch or the Duma. This, in turn, gives governors added leverage to lobby for more or less exposure to international economic and political pressures.

Vested with these authorities, the Federation Council is poised to become an active player in Russian foreign-policy making. In the past, most governors, as presidential appointees, owed their position to Boris Yeltsin and seemed resigned to working within the parameters of the council's narrow, reactive mandate. Today, as independently elected officials, the council's members have become increasingly interested in carving out a distinct foreign policy profile. Leaders hope to turn the council into the main vehicle for engaging foreign parliamentarians on a range of commercial and diplomatic issues. Similarly, many envision the council's becoming Russia's primary forum for managing relations between the regions.

Apart from the council, regional administrations also enjoy unprecedented indirect influence over Russian security matters, due to the fragmentation of authority within the Defense Ministry. Echoing the general devolution of political power, the Ministry of Defense is transforming military district commands. According to the latest reform plan, the ministry intends to create six new military-administrative districts, each to receive much greater control over the troops deployed in its zone (excluding units of the strategic nuclear forces). At the same time, moves have been made to devolve decisions over military supply and logistics to the regional level. This reorganization could offer regional authorities practical input into decisions on the support -- and ultimately, the deployment -- of federal military units.


As regional leaders step into the vacuum created by political and economic uncertainty in Russia, they are exercising unprecedented control over Russia's foreign and security policies. This fragmentation of policymaking authority may temper the practical impact of the Foreign Ministry's more assertive and independent new international strategy. Divergent regional interests diminish the geopolitical leverage Moscow derives from its alliances with Beijing and Tehran and make it less likely that the Russian government will be able to broker and sustain an anti-Western coalition in the Pacific Rim or the Middle East. Moreover, competing regional interests undermine Moscow's capacity to consolidate its influence in the CIS or to form a sphere of influence in the "near abroad." Regional assertiveness undercuts Russia's national identity and its pursuit of a uniform and credible international strategy.

More specifically, regionalism in Russia complicates the already thorny issue of NATO expansion. On the one hand, local independence, as in Kaliningrad Oblast, augurs well for smoother ties with the West. Although Moscow strongly opposes any change in the status of the region and has become more committed to building up strategic assets in the Kaliningrad Special Military District, local leaders remain open to converting the region into a "Special Economic Zone" to attract foreign investment and expand the region's economic cooperation with Finland, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltic states. Despite being on the potential frontline of NATO expansion, authorities in Kaliningrad are more opportunistic than alarmist, preferring to exploit Moscow's fears to wrangle from it political and economic autonomy.

Conversely, local assertiveness can burden relations between Russia and NATO states. For example, the aggressive administration in Pskov Oblast (in northwest Russia) threatens to exacerbate tensions between Russia and the Baltic states. At present, outstanding border disputes fester among Estonia, Latvia, and Russia over territories under Pskov's jurisdiction. Pskov exploits the foreign claims to these territories to excite nationalist sentiments among the local electorate and divert attention from social and economic problems. By playing the nationalist card, Pskov hardens Moscow's resistance to NATO enlargement while pressuring the Baltic states to defend their territorial claims -- thereby pushing them further into NATO's arms.

The emergence of independent-minded regions also compounds the difficulty of nonproliferation. Despite the accomplishments of the Nunn-Lugar program and associated WMD dismantlement programs, American contractors and Russian aid recipients persistently complain of obstacles imposed by rent-seeking municipal and regional administrators. Typically excluded as direct parties to assistance packages, regional leaders often intervene indirectly to levy discretionary tariffs as tribute for the use of their infrastructure in WMD dismantlement. Several regional administrations have unilaterally imposed prohibitive transportation taxes that have retarded the transfer of dismantled fissile materials to safe storage depots. Other local authorities have held progress virtually hostage to their demands by occasionally cutting off the power supply to specific dismantlement and storage facilities. Similarly, regional authorities have impeded Russian chemical weapons disarmament by continuing to press for greater financial benefits and oversight responsibilities in return for accepting the construction and operation of destruction facilities. The regions where chemical weapons are stockpiled and will have to be destroyed have been especially active in mobilizing grassroots environmental movements to protest the federal dismantlement program. Such measures undermine Moscow's capacity to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The development of more effective export-control mechanisms has also been complicated by regionalism. Although some positive developments have been seen recently at the federal level (including the streamlining of administrative procedures and the crackdown on Russian firms implicated for illicit missile-related exports), practical problems persist. A potential gap in the reforms rests with the lack of oversight over the growing formal and practical roles played by local export-control agencies. To date, the state arms-export agency, Rosvooruzhenie, maintains regional affiliates in Nizhni Novgorod and Tatarstan that are charged with supervising all marketing and contracting operations involving dual-use and conventional arms exports. Similarly, the former Ministry of Foreign Economic Ties established local affiliates throughout the provinces to facilitate licensing. Although these regional offices are formally subordinate to their parent agencies in Moscow, in practice they work closely with local leaders. Although there is no evidence to suggest that regional leaders encourage unrestricted proliferation any more than do federal authorities, local offices have stronger incentives to promote commercial activities, including arms exports, that would aid local defense firms. Given the repeated indictments of Rosvooruzhenie officials on corruption charges and the lack of oversight within the federal customs and border-control agencies, the immunity of export-control field offices to local commercial and political co-optation cannot be taken for granted. The likelihood of such corruption will only increase with Tatarstan's campaign to establish direct commercial ties with both Iraq and Iran -- despite Moscow's international commitments to abide by the U.N. embargo against Baghdad and to limit WMD exports to Tehran. These factors, combined with the uneven distribution of equipment and trained personnel for monitoring illicit WMD trade and the devolution of visa-issuing authority to regional offices, increase the opportunities for sensitive defense technologies and expertise to pass across Russian borders.

Regional control has likewise intruded into the realm of energy development in the Caspian region. Astrakhan Oblast, for example, has balked at the Russian Foreign Ministry's repeated attempts to exploit environmental concerns and ambiguous legal norms to restrict international energy development in the region. It has tried instead to nurture political ties with prominent Russian energy companies and to attract foreign investment to revive local rig-building, port expansion, and pipe-laying. Similarly, Tatarstan and the city of Moscow have supported oil-extraction projects, participating as independent actors in tenders to develop offshore deposits. These initiatives have helped recently to tilt the balance in the Caspian energy sweepstakes away from the nationalism that initially prevailed in Moscow.

Encouraging pragmatism in Russia's policy, however, is only one implication of regional assertiveness. Another is the added difficulty of implementing international energy agreements. While those regions that stand to benefit directly from resource extraction in the Caspian basin promote open tenders and multiple pipeline routes, those whose territory will be traversed by prospective pipelines tend, paradoxically, to obstruct progress. Transit regions look to pipeline projects for immediate salvation, imposing discretionary tariffs above and beyond the fees negotiated by Russian federal authorities. Some regions have gone so far as to demand that foreign energy companies pay for "auxiliary" infrastructure projects and local schools in return for laying pipelines across their territories. In the volatile North Caucasus, political and ethnic leaders have threatened to hold Caspian pipelines hostage to successive campaigns for greater or lesser autonomy from Moscow, embroiling local energy projects in dangerous clan conflicts and corruption rackets. In Chechnya, opposition groups have threatened the pipelines that bypass the breakaway republic to extort international support for their cause. As a consequence, the intrusion of local politics into the international competition for Caspian energy development complicates the prospects for realizing otherwise promising international energy contracts, and in some cases, risks inflaming interregional ethnic and political conflicts.


The United States should reassess its strategy for engaging today's Russia. Amid the uncertain political and economic transformation still under way, Russia's federal center is losing the power to formulate and implement credible policies. Although the likelihood of Russia's disintegration seems small, Moscow's control over Russia's national security agenda has clearly slipped. As a consequence, Washington should no longer think in terms of one centrally controlled Russian government. Rather, Washington's strategic calculus should include all the independent players in the Russian Federation.

To this end, U.S. policies should engage both Moscow and the provinces on issues of mutual strategic concern. Washington must capitalize on the opportunities presented by the emergence of autonomous regional actors. But U.S. regional initiatives must not infringe on the federal government's sovereignty by overtly playing off differences among its constituent parts. Because uncontained regionalism complicates the U.S.-Russian security agenda, Washington should engage both Moscow and Russia's provinces in a manner that enhances oversight, responsibility, and pragmatism in Russian foreign-policy making.

In recognition of the de jure and de facto power of regional leaders to facilitate or subvert Russia's international commitments, the United States should reach out directly to the provinces on selected issues. Clearly, Russia's regions do not want to perpetuate global security problems such as WMD proliferation or criminal and drug syndicates. Many provinces openly look forward to integration into international economic and security regimes. Typically absent, however, are outlets to realize these interests. Given the enfeeblement of the Russian government and the distorted incentives generated by its weakness, the best way for the United States to promote shared interests with Russian regional leaders is to engage them directly. By including them in bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation and commercial dialogues, officials in both Washington and Moscow could foster local accountability. Excluding affected regional policymakers only alienates the domestic support necessary for realizing international agreements and leaves local authorities with little stake in the matter. This process of inclusion could begin by encouraging the creation of transnational economic and security mechanisms that bring together neighboring states in Europe and Asia.

At the same time, the United States should be sensitive to Russian federal interests when collaborating with regions on security matters -- particularly where local authorities are pushing the envelope of their autonomy. Conducting negotiations under the auspices of the Federation Council would be one way to engage both regional and federal actors. Another tactic would be to include representatives from relevant federal agencies in direct dialogues with regional officials. In any case, the United States should make extra efforts to respect diplomatic protocol for receiving regional leaders as constituent members of the Russian Federation.

Sanctions and inducements have become increasingly important but controversial instruments of America's strategy on issues such as nonproliferation, Caspian energy development, and international law enforcement. Washington must refine the Russian targets of its policies. Current efforts reward or punish the Russian federal government for the behavior of subnational actors that are, in practice, beyond its reach. These policies do not work and are increasingly counterproductive. To directly alter the behavior of relevant offenders and to strengthen those who support cooperation with the United States, Washington should target sanctions and inducements to specific regional authorities and firms. In the area of nonproliferation, the United States should build on the spirit of the "Nuclear Cities Initiative" by working actively with Russian federal and regional authorities to fund auxiliary projects directly related to the construction of local WMD dismantlement facilities. Cooperative assistance should also be targeted at retraining local personnel and renewing regional infrastructure, so that ventures related to defense conversion can become self-sustaining. Direct regional inducements should reduce the impact of weak or corrupt federal institutions while bolstering responsiveness to U.S. offers and demands.

Consistent with this broadening of U.S. diplomatic efforts, Washington should reexamine its traditional approach to what is known as issue linkage -- the exchange of concessions across different issues. Few credible or capable national mechanisms exist in Russia to coordinate the complex tradeoffs necessary to practice such issue linkage. Wielding independent and at times competing policymaking authorities, Russian regional leaders are becoming less responsive to each other's actions. As a consequence, individual regional administrations lack incentives to incur the costs of upholding a concession to the United States while another region reaps the benefits. Washington should learn to link carrots and sticks to issues that either fall within the jurisdiction of a single region or can be used as springboards for interregional cooperation.

Law enforcement and the development of effective export controls in Russia have been stymied by shortages of political will and technical expertise. To date, most of Washington's attention has correctly been placed on redressing problems at the federal level. Serious problems, however, persist outside of Moscow. Regional administrations and field offices lack the proper federal oversight or political incentives to uphold stringent controls. Combined with the paltry and uneven distribution of training and equipment for monitoring illicit WMD trade, these problems create weak links in Russia's nonproliferation effort. This undermines Russia's treaty adherence and increases the likelihood that sensitive weapons expertise and technologies will escape.


To redress these problems at the regional level, Washington should adopt a two-pronged approach. First, the United States should channel technical assistance directly to regional administrations and local field offices involved in export control and law enforcement. Specific attention should be paid to customs offices in regions that border other post-Soviet states. Second, Washington should encourage the creation of locally based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to shore up regional political accountability and commitments to international nonproliferation standards. In an era of weak government institutions, NGOs can act as important checks on the abuses of local authorities and help build stronger civic responsibility. Moreover, local NGOs can educate local populations about the dangers of unrestricted WMD proliferation and the importance of domestic preparedness in the event of a terrorist attack. In partnership with U.S.-based NGOs (such as the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies), these grassroots organizations could cultivate a culture of WMD safety and nonproliferation that would help to redress problems at their source. Locally based NGOs could also direct regional outreach programs to address legitimate local concerns about the public-health, environmental, and socioeconomic effects of WMD destruction, dismantlement, and storage.

As for Western financial- and technical-assistance programs, these should reflect a greater appreciation of the concerns of those Russian regional administrators bearing the brunt of Russia's social and economic hardships. The United States should use its influence to promote trade and investment at the regional level. Special attention should be placed on encouraging American firms to cultivate relations with political authorities and managers in defense-heavy regions that might otherwise seek partners in rogue states and terrorist groups. To help broaden and deepen defense conversion in Russia, the U.S. government should also encourage European and Japanese initiatives to develop projects in closed cities and neighboring regions. These programs would enable market pressures to reach the local level, facilitating the free movement of surplus labor and capital, both within and across regions, to meet new commercial demands. Such business activity would provide direct national security benefits for the United States, since Russian regions dependent on Western markets would be less inclined to promote arms sales and will have greater stakes in avoiding direct challenges to American national interests.

With bilateral relations between the United States and Russia at their lowest ebb since the Soviet collapse and with the onset of federal elections in both countries, the policy communities in Washington and Moscow must reach out to new groups and eschew exclusive association with incumbents. Creative approaches are desperately needed to build good will and broaden the constituencies for cooperative engagement. Washington must rethink its Russia policy from the ground up. A new, coherent approach -- one that forges long-term links with central, regional, and private agencies and businesses while preserving Moscow's authority -- would place cooperative security with Russia on sure footing, better insulated from political games in both capitals. Moreover, such sensitivity to the dynamics of Russian regionalism will deepen the federation's integration into international security and economic regimes, while minimizing the dangers posed by today's rough-and-tumble Russian politics.

1 Of Russia's 89 regions, 35 now share a border with at least one of 14 other countries. By contrast, the entire Soviet Union shared borders with only 12 other nations.

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  • Sam Nunn, the former Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a partner at King & Spalding. Adam N. Stulberg is Assistant Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The authors gratefully acknowledge support provided by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
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