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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Talbott Testifies on U.S. Russian Policy to Senate




Following are excerpts from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's Thursday testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding corruption in Russia.


.. Russia is much on our minds these days, and rightly so. Secretary [of State Madeleine] Albright is at the United Nations this week, and she has heard repeatedly from our friends and allies around the world that Russia is much on their minds too. They are counting on us to manage U.S.-Russian relations with skill, foresight and clarity of purpose. ...


The trouble that has received the most attention of late is a spate of allegations and revelations about large-scale financial malfeasance, including ch arges of money laundering through American banks. The challenge to us is threefold: first, to ensure that we are enforcing our own laws and protecting Americans from international organized crime; second, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect the integrity and effectiveness of our bilateral and international assistance programs; third, to intensify our work supportively and cooperatively with those Russians who realize - as [Russian] Foreign Minister [Igor] Ivanov stressed in New York when he met with Secretary Albright on Monday - that their country and their people are suffering from rampant crime and corruption, and who are therefore committed to fighting back against that scourge.


Russia has other troubles too. Continued fighting between insurgents and Russian troops in the North Caucasus is claiming hundreds of lives. Terrorist bombings in Moscow and two other cities have exceeded the death toll of Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center combined.


Like crime and corruption, terrorism is not just a Russian problem - it's a global one; and like crime and corruption, it won't prove susceptible to just a Russian solution. On both issues, the government of Russia has sought help from us and from others. One of the several issues we in the Executive Branch are discussing in our current consultations with the Congress - including this hearing today, Mr. Chairman - is the terms of our ability to provide that help and the strategic goals that our support for Russian reform is meant to serve.


.. First and foremost, our policy must advance the national security interest of the United States. ... When we came into office, there were roughly 10,000 intercontinental nuclear weapons in four states of the former Soviet Union; most were aimed at the United States. Today, there are about half as many - some 5,000; they're only in Russia; none are targeted at us; and we're discussing significant further reductions in overall numbers and further steps to diminish the nuclear threat in all its aspects. ...


My point, Mr. Chairman, is simply this: corruption is an important issue that we are taking very seriously, but as we probe its cause and as we refine our response, we must keep in mind that it is part of a much larger process under way in a vast and complex country. ...


And while there are no easy answers and no quick answers to what ails the Russian body politic today, there is one overarching principle that is fundamental to creating the forces for change that will drive the scourge of corruption out of Russian society, and that is democracy. When I was in Moscow two weeks ago, I was struck, yet again, by the preoccupation of virtually everyone I met with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. For the first time in their history, Russian citizens are now voters; they can register their grievances and express their aspirations through the ballot box - or, for that matter, on a soap box. Their grievances prominently include disgust with corruption; their aspirations prominently include good governance.


If they and the leaders they choose can stay on the course of constitutional rule and electoral democracy, not only will Russia's own people be better off, but so will our own. ...


.. In the years since Russia helped bring the Soviet system to an end, our work with that nation has helped secure some breakthroughs that are clearly in the national interest. First, the Soviet Union dissolved in a largely peaceful fashion with its nuclear weapons in secure hands, an outcome that was not fore-ordained. ...


Second, Russia helped dismantle the apparatus of the Soviet system and has rejected the forcible reformation of the Soviet Union or the creation of a new totalitarian super state. It has no practical option to turn back the clock.


Third, the people of Russia, and their leaders, have embraced democracy and have held a series of free and fair elections at the national and local levels, followed by a stable transition of offices and power ...


Fourth, Russia has made important strides in replacing central planning with the infrastructure and institutions of a market economy.


Fifth, and equally important, Russia remains committed to working as constructively as possible with the U.S. and other nations. ...


.. The Soviet system itself was in many ways institutionalized criminality. I first heard the phrase "kleptocracy" used to describe the Soviet state. There are no "good old days" of real law and order or legitimate private enterprise to which Russia can return. ...


We have consistently emphasized the need for transparency and accountability in our dealings with Russia, and in the dealings of the international financial institutions working with Russia. When problems have arisen, we have insisted on full and complete investigations and will continue to do so. In instances where there have been concerns about Russian practices, the Fund has tightened controls, performed audits and reduced lending levels.


The IMF has conditioned further tranches on effective safeguards that lending will not be misappropriated, a satisfactory accounting of relevant Central Bank activities, and genuine broad-based implementation of reforms that go beyond simple commitments.