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Russia Reading 1-34 - Russian Political Economic and...

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CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests Jim Nichol, Coordinator Specialist in Russian and Eurasian Affairs February 1, 2011 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL33407
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Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests Congressional Research Service Summary Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but according to most observers, this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) came to be dominated by government-approved parties and opposition democratic parties were excluded. Putin also abolished gubernatorial elections and established government ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The methods used by the Putin government to suppress insurgency in the North Caucasus demonstrated a low regard for the rule of law and scant regard for human rights, according to critics. Dmitriy Medvedev, Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor and long-time protégé, was elected president in March 2008 and immediately chose Putin as prime minister. President Medvedev has continued policies established during the Putin presidency. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed wide-scale military operations against Georgia and unilaterally recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions that were censured by most of the international community but which resulted in few, minor, and only temporary international sanctions against Russia. Russia’s economy began to recover from the Soviet collapse in 1999, led mainly by oil and gas exports, but the decline in oil and gas prices and other aspects of the global economic downturn beginning in 2008 contributed to an 8% drop in gross domestic product in 2009. In 2010-2011, rising world oil prices have bolstered the economy. Russia continues to be challenged by an economy highly dependent on the production of oil, gas and other natural resources. It is also plagued by an unreformed healthcare system and unhealthy lifestyles; low domestic and foreign investment; and high rates of crime, corruption, capital flight, and unemployment. Russia’s military has been in turmoil after years of severe force reductions and budget cuts. The armed forces now number about 1.0 million, down from 4.3 million Soviet troops in 1986. Troop readiness, training, morale, and discipline have suffered, and much of the arms industry has become antiquated. Russia’s economic growth during most of the 2000s allowed it to substantially increase defense spending to begin to address these problems, and some high-profile activities were resumed, such as Mediterranean and Atlantic naval deployments and strategic bomber patrols. Stepped-up efforts were launched in late 2007 to further downsize the armed forces to improve its quality. Russia’s 2008-2009 economic downturn and strong opposition among some in the armed forces appeared to slow force modernization efforts.
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