U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, 1987.
U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, 1987.

George Shultz on Russia: Insights and Recommendations

February 11, 2021
RM Staff

This compilation of observations and policy ideas related to Russia by George Shultz is part of Russia Matters’ “Competing Views” rubric, where we share prominent American thinkers’ takes on issues pertaining to Russia, U.S.-Russian relations and broader U.S. policies affecting Russia.

George Shultz, an accomplished diplomat, economist and businessman, died on Feb. 7 at the age of 100. Shultz is one of only two people to have held four different cabinet-level posts, including as secretary of state in the Reagan administration from 1982 to 1989. Shultz is well known for working effectively with his Soviet counterparts to advance bilateral arms control. Reagan’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons was initially rejected by most of the American establishment as naïve and dangerous. In the past decade, however, four of the bluest chips from the American Cold War establishment—George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry and Sam Nunn—have put this back on the American strategic agenda.

While Shultz has won plaudits for his championing of arms control with Moscow, it is less known that as an economist, he sought to convince Soviet leadership to give the market economy a chance, as the section on domestic politics below shows. Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev expressed his condolences at Shultz’s passing, describing the diplomat as a major figure of global politics. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has made no comment on Shultz’s passing as of the date of this publication.

This compilation is meant as a sampling of Shultz’s views. All sections may be updated. The quotes below are divided into categories similar to those in Russia Matters’ news and analysis digests, reflecting the most pertinent topic areas for U.S.-Russian relations broadly and for drivers of the two countries’ policies toward one another.


I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda 

Nuclear security: 

  • North Korea's recent nuclear test and Iran's refusal to stop its program to enrich uranium—potentially to weapons grade—highlight the fact that the world is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous nuclear era. Most alarmingly, the likelihood that non-state terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weaponry is increasing. In today's war waged on world order by terrorists, nuclear weapons are the ultimate means of mass devastation. And non-state terrorist groups with nuclear weapons are conceptually outside the bounds of a deterrent strategy and present difficult new security challenges. (Wall Street Journal, 01.04.07)

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs: 

  • This is much better than where we were a couple of months ago, where we were talking about throwing our nuclear weapons around. That would be devastating. But there seems to be a different attitude; we’ll have to see. And you go and you test and I think that the administration has been right to say “we’ll keep our sanctions in place until something happens.” Not that they agree to something—that they do something. For instance, on the three American hostages, I think that’s getting around to saying “let them be free before the meeting takes place.” (Bloomberg, 05.06.18)
  • North Korea is a small, poor country and it has some awesome power. So we’re trying to deal with that. And we also have a situation on the Korean Peninsula where the Korean people have been divided for all these years and they don’t like it. And I think they would rather be one. And we ought to be trying to help that happen. (Bloomberg, 05.06.18)
  • In response to North Korea disclosing details of its nuclear program and destroying the cooling tower at its nuclear facility in Yongbyon: This is a good first step. It’s not the end of the road; it’s the beginning of the road, and there’s lots of verification to be done and further things to be done. But it’s encouraging to have a step taken that’s in a positive direction … and of course you have to go on; there are further facilities—apparently there are enrichment facilities—and there are weapons. And these need to be declared, identified and dealt with. (Stanford News Service, 07.09.08)

Iran and its nuclear program: 

  • If you apply the Reagan formula to Iran, you’d say, Okay, we’re going to negotiate with Iran, let’s be realistic. What are they? They’re the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Number two: They want to get ballistic missiles. Why do they want ballistic missiles? Number three: They have a (repressive) method of internal government. Number four: They want nuclear weapons. So you don’t just negotiate on the nuclear weapons. You negotiate the whole thing. People would say, they wouldn’t do it. Well, then we won’t negotiate. (Interview with Times of Israel, 02.21.16)
  • I’m not happy about the Iran deal. Probably has postponed their acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponed is the word. They have a lot more money now. They’re sitting there with the Russians. I’m puzzled by how the Russians are going to pull this off. They’ve aligned themselves with the Shiite-Iranian network to dominate the Middle East. Their own restive Islamic population is Sunni. Any rate, it’s a tough deal. (Interview with Times of Israel, 02.21.16)
  • Iran is a country that has been ruled very poorly from the standpoint of the population. They just haven't had good governance. And so there's a lot of pressure there, but I think anybody that thinks they aren't trying to get a nuclear weapon must have holes in their head—that's what they're going for. And I think that would be a calamity as you have proliferation of weaponry taking place. And we have to prevent it. … Here's something that I think we should do different with Iran. Iran is a very aggressive country—does constantly things that are out killing people, including Americans. …  I think that there is something between sanctions and an all-out war that we're not exercising. And I might say, from the standpoint of international law, if you want to think of such a thing, if you take the kind of actions I'm describing, it's in self-defense, which completely is OK. … But containment of Iran? Give me a break. (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.29.13)

New Cold War/saber rattling: 

  • We are nearing a Cold War II situation in our relations with China and Russia. (American Foreign Service Association, November 2020)
  • A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia … Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War. The most difficult task facing the U.S. is also the most important—to refocus on its most vital interests even as it responds firmly to Russia’s aggressions. … Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism. (Wall Street Journal, 04.10.19)
  • So here we see on display a set of important ideas: Change toward freedom and openness is possible. Economic development goes hand in hand with political openness. Strength of purpose and capability are essential. Strength works in tandem with diplomacy. A deep and continuing consultative process among like-minded people creates the understanding necessary to make hard choices. A successful strategy must be based on realism and sustainability. The Cold War is over, but lessons learned from the way it ended are important to remember as we confront the serious threats facing the world today. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)
  • Nuclear weapons were essential to maintaining international security during the Cold War because they were a means of deterrence. The end of the Cold War made the doctrine of mutual Soviet-American deterrence obsolete. Deterrence continues to be a relevant consideration for many states with regard to threats from other states. But reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. (Wall Street Journal, 01.04.07)
  • Apart from the terrorist threat, unless urgent new actions are taken, the U.S. soon will be compelled to enter a new nuclear era that will be more precarious, psychologically disorienting, and economically even more costly than was Cold War deterrence. It is far from certain that we can successfully replicate the old Soviet-American "mutually assured destruction" with an increasing number of potential nuclear enemies worldwide without dramatically increasing the risk that nuclear weapons will be used. New nuclear states do not have the benefit of years of step-by-step safeguards put in effect during the Cold War to prevent nuclear accidents, misjudgments or unauthorized launches. The United States and the Soviet Union learned from mistakes that were less than fatal. Both countries were diligent to ensure that no nuclear weapon was used during the Cold War by design or by accident. (Wall Street Journal, 01.04.07)

NATO-Russia relations:

  • I believe the turning point was the deployment of Pershing missiles in Germany in late 1983. … The deployment—a magnificent display of the strength, determination and cohesion of NATO—in turn made possible the diplomacy that followed and, in the end, tore down that wall. By containing the Soviets—by making it clear that we would not permit them to isolate Berlin—NATO established the conditions in which brave people throughout the Warsaw Pact countries could bring the Cold War to a peaceful end. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)
  • NATO is a similarly complicated issue. After the cold war ended, Russia was invited to NATO meetings with the idea that the country would eventually become an integral part of European security discussions. The idea was good, but the execution failed. NATO has acted as if Russia’s role is that of an observer with no say in decisions; Russia has acted as if it should have veto power. Neither outlook is viable. But if NATO moves from consensus decisions to super-majority decisions in its governing structure, as has been considered, it would be possible to include Russia’s vote as an effective way of resolving European security issues of common interest. (New York Times, 04.11.10)
  • The United States, I knew, had no hope of dealing successfully with the Soviet Union and the turmoil around the world unless there was solidarity in that NATO alliance. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)

Missile defense: 

  • Let’s begin with missile defense. Future arms talks should make a serious exploration of a joint United States-Russia program that would provide a bulwark against Iranian missiles. We should also consider situating parts of the joint system in Russia, which in many ways offers an ideal strategic location for these defenses. Such an effort would not only improve our security, it would also further cooperation in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, including the imposition of consequential sanctions when appropriate. (New York Times, 04.11.10)
  • The Pershing IIs, they [President Reagan, the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff] felt, were the elements in our deployments most feared by the Soviets, and therefore we should not give them up prematurely through an agreement that allowed the Soviets to retain intermediate-range ballistic missiles while we had only our slower-moving cruise missiles. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)

Arms control: 

  • The United States and Russia must extend New START to preserve what is already working and to gain time for discussions about what can be done next. Given the dangerously high risk that a nuclear weapon could be used today, and the catastrophic consequences if that happened, extension of New START is a crucial and responsible step. (The Washington Post, 10.22.20)
  • Abandoning the INF Treaty would be a step toward a new arms race, undermining strategic stability and increasing the threat of miscalculation or technical failure. The answer to the problems that have come up is not to abandon the INF Treaty, but to preserve and fix it. Military and diplomatic officials from the United States and Russia should meet to address and resolve the issues of verification and compliance. Equally difficult problems have been solved in the past once the two sides put their minds to it. … We understand that nuclear weapons raise difficult issues. But we are convinced the United States and Russia must resume progress on a path toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. The alternative, which is unacceptable, is the continuing threat of those weapons to our very existence. (The Washington Post, 12.04.18)
  • Nuclear weapons are a threat to the world. Any large-scale nuclear exchange would have globally catastrophic consequences. Conscious of this reality, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, worked in the 1980s to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of them. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, was a major step toward this goal, eliminating a large class of nuclear weapons that were viewed as particularly destabilizing. The treaty is still in force, although both the Obama and Trump administrations have said that Russia is in violation. Whatever the case, we need to preserve the agreement rather than abandon it, as President Trump has threatened to do. (New York Times, 10.25.18)
  • The Senate should promptly vote to approve the treaty with Russia. … It increases U.S. national security. … It reduces and caps the Russian nuclear arsenal. … It reestablishes and makes stronger the verification procedures that allow U.S. inspectors to conduct on-site inspections and surveillance of Russian nuclear weapons and facilities. … It strengthens international efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, and it opens the door to progress on further critical nonproliferation efforts, such as reducing Russian tactical nuclear weapons. (Arms Control Association, 09.13.10)
  • The New START treaty, like others before it, was built on previous experience. And, like earlier treaties, it provides a building block for the future. As lower levels of warheads are negotiated, the importance of accurate verification increases and the precedent and experience derived from New START will ensure that a literal counting process will be available. The New START treaty also sets a precedent for the future in its provision for on-site observation of nondeployed nuclear systems—important since limits on nondeployed warheads will be a likely next step. (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.10)
  • Having been involved in the Stockholm Treaty when a breakthrough in on-site inspection was made and when intrusive on-site inspection of key events was a main element of the INF Treaty, I am pleased to see that the building process is continuing, especially since the New START treaty includes some improved formulations that bode well for the future. Seeing is not quite believing, but it helps. Learning is not limited to what you get from experience, but it helps. (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.10)
  • When the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was negotiated and finally signed in 1991, a different problem presented itself. On-site inspection of missile destruction is one thing; on-site inspection of an active inventory is something else again. You are looking at an ongoing operation. Nevertheless, the challenge was met in part by counting delivery vehicles, clearly building on the successful experience of both sides with the INF treaty. However, the political relations between the United States and the then Soviet Union had not yet reached the level of cooperation required to count the number of actual warheads directly without concern about compromising secret design information. The result was a process of attribution derived from access to telemetry—that is, the data transmitted from flight tests of missiles. This allowed for a cap on the maximum number of warheads that could be delivered, which was the number attributed in Start. (Wall Street Journal, 09.07.10)
  • We look forward to a follow-on treaty that builds on the success of the previous START treaties and leads to significantly greater arms reductions, including reductions in tactical nuclear weapons and reductions that require weapons be dismantled and not simply put in reserve. But our discussions with Russian colleagues, including senior government officials, suggest that such a next step would be very difficult for them. Part of the reason for their reluctance to accept further reductions is that Russia considers itself to be encircled by hostile forces in Europe and in Asia. Another part results from the significant asymmetry between United States and Russian conventional military forces. For these reasons, we believe that the next round of negotiations with Russia should not focus solely on nuclear disarmament issues. These talks should encompass missile defense, Russia’s relations with NATO, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, North Korea, Iran and Asian security issues. (New York Times, 04.11.10)
  • Future arms reductions with Russia are eminently possible. But they are unlikely to be achieved unless the United States is willing to address points of Russian concern. Given all that is at stake, we believe comprehensive discussions are a necessity as we work our way toward ever more significant nuclear disarmament. (New York Times, 04.11.10)
  • Without the bold vision [of a nuclear weapons-free world], the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible. (Wall Street Journal, 01.04.07)


  • Then we have terrorism and sort of the random violence. We have paid a very heavy price in this country in our response to it. Personally, I think much too heavy. We've got to rearrange our thinking and have a much more precise strategy for dealing with the areas it rises mostly from violent brand—some kind of brand of Islam. But it's there. It isn't going to go away, but we have to have a way of dealing with it that's—Iraq and Afghanistan can't be even close to the template for how we go about it. (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.29.13)
  • The threat posed by Islamic extremists using the weapon of terror is all too real. We have seen the face of terror in the Americas, in Asia, in Europe, in the Middle East—in every corner of the world. There are Islamists who would build a kind of wall of ideology in an effort to shut in vast multitudes of believers in Islam who wish for a better life consistent with the teachings of their religion. These radical jihadists promulgate a culture of hate and division. What lessons can we draw from our earlier experiences as we combat and seek to isolate these destructive forces of division? First, the notion of containment can work against terrorism as it did against the Soviet Union. If we can prevent the spread of hateful ideology, then we have taken the first essential step. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)

Conflict in Syria: 

  • Russia has returned to the Middle East in collaboration with Iran, first in support of Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime, but, no doubt, in a combined effort to extend Iranian reach as sanctions are lifted. The Middle East and ISIS present more difficult and complex issues, as we have already outlined. Nevertheless, these imperatives stand out. We must develop the strength to prevail militarily over ISIS. Of course, this means air power; but there must also be boots on the ground that are capable and effective. They will be more effective if they are mostly Arab boots. The challenge is to develop a force in the region that, in coordination with us, can be impactful. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • Although current circumstances make it difficult, we should not lose sight of areas of common interest where cooperation remains crucial to the security of Russia, Europe and the United States. This includes … destroying Syrian chemical stockpiles. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)


  • The United States and Russia will have to invest the time and effort necessary to establish new verification methods. Other long-standing issues will need to be discussed in parallel, including ballistic-missile defense; weapons in space; precision-guided, long-range conventional arms; and emerging technologies, including cyber. (The Washington Post, 10.22.20)
  • Our grid is very vulnerable to cyberattack and to natural disasters. So we better learn how to produce energy closer to where we use it. (Council on Foreign Relations, 01.29.13)

Elections interference: 

  • No significant statements.

Energy exports from CIS: 

  • It’s gradually dawning on people that we need to help the Baltic states so they’re not a prisoner of Russian oil and gas. (Interview with Times of Israel, 02.21.16)
  • One of Russia’s strengths is the dependence of many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, on it for supplies of oil and gas. Russia has demonstrated that it is willing to cut off supplies in the middle of winter, so the first step is to put in place a European energy initiative. The United States has recently developed an ability to produce oil and gas far beyond earlier times, so we should lift the export controls, develop LNG facilities, encourage the use of the new energy production and trade infrastructure in European countries that do have potential capacities, and put in place enough capacity in every country that the threat by Russia to cut off supplies is sharply weakened. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • Putin has demonstrated his willingness to cut off supplies of the large quantity of oil and gas Russia ships to Ukraine and the countries of Western Europe and to play games with prices. Russia has also developed important trading and financial dealings with Western countries, particularly Germany, Britain and France. … But these assets are also potential liabilities. The Russian economy depends on these trading and financial arrangements and on income from oil and gas sales that are now taking place at historically high prices. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)

U.S.-Russian economic ties: 

  • Financial markets could be the source of tremendous leverage if access to Russia is denied and the ruble starts to lose value. Unlike Soviet interventions during the Cold War, the recent aggression will affect Russian markets, investments and the Russian people’s standard of living. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)
  • Well, of course they [the Soviets] bought a lot of grain. They did it artfully. They're not supposed to know about markets, but they want a little here and a little here and a little here and pretty soon people woke up, and we called it the great American grain robbery. And I subsequently had a long discussion with Mr. Kosygin, who was the number two person in the Soviet Union at the time, and we worked out conceptually how a market and controlled economy could interact. And the concept led to something called the long-term grain agreement, which was a way of managing that issue. But it was a bad time. (Interview with the Richard Nixon Oral History Program, 05.10.07)
  • “Former Secretary of State George Shultz … said that the grand bargain [of massive U.S. investment to aid the Soviet Union's central government], which he called ‘the big-bucks approach,’ would be ‘a gigantic disservice’ to the Soviet Union because it sends the wrong message. He said the Soviets should decide to adopt a market economy on grounds that it will be beneficial, not because the United States will give them money to make the transition.” (The Washington Post, 06.21.91)

U.S.-Russian relations in general: 

  • As President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, I had the president’s backing to change the arms control paradigm from “capping” the buildup of U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear forces to one of beginning to actually reduce the levels of forces. We succeeded, with the cooperation of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, in turning around the nuclear buildup so that 1986, the year of the Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavík Summit, became the high-water mark for the world’s nuclear weapons instead of just another year of more and more nuclear bombs and warheads. Trust was key to reaching these agreements. The American president and his Secretary of State became convinced that Mikhail Gorbachev was a new type of Soviet leader, one who shared their concerns about nuclear weapons and could be trusted to carry out agreements. Of course, we used a Russian proverb to stress that verification had to be a part of the deal: “Trust, but verify.” That brings us to another point about the meaning of trust: It has to be earned, which means that it has to be based on undertakings that can be seen to be carried out. (American Foreign Service Association, November 2020)
  • Today, Republicans and Democrats agree that Vladimir Putin's Russia poses serious international-security challenges. Rather than walk away from security agreements that help the U.S. and its allies manage the risks posed by Moscow, Washington needs to redouble its longstanding commitment to proven risk-reduction strategies and arms-control treaties advanced by successive presidential administrations. Unilateral withdrawal from Open Skies would damage the security of the U.S. and its allies. (Wall Street Journal, 10.20.19)
  • The U.S. and Russia should work towards a mutual vision for a more stable security architecture in the next five to 10 years, and identify the tools and policy initiatives necessary to get there. … Where treaties are not likely or feasible, understandings and red lines are imperative. … It is essential that we re-engage with Russia in areas of common fundamental interest to both nations, including reducing reliance on nuclear weapons, keeping them out of unstable hands, preventing their use and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world. (Wall Street Journal, 04.10.19)
  • I’d had quite a lot of experience in dealing with the Soviets when I was Secretary of the Treasury. I had worked out quite a few deals and spent time there. So I managed to negotiate. I worked a deal to meet with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, once a week. The object was to resolve little irritants so they did not grow into big problems. (American Foreign Service Association, December 2016)
  • We need to engage with Russia against the background of realism and development of our strengths and our agenda. We can use our strategic advantages, combined with a desire to see Russia as part of a prosperous world dominated by representative governments. But our willingness to use our assets with a steady hand and to vigorously pursue our strategy must also be clear. With all due respect to the importance of tactical moves, this is the time for strategic thinking and implementing a strategic design. It is also a time for maximizing cooperation at home and with our allies abroad. Our hand is strong if we play it wisely. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)
  • One of the most important reasons for success in ending the Cold War was that we in the West had a strategy that we sustained for almost a half-century. The basic architecture was put in place and solidified in the Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower years, and that architecture, particularly the NATO alliance, served us well throughout the Cold War. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)
  • The West undertook to resist any expansion of the Soviet empire with the expectation that, sooner or later, its internal contradictions would cause it to look inward and, in the end, to change. As time went on, this guiding idea shifted into what was called détente—we’re here, you’re there, and that’s life—so the name of the game is peaceful coexistence. That’s a lot better than war, especially nuclear war. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)
  • Linkage had been vastly overdone. President Reagan understood that linkage could work against the right outcome. Linkage could encourage the Soviets to do something bad just so they could agree to give it up in order to get something else they wanted. And if the Soviets did something good, linkage put pressure on us to go along with something else they were doing wrong. Above all, Ronald Reagan was determined to pursue freedom and make an effort to reduce nuclear armaments no matter what else was going on. (The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011)
  • Despite an extended period of détente with the Soviet Union beginning in the Nixon administration, a sharp disenchantment had followed—brought about by the Soviet move into Angola in 1975, their deployment in the mid-1970s of a new generation of powerful nuclear missiles aimed at Europe, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and their complicity in the crackdown on Solidarity in Poland in 1981. Such aggressive actions created great tension between the two superpowers. Still, the central preoccupation of American foreign policy had to be the Soviet Union. A return to predétente estrangement would be unwise and self-defeating. This was the country that could wipe us out in thirty minutes with strategic nuclear missiles. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)
  • By early March 1983 … the next step for me would be to design a broader and longer-term approach to U.S.-Soviet relations to put before the president. I knew I had to get him heavily engaged. … At the same time, I worried that if we warmed up the U.S.-Soviet relationship, our European allies might jump out in front of us and try to move much faster than would be warranted or wise. We would have to move together so that the Soviets would not get an opportunity to split our alliance. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)
  • If they [the Soviets] looked hard, they would see not only social and economic failure but moral failure as well. Anatoly Shcharansky stood for countless Soviet Jews who were oppressed. Other Soviet minorities had also been held down and kept back by the Communist party’s rejection of individual rights and of religious freedom. Human rights had to be on top of our agenda with the Soviets: only when the Soviets changed human rights practices and recognized the importance of these rights to their own society could Soviet-American relations change at the deepest level. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)


II. Russia’s domestic politics 

Domestic politics, economy and energy: 

  • Russia has a very strong ruler in President Putin, and he has an aggressive policy. And I think that what we need is a stop sign for him, to say you’re not going to get away with stuff. (Interview with Bloomberg, 05.06.18)
  • Russia has a demographic catastrophe looming in its low fertility and astonishingly low longevity rates for men, including men of working age. Many young Russians are emigrating. There is an open rebellion in the Caucasus. … Putin also has a restive population, as shown in an odd way by the arrest of members of the band Pussy Riot who sang songs of dissent on street corners. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)
  • The IMF, on its own initiative, and the Russians are apparently working once more on a large package of assistance. … I believe there are all sorts of problems with this IMF initiative, whether or not anything comes of it. Right now, it would be financing the atrocities in Chechnya. Among the other problems is the message that development comes from outside assistance rather than from internal policies and the idea that any currency, let alone the currency of an uncertain and changing Russian economy, can be controlled through exchange-market intervention. In fact, Russians are capable people, perfectly able to solve their own problems if given half a chance. When they move in a positive direction, private investment will flow on a large scale. If failure to deliver on earlier promises made cynics of Russians, this renewed effort will only rein- force that cynicism. The additional message to us is that organizations with no clear mandate and with scads of money are dangerous. (The American Economic Review, May 1995)
  • From my time in the Nixon administration, I had learned something of the human dimension to the Soviet Union. I learned that World War II—the Great Patriotic War Against Fascism, the Soviets called it—was a matter of deep significance to them. I also learned that the Soviets were tough negotiators but that you could negotiate successfully with them. In my experience, they did their homework and had skill and patience and staying power. I respected them not only as able negotiators but as people who could make a deal and stick to it. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)
  • The generational shift in the Soviet leadership, I thought, was very significant. The old guard Communists had either ignored internal problems, as did Gromyko, or covered them up, as did Brezhnev. Gorbachev and Shevardnadze were from a distinctly different mold. It was more than a difference in personality. Because this new generation of leaders from the provinces had dealt with real problems in the Soviet system, they might accept the fact that change was imperative. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)
  • I sensed a deep commitment on Gorbachev’s part to communism as an ideology. He was a new presence, no doubt, but his approach was to repair the system, not replace it. He was granting nothing in the ideological contest between communism and freedom. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)
  • The Soviet Union, I became more convinced with every encounter, was in the process of genuine and far-reaching change. Who knew where it would ultimately lead or end? Whether or not Gorbachev would move toward a system of markets, enterprise and private property remained to be seen. But I could feel the new openness of glasnost everywhere. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)

Defense and aerospace: 

  • Gorbachev opened by giving President Reagan a firm line: the United States should not have illusions about being able to “bankrupt” the Soviet Union; neither could we gain military superiority over the Soviets. “Make no mistake,” Gorbachev said, “we can match you, whatever you do.” … Gorbachev replied that the war had left the USSR far behind and that they had caught up with the West. (From “Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State,” 1993)

Security, law enforcement and justice: 

  • No significant statements.


III. Russia’s relations with other countries 

Russia’s general foreign policy and relations with “far abroad” countries: 

  • Russia is attempting to build and extend a sphere of influence beyond its borders. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • The world is best served when Russia proceeds as a respected and important player on the world stage. Russia has huge resources, outstanding music, art, literature and science, among other attributes, and can be a positive force when it keeps its commitments and respects international law. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)

China-Russia: Allied or Aligned:

  • The Trump administration, meanwhile, has insisted on the inclusion of China, whose military programs are growing rapidly, in future nuclear negotiations. The goal is laudable, but China must be persuaded to join, not bullied by diplomatic stunts and threats. Beijing has made clear that it first needs to see substantial reductions in the stockpiles of both the United States and Russia, which far exceed its own. (The Washington Post, 10.22.20)
  • Russia shares a long border with China, with hardly anyone and large resources on one side and a lot of people on the other. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)


  • The personal qualities of integrity, empathy, problem-solving attitudes and the ability to build trusting human relationships are critical to success as a diplomat. Traits like these, plus courage, determination and patriotism, are what made Marie Yovanovitch such an effective American ambassador to Ukraine. She had other credentials, too, that enabled her to go to the top of her profession, one that, like other professions, requires a solid background in specialized knowledge. (American Foreign Service Association, November 2020)
  • Partly as a response to the movement of Ukraine in the direction of European rule of law and greater interaction with Western European countries, Putin seized Crimea and is in the process of trying to erase the borders of eastern Ukraine. Russian arms have been fired to shoot down a civilian passenger aircraft. Putin is surely playing a very weak hand, but very aggressively. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • We need to see that Ukraine’s armed forces are trained and equipped. More fundamentally, we need to help Ukraine lessen the corruption in its governmental processes and take advantage of its natural capabilities to get its economy moving in a positive direction. If we are able to put these policies in place, Russia will see that it is not walking into a vacuum but into a stone wall. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • The attraction of more representative government and less corrupt and open markets has underlying strength and appeal; Ukraine must be helped to move firmly into that world, based on improving economic prospects and honest and credible governance so that Ukrainians can make their own choices about political and economic relations. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)
  • Thankfully, nuclear weapons are not part of today’s conflict. Ukraine gave them up in 1994, partly in exchange for reassurance of its territorial integrity by the United States, Britain and Russia. Now, one of those “reassurers” has taken Crimea. What are the implications for proliferation? (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)

Russia’s other post-Soviet neighbors: 

  • The state system depends upon respect for the borders of countries, but borders are being softened or have recently been eradicated. Most visible are the actions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. He attacked Georgia in 2008 and wound up carving out two new territorial entities: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. (Blueprint for America, 2016)
  • Perceptions are important. Whatever his long-range intent, Vladimir Putin has Russia’s neighbors fearing and many Russians believing that he has, in effect, announced his objective to bring the former Soviet space once again under Russian influence, if not incorporated into the Russian state. … The resentment and fear his moves have created in Ukraine and other neighbors will, over time, set in motion countermoves and activities that will diminish Russia’s own security. (The Washington Post, 03.27.14)

Photo by Sergey Guneev shared under a Creative Commons license.