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The Vice President and Foreign Policy: From “the most insignificant office” to Gore as Russia Czar. Aaron Mannes Researcher - University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies Ph.D. student - University of Maryland School of Public Policy [email protected]

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The vice president and foreign policy from the most insignificant office to gore as russia czar l.jpg
The Vice President and Foreign Policy:From “the most insignificant office” to Gore as Russia Czar

  • Aaron Mannes

  • Researcher - University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

  • Ph.D. student - University of Maryland School of Public Policy


  • [email protected]

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Introduction: Two Themes

  • Vice President’s role in national security

    • Is a Vice Presidential role needed?

    • What should it be?

  • Challenges of stabilizing and encouraging reform abroad

  • These two themes meet in analyzing Gore’s role in the Clinton administration’s Russia policy

Key sources l.jpg

Paul Light, Vice Presidential Power: Advice and Influence in the White House

Paul Kengor, Wreath Layer or Policy Player? The Vice President’s Role in Foreign Policy

Marie Natoli, American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency in Perspective

Senate Historical Office, Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993

James Goldgeier and Michael McFaul: Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy toward Russia after the Cold War

Strobe Talbott’s The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy

Key Sources

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Overview of the Vice Presidency:The First 150 Years

  • Minimal Constitutional authority

  • Marginalized by the Senate

  • Often perceived by Presidents as rivals

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FDR & The Vice Presidency

  • Henry A. Wallace, 1941-45

    • Ran the Bureau of Economic Warfare (BEW), a 3000 person agency charged with stockpiling crucial war supplies

    • Got into turf wars with the Commerce and State

    • FDR dissolved BEW in 1943 and dropped Wallace from the ticket in 1944

  • Harry S. Truman, 1945

    • On taking office after FDR’s death was unaware of the atomic bomb project or the status of talks with Stalin on post-war Europe

    • To ensure this never happened again the VP was included as a statutory member of the National Security Council

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Nixon & The Vice Presidency

  • Established the role of the political vice president under Eisenhower

  • Active at NSC, but denied line authority

  • Although Nixon did not include his VP in the policy process there were enormous changes to the office

    • VP’s office received its own budget line item in 1969

    • Watergate, Agnew’s resignation, and the unelected Ford Presidency placed the VP in a new light

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Short Unhappy Vice Presidency of Nelson Rockefeller

  • Selected to strengthen the unelected Ford presidency

  • Hoped to run domestic policy by chairing Domestic Policy Council

  • Frozen out of policy-making when Ford moved in other directions

  • Demonstrated two principles of VP influence

    • Without the President’s support the VP has no influence

    • Line assignments can enmesh VPs in turf wars and make them lightning rods for opposition

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Mondale: VP as Senior Advisor

  • Carter was the first true outsider VP and he selected an insider VP

  • Carter agreed to give Mondale all the tools he needed for the position

  • Mondale rejected line authority, preferring a role as Senior Advisor

  • Mondale had key allies on the President’s staff

  • Adopted a low-key, non-public role in the policy process

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George H. W. Bush:Low Profile Continuity

  • Adopted Mondale’s model

  • Took on some line assignments, chaired the crisis management unit of the NSC

  • Bush’s restrained response when Reagan was shot won praise

  • As President, Bush did not rely heavily on his VP

    - changes to the VP’s status are not permanent

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Clinton-Gore:The Vice President as Partner

  • Experience in Washington and internationally complemented Clinton

  • Personal compatibility

  • National security process innovations reflected this relationship

    • Gore’s National Security Advisor had seats on the Principals and Deputies Committees at the NSC

    • NSC deputies had an arrangement ensuring that Gore was in the loop and did not derail the process

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Russia Policy: From Stability to Transformation

  • Post-Soviet Russia risked, in the words of Clinton’s top Russia advisor Strobe Talbott, becoming “a nuclear Yugoslavia”

  • Bush 41 focused on “what we do not want to happen there”

  • Talbott sought to “nurture the best that might happen in the former Soviet Union”

  • Three tracked process:

    • Security

    • Economic Liberalization

    • Political Liberalization

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Establishing the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission (GCC)

  • Proposed by Russian FM Kozyrev to Talbott in March 1993

  • Intended to be an extended working group that would help build Russian governance capabilities with a focus on Russia’s inter-agency process

  • Mechanism for institutionalizing bi-national partnerships

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Growth of the GCC

  • GCC met 10 times, first meeting on September 1-2, 1993

  • After Chernomyrdin was fired in March 1998, meetings were held with several Chernomyrdin successors

  • GCC included hundreds of officials from Energy, Defense, Commerce, HHS, Agriculture, NASA and others

  • Signed over 200 agreements from major energy and space deals to nuts and bolts technical exchanges

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Early Mandate: Space & Energy

  • Focus on preventing proliferation of missile & nuclear technologies

  • Implemented Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Nunn-Lugar)

  • First meeting dealt with Russian rocket sales that could have triggered US sanctions under MCTR

  • Sought to establish a broad space and energy partnership worth billions making smaller deals from proliferation unappealing

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Security Track Assessment

  • Worst case scenarios were avoided while NATO expanded eastward

  • Political and technical levels reinforced one another

    Iranian exception

    • Despite a 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement arms sales to Iran did not stop

    • Russia continued to sell nuclear technology to Iran

    • July 1998 administration sanctioned seven Russian entities that were transferring technology to Iran - forestalling more severe congressional sanctions

    • The administration was concerned that congressional sanctions would have damaged overall relations

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Transformation Track:OVP & State vs. Treasury

  • US sought to foster economic and political reform

  • 1993 rise of ultra-nationalists raised concerns about Russia’s stability

    • Gore criticized ultra-nationalists, but also IMF conditions

    • Talbott called for “less shock and more therapy”

    • Treasury officials felt their efforts undermined

  • 1996 flawed Russian privatization led to the rise of the oligarchs

    • Chernomyrdin, former Gazprom chief, a suspected beneficiary

    • US government did not criticize for fear of undermining Yeltsin

  • 1998 Russian economy collapses, Russians assume US linked to oligarchs

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Committed to Yeltsin

  • Transformation agenda focused on supporting Yeltsin

  • Skeptics did not develop alternatives

  • Gore and Talbott’s combined influence dominated policy process

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  • Some agencies resisted GCC initiatives while others were pre-empted by GCC activity

  • VP staff may have been too small to manage the process

  • Accusations that GCC was a PR exercise that distracted from real work and the established inter-agency process

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Transformation Track Assessment

  • Efforts to build civil society, rule of law, and democracy were not successful

  • Russian economic growth has been driven by resources, not economic liberalization

  • Demographic and public health trends are abysmal

  • Engagement fostered suspicion of US motives among Russian

  • Transformation efforts may have been essential to the security track

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Analyzing the VP’s Role

  • VP’s engagement brings prestige

  • Preparation for the Presidency

  • VP may not have necessary staff

  • VP may not have time

  • Can burnish a VP’s reputation, but can also harm it