The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011

F OCUS ON THE B REAKUP OF THE S OV I ET U NION P ICKING U P THE P IECES n the annals of world events, the low- ering of the Soviet flag over the Kremlin on Dec. 25, 1991, was a pivotal moment. On that snowy evening in Moscow, nearly 75 years of authoritarian rule, Cold War brinks- manship and economic autarky came to an anticlimatic end. Just months later, 15 republics had declared inde- pendence from the Soviet Union, and suddenly had to create new political systems, establish independent judi- ciaries, write constitutions, and forge diplomatic links with each other and the “far abroad.” Developing functioning, sustainable economies was a core interest of the United States in all the Newly Independent States to ensure longer-term stability in the region, bring new partners into the global economic community and, in some cases, to prevent humanitarian disaster. Washington scurried to establish 14 new embassies around the former Soviet empire and bolster staff in Moscow in response to the surge in demand for economic reporting and American business activity. FromMinsk to Dushanbe to Vladivostok, U.S. policymakers engaged with these new capitals through bilateral negotiations, the international financial institutions and multilateral fora, such as the World Trade Organization then being estab- lished. Given the dearth of information on the situation “on the ground” in the NIS, U.S. embassies and consulates played a vital role in both informing theWashington policy process and explaining American perspectives on global economic developments to host-country governments. The Demands of the New World (Dis)Order Just as the Arab Spring has gripped us in recent months, the birth of the NIS in 1991-1992 brought wall-to-wall news coverage throughout the United States and Europe. Coming on the heels of then-President George H.W. Bush’s declaration of a “new world order” following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, U.S. policy faced a massive challenge in the ex-USSR. Secur- ing nuclear weapons across four successor states was an early policy goal of the Bill Clinton administration and a W ITH THE CRUMBLING OF THE S OVIET EMPIRE , THE DEMAND FOR ECONOMIC REPORTING AND COMMERCIAL DIPLOMACY IN THE NIS SOARED . B Y M ICHAEL A. L ALLY Michael A. Lally, a Foreign Commercial Service officer since 1993, is currently commercial counselor in Ankara. In addition to private-sector experience in Moscow, he has served in Kiev (now Kyiv) (1993-1996), Almaty (1996- 1999), Baku (2000-2003) andMexico City (2006-2009). He thanks public- and private-sector colleagues who com- mented on this article. The views expressed within are solely his own. 46 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 1