Government Research Intern: Taylor Calvin

Title: Party Dynamics of Cooperative Legislation with the Former Soviet Union

Author: Taylor Calvin


The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 signaled the expiration of the modern world’s largest totalitarian and socialist state. The fifteen countries that emerged from this cessation were left to fend for themselves, as their once “big brother” type government collapsed right before their eyes. Due to their dire need for assistance, these countries slowly began reformulating their political, economic, and military alliances across the globe, including those with the United States (The Cold War Museum). In Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address, just days after the official breakup, he pledged to work to shape international change with peaceful diplomacy. But over the past twenty years and four presidents, has that response held the test of time? More importantly, is the current U.S relationship with the Eastern Bloc as strategically strong as possible or is the Cold War sentiment still alive underneath layers and layers of obligatory co-mingling?

To comprehend these research questions, I analyzed congressional bills that promoted economic, social, and political cooperation between the U.S and these countries from both chambers that were introduced from December 25, 1991, the official breakup of the Soviet Union, to December 25, 2011, the 20th anniversary of the breakup (102nd-112th Congresses). I also used legislative context to determine whether or not these partisan differences in Congress and in the White House impeded one or more types of cooperation between the U.S and these countries. For our purposes, economic cooperation referred to bills that authorized appropriations, created trade agreements, and established development projects; social cooperation referred to bills that stimulated humanitarian, educational, and democracy promoting programs; political cooperation referred to bills that created platforms for peace negotiations, nuclear disarmament procedures, and improved partnerships between one or more countries and the United States. After I collected these bills, I grouped them according to their sponsor’s political party, their cooperative category, and the president in power when they were introduced.  As a result of this time span  I had the opportunity to analyze congressional votes from ten different congresses under four different presidents.

I found that, out of the 53 bills analyzed, only 52.8% of the cooperative legislation was sponsored by democrats and 47.2% was sponsored by republicans. The 5.6% difference between the parties does not constitute the large return expected and it can be concluded that democrats and republicans were relatively similar in their sponsoring of these types of cooperative legislation. The amount of economic and social cooperative legislation introduced in the early years was very high, due to these countries great need for financial and humanitarian assistance, and declined in later years as these countries became self-sustaining. Political cooperative legislation was significantly small in the early years but grew tremendously in the later years due to the introduction of these countries as actors on the world stage. In the 104th-108th Congresses all forms of cooperative legislation waned due to domestic economic downturns, the September 11th attacks, an executive leadership change in Russia to Vladimir Putin and in the United States to George W. Bush in 2000, and the beginning of the Iraq War. Cooperative legislation increased in the 109th-112th Congresses due to the New START treaty enacted by President Obama and then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and increased partnership opportunities between all countries, in lieu of happenings in the Middle East. Finally, the party of the president played little to no role in the amount of cooperative legislation introduced in congress; instead time lapse was a larger variable in the types of legislation introduced.