Just imagine the completely different world today if Russia were a part of Free World, member of NATO and a prosperous democracy, like Germany.

Was it ever discussed, and if so, why wasn't it implemented?


Short answer: the situations in 1940's and in 1990's were significantly different. The scale of the required aid and nature of reforms was incomparable. There were talks of increased aid in exchange of massive reforms and nuclear disarmament, but they appeared to be unsuccessful.

  1. The U.S. budget deficits were high throughout the 1980s. President Bush and the Congress were standing off over the federal budgets, spending cuts, and tax increases. It was difficult, if possible at all, for U.S. to afford massive official aid;
  2. European states after WWII still had market economy and private enterprise. The Russia in 1991 required fundamental transition in its economic (and political) foundations prior to accepting any economic aid;
  3. The size of economy of European states in 1947 were incomparable to the size of Russian economy of 1991;
  4. The major plague of Russian economy was not lack of finance. Instead, the structure of production was based on extraction of mineral resources and everything directly related. So filling it with money would not help establishing a better structure of production;

    The items above are greatly summarized in early "Chicago Tribune" article of 1991:

    Even if the United States were in a position to underwrite generous aid for the Soviet Union, as it did for Western Europe after World War II, there are ample reasons why it shouldn`t. Domestic woes, the U.S. budget deficit and the undetermined direction of Soviet change suggest caution.

  5. One of the key goals of Marshall plan was containment of Russian expansion. In other words, it was a strategic defensive plan aimed to strengthen economical and political security of European countries of late 1940's. And there was no Russian threat in early 1990's.

    Many people see Marshall Plan as a purely economical program. Others also think it was act of generosity. Churchill called Marshall plan "the most generous act in history." However, it wasn't.

    The Marshall Plan was the Truman Administration's plan to rebuild war-torn Europe in order to aid building strong, self-sustainable economies, facilitate global trade and free markets, encourage European peace, and prevent the spread of communism. George F. Kennan formulated the policy of “containment”: "A long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies".

  6. Some political forces on Russia (like the first government of Yegor Gaidar, Nov'91 - Apr'92) attempted to negotiate "Marshall plan" in exchange of massive economic reforms, deregulation of prices, and nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, these forces were not in power for enough time and they couldn't convince the U.S. officials that such aid would be used properly:

    [Aven and Kokh] slip in an interview with the 85-year-old James Baker, US secretary of state from 1989 to 1992. Aven presses Baker hard on why the US didn’t give Russia more financial aid, saying it could have allowed them to embed liberal reforms. Baker didn’t think so, and still doesn’t.Financial Times

    I could not find this interview in English. Here's the Russian version at Forbes.ru.

As a result, at the G7 meeting in Houston (1990), it was decided that offering the Russia official aid would not help. The task of providing aid has been authorized to the IMF, which usually operates with "standard-sized" crises, but is not adapted to resolving consequences of collapse of entire economies.

A decade and a half after, Yegor Gaidar, in his book "Смуты и институты" ("Time of Troubles and institutions"), recalled:

«План Маршалла» был реализован потому, что его выработало и провело в жизнь руководство страны, вышедшей из Второй мировой войны. Оно понимало, что столкнулось с новой войной – холодной. Это позволяло консолидировать усилия, мобилизовать финансовые средства, сделать программу помощи важнейшим приоритетом американской политики. В начале 1990-х годов ситуация была иной.

"Marshall Plan" was implemented because it was developed and put into practice by a country who survived World War II. They understood that they faced new war — the Cold War. This made it possible to consolidate the efforts, mobilize financial resources, and help make the program the top priority of American policy. In the early 1990s, the situation was different.


  • 1
    just wanted to remark (while still reading), there was no Russia yet in 1991, still the USSR. I'm not talking perestroika, I'm talking reforms from Gaidar onward, in Russia. --- and thanks for the detailed answer!
    – Genli Ai
    Dec 28 '15 at 21:28
  • 2
    OK, thanks again for the detailed answer. I can summarize it as lack of strategic vision. Massive aid could have tipped the scales and help Gaidar stay in power. They had a chance to remake the world, and didn't want to take it, out of momentary short-horizon concerns, hiding behind the typical "caution" pretexts. Well, they got the old Russia back, with Putin, after a short while. Most Russians now remember the 90s' with revulsion and disgust, and associate those times with democracy and democratic ideals. Their perception is wrong (in my view), but it is their perceptions that count.
    – Genli Ai
    Dec 28 '15 at 21:47
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    IOW, it's the fault of Bush Sr. and his "realists". Clinton was no better. Lack of strategic vision and leadership. But most of responsibility is of course on Russia itself; it is their country, their own destiny; their outlook is much too imperial, it seems. It is their choice what to value more, freedoms or power (state's power). Maybe "turning Russia" was much too massive and infeasible a project in the first place.
    – Genli Ai
    Dec 28 '15 at 22:03
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    @bytebuster what-if wasn't the question; it was the premise of the question. You've answered exactly what I asked. :) On the other hand, every big policy decision deals exactly with that -- the possible outcomes, future scenarios, the what-if questions. So actually, there's no big contradiction there, IMO. What-if prognoses is what politicians base their decisions on, so must be part of policy making, and as such, can be discussed here -- if discussed rationally, in an informed, reasoned, quantified manner, not just as some alternate reality fantasy.
    – Genli Ai
    Dec 29 '15 at 12:06
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    @WillNess, absolutely; the question is well-formulated, quite within the topic, and I tried to do the same. :) Then again, when we have a set of key factors, it becomes easier to speculate what-if a certain factor were different. Keep in mind that it is well possible that some factors are still hidden, so we only have a partial picture.
    – bytebuster
    Dec 29 '15 at 12:13

There was no Marshall plan for the 1990s Russia for the same reason there was no Marshall plan (or other significant aid) for Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, the countries of Central and Latin America, and all of Africa.

That reason is that the US government helps countries only when doing so provides a clear benefit ... to the US elites. As explained in Part 5 of the earlier answer, rapid development of Western Europe (and to a lesser degree South Korea, Japan, Taiwan) was meant to help contain the spread of communism.

The US elites however have no need for competition from a strong Russia. On the contrary. The US elites need a weak Russia that would be nothing more than a source of cheap natural resources similar to the Middle East, Africa, or Central and Latin America.

  • this is a simplistic view. Germany is now strong, competes (economically) with the US.
    – Genli Ai
    Aug 19 '16 at 9:09
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    @WillNess - the bottom line is the US elites need Russia to be another Nigeria or Congo, not another Germany.
    – ebhh2001
    Aug 19 '16 at 15:57
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    @WillNess - democracies might be incapable of strategic action. Maybe the fact that the US is capable of them is just another evidence that it is not a democracy. I tend to think of the US as a plutocracy. The US plutocrats are far from all-seeing and all-powerful, but it is not for the lack of trying. The Marshall Plan and the Monroe Doctrine are just two of many examples of their strategic actions.
    – ebhh2001
    Aug 19 '16 at 21:32
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    @WillNess - we are being real. Plutocracy: the government by the wealthy. Read this. How many millions did you give to your favorite politician today? What is the US then if not plutocracy?
    – ebhh2001
    Aug 21 '16 at 1:40
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    @GenliAi I, for one, wouldn't be calling a country that bends over and swallows news of "we're listening in to your president's communication" neither "strong" nor "competing". Or says "yes, boss!" to demands of enacting US-issued sanctions while they're clearly unfovarable to Germany itself. I won't deny that Germany wants to be, but it isn't that at this particular moment. Aug 31 '19 at 21:30

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