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Russia-US Ties Not Easy, Says Rice
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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that it is "not an easy" time in Russia-US relations, but that the tensions do not amount to a new Cold War.


"It is a big, complicated relationship, but it is not one that is anything like the implacable hostility" that clouded ties between the United States and the Soviet Union, Rice said before she arrived in Moscow for two days of meetings amid growing tensions that have been underlined by President Vladimir Putin's increasing criticism of the United States.


"It is not an easy time in the relationship, but it is also not, I think, a time in which cataclysmic things are affecting the relationship or catastrophic things are happening in the relationship," Rice told reporters aboard her plane.


Washington's relations with Moscow are troubled by sharp disagreements on specific issues in particular the US proposal to place elements of a missile defense system in former Soviet satellite countries and by a clear rise in the Kremlin's suspicion of American intentions worldwide.


Russian officials bristle at US criticism of a perceived Kremlin rollback of democracy and complain that Washington is interfering in the country's internal affairs by funding pro-democracy groups. Russia also accuses the US of trying to dominate international affairs.


In an address on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Putin last week denounced "disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness... just as it was in the time of the Third Reich." He did not name a specific country but analysts saw the US as the clear target.


Rice suggested Russian officials' sometimes emotionally charged wording of their complaints is not constructive.


She appeared to try to tread carefully on the issue of Russia's democratic progress under Putin, couching criticism in a caveat alluding to the country's troubled history.


"This is a big and complex place that is going through a major historic transformation... things are not going to change overnight, but frankly we would like to see them change faster than they are changing, and for the better," Rice said.


Along with missile defense and democracy, issues likely to come up in Rice's meetings include Russia's resistance to a US-backed draft UN resolution supporting independence for Kosovo, Putin's call for a moratorium on observing the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, and Russia's increasing control of oil and natural gas supplies to Western Europe.


(China Daily May 15, 2007)

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