US Secretary of State Colin Powell's latest visit to Moscow manifests the efforts made by the two countries in overcoming a rift caused by the US-led war in Iraq and pushing forward their constructive partnership.
Powell's working visit, the first since the United States launched military attacks against Iraq, which Russia has been strongly opposed to, is seen as a step to ease tension and normalize relations.
Both Moscow and Washington hope to narrow their differences and improve the strained relations, taking into account that they share common interests in various post-war issues, including maintaining global strategic stability, anti-terrorism and economic and trade cooperation.
"We have talked and argued a lot about Iraq, but we have still been able to preserve the basis of our relations with the United States," Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed during his meeting with Powell on Wednesday.
In spite of the differences that have arisen or may arise, "the foreign policy of the Russian Federation is focused on forging a long-term, predictable partnership with the US," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Wednesday.
In response, Powell said that despite the disagreements between Russia and the United States on Iraq, a bilateral dialogue will be developing dynamically, illustrating the solid nature and depth of bilateral relations.
Coinciding with Powell's visit, Russia's State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, ratified the two-month delayed Russian-US Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reduction (SOR) on Wednesday.
The treaty, signed last May by presidents of the United States and Russia, calls on both nations to cut the number of their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,700 and 2,000 respectively by 2012 -- down from about 6,000 in the United States and 5,500 in Russia. The US Senate unanimously approved the treaty earlier this March.
The ratification of the treaty is believed a gift not only to Powell, but also to the upcoming summit meeting between the two presidents in St. Petersburg.
Putin expressed his hope that the anticipated meeting with President George W. Bush "will give a new impetus to bilateral ties in all areas of cooperation."
During his visit in Moscow, Powell carried a mild stance on a series of issues that used to be disagreements with Russia.
He shared the similar stance with Russia on the Chechen terrorist acts, pledged not to launch any operations against Iran,Syria or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the way it took against Iraq. He even did not directly propose to write off the 8-billion-US-dollar debts that Iraq owes Russia, stressing that joint efforts should be made with Russia to bring a peaceful living environment to Iraq people.
The positive statements were apparently made to ameliorate the tightened Russian-US relations and to win Russia's support for the US-proposed draft resolution to the UN Security Council over lifting UN sanctions on Iraq as well.
Russian still insists that international sanctions against Iraq can be lifted only in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions after the UN weapon inspectors work out conclusions proving that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction.
While negotiating with Powell, Russia implied that it pursues "a generally acceptable draft resolution on Iraq" instead of speaking in an explicit manner that it is opposed to it.
The Nezavisimaya Gazette newspaper predicted that Russia would possibly vote for the US draft resolution at the UN Security Council if Washington gives more consideration to Russia's interests in the post-war Iraq.
It will take time for a complete amelioration of the Russian-US relations, which have survived the test of the Iraqi crisis, since the disagreements between the two former opponents over rebuilding Iraq will continue for a certain period of time.
(People's Daily May 16, 2003)