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Russia to Stress Common Interests During Rice Visit


Condoleezza Rice
Russian officials are expected to stress common interests in the U.S.-Russian relationship with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during two days of talks in Moscow.

Russian foreign ministry officials met to deliberate current issues in the bilateral relationship before Secretary of State Rice's visit this week.

Following that meeting, the officials noted that despite some differences, Moscow's view is that the relationship with the United States is developing steadily and in a positive direction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and others will seek to reiterate that message during talks Wednesday at the Kremlin with Secretary Rice. The Director of Moscow's Heritage Foundation, Yevgeni Volk, says he expects little new ground to be broken.

"Moscow['s] leadership will reiterate such issues as anti-terrorism cooperation, [and] cooperation in the field of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the field where both sides enjoy vast common ground," he said.

Mr. Volk notes that U.S. officials have said the primary task of Ms. Rice's visit is to lay the groundwork for President Bush's trip to Moscow next month to participate in celebrations marking the end of WWII in Europe.

But before leaving, Ms. Rice also suggested that she will keep up pressure on Russia over democratic reforms, long a sticking point between the two nations.

Viktor Kremenyuk, who heads the U.S.-Canada Institute in Moscow says he is not optimistic this line of discussion will yield immediate results.

"Russia and the United States have already worked out something like a ritual that the U.S. side says something critical, or bad, about democracy in Russia, and the Russian side tells, ‘Well, here we are. This is our national character and we are for democracy, but we adapt democracy to our traditions,’ and that is it, you know?" he said.

Following her talks at the Kremlin, Secretary Rice will travel directly to Lithuanias capital, Vilnius, where she is due to attend a NATO foreign ministers meeting.

Analyst Kremenyuk says the trip to Vilnius, coupled with the fact that her first visit to Moscow as Secretary of State is technical in nature, has raised some concern that Russia's position is slipping in the eyes of America.

"I think that Ms. Rice is simply hinting that somehow the importance of some of the former Soviet nations, like [the] Baltic States, or Ukraine, or Georgia now is growing in the eyes of Washington, while the importance of Russia is going down," he added.

Analyst Kremenyuk says if either side wants to change the dynamics of the Russian-U.S. relationship, which he characterizes as deadlocked, then he says they will have to move beyond what unites them and delve into the difficult divide.

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