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Relations Between Washington, Moscow Remain Good


Since the end of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, the United States and Russia have put many of their Cold War animosities behind them. They still have their differences, but they increasingly work together on a wide range of issues. VOA examines the current relationship between the former enemies.

The United States and Russia can still destroy each other at the push of a button and have thousands of missiles on land and at sea, armed with nuclear warheads.

But all those missiles are not pointed at each other’s cities as they were during the Cold War.

And with U.S. President Barack Obama making better relations with Russia a cornerstone of his foreign policy, both countries have ratified a new (START) treaty reducing long-range nuclear weapons.

“It makes no sense to have all those warheads now, the Cold War is over," said Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University. "So we’ve drastically cut down the number of warheads and we are going to cut them down further. So I think it was very important to accomplish that.”

Stent says Moscow and Washington also have a key agreement on Afghanistan.

“That is to say, we are transporting military transports over Russian territory, through the northern distribution network. And as the relationship with Pakistan becomes more and more difficult for the United States, this supply route is crucial for our ability to operate in Afghanistan,” she noted.

Moscow has also supported stronger United Nations sanctions against Iran and has cancelled the delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Tehran. In addition, the Russian government did not oppose a no-fly zone over Libya.

But Stent says the two sides still disagree on U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe.

“We have explained to them, our government, many, many times, this system has to do with concerns about the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons, about the North Koreans, about countries that could threaten us all," she said. "It’s not aimed at Russia.”

Next March, Russian citizens go to the polls to elect a new president to succeed Dmitry Medvedev. The odds-on favorite to win is former president and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

Many experts are wondering whether a Putin presidency will be different from a Medvedev administration.

“No, I don’t think so, because what has been clear is that Putin was the decisive power, all the way through. So I don’t think, I don’t think it will change much,” Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser stated.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Thomas Pickering says Russia is a country that demands attention - whoever runs it.

“I think there are things that we don’t like about Russia - there will always be. There are things that Russia doesn’t like about us. But there are a number of things that we have in common," he said. "Including the necessity for coexistence.”

Americans will also go to the polls in November 2012 to elect a president. So there is the possibility that both countries will have new leaders to begin the year 2013.

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