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International Journalists Discuss U.S.-Russian Relations

Condoleezza Rice said in her confirmation hearings as U.S. Secretary of State that she is “deeply concerned” about the concentration of power in the Kremlin under Russian President Vladimir Putin. Judith Latham spoke with Russian and European journalists about the strained relations between the United States and Russia for this edition of International Press Club.

Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of Kommersant, a business and political daily in Moscow, says the last six months especially have challenged U.S.-Russian relations, despite the outwardly friendly relationship between President Bush and President Putin.

Among the major sources of strain between Russia and the United States are President Putin’s anti-democratic political reforms, the destruction of the Yukos oil company, Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukrainian presidential election, his anti-American and anti-Western comments when he was in India, Russian support of the European position on the Iranian secret nuclear program, and the Kremlin’s attempt to jeopardize Israeli-Palestinian dialogue by negotiating the sale of surface-to-surface missiles to Syria. Nonetheless, Dmitri Siderov said that in a second Bush term he thinks U.S.-Russian relations will be guided primarily by pragmatism based on cooperation in the war on terrorism.

Russian journalist Masha Lipman said U.S.-Russian relations are now at their lowest point since the end of the communist period. And in Russia, anti-American and anti-Western sentiment has tremendously increased. Although President Bush did not strongly criticize President Putin’s “heavy-handed meddling” in the Ukrainian election, relations between the two presidents are “indeed cooler,” according to Ms. Lipman. But, she added, the most important thing is not their personal relationship but that there seems to be “less and less substance left” to U.S.-Russian relations.

Polish-born journalist Matthew Kaminski of the Wall Street Journal’s Paris edition said relations have “disintegrated” since the early years of the Bush-Putin relationship when Russia seemed to be moving toward reform and stood in solidarity with the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to Mr. Kaminski, the problem lies both with Washington’s misreading of President Putin’s true intentions and with the Kremlin’s misreading of what the United States would be willing to tolerate. Nonetheless, the three journalists agreed Washington would most probably be reluctant to confront Mr. Putin because of its need for his cooperation in the war on terrorism.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.