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Analysts Say U.S.- Russian Relations Are Deteriorating

U.S.-Russian relations have declined over the past five years, and recent remarks by Vice President Dick Cheney and Russian President Vladimir Putin have highlighted those tensions. Russian media reports characterized Mr. Cheney’s strong criticism of Russia earlier this month at a summit of Baltic and Black Sea leaders in Lithuania as the start of a second Cold War. Russian journalist Masha Lipman says U.S.-Russian relations have indeed reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Many Western analysts point to the erosion of democracy in Russia and the Kremlin’s determination to keep the former Soviet republics in line.

Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Ms. Lipman says she thinks that the current chill between Washington and Moscow is a function of “unfulfilled expectations” on both sides. She suggests that both expected that the United States and Russia would be partners. Russia hoped they would be “equal partners,” but the United States hoped for a “more compliant junior partner.” Masha Lipman says the Kremlin was humiliated by Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, and Russia is now trying to reestablish its influence in the world through higher oil prices and to reassert itself in the post-Soviet states.

Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of Kommersant, a business and political daily in Moscow, agrees with Ms. Lipman that U.S.-Russian relations have reached a low point but says both sides are responsible. According to Mr. Siderov, the major element is the Bush administration’s disappointment with the Kremlin’s “internal and foreign policy” and Moscow’s failure to deliver on promises regarding the access of U.S. companies to Russia’s vast oil and gas resources. And he notes that Russia has used these resources to “blackmail its immediate neighbors.” But Masha Lipman says Russia has legitimate interests in the successor states of the former Soviet Union, and President Putin has been sending “strong signals” that he considers them Russia’s rightful “zone of interest.”

Polish journalist Anita Rozowska says she thinks the recent war of words between Washington and Moscow mainly reflects Russia’s unhappiness with its secondary status relative to the United States and the European Union. And many Poles believe that the Kremlin’s recent cut off of gas supplies to Ukraine represented an effort to establish political hegemony. Ms. Rozowska adds that right now Poland’s greatest concern is the Baltic gas pipeline that Russia and Germany intend to build, bypassing Polish territory.

Washington also needs to maintain good relations with Moscow, given Russia’s important role in the negotiations with Iran and North Korea and its support in the global war on terrorism. Russian journalist Masha Lipman suggests that both countries would be wise to tone down their rhetoric. She said it is hard to predict how “this new rivalry will evolve” and whether President Putin in his remaining years in power will favor rivalry or partnership – or some combination of both.

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