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Group Warns US-Russia Relations Headed in Wrong Direction


The independent Council on Foreign Relations has issued a report Sunday, saying relations between the United States and Russia are headed in the wrong direction. The report was issued ahead of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week to Washington.

Russia's drift away from democratic rule, the Council on Foreign Relations says, will make it increasingly difficult for the United States and Russia to find common ground on international issues and to cooperate. The spotlight is on Moscow as it prepares to host the G-8 summit in July. The Group of Eight brings Russia together with seven of the world's leading industrial democracies, including the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

U.S. critics of President Vladimir Putin have been calling on Washington to boycott the meeting in protest against Moscow's policies they regard as antidemocratic. These include the recent enactment of a law to curb foreign non-governmental organizations. The critics also accuse Moscow of using energy exports as a foreign policy weapon and making efforts to curtail U.S. and NATO access to Central Asian bases.

The report by the Council on Foreign Relations acknowledges these problems. But its co-chair Jack Kemp, a former Congressman, told the NBC television program Meet the Press that on balance, Washington's relationship with Moscow is too important to be completely cut off.

"There is consensus that without Russia's cooperation - all of the great issues of the day, from nuclear proliferation, to terrorism, to dealing with Iran and North Korea, to dealing with HIV/AIDS, or education, problems of poverty in the third world - we need the cooperation of Russia," said Jack Kemp. "So, it is a pragmatic relationship with Russia, that has to be nurtured.

Kemp said he believes the United States should call together a ministerial level meeting of the original G-7 countries. He said the point isn't to exclude Russia, but to send a message.

"I don't want to take them out, but I want them to know, and I think we believe that they should know, that we can go back to G-7 if they don't cooperate on things like Iran, North Korea, nuclear proliferation and the war on terror," he said.

The report's other co-chair, former Senator John Edwards, said on issues like Iran, Russia's cooperation is crucial.

"We need the Russians to do what they've been doing, to cooperate, to continue to negotiate with the Iranians, to try to provide enriched uranium, control the fuel cycle in dealings with the Iranians," said John Edwards.

He said he expects the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council. If that happens, he added, the United States will need Russia's support as one of the five veto-wielding members in the Security Council.