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Is the Honeymoon between the U.S. and Russia Over?

Posted February. 20, 2005 23:04,   


With the summit talk between U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to be held in Bratislava, Slovakia on February 24 closing in, conflicts and tensions between the two countries are mounting.

The United States has shown moves to take Russia off of the list of G8 countries, after Russia announced its will to sell nuclear fuels to an Iranian atomic power plant.

The discord between the two countries is to such an extent that former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke noted, “The honeymoon between the White House and the Kremlin that has continued since 9/11 in 2001 is over.” The Russian media reported likewise, saying, “There are piles of tough tasks on the negotiation table awaiting the two leaders.”

Russia sticks to its plan to sell nuclear fuels to Iran-

The Russian government announced on February 17 that it would go ahead with its plan to sell nuclear fuel to the Bushehr atomic power plant in Iran. In so doing, the Kremlin publicized its will to not meet America’s demands, which is opposed to Iran’s construction of atomic plants and its potential development of nuclear arms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on February 18, went to great lengths to state his plan to pay a visit to Iran, saying, “Iran has no intention to develop nuclear weapons.” Russia, mindful of possible backlash from the U.S., related, “We will collect spent fuels from the Iranian power plant,” by which it means it would forestall Iran’s extraction of plutonium from reprocessed spent fuels.

At present, Russia has made it clear that it has no plan to give up its atomic power plant business that consists of upwards of 800 million dollars worth of interests. Iran’s nuclear ambitions are one of America’s top foreign affairs agendas alongside North Korea’s nuclear issue and Iraq.

A senior official from the Russia’s Ministry of Defense, on February 16, acknowledged, “We are in the midst of the negotiation with Syria over our sale of short-range surface-to-air SA-18 missiles.” It is seen as a sign that Russia is strengthening its relations with Syria, a country the U.S. effectively regards as an enemy on the grounds that it is a terrorist-supporting country.

Russia has been joining the efforts by such countries as Iran and Syria after these two, of late, announced they would display a “united front” against pressure from America.

U.S. drives Russia to the edge in the name of its democratization effort-

The Russian government-run information agency Novosti reported on February 18 that the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution to exclude Russia from the list of G8 countries on that day, a day after Russia made public its plan to sell nuclear fuel to Iran.

Highly influential lawmakers like Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Joseph Lieberman sponsored the bill. They argue it is absurd that Russia, being a “totalitarian state,” is included in the group of Western industrialized nations.

Earlier, the U.S. Senate also held a hearing over issues like the “Yukos scandal” and Russia’s democratization. There is a growing common understanding in the U.S. political circles that America cannot but doubt whether the Kremlin is serious in its pursuit for a market economy and democracy now that its formerly biggest private corporation, Yukos, has been forcefully broken up.

U.S. Defense Secretary Condoleezza Rice, for her part, put pressure on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on February 5 in a meeting of U.S.-Russian foreign-affairs ministers in Ankara, Turkey, saying, “Russia should show its intent on allowing more freedom of speech and improving its rule of law.” She also urged, “Russia should spare no effort for democratization if it wants to have a more solid relationship with the West.”

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com