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Following the address, the two major Western information companies drew vastly different conclusions. While the Associated Press headlined their report “Putin zings U.S. back after criticism,” Reuters announced, “Putin talks babies, avoids tangle with US in speech.” This is indicative of not only how media outlets can differ on how they report the news, but also how there is little certainty about where U.S.-Russian relations are headed.
PAVEL BORODIN, A FORMER KREMLIN head of the property administration under Boris Yeltsin and current Russia-Belarus Secretary of State, was quoted in April in the government information agency Itar-Tass stating that the “Russia-Belarus Union State is the first step towards the reunification of the whole of post-Soviet space.” While chances of this occurring are slightly less than none, there clearly are reasons to believe that Washington and Moscow are increasingly drifting apart.
The aforementioned article by Sergei Lavrov was not his only recent publication aimed at the United States. In fact, just days before the release of his Fulton article, the Russian Foreign Minister lambasted the United States repeatedly in a piece that appeared in the Russian weekly Moscow News. Here Lavrov sought to clarify that Moscow has no intention of siding with the United States in what he calls an “intercivilizational conflict” with the Muslim world as Russia would be destined to become a “front-line state.” He also castigated “the infatuation with obsessive ideas about changing the world,” such as promoting the advancement of democracy and following a post-Cold War myth of “victors and vanquished.” The Russian minister concluded: “Those who study Russia professionally…and are working out policy toward it, must understand that it would be naive to expect from us a readiness to be content in the world with the role of one being led.”
Moscow has drawn its line in the sand and made it clear that the interests and ideologies of Russia and the United States are incompatible in many areas. Washington must do all it can to ease Russian apprehensions over our involvement in their near-abroad. However, that will not be enough. Differences arise in too many areas — such as on issues of arms exports, democracy and human rights, Russia-China ties, and in traditional power politics — to simply suggest that there must be more “communication” and “understanding.” Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this will change anytime soon as Vladimir Putin’s vast popularity may well ensure that an apparatchik carries on his legacy long after his term expires in 2008.
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