Rice Comments on Assertive Russian Military - 2007

In Exclusive Interview, Rice Comments on Assertive Russian Military, Now Seen as Second Only to America's


2007

In an interview with ABC News, Secretary of State of Condoleezza Rice expressed concern about Russia's increasing military assertiveness. "I think the rapid growth in Russian military spending definitely bears watching," Rice said. "And frankly, some of the efforts for instance, Bear flights in areas that we haven't seen for a while are really not helpful to security." Rice was referring to flights of Russian TU-95 "Bear" bombers, which Russia started this summer, bringing the Russian aircraft to the edge of American and NATO airspace off the coasts of Alaska, Britain and Guam. In each case, the U.S. Air Force or NATO scrambled fighter jets to intercept the Russian aircraft, replaying a cat-and-mouse game that was common during the Cold War. But the Russian bombers had not made flights like these since 1992.

"We don't have an adversarial relationship with Russia any longer, and I would sincerely hope that Russian military activities, as well as Russian military expenditures, would reflect that," Rice said. Russia's military spending has increased dramatically under President Putin. U.S. intelligence estimates that Russia now spends as much on its military as China, which has also raised alarms with its build-up.

"Russia is once again indisputably the number two military power in the world, second only to the United States," a senior U.S. official said. Russia arms sales have also increased dramatically under Putin. And when it comes to arms, the list of Russian customers reads like a who's who of U.S. adversaries, including Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Burma. Rice said she raised this issue directly in talks over the weekend with Russian leaders in Moscow.

"The Russians, of course, say that there's nothing illegal about these arms sales," Rice said. "I [told them] not everything that is legal in the narrowest sense is good for the international system.

"Clearly, in the case of Iran and Syria, you have states that are engaged in destabilizing behavior in one of the world's most volatile regions, and, by the way, a region where we and the Russians are working together to try to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a more stable Lebanon, a more stable Iraq. And so, yes, it's a problem."

Source: http://www.abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=3728855

U.S. Frustrated by Putin’s Grip on Power


At the gathering of leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Germany this year, President Bush turned to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and remarked that the two of them had outlasted most of their old colleagues from the group’s annual meetings, American officials recalled. Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi, Gerhard Schröder and Tony Blair had left or were leaving.

“Next year,” Mr. Putin replied, “it will be only you.”

Mr. Putin’s response, for a time, persuaded the Bush administration that he would keep his word and step down as Russia’s president when his term ends next year, several months before Mr. Bush’s own presidency ends in January 2009. Now, though, Mr. Putin’s plans are far from clear, and as a result, the administration’s hopes that Russia would move toward a freer, more democratic society have substantially diminished.

Mr. Putin’s surprise suggestion last month that he might yet remain in power — possibly as a newly empowered prime minister, possibly as the eminence atop the “party of power” — has left the White House stumped. The administration is uncertain how to deal with a man who has consolidated power almost exclusively in his own hands, even as Mr. Bush continues to call Mr. Putin “my friend.”

That is why a certain discomfort regarding Mr. Putin’s future hovered over two days of talks here attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

“If you don’t have countervailing institutions, then the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development,” Ms. Rice said Saturday, raising concerns about the state of Russia’s judiciary, legislative branch and news media, but declining to criticize Mr. Putin by name.

When asked by reporters more than once and by a human rights advocate in a meeting at Spaso House, the American ambassador’s residence, she declined to discuss who might lead Russia, formally or informally, come next year and what that outcome might mean. At a news conference with the Americans and their Russian counterparts, the question elicited a smile from Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and guffaws from uniformed members of the general staff sitting in the audience, as if asking it were audacious.

“There’s a lot of speculation about who’s going to be president, whether President Putin is going to take any of a number of jobs or no job at all,” Ms. Rice said later, “and I just think speculating on that is not going to help.”

Such comments reflect another reality: the powerlessness of the United States when it comes to prodding Russia in a more democratic direction, barely six years after Mr. Putin’s willingness to reach out to Mr. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, seemed to herald a new era of cooperation. Mr. Bush, a believer in the personal bonds of diplomacy, said he had seen in Mr. Putin’s eyes a trusted democratic ally in the effort to curb terrorism. Instead, on Mr. Bush’s watch, Russia has slid toward a more authoritarian system that seems to differ with the United States on more issues than not.

The administration’s occasional scoldings have accomplished little except to harden anti-American views at the Kremlin and in the state news media. (A swaggering Mr. Putin opened the discussions on Friday with a sarcastic harangue over the American plans for missile defense.) Along the way, promoting democracy in Russia has largely faded from the administration’s agenda, overtaken by a clear-eyed, pragmatic effort to defuse the disputes over missile defense, the future of the two countries’ strategic nuclear forces and the array of conventional forces in Europe.

Those issues, along with Iran’s nuclear programs, dominated the discussions here. A senior official who traveled here, speaking on the condition of anonymity because diplomacy was involved, said what Mr. Putin’s next steps might be was not a topic in any of the meetings. Tanya Lokshina, the chairwoman of a Russian human rights organization, the Demos Center for Information and Research, was among those who met with Ms. Rice on Saturday. She said that given the focus on security matters, the meeting with rights campaigners had been mostly symbolic.

She contended that the United States had “lost the high moral ground,” and thus should join with European countries to make it clear to Mr. Putin that a drift further away from democracy was unacceptable diplomatically.

“The American voice alone doesn’t work anymore,” she said after the meeting. “The Russians are not influenced by it.” She said Ms. Rice had bristled at the criticism, replying sharply, “We never lost the high moral ground.”

There is a growing sense in the White House that with Mr. Putin’s accretion of power, his ability to dictate his own successor or to remain the country’s ruler in some capacity is unavoidable at this point. Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said last week that he could imagine Mr. Bush turning to his friend and saying, “You really would be better off, Vladimir, if you really moved a little bit toward democracy.” But he went on to say that he did not expect a change.

In fact, senior administration officials find it hard to imagine that Mr. Putin would step aside and leave the trappings of office to a successor, even a weakened one, let alone the power he has concentrated in the presidency. Could Russia conceivably be represented at the next Group of 8 meeting, or any other important meeting, by someone who is nominally the head of state, but not the country’s real leader?

Whatever Mr. Putin’s ultimate plan, the Bush administration effectively has no choice but to deal with him until the succession plays itself out. Ms. Rice said she did not think that the uncertainty of the process would prevent progress on the disputes at the center of these latest talks. She also said, when asked, that she had not misjudged Mr. Putin back in 2001 when Mr. Bush first met him. “I certainly always read him as somebody who was going to do what he thought was in the best interest of his nation and was going to be, in a sense, transparent about that,” Ms. Rice said. “Where there have been differences, I think it’s because I think we read those interests differently.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/wo...a4a&ei=5087%0A

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