- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

Blaming Russia

The Russian ambassador yesterday bristled at U.S. claims that Moscow has abused civil rights, even as he tried to put the best shine on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Russian relations.

Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov complained that U.S. critics are too eager to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for whatever crimes are committed against opponents of his government. Critics also falsely attribute political motives to Russia’s efforts to raise the price of energy exports to neighboring countries such as Ukraine, the ambassador said.

“What is especially troubling now is a tendency in U.S. public discourse to blame Russia first,” he wrote in an article published in yesterday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Ushakov cited the cases of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who defected to Britain six years ago, and the killings of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and central banker Andrei Kozlov.

“Without even examining the evidence, everybody began attacking Russia,” Mr. Ushakov wrote, denouncing the “accuse-first, seek-proof-later approach.”

“No one noticed that Russians were equally shocked by these tragedies,” he said.

The current issue of the American Journalism Review features a lengthy article on the perils Russian journalists face when they report on corruption or restrictions on civil rights under the Putin government.

“Over the past six years, journalists in Russia have been poisoned, bludgeoned with axes, shot in the head at point-blank range and pummeled with baseball bats and hammers,” the magazine said.

The State Department faulted Russia for a continuing deterioration of human rights and noted that foreign observers cited fundamental problems with Mr. Putin’s re-election in 2004.

Mr. Ushakov told the United States that it risks angering the Russian people by its persistent criticism.

“What offends us is the view shared by some in Washington that Russia can be used when it is needed and discarded or even abused when it is not relevant to American objectives,” he said.

Earlier this week, the ambassador invited American guests to the Russian Embassy for a reception marking the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1807.

Mr. Ushakov said, “Our countries have gone through it all — ups and downs, triumphs and crises, brotherhood-in-arms and confrontation, detente and nuclear arms race, rapprochement and Cold War and even the Alaska purchase.”

“Today … we are partners and true allies in a whole range of areas,” he said, adding that he has seen a much higher “level of openness” in Washington since he became ambassador in 1999.

However, he also cautioned U.S. and Russian policy-makers to avoid “old habits” of suspicion and confrontation.

“They still hinder closer contacts and do not help in reaching strategic goals,” he said. “What is important now is that we should not create new stereotypes that distort the images of Russia and America in public opinion.”

Calming Pakistan

The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan yesterday tried to assure the government that the Bush administration does not support elements of a congressional bill that would tie U.S. military assistance to Pakistan to its cooperation in the war on terrorism.

The administration “has serious concerns with several of the bill’s provisions,” the embassy said, adding that placing conditions on military aid would undercut Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations in the border area with Afghanistan, where Taliban terrorists are operating.

“The government of Pakistan has continued to demonstrate its commitment to cooperating with the U.S.,” the embassy said. “Such conditionality would be counterproductive to fostering a closer relationship with Pakistan.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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