- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

ANKARA, Turkey — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that Russia must show stronger commitment to the “basics of democracy” if it wants to “deepen” its relations with the West, but punishing it would be the wrong thing to do.

“It is important that Russia make clear to the world that it is intent on strengthening the rule of law, strengthening the role of an independent judiciary, permitting a free and independent press to flourish,” she said during a visit to Warsaw.

“These are all the basics of democracy,” she said. “A firmer foundation for that will indeed strengthen and underscore and put real, further substance into a deepened relationship with the democracies of Europe and, indeed, with the United States.”

During the flight to Ankara later in the day, she told reporters that punishing Moscow is not the answer.

“I don’t really think that the isolation of Russia from the broad trends that are developing worldwide is the answer,” said the secretary, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Ankara last night for the first time since she took office.

“Rather, it is a combination of helping and supporting those in Russia who are trying to support democratic developments. It is continued discussion and dialogue with the Russian government about the expectations of the world,” she said.

Miss Rice also said that withholding U.S. support for Russia’s aspirations to join the World Trade Organization, for example, would be counterproductive.

“I think it would be exactly the wrong thing to do to try and isolate Russia from the effects” of economic liberalization, which in fact would promote “democratic development,” she said.

Miss Rice also praised Moscow’s “law enforcement and intelligence cooperation” in Washington’s war against terrorism.

Mr. Lavrov flew to Ankara from Moscow especially for their working dinner. Miss Rice is on a weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East, and her hectic schedule did not allow her to travel to Russia.

During the 2-hour dinner, Miss Rice criticized the Kremlin for its treatment of the oil giant Yukos, its curb on electronic media and its move to appoint regional governors instead of electing them, a senior State Department official said.

Mr. Lavrov responded to each point with a counterpoint, the official said. Those issues will remain “part of an evolving discussion,” the official added, suggesting diplomatically that they are not likely to be resolved soon.

President Bush, in his inaugural address last month, said that other countries’ good relations with the United States will depend on their commitment to freedom and democracy.

“We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia later this month.

Miss Rice said yesterday that, in addition to strengthening democracy at home, Russia can help to promote it elsewhere in the region.

“This is not just about democratic developments in Russia,” she said in an apparent reference to the recent “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine that led to the election of President Viktor Yushchenko. “It is about democratic developments in the whole of Europe and all of the neighbors of Russia.”

In her meetings with Turkish officials, who fear that increased power for Iraq’s Kurds could cause separatist attempts by Turkey’s Kurdish region, Miss Rice assured them that the United States is “fully committed to a unified Iraq.”

Today, she turns her attention to the Middle East, where she is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Tomorrow, she is scheduled to visit the West Bank and hold talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.


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