- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

MOSCOW — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday there’s no “new Cold War” between Washington and Moscow, though she acknowledged growing strains ahead of contentious talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s time for intensive diplomacy,” said Miss Rice, who meets face to face with the Russian president today amid major differences over U.S. missile-defense plans and Mr. Putin’s increasing criticism of U.S. policy.

Miss Rice said Washington is committed to working through the differences, notably over U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, Russia’s threat to suspend a major military treaty and Moscow’s opposition to a U.N. plan for Kosovo independence.

There is also growing U.S. concern about Moscow’s treatment of its former Soviet neighbors and steps Mr. Putin has taken to consolidate power in the Kremlin, a move seen as democratic backsliding.

“I don’t throw around terms like ‘new Cold War,’ Miss Rice said. “It is a big, complicated relationship, but it is not one that is anything like the implacable hostility” between the United States and the Soviet Union for a half-century after World War II.

“It is not an easy time in the relationship, but it is also not, I think, a time in which cataclysmic things are affecting the relationship or catastrophic things are happening in the relationship,” Miss Rice told reporters aboard her plane on the way to Moscow.

“It is critically important to use this time to enhance those things that are going well and to work on those things that are not going well.”

She noted that the United States and Russia are working together in numerous areas: on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, the global spread of weapons of mass destruction and efforts to achieve Middle East peace.

“Russia is not the Soviet Union, so this is not a U.S.-Soviet relationship, this is a U.S.-Russian relationship,” said Miss Rice, who first visited Moscow in 1979. “A great deal has a changed.”

Her visit comes as the two nations have traded increasingly sharp barbs despite ostensibly warm personal feelings between Mr. Putin and President Bush, who spoke to each other last week and are expected to meet at a summit of leaders in Germany next month.

A planned event at which Miss Rice and Mr. Putin were to be photographed together and make brief remarks was canceled by the Kremlin, according to U.S. officials.

And a senior Russian diplomat warned the U.S. not to try to go it alone in world affairs.

“Unilateral steps, the more so unilateral force reaction, interference in affairs of other states under various pretexts … lead to a deadlock,” the chief of the foreign ministry’s North America department, Igor Neverov, told the Russian Itar-Tass news agency as Miss Rice arrived.

Last month, simmering Russian anger over U.S. plans to place missile-defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic, both former Warsaw Pact members, boiled over despite Washington’s pledges to cooperate with Moscow on the system.

Russia views the plan as an attempt to alter the strategic balance. Miss Rice has dismissed such concerns as “ludicrous,” but top Russian military officials have hinted the system might be targeted.

“Moscow is not convinced by Washington’s assurances that [missile defense] in Europe will not be directed against Russia,” Mr. Neverov told Itar-Tass.

Last month, hours before the United States and its NATO allies met in Norway to discuss the matter, Mr. Putin threatened to suspend Russia’s participation in a key treaty limiting military deployments in Europe.

Miss Rice said yesterday that NATO and the United States want to keep the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe pact alive but cannot unless Russia abides with its treaty commitments.

Russia views U.S. activity in its former sphere of influence with growing suspicion. Last week, Mr. Putin denounced “disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich.”

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