Frosty, but no Cold War, Rice contends
Will meet Putin amid impasse over US policies
MOSCOW -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday there's no "new Cold War" between Washington and Moscow, although she acknowledged growing strains ahead of talks with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
"It's time for intensive diplomacy," said Rice, who meets face-to-face with the Russian president today amid major differences over US missile defense plans and Putin's increasing criticism of American policy.
Rice said Washington is committed to working through the differences, notably over US plans for a missile defense system in Europe, Russia's threat to suspend a major military treaty, and Moscow's opposition to a UN plan for Kosovo independence.
There is also growing US concern about Moscow's treatment of former Soviet republics and steps Putin has taken to consolidate power in the Kremlin -- seen as democratic backsliding as the nation prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
"I don't throw around terms like 'new Cold War,' " 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," Rice said aboard her plane 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 US-Soviet relationship, this is a US-Russian relationship," said Rice, an expert on the Cold War who first visited Moscow in 1979. "A great deal has changed."
The two nations have traded increasingly sharp barbs, despite ostensibly warm personal feelings between Putin and President Bush, who spoke to each other just last week and are expected to meet at a summit of leaders in Germany next month.
A planned event at which Rice and Putin were to be photographed together and make brief remarks was canceled by the Kremlin, according to US officials.
And a senior Russian diplomat warned the United States 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 Rice arrived.
Last month, simmering Russian anger over US 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. 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," Neverov told ITAR-Tass.
Last month, hours before the United States and its NATO allies met in Norway to discuss the matter, Putin threatened to suspend Russia's participation in a key treaty limiting military deployments in Europe.
Rice said yesterday that NATO and the United States want to keep the Conventional Forces in Europe pact alive but cannot unless Russia abides with its treaty commitments.