Already sour, mood between Russia and West worsens

Rice faults course taken by Moscow

By Judy Dempsey
International Herald Tribune / September 19, 2008
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BERLIN - Relations between Russia and the West deteriorated further yesterday, with a warning by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Kremlin's attempt to rebuild the country had taken a "dark turn" and that a "paranoid, aggressive impulse" from the Russian past was reappearing.

In a speech in Washington on US-Russia relations, Rice also criticized Moscow for using its role as a major energy supplier "as a political weapon against some of its neighbors." She castigated Russia for threatening "journalists, dissidents and others."

"What has become clear is that the legitimate goal of rebuilding Russia has taken a dark turn with the rollback of personal freedoms, the arbitrary enforcement of the law, the pervasive corruption at various levels of Russian society and the paranoid, aggressive impulse which has manifested itself before in Russian history," she said.

Rice's tough speech followed a day of growing tensions between Moscow and major international organizations, including NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which is based in Vienna.

The Kremlin's envoy in Kabul threatened to block NATO from using Russian air space for operations in Afghanistan.

And in Vienna, Russia failed to agree where monitors from the OSCE should be deployed in Georgia's conflict zones.

Diplomats in Vienna said that the stance taken by the Kremlin underlined the difficulties that NATO, the OSCE and the European Union faced with Russia.

All three are dependent on Russia's support, with NATO using Russian air space for some of its cargo and logistics required for the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan.

The Russian envoy in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told the BBC that Russian air space was "still open, but if the NATO countries continue with their hostile policies with regard to Russia, definitely this issue will happen."

Kabulov made his remarks a day after NATO's 26 ambassadors and its secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, ended a two-day visit to Tbilisi.

There, the envoys pledged support for Georgia eventually joining the NATO alliance, with de Hoop Scheffer insisting that the alliance would not be intimidated by Russia.

The Russian leadership has repeatedly warned NATO against admitting Georgia and Ukraine. But by sending Russian troops into Georgia last month, ostensibly to wrest control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia from Georgian forces, diplomats said Russia appears to have strengthened the alliance's resolve to commit to admitting Georgia at some stage.

In Vienna, the OSCE - which includes the United States, Russia, many of the former Soviet states and Europe - locked horns with Russia over the terms of sending military monitors into the buffer zone around South Ossetia. Russian forces last month drove out Georgian troops and then declared the breakaway region of Georgia independent.

After weeks of wrangling in Vienna over the terms under which the monitors would be deployed, the chairman of the OSCE said yesterday that all talks had broken off.

"There is no point in continuing negotiations," said Antti Turunen, chairman of the OSCE council. "The area of responsibility for monitors is the main sticking point."

Anvar Azimov, Russia's envoy to the talks, said Russia was keeping the door open.

"No doubt we will find a constructive solution," he said

"The legitimate goal of rebuilding Russia has taken a dark turn," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rift widens

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