Condi Talks Straight with Russia

Condoleezza Rice spoke on a radio program today and took questions from callers upon her arrival in Moscow:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, gave an unusually upbeat account Wednesday of U.S.-Russian cooperation on international issues.

“We see Russia as a strategic partner in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons,” Rice told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. “We see Russia as a partner in solving regional issues, like the Balkans or the Middle East.”

Rice also mentioned Russian cooperation with the United States and other countries in efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, Associated Press reported.

“Russia is not a strategic enemy,” Rice said, suggesting that the two countries have worked well together since the final years of communist rule right up to the present.

In the interview to Russia’s leading independent news radio station Rice made scant reference to U.S. concern about setbacks to Russia’s democratic development. She only briefly mentioned the great concentration of power under the president and the need for a free media to help people together decide their fates.

Accused of playing ‘good cop-bad cop’ with Russia:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played both good cop and bad cop with Russia this week, stroking Moscow as a strategic partner while rapping it for backsliding on democratic reforms.

But if Rice’s 24-hour visit here made anything clear, it was the complexities of dealing with a Cold War foe become ally in the war on terror and major oil supplier in a fuel-hungry world.

Russia has been considered a key test of President George W. Bush’s commitment to fight for freedom. His top envoy, a Russia expert, came out swinging even before she hit the ground Tuesday.

She described President Vladimir Putin’s centralization of power and clampdown on independent broadcast media as “very worrying” and said “the trends have not been positive on the democracy side.”

She criticized the judiciary, warned Putin against illegally seeking a third term and cautioned that “people are watching” to see how state moves against the oil giant Yukos and its jailed chairman play out.

But by the day of her meetings with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, Rice was singing a sweeter tune on her first trip to Moscow as chief US diplomat.

“We understand that Russia is finding its own way and we respect that,” she told a popular talk radio show. She was only interested in seeing Russia achieve its full potential through the democratic path.

A Russian Minister had some words for Ms. Rice as well:

Russia wants to see the US as a powerful democratic country observing the international law, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated.

“We have confirmed that like the US, which wants Russia to make effective contribution in the global development, we want the US to be powerful and democratic and cooperate with other states in the world, observing the international law,” the Russian minister told journalists after a meeting between the Russian president and the US secretary of state.

Pravda not happy with Condi’s remarks about Russian media:

She had already made a fool of herself on Tuesday, when she declared that the Kremlin’s grip on the media is “very worrying.” The question is, what grip?

For the information of Condoleezza Rice, who despite being Secretary of State of her country, continues to demonstrate an ignorance of world affairs at a shockingly consistent level, the notion that the Kremlin exerts a grip on the media is a fairy tale invented in the gardens of Washington.

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