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Kramer Discusses 'Complicated' U.S.-Russia Relationship

(Washington, DC--November 5, 2007) Despite differences over a number of issues including missile defense, arms control, domestic governance and what was termed "a general zero-sum approach " to relations with its neighbors, the U.S. continues to work cooperatively with Russia on areas of mutual concern, such as counter-proliferation, counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and the six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. That was the message of U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David J. Kramer, who discussed the U.S. -Russia relationship during a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office this week.

Kramer emphasized that the U.S. "want[s] to cooperate with Russia" on the use of the Qabala radar in Azerbaijan and the Armavir radar being built in southern Russia "in developing a missile defense against potential threats in the Middle East and elsewhere." Kramer noted that the Qabala radar "would be able to provide surveillance and early warning. It would not be able to guide intercept missiles to hit an oncoming missile, and that is what we have in mind for Poland and the Czech Republic." Concerning the Iranian government's efforts to develop a nuclear program, Kramer said, "even though there may be some tactical differences... on the strategic objective Russia and the United States agree, which is Iran should not become a nuclear weapons state."

Kramer expressed concern about Russia's relations with its neighbors, such as Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Kramer said Russia wrongly views "efforts by countries such as Ukraine or Moldova to improve their relationship with the West... as, by definition, counter to Russian interests." U.S. policymakers are convinced, Kramer said, that "countries in the region can develop stronger, better relations with the West while simultaneously maintaining good, healthy relations with Russia."

Kramer also criticized Russia's efforts to restrict the ability of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to observe and report on Russia's upcoming parliamentary election. Kramer said, "There doesn't seem to be a great deal of suspense connected with the Duma election, so I'm not quite sure what the problem is with allowing an ODIHR observation team in [Russia] to do its job... I hope that the team will be allowed in without conditions."

Kramer told the broadcasters, "There are going to be areas of disagreement [between the U.S. and Russia]. On a number of these issues, we may wind up having to agree to disagree. But if we can manage those differences in a way that doesn't adversely affect the areas where we have good relations, I think that's all for the better."