Russia-US Ties Strained Ahead of Leaders' Summit

July 7, 2008 - 7:16 PM

Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to hold talks with President Bush in Washington this week, at a time relations have been affected by differences over Iran's nuclear ambitions, terrorism and other matters.

The two leaders are expected to discuss "a wide range of current international issues," the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin is also due to attend the United Nations summit in New York.

The U.S. believes Iran is using a civilian nuclear program, developed with the Russian assistance, to cover its development of nuclear weapons, and wants the Security Council to look into the matter.

Iran denies the charge, as does Russia, which says it opposes referral to the council.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week urged Russia, as well as India and China to join the U.S. in sending a "'broad based message"' to Iran to halt its nuclear activity or face possible U.N. sanctions.

Her appeal did not appear to have changed official minds in Moscow, however. Russia's U.N. mission spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Saturday reiterated the stance that "we see no reason to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council."

Russia has been irked by Western questioning of its compliance with international weapons of mass destruction agreements.

The U.S. State Department said in a recent report Russia "continued to maintain" an offensive biological weapons program. The report addressed instances of countries where the U.S. says evidence exists of actual or potential noncompliance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

"Russia is dedicated to the strict adherence to the convention," Russia's foreign ministry said in response, accusing the State Department of "not tak[ing] the trouble to publish concrete facts."

The ministry also criticized what it called one-sided or inaccurate statements about Russian compliance with agreements on strategic weapons, conventional forces in Europe, and sensitive missile technology.

Another sore point in bilateral relations has to do with anti-terrorism activity, and Moscow's view that the West employs "double standards" in fighting terrorism.

Russian State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov called on the U.N. at its gathering this week to adopt a comprehensive convention on terrorism that would "exclude any double standards."

Russia's key complaint is that Western nations do not regard the conflict in Chechnya as an integral part of the broader war against Islamist terrorism, launched after the 9/11 attacks.

In remarks to the Interfax news agency marking the fourth anniversary of 9/11 Sunday, Russian foreign ministry official Mikhail Kamynin said Moscow had repeatedly - but unsuccessfully - asked Washington and London to extradite Chechen separatist envoys Ilyas Akhmadov and Akhmed Zakayev, who have been granted political asylum in the U.S. and Britain respectively.

Kamynin also referred to a recent ABC News interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, saying it had facilitated terrorist propaganda and directed calls for violence against Russians.

U.S.-Russian ties have also been strained over what Moscow views as Western meddling in several former Soviet states which Russia considers part of its sphere of influence.

Putin told a group of Western experts at the Kremlin that Russia had no major rifts with the West over the "revolutions" which brought changes of government in Ukraine and Georgia.

At the same time, he said the West should listen to Moscow's concerns about legitimate interests in the former Soviet Union.

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