| MOSCOW, April 2 (UPI) -- Russia-U.S. ties were further
strained by the war
in Iraq Wednesday when the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned U.S.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow to protest the continued bombing of
of Baghdad, this time near the Russian Embassy.
In a strongly worded statement, the ministry said Moscow "demanded
American authorities take urgent and exhaustive measures so that
dangerous and unacceptable incidents are not repeated in future."
The ministry said the bombing of a residential area of Baghdad
Russian Embassy had placed "the security of Russian diplomatic
Later in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked that
political and economic reasons, Russia is not interested in seeing
defeat of the United States in Iraq."
Speaking while on a trip to the town of Tambov, 200 miles southeast
Moscow, Putin reiterated his position that Moscow is "interested
bringing the Iraqi problem back within the framework of the United
-- an understandable position as Russia seeks to retain its post-Cold
status and influence as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the
The two statements reflect the continuing debate in top political
as to how far Moscow should risk going in damaging already sour
with Washington. Russia seeks, at the same time, to keep up official
condemnation of the war while providing a sign to Washington that
Kremlin is no longer such a full-hearted supporter of Saddam Hussein's
Early on, Russia placed itself firmly in the anti-war camp by
France and Germany and effectively blocking a U.S.-British bid
approval for war at the U.N. Security Council.
As war broke out, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov condemned
U.S.-led attack as "illegal and doomed to failure."
However, as time goes by, harsh words are gradually being replaced
more pragmatic pronouncements.
In an interview Tuesday with Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of Russia's
circulation tabloids, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov referred
to the thorny
issue of Iraq's $7.5 billion debt to Russia, admitting for the
that "Saddam is neither friend nor brother to us, and he
will never repay
(Iraq's) debts to us."
Ivanov also reflected continuing bitterness in the Kremlin over
Washington's decision to launch the war without U.N. endorsement.
question of precedent -- today the United States doesn't like
tomorrow Syria, then Iran, North Korea, and then what: someone
Relations with Washington have been further strained in the past
as Moscow angrily rejected U.S. allegations that Russian firms
sensitive military equipment to Iraq as "war propaganda."
protested increased operations of U-2 spy planes near the Russian-Georgian
border, when Russian fighter jets were scrambled to shadow the
And in a snub to Washington, the state Duma, the lower house
has put off ratification of a nuclear arms reduction treaty because
Another factor is Russia's commercial interest in Iraq. Moscow
concerns that its significant oil contracts in Iraq must be respected
any post-war administration in Iraq. Amid widespread fears that
oilfields will be split between U.S. and British oil companies
hostilities end, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin declared that
insist the old contracts stand and be honored under international
In an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, Vershbow
the Bush administration would "seek ways of respecting Russian
interests in the framework of joint work with the U.N. or other
But the U.S. envoy hastened to add that Washington "can
guarantees," leaving the subject open to interpretation.
However, leading political analysts have dismissed the notion
U.S.-Russian ties will be permanently damaged by the war.
the leader of the liberal Yabloko party, said the war "will
not ruin Russian-American strategic relations."
"That is not in our interests," he told a Russian radio
Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir
Lukin, a leading member of Yavlinsky's party and a former
ambassador to Washington, told Russia's Channel One television
network that the "partnership with the U.S. is in Russia's
vital interests and is unavoidable."
"The Russian-U.S. relationship has been damaged, it has
psychologically and ... there is a different chemistry, no longer
not confrontational, but cold and reserved," Lukin said.
"We should not be emotionally attached to Saddam Hussein's
regime, we need
to think ahead," Lukin said.
"But what is important is that by doing what it has done,
sharply lowered the threshold for starting military operations,"
noting, "It is in Russia's interests that the threshold be
Pro- and anti-war observers agree that, for now, Russia -- both
official and street level -- will enjoy seeing the United States
in a series of mishaps and setbacks in Iraq in retaliation for
George W. Bush's snub of the United Nations, even as the eventual
of the war, and the need for a post-war reconciliation with Washington,
become increasingly apparent.
Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said the Russian public's condemnation
strikes on Iraq is driven in large part by anti-American feeling,
widespread perception that Washington had acted as a bully by
international community's opposition to war.
Ryzhkov noted that while Putin condemned the war as "unjustified"
"mistake," he stopped short of calling it an "aggression,"
a term favored
by many outspoken Russian legislators when describing U.S. actions
Andrei Piontkovsky of Moscow's Strategic Studies Center said
officials held the view that the United States should suffer another
"Vietnam syndrome" that would teach the Bush administration
a harsh lesson
and rule out future U.S.-led military campaigns of such scale.
Piontkovsky warned that "it is necessary to end the anti-American
that has caught up our media, especially because it can bring
us to a dead
end in foreign policy."
"The self-preservation instinct dictates the necessity of
alliance with (the United States)," he said, stressing that
that we love the United States."
With polls showing almost 90 percent of Russians opposed to war,
anti-American sentiment at an all-time high of 55 percent, up
percent last summer, and the chance of a significant setback for
forces in Iraq still possible, the Bush administration must accept
Kremlin will continue to play to a receptive home crowd by taking
at America for a little while longer.
Vershbow admitted recently that Putin may be feeling hurt because
"not received enough in return for his post-9/11 cooperation"
the anti-Taliban coalition. Another factor is the continued pledge
Bush administration to lift discriminatory anti-Russian trade
the Jackson-Vanik amendment imposed by Congress during the Cold
Officials in Moscow bitterly laugh that Washington vows to scrap
legislation every time it wants Moscow's support, but fails to
act on its
Despite the rhetoric coming from Moscow, a senior U.S. diplomat
that the personal relationship between Putin and Bush was still
diplomat stressed that, while agreeing to disagree on some issues,
had confirmed his invitation to Bush to visit the Russian president's
hometown of St. Petersburg at the end of May as part of the city's
As the diplomat put it, "our bilateral ties will weather
this storm," even
if the relationship becomes more sober now that the honeymoon