Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US-Russia Ties: Chill over Syria Replaces Warmth of Obama's 'Reset' Policy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US-Russia Ties: Chill over Syria Replaces Warmth of Obama's 'Reset' Policy

Article excerpt

Obama once touted improved US ties with Russia as a major achievement. But the contentious wrangle over Syria at the UN is threatening to undo the 'reset.'

Remember President Obama's "reset" of US-Russia relations? It may be time to hit the "alert" button.

The new day in relations between Washington and Moscow, which Mr. Obama has touted as a major foreign-policy achievement of his presidency, is looking more fragile all the time as the two powers take swipes at each other over everything from elections to missile defense.

The latest point of contention in a deepening split is Syria. Russia is using diplomatic wrangling over the Syrian crisis to cudgel the US and its NATO partners over their Libya action this year, and the US in return is accusing Russia of "bombast."

Things seem to be a long way from where they were in June, when Russian President Dmitri Medvedev cooed to the Financial Times that "No one wishes the reelection of Barack Obama as US president as I do."

The most recent focal point for an increasingly testy rift was the microphone outside the Security Council's chambers at the United Nations in New York.

On Thursday, Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stood at the mike and told reporters that Libya, not Syria, was the priority subject for Security Council consideration, "given the fact that we were led to believe by NATO leaders there are zero civilian casualties of their bombing campaign." Russia wants the council to launch a probe into reports of civilian deaths caused by a NATO bombing campaign that was implemented as part of a plan to protect Libyan civilians from the regime of ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi.

That prompted the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, to follow Ambassador Churkin to the microphone.

"Oh, the bombast and bogus claims," she said. "Is everyone sufficiently distracted from Syria now and the killing that is happening before our very eyes? …

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