U.S. Denies Ukraine Crisis Frays Ties with Kremlin; but Moscow Press Portrays CIA as Plotting Interference in Election
Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Bush administration will not let differences with the Kremlin over the disputed Ukrainian election become an issue in U.S.-Russian relations, officials said yesterday, even as the two countries deplored each other's "interference" in the ex-Soviet republic.
"We have not tried to make this an issue in our bilateral relationship, and we don't see it as part of it," a senior U.S. official said.
But with the two powers on opposite sides, there has been a surge of anti-Americanism in Russia, where many think the turmoil in Ukraine is a CIA plot aimed at destabilizing Moscow's back yard, diplomats and analysts said.
"This is being portrayed as some conspiracy by the CIA in the national media," said Michael McFaul, a leading Russia specialist at Stanford University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who follows affairs in both Russia and Ukraine.
"People are trying to use this as an overtly anti-American campaign," he said. "That is dangerous because it fuels nationalistic ideas and doesn't help the democratic forces in Russia."
U.S. officials said Russian conspiracy theorists fail to understand American interests in the region.
Unlike Russia, which still thinks in terms of spheres of influence, the United States does not consider this a geopolitical issue, the officials said, adding that Washington's only goal is to ensure that true democracy takes hold in Ukraine.
Washington and allies in Western Europe have refused to accept the official results naming pro-Russia candidate Viktor Yanukovych as the next president, but have not endorsed his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko.
Accusations of massive fraud and manipulation in the Nov. 21 runoff election have prompted huge demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital and separatist calls in the eastern Russian-speaking regions.
The Bush administration was so alarmed by a Sunday gathering where the separatist issue was discussed - particularly by the presence there of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Russia's deputy ambassador to Kiev - that Secretary of State Colin L. …