Anti-Drug Pact Latest Casualty of Souring US-Russian Relations

By Weir, Fred | The Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

Anti-Drug Pact Latest Casualty of Souring US-Russian Relations


Weir, Fred, The Christian Science Monitor


Russia officially pulled out of a decade-old law enforcement and narcotics agreement with the US on Wednesday, just the latest casualty in an escalating tit-for-tat chain reaction of diplomatic blows that seems well on its way to demolishing the entire infrastructure of US-Russia relations constructed since the demise of the USSR.

Stopping this runaway train, which has already seen the rupture of several bilateral deals and the expulsion of key US agencies from Russia, will be one major challenge facing incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry, who told a Senate panel prior to his confirmation Tuesday that "the United States must find a way to work with Russia."

To whatever extent personalities may make a difference, there may be no one better place than Mr. Kerry who is almost universally well-regarded in Moscow, and who had a quiet hand in the early Obama administration "reset" with Russia to arrest the slide.

But Russian experts warn that the unfolding process runs much deeper than just a diplomatic quarrel that looks to be getting out of hand. They say that Russian President Vladimir Putin began his third term in the Kremlin last May determined to change the terms with which Russia relates to the outside world, and to do away with cooperation agreements and international ties that he sees as demeaning to Russia, or which force Russia into a dependent or "junior partner" role.

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"The decision was taken that the whole infrastructure of relations, created largely in the 1990s, no longer corresponds with present realities and should be abolished," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow-based foreign policy journal.

"All agreements based on the notion of 'a strong, rich America with a poor, weak Russia' must go. This has been the program since Putin returned to power.... The idea is that if we relate with the US in future, it must be as equals. Russia has changed, and doesn't need anyone's patronage anymore," he says.

Russian withdrawal from the 2002 agreement on cooperation in law enforcement and drug control came with a brief announcement on the Russian government's official website Wednesday. It said that the deal, which had involved US financing for joint anti-crime operations, "is out of line with todays realities and has exhausted its potential."

That cancellation came less than a week after the US had pulled out of the inter-governmental Civil Society Working Group, set up as part of President Obama's "reset" policy for improving ties with Russia.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told journalists that the US move was a reaction to the Kremlin's growing crackdown on Russian civil society groups, which makes it futile to cooperate with the Russian government in this field.

"We would rather direct our efforts in other ways and continue to work on our direct support for civil society organizations who want to work with us," Ms. Nuland said.

Last September, Moscow summarily ordered the US Agency for International Development to shut down its operations in Russia. The next month it ended Russian participation in the 20-year old Nunn- Lugar program, which financed the safe destruction of old Soviet nuclear and chemical weapons. …

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